I’m Sorry, I Have Standards

The whole cabin of my Wrangler shakes in the howling wind that blusters up the towering grassy hill. The night is cool and pleasant – the breeze has only just picked up in the last quarter hour, prompting us to end our moonrise picnic to the Top of the World. 

This hilltop lookout is easily the highest point as far as the eye can see, granting an unbroken panoramic view. Out here in the farmland, the lights of the city cannot obstruct our view of the stars; countless constellations and the cloudy arm of the milky way are all in view in the void above.

“I hate to leave,” She says, looking longingly at the sky. “It’s so beautiful out here.”

“It’s nice and quiet.”

“And romantic,” She smiles, and takes a step toward me, “This is literally the nicest date anyone has ever brought me on.”

I close the rest of the distance between us, and move in for the kiss.


 

We get in my car and take one last look up at the sky – I’ve taken off the roof for the occasion – before we drive back down the hill, across the fields, and though the woods to the road.

The wind screams over the top of the car, making the radio inaudible and conversation impossible. But I keep a smile on my face the entire way home.

As my thoughts on the evening consume me, something breaks through the bliss and itches at the back of my mind. Conversations I had heard overheard, and scraps of information She had mentioned in passing were eating at me.

We pull up in front of her apartment, and I stop her as she reaches for the door.

“Wait.”

“What?”

“I know that you said you’ve still been meeting up with your ex on the weekends to hook up,” I start off slowly, then pause for a breath. “If you want to keep seeing me, that needs to stop.”

She looks at me without a trace of emotion in her face. She opens her mouth to speak but hesitates a moment, stunned by my request.

Finally she replies, “I’m going to keep seeing him. But I love going out and spending time with you. Can’t you just deal with a few more weekends while I get this out of my system?”

Good Lord, she’s not even kidding. I can see it in her eyes: that childish pleading look.

“I’m sorry – I have standards,” I say, curtly. “Now get out of my car.”

She steps out onto the curb, and I reach across to close the door behind her. I speed off in low gear without a glance back. For some of life’s concerts you should never be content playing second fiddle. No one is worth the price of your self respect.

A.H.W.

 

Punishment Fits the Crime – Sprint

Some things are so hard to deal with, your brain tries to just block them out – I tell myself as I grab the rim and throw up – but once you feel them again, the pain comes right back.

My nose and mouth burn, as I wretch, spit, and cough.

I lean back on the wall next to the tub, and groan. I reach out and press down on the handle to flush. What was once a few shots and many, many beers, sinks down the drain.

I look over at my friend, Matt. He sits, with his back to the sink. We have been here for an hour or so.

His eyes are shut.

“I- I feel, I, oh- this is rough,” he says. “Last night just- it just – it got so out of hand.”

“Don’t be dumb. I had a guh- (I fight back the urge to puke again) great time. Glad we went.” I mean it too; we spent the whole night at a ’20s theme bash. When I got home, I had time to take off my dress shirt. . . now here I am.

“We’ll live,” I say. But I’m not quite too sure, to tell you the truth. He groans again.

I reach for the knob to turn on the water. The sound helps.

“It was worth it, right?” Matt says. “I mean, you had your shot with Liz! You took her to her dorm, did you. . . ”

I shake my head. “I just made sure she got there safe. We did kiss. That is it.”

“Wow,” he says. “You are a good guy, you know that? I think we-” Matt stops, and goes limp. I look over to make sure he is ok. Still good – just out cold. My arms slip to my sides. I lean my head on the tub.

When I think of the night, the pain now does not matter much. If this is the price of living in the now, I will pay it.

 

A.H.W.

Lies!

Sarah’s fake boyfriend was five-foot ten, rowed stroke seat for his high school’s varsity crew team, and was training to get his EMT certification on the weekend. They met at a church event, but Jeff and I knew him for school. We all used to take AP Physics together.

Of course, we would never surrender all of this information to Ted at once. The man was as unrelenting as he was greasy, and once he got the idea into his head that he wanted to conquer Sarah, there was no shaking it.

The boyfriend cover was the best we could come up with for her. He would hound each of us about it, at length and separated – as any good interrogator would. Piece by piece we would feed him the details.

There’s the problem with laying down a convincing lie: you want to keep the story simple so it won’t collapse under its own weight, but you don’t want to be grasping at straws when the questions start coming in.

The middle road solution: a concise and uniform back story that you can draw upon, but only when necessary. Researchers claim you have a different look on your face when you’re remembering something, than when you’re making it up. Call it an easy tell.

I’m not a liar – at least not a compulsive one.

When I do lie, you’d better believe I have good cause. If you ask the high-and-mighty types, they’ll tell you: honesty is the best policy – but we all know that’s crap. There’s a reason you don’t tell your friend her new hair color makes her look like an angsty tween, ask your cousin if his Prius can outrun a Rascal mobility scooter, or nark on your amicable coworker when they show up to work late.

