The Dating Game (Weekly Writing Challenge)

(Weekly Writing Challenge is your friend.  Take advantage of it.  I do!)

But when the time comes that a man has had his dinner, then the true man comes to the surface.” -Mark Twain

**********

Greg picked up the fork in front of him and cursed.  It wasn’t anything that the fork had done in particular, but the sheer pronged nature of the utensil vexed the man.  Greg tried to gauge his reflection in the metallic surface, but the gaps in between the metal made this effort difficult.  It felt as though there was a little tweak of hair on the back part of his head that was sticking up.  He reached up, attempting to comb it down with his right hand while the fork was nearly strangled in Greg’s left.

Exhaling angrily, Greg’s frustration was evident.  Hearing a giggle, he quickly put the fork back on the table.  He didn’t care that the silverware was no longer uniform in what had been its carefully placed arrangement.  Greg was too concerned about any embarrassment that he might have earned.  He glanced from table to table, hoping that everyone else in the fancy restaurant was too focused on their tiny portions and shiny gold-accented plates to have taken in his grooming performance.

The waitress walked up to his table and refilled the water glass without asking.  She smiled briefly and then moved on to the next patron without a word.  Greg sighed and crumpled up the cloth napkin that resided on his lap in a jumbled mess.  How am I supposed to be engaging and interesting when the waitress, someone who is paid to be nice, barely even gives me the time of day?  This was not a good idea.

The notion of a dating service was not one that appealed to Greg.  He didn’t relish meeting new people.  He was a baseball referee.  He spent all his days surrounded by people, most of them drunk and loud.  The last thing he wanted to do when he got home was talk sports, or even worse; partake in small talk.  However there was only so much going back to an empty apartment that Greg could stand.  He was a solid provider; not prone to wild outbursts or violence like so many overpaid celebrities that tore up the stadiums.  Greg had it on good authority that he was highly dateable.  No less than three of his friends had said so.  It had taken a few beers for them to admit as much, but the friends had stated it after only a few prodding attempts from Greg.

REFEREEA striped uniform and a chrome-plated whistle were hardly the most alluring of attire, so Greg knew that meeting someone at work was unlikely.  He realized that he would have to enlist some outside help.  That was where the dating service came into play.

Greg had sat through the pre-game ceremonies that they had called, “initiation”.  He had detailed what he looked for in a woman, doing his best not to limit any potential candidates.  “Smart, fun, cute”, he had said with a shrug.  Skin color?  Religion?  Any beliefs that might clash with his?  Greg had shrugged and replied, “Well, I’d prefer if they weren’t too crazy.  I mean, I guess I’m looking for somebody who would appreciate me and want to spend time with me.  Someone… um, who’s fun, and smart.  Oh, and cute.”  Greg had felt his face turn red when he realized how repetitive he sounded.  The depersonalization of finding true love grated on him.

I hope she hasn’t ditched me, Greg considered.  It’s one thing to accept the awkwardness of a date that someone else sets up for you.  But to be stood up and left sitting alone?  She wouldn’t do that.  Would she?

The notion dawned on Greg that he really didn’t know anything about Sophia.  The phone message had been short and unhelpful.  A chipper voice had his voicemail, brushing the “perfect woman” for him in broad strokes.  “She’s got a great personality, really wonderful, and we just love her here at the office.  She’s got some fun opinions and she’s just great.  Sophia’s beautiful, of course, and has a spirit that really stands out.  I think you two will have a great time.”  Greg had hung up on his voice mail that morning, unconvinced.  Well isn’t that just great.  He marveled at how the staff could use dozens of phrases to say absolutely nothing; all in a cheery and lively voice, of course.

“Excuse me, are you Greg?”

Greg was startled awake at the tall figure that had placed her hand tentatively on the vacant chair.  He blinked himself back into full consciousness.  He blinked again.  Still trying to make sense of the sight across from him, Greg gulped down what moisture was left in his quickly drying throat.  Then he blinked a third time.

“Greg”, the woman prompted with a warm smile on her face.

