Ainslie Hogarth’s Blind Date

Feb 11, 2016 by

Ainslie Hogarth’s Blind Date

Creepy Valentine:

Excerpted from LIFE AND DEATH ON SHOPTV.

 

“I tried to get a hold of you last night David.”

“I’m sorry mother, I must have fallen asleep.”

“I’ve asked you not to leave your phone on silent for that exact reason David. I was on pins last night, tossing and turning, I ended up having to take a pill to fall asleep for god’s sake and now I’m all groggy this morning. So groggy in fact, I was afraid I was going to get into an accident driving in today. Imagine how badly you would have felt then?”

“I said I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. Just, okay, the suspense is killing me. How did it go, David?”

She asked this in the same TONE she might have used for “how did the dish break David” or “you’ve soiled the bed again David?” This tone that only Dave’s mother could produce caused his bottom and top molars to press hard into one another, the tight perfect fit of Lego blocks.

It was his mother who’d set him up. She’d held his hand when she told him about it, held it hard and pumped it with hers, as though trying to distract him from the news, “I’ve set you up on a blind date David,” squeeze squeeze squeeze pump with her tissue hands, tips of her immaculate nails digging in just aggressively enough, “her name is Elaine,” pump, pump, pump, pump, pump “and she’s a very nice girl,” pump, pump, pump, pump, pump. “I told her it was a sure thing so it would be rude of you not to show up.” Rude of you, thought Dave. Rude of you. He thought about those words a lot last night: ‘rude of you.’ When he was sitting there at the bar, waiting like an idiot, sipping at the draft beer, enough so it seemed normal, but hopefully not quite enough to give him diarrhea, which draft beer always did. Because his body rejected everything that might make him a standard male specimen.

Rude of you, rude of you. Dressed in a suit, looking over his shoulder at the door every single solitary time it opened, so obvious but he couldn’t help it, then quickly covering his face again or pretending he was looking elsewhere when it was anyone but a single woman with brown hair and a pink blazer. Rude of you, rude of you. So obviously stood up on a blind date. It made him feel, literally, like a giant zit. A sitting, sipping pimple. Especially red and raised and pussing; so disgusting that people could hardly look in his direction without gagging.

It made him want to stand up on the stool and announce to everyone that HE KNEW how pathetic he looked, HE GOT IT TOO, OKAY? He could see himself, obviously, he knew what he looked like. It’s not like he didn’t get it. He’s not as bad as all that. But of course getting up on the stool and screaming at the bar would obviously only make things worse. So he didn’t. He simply let the bad feelings smother him until he didn’t really care how much draft beer he drank, because not only did he deserve to suffer the distinctly chilling burn of diarrhea later tonight, again and again until his anus had slowly worked itself into a canker sore, it would also give him something to do.

Elaine worked with Dave’s mother, at the post office, where Dave’s mother still kept a part-time job to help fill the long, boring hours of her remaining years. Dave’s mother said that Elaine had a very sweet face and always smelled like cotton candy. A very sweet face, especially aromatic. Dave knew that this meant she was likely fat. Which didn’t bother him. But it bothered him now that she’d stood him up. That some cotton-candy smelling fat girl might have laid eyes on him in secret from a corner booth, decided she could do better, and waddled quietly away. A cotton-candy smelling fat girl deciding that being alone was better than he looked, the slouching, beer sipping zit, spewing thick pus onto the bar, that waitress mopping it up every once in a while, looking simultaneously sorry for him but also irritated by his redness and angriness and pussing making everything gross and unpleasant.

This wasn’t the first time mother had set him up either. And always there was something terribly wrong with them. One girl suffered from some kind of PTSD and every time a man with dark hair walked by their table she burst into tears. Mother had known about it, she called it a quirk. Dave knew that the reason his mother set him up on dates with these undateable women was because she didn’t actually want him dating anyone. She was too jealous, so jealous it actually soured her breath and made yellow the parts of her body that should be white.

But she still wanted to be able to appear supportive in front of people, or on the phone, to the group of women she’d agreed to contact regularly until the day they died, not friends really, she didn’t like any of them, just women who’d entered an unspoken contract with her, a vow not to let each other get too lonely as they got older: “I set him up on dates,” she says, “plenty of dates, with lovely young women but he just, nothing ever seems to pan out,” then a pause while the person on the other end of the line responds, suggesting something, and mother again, “well if he is that way he’s never told me before.” Then laughing. Laughing.

Dave knew that if he ever accused her of this, of not being normal, of not really wanting him to settle down like every other mother wants for her son, she’d call him demented. Insane. For even coming up with something so ludicrously paranoid. Even though Dave knew absolutely that it was true. Mother always acted as though she were performing for some invisible audience all the time, so even in private she couldn’t admit to how evil she really was.

“David, how did it go?” his mother repeated. Louder. The TONE braided more thickly throughout this time because his great pause had made her positive now that it had gone terribly. But Dave couldn’t answer her, his teeth were glued shut, and the more she asked in that terrible TONE the more stuck they became.

The worst part was when the woman from his building walked in looking as glowing smooth as she did on his TV. Harriet Desmond. Beautiful. Seeing him like this, like a pulsating boil at the bar. The very Harriet who occupied the same room he did most nights as he fell asleep, bathed him gently in her warm television glow. Perfect Harriet with her smooth nails, clean hands, steady, ceaseless voice, sometimes for hours and hours. After she walked in he was consumed with the need to escape, his face buried in his barely touched pint in case she recognized him from the building, writhing for an opportunity to slide off his seat and slip out the door without her noticing.

“Goddammit David, answer me!” now the TONE was gone, replaced with out-and-out rage. So he was frightened into wrenching his Lego stuck teeth apart to respond.

“It was terrible, alright?” his cheeks were hot and his voice was too loud and he longed to fit the grooves of his teeth back together and never speak again. “She stood me up. Now can you please never, ever set me up on another blind date ever again? Please?”

“I’ll kill her.”

“Mother, stop it.”

“I’ll kill the stupid slut. I will. Stand up MY son. I work next to her David, every day, do you realize that? That fat whore has the fucking nerve to stand up the son of someone who she has to look in the eyes every fucking day. She’s obviously not good enough for you David. I’ll kill her.”

“Mother you’re making it worse. Can you just calm down?”

“I won’t. David. You should be just as angry as I am, goddammit. Don’t you understand? This is why you don’t have a woman in your life. You’re a pussy. She could probably smell your pussy from the parking lot.”

“Jesus Christ mother, what’s the matter with you?”

“There’s nothing the matter with me David. I’m normal. I grew up and got married and had a child like I was supposed to. You. You’re the one who’s got something wrong. Goddammit David. I’ll kill that bitch.”

“Alright mother. I have to go to work.”

“Were you holding something David? Did she see you holding something? You know you look frightening when you hold things.”

“Mother I wasn’t holding anything.”

“Are you sure? Whenever you’re holding something it looks like a weapon David, I’ve told you this a thousand times.”

“I know, and you don’t have to tell me again, I wasn’t holding anything, what would I be holding?”

“Fine. Call me at lunch, there’s another girl who works here, at the café in the lobby of the building. There’s something wrong with her spine I think, but it’s mild.”

“Mother, please. No more dates. I mean it.”

“David, no. Call me at lunch.”

“Okay, fine. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Bye sweetie, love you.”

“Love you too.”

 

Ainslie Hogarth is the author of The Lonely (2014) and The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (2015), and her short stories have appeared in The Jersey Devil Press and Corvus Magazine.

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