“Does your person have a beard?”
“No,” I replied. I shot a little head jab over at Terry. “Your person,” I paused as one of my eyebrows popped up. “Would you do them?”
Our aging house was dead silent and my words seemed to linger in the air as Terry could only sit there, dazed.
I repeated my question. “Come on, Terry. Yes or no?” This was supposed to be a quick game. We had dinner plans after all.
“It’s just a picture, though.”
“Sure. A picture, like in a magazine, or on TV, or in an fantasy…”
“But it’s just, just a head?”
“Yes,” my eyes narrowed, “with a mouth, Terry.” Imagination needn’t be this painstaking. “Probably some feet.” I continued, “Soft hands. A butt, perhaps.”
“I suppose…” Terry perused the card, wistful. The hesitation persisted and I quietly flipped down all of the faces on my game board of characters I knew Terry would have unquestionably fucked.
Our reservation was for seven sharp. Tonight was an overdue extravagance for us and it would be nice—even if only for a few hours—to pretend we belonged in society’s upper crust. I assured myself that this time I would not ask if the kitchen served any meatloaf or if the jazz quartet knew any Meatloaf. This evening’s dalliance with privilege would decadent, delicious, and not again end in public disgrace.
The card remained there, front and center, as Terry continued scrutinizing. “Am I drunk in this scenario?” I thought my initial question had been exceedingly binary; I hadn’t expected any follow-ups, but I said sure, if you want. I qualified, though, that this meant tipsy and a little mean—like maybe mix up someone’s new baby’s name with their dog’s name. Sassy drunk and not at all vindictive and trolling for any amount available friction.
I flipped down all of the remaining attractive faces: possibilities where Terry wouldn’t have had to self-handicap a decision by being under the influence. Skipping lunch today was catching up with me now. The pain would be worth it. However, I would absolutely not be able to stomach “Unfortunately we gave away your table, but you two could see if they could squeeze you in at Burger King.”
“When do I meet this person?”
“Come on, Terry.” Two follow-up questions? There was no hiding it now. “Do you think you meet them, like, during The Reformation or on the Oregon Trail?” I tried to calm myself as Terry sat, just this meek, puzzling lump across the table. “No, Terry, you meet them on any normal day like today.” I stopped, “Except in this hypothetical you can take your time because you don’t have goddamn dinner plans!” I snapped down four faces on my game board, all varying iterations of nothing-to-write-home-about where the time period would not have mattered. Real “rest-stop-in-Ohio” types.
Only two faces remained now on my game board: both aesthetic monsters with one foot still in puberty and the other in the grave. If we missed this reservation—I don’t know—I’d need to start taking a different route to work. The restaurant would be no more than another beacon of failure, like the truck driving school, the upscale restaurant where we’d been ridiculed, and The Gap where I’d pushed that kid.
The sun had set and the house was growing dark. Terry starred the card down, head shaking slowly. “I don’t know, ” Terry said as I stood up and flipped on a lamp, “even if I was a little drunk, or randy, and there was a blindfold.” We were going to have to whip through all five lights to make it by seven now. “So as long as they didn’t have some sort of love-potion pheromone or a weapon, I would have to say no.”
“Jesus Christ, Terry, “ I recoiled with a grimace and a sigh, supposing that’s where we’d draw the line on imagination.
Sitting back up and surveying a board with three-quarters of the faces remaining, Terry refocused. “Does your person wear a hat?”
“No.” I flipped down the one of my remaining options who seemed dramatically less likely to own a weapon or elicit erotic help from chemical warfare. “Your person is Alex.”
“Great. Now go get your fucking shoes on.”
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