“I’m sure it wasn’t that bad,” Anette said, barely stifling a laugh.
I shot her a long-suffering look and grabbed a can of Diet Coke out of the fridge. “It was bad. Horrific, train wreck, body-parts-flung-from-the-wreckage kind of bad.”
I nudged Zach’s legs off the coffee table as I pushed by to take my seat on the sofa. I couldn’t help a sadistic smile when he moaned. “Hey, now. Just because you had a foul date doesn’t mean you have to…”
Both Anette and Zach exchanged glances, the pair of them now fully focused on the horror show that had become my date for the evening.
“I’m sorry… he what?” Anette giggled.
“Allow me to demonstrate. You’re me.” I turned towards Zach on the sofa, my knee wedged tightly against his body. “We were at his house, sitting this close, and started making out. Everything seemed fine. Then he does this move with his hand,” I explained as I slid my hand along the side of his jaw and into the shaggy hair at the back of his head. I looked to Anette and shrugged. “Hot, right?”
“Oh yeah, I’m all tingly over here,” she conceded, crossing her arms.
“And we kiss,” I added, leaning in for the full effect. Zach stiffened, probably afraid I would actually kiss him. “He pulls back, makes this bizarre face and chomps.” I open my mouth as wide as my date had and clack my teeth together with a violent CHOMP.
I pause for a second and then throw my hands in the air as if declaring victory in the I Swear I’m Not Making This Up competition. Shock washed over their faces as I allowed the scene to sink in.
“I still don’t understand,” Zach frowned.
“That face, right there! That’s the face I think I was making… the first time.”
Anette threw her ass down on the coffee table and stared at me incredulously. “Hold on. The first time? This nutjob did this more than once?”
“You let this nutjob do this more than once?” Zach added.
I smoothed my hair out with both hands and sighed. “I didn’t want to be mean. Maybe he has a tic, or Tourette’s. At the very least, I hoped he’d had something stuck in his teeth he was trying to get out.”
“Because flossing with your face makes absolutely perfect sense. Yep.”
I rolled my eyes at her and continued retelling my night from hell. “But he kept doing it. And that’s when I realized the funny face he was making was supposed to be sexy. It was like he’d learned seduction techniques from a Looney Toons cartoon.”
Anette patted me comfortingly on the knee and returned to getting ready for work. “Well, at least you have the story to remember him by. You might have nightmares about denture-wearing zombies chasing you for the next few weeks, but whatever.”
“That wasn’t the worst part,” I intoned, unsure if I even wanted to reveal this section of my night. Maybe I should take it to the grave…
Zach shook his head and held up a hand. “Wait a second. Go back. Is this the guy Anette put you together with? The one from the gym?”
“Oh, what the fuck?” Anette yelped, throwing a pillow at him from across the room. “Why the hell would you think that I set her up with Captain Chomps-a-Lot, Zach? That’s just bullshit. I am seriously insulted. Like this much.” Anette held up her thumb and forefinger, spaced about a half an inch apart before flipping him off.
“No, this was the guy who asked me out when I was walking Pluto in the park. Ethan.” I shook my head, recalling the moment. Every cell in my body screamed at the memory, hoping I could somehow push back in time and prevent this whole horrible night from happening in the first place.
“So, what was the worst part, then?” Anette asked, looking at me through the mirror.
I sighed, realizing I was fully committed reliving this story now. “He was actually a really good kisser, when he wasn’t threatening to bite my nose or lips off. And it’s been a while since I’ve…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Zach interrupted. I laughed at his bashfulness. Whenever the topic of sex came up around the three of us, unless he was bragging about some conquest, it made him super uncomfortable.
“You know they say sex is like pizza, right? Even if it’s bad, it’s all right,” Anette offered as she applied eyeliner in the mirror. “Unless, of course, you put something like anchovies or pineapples on it. Because that is absolutely disgusting and makes me immediately judge your ability to make sound life decisions.”