“Yeah.  I mean, yes.  Please, have a seat”, he replied.  Greg was shocked at the person that he was to share a date with.  The analytical, realistic, pessimistic side of himself had calculated the odds in his head.  His picture of a “Sophia” was a short person, cute in a tank top, and probably easily distracted by pretty things.  She would be many things, all of which could be gathered under the umbrella of “sorority girl”; with an emphasis on the “girl”.  The woman that stood confidently in his line of sight was already proving Greg quite wrong.

Sophia stood at a solid six feet at least, but she confidently wore high heels and her hair was swept up on top of her head.  If she was abnormally blessed in height, she seemed determined to embrace it.  Her smile seemed born of an inner voice that said, “Hey, how are ya?” in that natural way that Greg most clearly lacked.  She was no beanpole; even Greg could see that she had some curves to her.  Yet, like the rest of her demeanor, she appeared to own them.  Greg wondered to himself how someone this enticing upon first meeting was still single.

“Do you mind if I take a seat?”  Sophia began to pull the chair backwards.  Greg cursed to himself.

“Oh, I’m sorry”, he said half standing up.  “Please, please.”  Brilliant Greg.  Forget to stand up to greet her, and then forget to get the chair for her.  That’ll make a great first impression.

“Have you ever been to this place before?”  Sophia smiled.  She unfolded the napkin with a quick gesture and placed it lightly on her lap.

“No, I don’t really eat out much”, Greg admitted.  “They said you recommend this joint and I figured that was alright by me.”

Sophia laughed and made a move for the menu.  “Yes, I can honestly tell you that this ‘joint’ is one of my favorite haunts.  Don’t you just love sushi?”

“It’s a pretty decent food”, Greg said as he cursed himself again.  “What do you think I should try”, he asked, hoping to get back into her good graces.

sushi“Oh, I’ve always been a fan of their California rolls.”

A kind force must have been looking over Greg, for the waiter returned before Greg could blurt out a clumsy joke about Rolls Royce cars.

“What do you say, Greg?  Shall I order us up two plates?”

Greg nodded, watching as Sophia went to work.  He stared at her and soon noticed that he was unable to keep up with her orders.  A blur of high-society words came into their conversation as the woman about town and the experienced waiter bandied back and forth about various side dishes, fish freshness, and wine pairings.  Greg found himself blinking again and pulled out a piece of paper.  Holding the cheat-sheet just under the table cloth on his lap, he skimmed the list for any question that might spark a conversation.

“I really think you’ll enjoy the food here”, Sophia offered as the waiter returned to the kitchen.

“What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?”  Even Greg noticed how awkwardly he had blurted out the question.

A look of confusion came over Sohpia’s face.  There was a definite pause as she took in the question that had been asked of her.

Stupid, Greg.  Put her on the spot before you even know anything about her.  Stupid.

“You’re not going to waste any time are you?  Just jump right in, huh?”  Sophia laughed and pulled her chair in closer.  Greg had thrown down the gauntlet and now Sophia was contemplating picking it up.  “Fair enough; I’ll play along.”

“No, it was an insensitive question.  We can talk about something else.”

“Oh, come on.  This’ll be fun!”  A playful and daring light was obvious in Sophia’s eyes and Greg once again questioned how this had all worked out.  Maybe blind dates aren’t so bad after all?

White_House_Front_Dusk_Alternate“Okay”, Sophia began.  “I’ve got one.  It was a year or two ago and my grandfather was invited to The White House.  You see, he was one of the last living survivors of World War II.  The whole family got to go and we were all so excited.  I didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself, but I still wanted to look regal, you know?  I wanted to bring the glamor if I was going to meet The President”, she said with a laugh.

“Well, sure”, Greg said in a way that showed he didn’t know what else to say.

“There were a few other families before us.  The Fourth of July is quite a big day around The Oval Office, as you might guess.  All these men in suits with sunglasses, my mom worrying that we were keeping ‘Him’ from running the country.  It was overwhelming, but delightful”, Sophia explained with an unbridled excitement in her voice.

“Anyways, in my attempt to look elegant but still keep Grandma from thinking I was a hussy, I chose this long white dress.  It was sleeveless, flowing, and I paired it with what I thought were a classy pair of sandals.  You have to plan these things just right, don’t you?”

