This originally appeared at In Our Words: A Salon for Queers & Co. Republished here with permission.
Dana Norris went on 71 internet dates in the space of two years. This is date number two. (We posted the first date here.)
Jack is also late for our second date. We’re going to a sports bar for trivia night, but the trivia starts at 8 P.M. and it’s already 7:50. I’m running down the street, trying to meet up with Jack and his cab on the corner of Irving Park and Damen. I’m less nervous than before, but also vaguely aware that I may not actually like this man. The last date was amber-colored, but I was also completely wasted. I suspect my positive feelings were related more to the scotch than the man. Now, a sober week later, I realize that he’s really handsy.
I intersect with the cab and jump in. Jack’s sitting in the backseat, eating an apple. We awkwardly kiss hello, and he throws the apple core out of the window of the moving cab. We go to the bar and Jack’s immediately upset: it’s a University of Wisconsin sports bar, and this is a problem—because he attended some other school in the Midwest that also has a football team. He grumbles and I smile, assuming he’s joking.
Jack asks the waitress for a wine list. She brings back a laminated sheet which has four wines listed on it—two white and two red. He scoffs, “Oh, no, this is pathetic.” He tells me how great his dinner with his friends was last night, how velvety the Pinot Noir was in his mouth, and how he wouldn’t deign to order whatever swill this bar must serve. The bar is showing Grey’s Anatomy on a giant screen in the corner, and I have to practice careful patience not to watch it while Jack chatters on and on his amazing dinner. Turns out he and his friends played credit card roulette again, leaving to chance who had to pay for the entire meal. The same poor man who always loses ended up having to pay for everyone. I wonder why that man continues to hang out with the rest of them.
We order and Jack apologizes to me, “I don’t want you to think that my feelings for you are in any way representative of this bar. I mean, this menu is atrocious.” I nod while trying to identify the terribleness present before me: all I see is tater tots, turkey burgers, chopped salads, bar food. This, I feel, is not a surprise. Since we are in a bar.
We play trivia, but it’s the kind of trivia that actually requires that you know things. “In what year did Reconstruction begin?” We guess and get most of the answers wrong.
Jack tells me that he and his friends always argue about what is and what isn’t “General Knowledge.” I’m rapidly losing in my battle to focus on him instead of Grey’s Anatomy, as Meredith appears to be in some sort of trouble. “So, we devised this quiz, with basic questions that we think any normal person should be able to answer. But then, how do you figure out if anyone would know the answer? So, what we do is, we always ask our waitresses. Because, we figure, if she knows then everyone does.”
Now, I’m fully focused on Jack and the implications of his statement. Waitresses are the least intelligent among us, and so if they know something then everyone else, everyone who is obviously more intelligent than a waitress, will know it too. I worked as a waitress for 10 years. I excuse myself to go to the restroom.
In the restroom, I find myself looking for a window to climb out of. I’m slightly amused by the cliché of my situation, but more dismayed that the restroom is air tight. I’m sealed in. This man is going to continue to paw me and talk about his jackass friends in general and his own jackassery in particular and I have no recourse. I’m on a date which, in my mind, means that I’ve committed myself to the entire evening.
I try texting some friends, to see if they can call me with something to make me have to leave immediately, like an emergency appendectomy. But the cell phone reception in the women’s restroom is nil. I have to go back out there. Maybe I can walk straight by him, out the door, and hail a cab before he notices? Can I pull that off? But, no. He has my phone number. Why did I ever give him my number? Why did I agree to go on a second date? Why did I think that kissing him meant that I liked him? Am I 12?
I decide that the only thing I can do is act as though I’m suddenly not feeling well. I wipe some of the makeup off of my face in an attempt to make it look ashen. I return to the table and stare glassy-eyed off into the distance. Jack asks me if I want to play pool: I say no. So he starts to play pool by himself while talking about himself. I actively watch Grey’s Anatomy. Jack notices my disinterest and tries to make me smile by peering at me beseechingly over the top of his beer glass. I don’t smile. He sits back down, “I’m really very sorry about this bar. I mean, I never would purposefully bring you to a Wisconsin bar like this. I mean, I hate Wisconsin. Even staring at the flag right there is making me angry.”
That snaps me back, “You actually hate the school?”
“Oh, yeah. In college my roommate and I made a pact that we wouldn’t graduate until we beat Wisconsin in football.”
“How long were you in school for?”
“And that’s because you didn’t leave until they won?”
“Well, I was done with my classes, so…”
“So you made a pact, to not leave school until your team won and then, when your team didn’t win…you left school.”
He smiles. I just want to go home, but I have no idea how to get out of this situation gracefully. Playing sick isn’t working and neither, apparently, is being a total bitch. I go to my last resort: total shut down. I stop talking altogether. After 20 minutes of my non-responsiveness he asks, “Do you want to go?” I nod and we leave. He unfortunately climbs into the cab with me and I tuck my hands in my pockets so he can’t attempt to hold either one of them. He once again asks if he can come in when the cab arrives at my house. I say “No,” and, quickly escaping his approaching hug, climb out.
Before I’ve gotten inside of my building I’ve received a text: “I don’t understand what just happened. I thought it was going well…” His text is very open and honest and I have no response. I feel terrible.
Why did I go on the second date? Because he was someone who wanted me who wasn’t my ex. But now I’ve just rejected him in a very blunt, ungraceful way. What if he doesn’t take it well? What if he’s crazy? Crazy and knows my phone number and my last name and where I live and probably, at this moment, very much does not like me because of the terribly passive-aggressive way I just acted. I put a chair in front of my door and pull out my can of mace and place it next to my bed, trigger in the “on” position.
I don’t know exactly why I think that Jack’s going to break down my door in retaliation for my not liking him, but this is the first stranger I’ve ever dated and Good Morning America says that all of them are crazy.
As I lie in the dark, nervously trying to sleep, I realize that I don’t know how to reject someone gracefully. I don’t know how to tell if someone is worth dating, I don’t know how to stop a date that’s going off the rails, and I don’t know how to attract a man I’m actually interested in. I’m newly single and I have no idea what I’m doing.
Dana Norris is the founder and host of Story Club, a monthly show for stories. She has served as the Nonfiction Editor and Managing Editor of TriQuarterly Online. She performs around Chicago with Mortified!, The Kates, Essay Fiesta, Stories at the Store, This Much is True, Beast Women, Waiting for the Bus and Cafe Cabaret. Her stories have been published in Tampa Review, Partner Dance Press, and been featured on Vocalo.org (89.5 FM). Dana received a Bachelors in Creative Writing and Religion and from Wittenberg University and a Masters in Religious Studies from The University of Chicago. She has a Certificate in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Chicago and is currently pursuing her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Northwestern University.