I look down, and I make the decision: Everyone must die.-
-The straw wrapper, the placemat, the napkin. It is only a question of timing, order, method. With the realization comes a quietude that trickles from the top of my spine, to the clavicle (a bone that looks great on everybody) scapula, humerus, tibia (but not the fibula, what a loser, the tibia could do so much better) and into the carpals, metacarpals, proximal phalanges, intermediate phalanges, distal phalanges (I like to call those last three “the Jessica phaLanges.” They like it too). I will dominate these man-made products, and therefore dominate men. Hot Dog Dammit I will do it. And I start doing it. I take the straw wrapper and tear, then tear what was torn, then tear the twice-torn.
Then I look at him. He is smiling at me. “You’re funny,” he says.
My ego rumbles. It’s hungry. Didn’t I feed it before I left? And that comment he just made, that comment, it was a piece of gum, something to chew on to make me forget I was hungry, but it doesn’t work.
I’m still looking at him. His smile dims. “Are you nervous?” He says.
“Why do I make you nervous?”
“You have analytical eyes.”
He does, and yet. It is sanctimonious of me to be nervous; this is not a date, we met on craigslist. But me in a romantic context is a toddler learning to line dance. Jesus, I can’t even walk, how am I supposed to dance? And in cowboy boots? With this hat? . . . I’m beginning to think I should be paid overtime for this conversation, it’s such hard work. Then he confesses his love for Amy Grant. Amy Grant! I will stuff sauerkraut in my underwear if he asks. We admire Amy individually, collectively. I’m listening hard, but I’m trying harder to find flaws in his face, ones that I can crawl into for comfort: a pock mark, a misshapen nose? It’s hopeless, he has those things, but they make him hotter, I can’t be here, why hasn’t he asked me to leave? “You look like Clark Kent,” I say, “I mean I know you don’t have the glasses…maybe you look like Clark Kent as he’s changing into Superman – and where do the glasses go after he takes them off?” my bladder commandeers my mouth and I say, “I have to go to the bathroom.”
Get up. Breathe. Walk to the bathrooms. Breathe. Pick the Men’s. Breathe. Do what needs to be done. Breathe. Go back.
Then I’m sitting down again, and he’s still sitting there. I’m saying: “Well, what do you want to do? Stay here, or…go someplace else, or…what do you want to do?” He’s saying: “What…what do you want?” I’m saying: “I don’t know, we could…” He’s saying: “We could try something.” I’m saying: “Yes. We could try something.” He’s saying: “Should we go?” I’m saying: “Yes.”
We get to his house, which is on a street so quiet that all my crazy thoughts compensate and crank up the volume. His dog greets us at the door. Ah, yes, dogs, I know how to act around dogs. Scratch these areas, speak in a coddling sing-song voice, and a new friend is found. “I should probably pay attention to your owner,” I tell the dog, and he understands. “Well.” I say, trying to threaten the silence in the way it’s threatening me, but it laughs, not out loud, with its eyes. “We could go to my bedroom,” he says. “We could,” I say. We do. Suddenly everything on his walls is so interesting, and I tell him so. I keep an eye on the bed, making sure it’s not coming any closer, that it’s staying in the corner.
“Do you like to make out?” He asks. Do I? I’ve done it before. Maybe if I do it again I’ll have a definite opinion. I tell my body to look busy. Is he thinking this is the countdown to copulation? I wonder. I told him “I’ve never done anything”; maybe he interpreted that as “I’m a slacker”? His hand goes up my shirt. My hand goes up in the air. “Uh, no.” I say. “What?” he says. “Just, no.” I say. He leans back and asks, “Why are you so insecure?” I close my eyes. I say, “I don’t want to be a book with just pictures and no words. Or a book with just words and no pictures – that’s probably what I am. Why are you insecure?” He looks slightly away. He says, “I used to get made fun of a lot.” I nod, then ask: “What’s the worst thing someone did?” He pauses. “This one time a guy made fun of my mannerisms in front of the girl that I liked, and she laughed.” I nod. “What about you?” He asks. I pause. “When I was a freshman in high school my class voted me on homecoming court as a joke. All my friends told me. Which made me wonder if they were my friends, but it made sense. For the next month everybody was sarcastically high-fiving and spanking me,” I say, poking at the past with a stick…yes, it’s dead. I look at him. He is tired, and tedious, and I want to shove his head in a fishbowl and watch the betas swim in and out of his mouth, and try to kill one another.
I say goodbye, and say that I’d like to see him again, in case I get touchy-feely and need someone to call. I get in the car. I wish I had a CD player. I want to listen to “Nothing” from A Chorus Line –
“And I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
To see what I had inside.
Yes, I dug right down to the bottom of my soul
And I tried, I tried…
And I said, ‘Nothing,
I’m feeling nothing…’
They all felt something,
But I felt nothing
Except the feeling
That this bullshit was absurd.”