Sunday, December 14, 2008

deceit à gogo

“So, then, what is it that tips the scales between you sticking around and you leaving?” The waitress leans over the table, the buttons on her too-tight, striped shirt straining. It's all I can do to keep my eyes on hers. All I can do to keep my eyes from drifting down, down, down....

And I'm caught.

“Yoo-hoo, I'm up here,” she says, pointing at her eyes. She doesn't smile. Not even a bit. “What is it that keeps you, Ethan, God's gift to women, hanging around the next day? What is it that keeps you from creeping out before dawn. Just what can a poor girl do to make you stay, anyway?”

It's all here. The automatic nervous system doing its thing. Heart palpitations. Palms sweating. Laboured breathing. All sympathetic responses designed to push me into fight or flight – and my balls have crawled so far up into my abdomen, I think they might never find their way home again.

“listen I—” 

But I've got nothing.


We met at a club down on Fairfax. No. Scratch that. Was it the little place behind that Asian café in the Warehouse District? Yeah, that's it. Though, maybe it wasn't behind a café as such, but kind of a bubble teahouse. Right, yeah. Now, what was the name of that place? The club, not the teahouse. Was it Wrecks? Yeah? That place with the velvet couches, and all those damned brown pillows. That's the one.

All dim lighting, tiny friggin' lamps all over the place. We rolled in a good twenty deep that night, as I recall. More? Yeah? What was it, Busy's birthday or something? Guy's crazy, man. Anyway, we get in there, and find the place packed. Bass thumping. Drinks spilled or swilled. A sea of hotties beneath the lights, swirling, sweating on the dance floor. Ha! Like tasty burritos under the heat lamps at Taco Bell, am I right?

But, we were in, and edging our way through the place, and it wasn't long before we found out there wasn't a free table in the joint, let alone room for twenty plus. Some guys got all ornery, and started bitching. Other guys start dissing the place, and acting like they never wanted to walk in the door in the first place. Me? I'd been watching this one girl across the way, and I noticed that she'd been parked at a table by herself since we walked in. Designated purse watcher, I figured. Slithering through the crowd, it wasn't long before I was parked beside her. 

Damned if I can remember her name now, though.


Right in front of me. I'm watching her lips move, and feeling the heat of her breath, her words, her hostility on my face. All spearmint gum, Cherry Chap Stick, and vitriol. This, and I only wanted a friggin' beef dip.

“K, k, k, k, k,” I interrupt. Anymore, I can't take it. “Listen to me now. I don't know who you think I am, but you've got the wrong guy. Probably just a case of mistaken identity. You know how it—”

“Ethan Duane Miller? Thirty years old. Apartment #111—”

“All right, all right.” I wave a hand at her to stop the humiliation. “That's me. You met me. We met, whatever. How do you know all that anyway? You some crazy stalker or something?”

She smirks. “You paid with your Visa last time you were in here. I looked at your driver's licence, asshole. Security measures, you know... for your protection.”


“So, you gonna tell me what it takes to make a guy like you want to stick around? Or should I send another waitress over here to take over while I go have a little cry in the ladies' room?” She's more delicate now. Her fine jaw a little less hard. Smooth, olive skin softening on her pretty face. Brown eyes melting just a little.

“It's really nothing personal,” I hear myself saying. “In fact, it's entirely my problem. I've got a system, is all.”

She sits down across from me now, and I know I'm in this for the long-haul.

“Out with it, then.”

“OK,” I start, a little hesitantly. I lean in. “I look for three things, and she's got to pass two of them.”

“And if she doesn't?”

“Then I'm out the door before you can say, 'one night stand'.”

“And number one is?”

“She's got to still be hot in the morning.”


So, I managed to convince her to tap out, and appoint another friend as the table guardian extraordinaire, and next thing I know, we're making out in the back seat of a taxicab. She paid, I think, or maybe I did. I don't know. But, I do know that I woke up a random number of hours later, tangled up in her sheets with a serious hangover.