“Of course”, Greg answered.  Be agreeable.  Forget the fact that this woman has met The President while you were probably home drinking a beer and watching pay-per-view.  Just smile and nod.

“In all the waiting around, wouldn’t you know it?  I had to go to the bathroom.  The assistants were all perfectly nice and they showed me the way.  I was about to go in the door when along comes The First Lady!  I mean, of all people!  Secret Service wanted me to wait but The First Lady wouldn’t hear of it.  She looped her arm around mine and pulled me in.  After I had taken care of things, I tried to leave as quickly as possible.  I mean, I couldn’t maintain my composure at being in the same room with her!  Could you?”

“Not likely”, Greg answered.  Thankfully, the food had appeared with surprising quickness.  Greg started to put food in his mouth so the temptation to say something stupid would be lessened.

“She stops me, and she tells me how great it is that I’m there.  She appreciates how I’m setting an example for the younger generation and goes on about how much she likes my attire.  I of course have no idea what she’s talking about.  I was there for Grandpa, not myself.  I asked her what she meant.  And are you ready for this?  She thought I was Wonder Woman!  Apparently she mistook my dress for a toga.”

“Mmm”, Greg murmured as he chewed eagerly on his food.  He could understand The First Lady’s mix-up.

“I didn’t know what to do.  I tried to explain that I wasn’t a model or an actress or anything.  I was just a granddaughter!  But how do you explain to the most important woman in the country that she’s mistaken?  Then she took me out to the reception room and told all these dignitaries’ kids that I was Wonder Woman.  That I was there just for them on the special holiday!  I turned beat red when my Grandpa arrived and we had to sort the whole thing out.  The First Lady had a great sense of humor about it though.  She wouldn’t stop apologizing and we laughed about it for quite a time after.  But being introduced by Wonder Woman; it was all so embarrassing.  I still have a picture of The President, The First Lady and myself at home.”

“That’s quite a story”, Greg said as he finished off the last of his rolls.

“How’s the fish?”

“Quite good”, Greg replied.

“And you?”  Sophia reached for her plate as she prompted Greg.  “What’s your tale societal woe?”

“I have to think about that for a moment”, Greg said as he scooped up the green pile from his plate and thrust it into his mouth without a thought.

“Greg!”

There was a moment of calmness.  To be truthful it was more of a millisecond.  In that infinitesimally minute amount time, Greg was confused.  He saw a shocked expression come across Sophia’s face.  He felt the green paste land on his tongue and do something to his taste buds.  Then, scant seconds later, all the sound and sights in the room vanished as all his senses turned toward his mouth.  All he could feel was the excruciating pain that overcame his mouth.  His tongue was on fire.  His eyes watered, trying to douse the inferno that had when his lips had closed and the fork had wisely retreated.  It was in that formerly calm moment that Greg learned what a heaping mound of wasabi would do to a man.

“Aaaaah!!!”  Greg screamed as the agony became too much for him.  He clamped his hands on to the table, pulling the tablecloth towards him as he reached for anything that might bring him relief.  He spat the green offender out and chugged down the water that had been four gallons short of what he needed to put out the blaze on his tongue.  He chugged down the wine and felt a sense of relief coming.  The worst of it was over, but a painful tingling remained in his mouth.

There, on the formerly pristine tablecloth, lay the aftereffects of what had just happened.  In a big white circle, surrounded by crystal glasses and fine cutlery was a green blob, now looking rather disturbing and on display for the world to see.  Many of the surrounding patrons took up the invitation and craned their necks; gasping and chuckling were audible from nearby.

Sophia’s eyes grew wide while Greg’s still welled up from the sensory overload.  Neither of the two could take their gaze off of that wasabi bull’s eye on the giant target before them.

“Huh”, Sophia finally replied.  “Guess we now your most embarrassing moment, don’t we?”

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

2 Responses to The Dating Game (Weekly Writing Challenge)

  1. s1ngal says:

    omg. that’s the same wasabi-experience I had. darn those things, they look so tempting :sighs:

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