“Exactly. So, he stops chomping and I quickly forgive and forget about aforementioned chomping. Things are heating up, it’s going well, and he says, ‘You looked so hot the other day when I came up to you.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, picking up dog poop is pretty sexy stuff,’ trying to joke with him. He leans back and looks at me like I’m some goddess he’s worshiped his whole life and says, ‘I know. It was amazing.’”
My best friends were speechless, which is saying something for the two of them, especially Anette. I waited a few beats to see if they’d cut in with any quips or comments before finishing my tale of woe.
“At this point, I’m done. Flat out done. I don’t care if his dick is flecked with gold and tastes like strawberry cheesecake. And you both know how much I like cheesecake, but nope. I am done. I don’t even remember what I said to get away, but he immediately backpedals. He probably sensed I wasn’t as into the trip down memory lane as he apparently was.
“He’s like, ‘No! Wait, not the shit. No, not the shit! It was the gloves. I’m into gloves.’ And I’m there trying to get dressed as fast as possible, but even that gives me pause. Long story short, that’s how I discovered Ethan has a latex fetish, specifically rubber gloves. He even pulled out his whole collection from the closet to show me.”
“What in the ever-living hell?” Zach looked like he’d gone far beyond laughing and was firmly in horrified-ville. Which was good. I appreciated the company.
“Thank you,” I said sincerely. “I’m glad to at least share the burden of this knowledge with a few others in the world. I’m pretty sure I would’ve imploded if I’d had to carry that around by myself.”
I held the sweaty can of soda against my neck and groaned in relief. Our apartment was already stifling hot and it was barely June. The single box fan wedged in the window was basically blowing hot air in from the street. It was going to a long, hot summer in Manhattan. We were too poor to afford an air conditioning unit, but it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been Zach’s apartment upstairs. His only window opened into the narrow alley between buildings. No light, no air, no relief. Which, aside from the stellar company, was why he hung out at our place so much.
“This dating shit sucks,” I whined.
“Oh, it’s not all that bad,” Anette shrugged as she pulled her top off to get changed. Spend more than a day with the woman and you were bound to see her naked. She’d apparently skipped the inhibition stage of development. To be honest, if I had her figure and complexion, I’d walk around naked all the time too. “What you really need to do is learn how to manage your expectations. That’ll fix everything.”
I took another sip, sputtering my response out. “Expectations? I expected to be engaged by now. I expected to be planning my parent’s thirtieth wedding anniversary next year. I think my expectations have pretty much been dashed against the rocks, don’t you?”
“Kevin dumping you like that was terrible, I give you that. But I know deep down you see it as a blessing in disguise. It’s great you aren’t moping all over the place, moaning about missing him, complaining that he was the love of your life, that he was the only one who would ever understand…”
“Anette!” Zach snapped.
She must’ve read something on my expression I hadn’t meant to show and quickly stopped. To be honest, she’d listed every single thing I wanted to say but knew I shouldn’t. Tripping down that rabbit hole wouldn’t lead anywhere nice.
“Okay, look. All I’m saying is you’re young, you’re gorgeous, you live in New York. In the grand scheme of life, the universe, and everything, there are worse things in the world, you know?”
I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged them close. The evening and commiseration had left me feeling more hopeless than upbeat. “And how do any of those things benefit me, Anette? Seriously? My parents have been together through everything. Raising three kids, cancer, losing jobs, everything. Yet even they can’t hold it together.”
“You don’t know what happened with their marriage,” said Zach.
“You’re right, I don’t. All I know is my nearly eight-year relationship fell apart before graduation and my parents now hate each other. And now I get to figure out how to navigate a world filled with latex fetishes and face chompers. My life is officially as terrible as a B-Grade horror movie.”
Anette, looking as stunning as ever, circled the back of the sofa and hugged me from behind. “And I’ll be here to laugh at every single gory detail.”