Untwisting myself from the linens and carefully sitting up on the side of the bed, I called on years of experience to creep silently around the moonlit room, picking up my clothes, before making my way out the door. I was a veritable ghost, floating down the darkened hall, and into the bathroom. It's like I had been there before. And I had, of course, been in that exact situation dozens of times.

Dressed, and still smelling of the night before, I made my way into the living room, scanning the walls and flat surfaces for photographs. A high school photo of a fresh-faced cheerleader, all smiles and innocence jumping out at me. Cute teenager. Next, a university graduation photo, radiating pride and relief. All grown up, and ready to take on the world. Couldn't have been that long ago, I thought. Two years, tops. Finally, I found a stack of unorganised pictures on the coffee table – photos from a recent trip to some sunny, sandy place – and it was confirmed: still hot. I smiled, and exhaled.


“Shallow much?” she asks, leaning back, putting up her guard.

“Naw, naw, it's not like that. There's more. Looks are just one thing, right? And they're important, you know?”

She looks a little dubious, but says, “All right, so, number two?”

I smile.

“Number two: she must be interesting.”


A collection of music as outdated and uninspired as my great-uncle Luke's wardrobe. Eagles. Van Morrison. Warrant. Warrant? Really? I almost couldn't believe what I was seeing, and had to hold the CD up to a sliver of moonlight to be sure. I shuddered a little before moving onto the bookcase.

The contents of the bookcase were actually a little hard to look at. Romans de gare as they're known to the French. Railway station novels. Airport novels, as known to us Americans. Peter Benchley. Dan Brown. Dean Koontz. My eyes, my poor stinging eyes. I could only hope that the DVDs would offer up something of more substance.

The first movie I picked up was Crossroads starring Britney Spears, and my soul actually began to weep a little. I could go no further. I would not allow myself to.


“All right,” she says. I'll give you that. If a person can't carry a conversation, then what good would it be to spend time with them.”


“And? Lastly?”

“Ah,” I smile. “Number three. This one is, perhaps, the most important of all: she must be able to cook a mean breakfast.”


Looking through the cupboards, I would be a liar if I said I wasn't a little disgusted. No, it wasn't due to the fact that they were nearly bare. It wasn't the jar of expired peanut butter, or even the myriad rolled-up half-bags of potato chips. No, hands down, the thing which turned my stomach, and sent a gag reflex up my throat was the package of pre-cooked, individually wrapped bacon slices. I had never seen such a thing before, and, in that moment, I couldn't help but feel a little saddened by the state of humankind.

The fridge was no better, with its half jug of orange juice, and countless bottles of Evian. A flip-top box of baking soda stood like a watchman over a bag of shrivelled oranges, and a lonely, sugar encrusted bottle of maple syrup wished that it was back home in Canada. I closed the door, and pretended that I had not seen the atrocities that I had just seen. In the freezer, a solitary box of pre-formed hamburger patties sat in a block of frost and ice waiting to be found by archaeologists in the year 4327.

Heart heavy, mouth agape, I collected my shoes and crept out the back door. I walked down the street until I could figure out where the hell I was, and called a friend to come and collect me.


“A food man, hey? Well, that's not so bad. Things could be worse. I was half expecting you to be one of those creeps who rates a girl based on how good she was in bed.” With this, she throws me a wink, and makes to slide out of the booth. “Got to get back to work before the boss catches me fraternizing with the customers.”

“Hey,” I say, “people gotta eat, right?”

“Yeah,” she smiles. “But, before I go, which of those three tests did I fail to make you leave? Did I pass any, even? I mean, you actually seem all right; might have been nice to spend more time together.”

I don't even take a second to think of my answer.

“If you recall, I said a girl's got to pass two of them, and I'd stick around.”

“Yeah?” She cocks an eyebrow, hands on her hips.

“Well, if a girl passes zero or only one, I'm out the door.”

“Oh yeah? Just like that, huh?”

“Yeah. Just like that. But wait, here's the rub – if a girl passes all three, I'm out the door even quicker. I'm not so simple that I don't know how quickly perfection can bring a man to his knees.”

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