December 1, 2003

Date

I was on a date that may or may not have been a date when suddenly a giant roach flew into my neck. We were playing pool and had stopped to talk. I had no way of knowing what had flown into me. My date, if I may call her that, told me what it was. She was upset because, as she explained it, she’s afraid of flying things.

I’ve given this a lot of thought and have decided that a date is only a date if both people think it is. By the time the roach flew into me, I definitely wanted her to think it was a date. Actually what I was thinking was more like: I hope she thinks it is, because if she does then it is.

After flying into my neck, the roach flew off toward the front of the pool hall. I offered to go kill it, but my date said not to bother because it wasn’t a big deal to her. My sense however was that it was a big deal to her but that she didn’t want to admit how much of a deal it was because to do so would make her seem too girly.

The only reason I asked her on a date was because I knew she would turn me down. I was having a problem with liking her, so I decided to ask her out and have her turn me down. Once she turned me down I could let go of liking her, is how I thought of it. All that backfired when she said yes.

At first I’d thought she’d said no. I thought this because when I asked her to play pool, she said exactly what I thought she would say, which was that she would really like to play pool with me but was super-busy and would let me know when she had time. The words she used were more or less the exact words I had imagined her using to turn me down without having to say the word “no.”

Strange as it seems, her rejection made me happy. I had made a plan and the plan had worked and now I could begin to stop liking her.

The reason I wanted to stop liking her was because of how much younger she is than me. This is what I would think about back then. I would lie in bed and calculate how old she was when I was certain ages and then I’d picture the two of us at those times, standing together. This wasn’t a fun exercise. In fact it was gross. As a result I tried to stop liking her so much – an effort that failed, of course. You can’t stop yourself from liking someone. The best you can do is not write to that person and not talk to that person, but you can’t make yourself feel different feelings just by wanting to. Deep down I knew this and yet I still tried to will my feelings to change. When that failed I hatched the plan of asking her out so she would turn me down. At first I thought my plan had worked, but then a week later she wrote to say that she finally had time to play pool and when could we?

At her insistence I let the flying roach be. However I couldn’t help but notice that whenever it was my turn to hit a shot, she would do a lot of looking toward the front of the pool hall.

“You’re worried about the roach,” I said finally.

“Not really.”

“I’m going to go kill it.”

When I found the roach, it was flittering around a cluster of florescent lights above an empty pool table. I had brought along an extra t-shirt which I planned to use to kill the roach by doing that wrist-snapping thing boys do with towels in locker rooms. I figured that even if I didn’t nail the roach with the tip of the shirt, I could probably hit it well enough to stun it, at which point I would keep snapping at it until it was dead. That was my plan. However the roach wouldn’t budge from the florescent lights, and I was concerned about breaking one of the lights with my t-shirt, so after standing there for two or three minutes, I walked back to our table.

“You didn’t do anything,” she said. “You just looked at it.”

“I didn’t want to break the light.”

We kissed then, I would like to say, in part because it would make such a sweet ending (they kiss after he fails to be her hero) and also because I wanted to kiss her. Instead, though, we returned to the game we were playing – a game she won easily, just like all the others. Even distracted, she’s a far better pool player than I’ll ever be.

Later, at a bar, she told me about her boyfriend in Wisconsin. I hadn’t known about him before. The moment she mentioned him, the moment she said the word boyfriend, I realized that I wasn’t on a date with her and never had been.