I’m not saying you should become a complete sociopath – just protect the people who are good to you. Because in that right, loyalty is far more valuable than honesty.

A.H.W.

Revenge Cake

We only have one shot at this, so don’t screw it up,” Hatch grumbles in my ear.

Yeah, yeah, like he needs to tell me – I’m the one who carefully pieced together this plan.

The infiltration itself would be too risky, so we were making our move from above. I unzip my black duffel bag, and take out my glass-cutter. I suction it onto the skylight. Once the rig is secure, I trace a small circle with the cutting tip. I work slowly. A mistake here would mean the pane of glass would land in the middle of the room below. Or – the enormous window could shatter under the stress, and send shards raining down. Either way, I’d be caught and the operation would be blown.

When the cut is finished, lift the glass circle, and look down into the window.

The room below is an enormous commercial kitchen. Cooks bustle between long metal tables, ferrying ingredients and preparing to start work on their confectionary creation. Directly below the window is a large mixing bowl. Assistants pour in cups full of flour and eggs,  beginning to make the batter that would become my ex’s wedding cake.

“Hatch, target is in sight. Time for the distraction,” I whisper into my earpiece.

“On it.”

Below, the fire alarm blares. The chefs, startled, hastily file out of the room. I only have a few minutes to finish the job. I take out a reel of fishing line from my bag, tied off with a sinker at the end. I lower it into the room, until the line dangles just above the bowl. Then, I open the bottle of concentrated horse laxative solution and pour it down the strand. I empty the entire container, and it all makes it into the mixing bowl. Not a drop spilled.

I reel in the line, and grin to myself.

“It looks like this is going to be a shitty wedding.”

A.H.W.

The Dawson Postulate

Theorem: The odds of you encountering any given person -most notably when walking around a corner, passing through a doorway, etc. – are in direct correlation with the amount of shit you are talking about them.

Dawson postulate

As you can see illustrated in Fig. 1, we can extrapolate that as the amount of shit-talking approaches its upper limit, the probability of encounter approaches one.

In my studies, I have found the Dawson postulate most often exemplified on cross-country track team work out runs.

The principle itself is named for Max Dawson – a snarky brown-noser who was often an object of ridicule for teammates. At 18, he was still a tattle-tail.

My teammates and I used to go on what we called, “Grievance Runs.” They’re about as cathartic as they sound. One person would simply state, “I have a grievance.” Once we were sure no one else was in ear-shot, someone else in the group would reply, “We are prepared to hear your grievance.”

Grievances could be something as vague as people who wear socks with sandals, or as oddly specific as people who wear long skirts but pull them up higher to make them more revealing. They can also be about a specific person. A large chunk of our grievances tended to center on the women’s track team. That was pretty much our only dating pool, since we spent most of our free time at practice.

The course we ran on involved many intersecting trails; we often turned a bend or crested a hill, only to find ourselves face-to-face with the subject of our grievance. And no matter who you were complaining about, rest assured if you ran into Max, he would run and tell. After more than a few laughably embarassing mishaps, we started to get careful.

As obnoxious as Max was, he taught an excellent lesson early on in my life, before it really mattered. When on the road, you never out-drive your headlights; when talking shit, never out-gossip your line of sight. Understanding that can be the key to saving friendships, marriages, and even careers.

A.H.W.

Reading the Signs

I’m shit at dating, but sometimes I can convince someone to get dinner with me. Then what? Let me set the scene for you:

INT. CENTRO BUS — EVENING

HER, an attractive twenty-something, who loves country music, rides the BUS beside CLUELESS IDIOT, nervous.

HER

This is my stop. Thanks for taking me out tonight.

CLUELESS IDIOT

I can walk you back if you like.

HER

Are you kidding? It’s all the way up all those stairs; it’d be silly to make you walk up and down like that.

CLUELESS IDIOT

All right, well I had a lot of fun. Want to do this again sometime?

HER

(Smiling)
Oh absolutely we will. I promise.

Exeunt.

There is probably some obvious sign there, which I’m just too thick to see. Still hoping for a follow up date though, assuming it even was a date. As I write this I realize that it probably was one, but that the semantics shouldn’t matter. All the same, I get to thinking: are there any dead giveaways that you are on a date, not just out as friends?

I’m sure in some corner of the Internet, someone has the answer, and I’m determined to find it. Turns out there are plenty of people blogging about the subject – mostly women writing for other women, like the confusion is somehow my fault. The general consensus is if you offer to pay for dinner, and you smell nice, you’re on a date. It’s all very scientific.

I decide that this is important enough to bother my friends with. Their responses vary. Some say one-on-one time with Her is automatically a date. Others say it’s only a date if I kiss Her.

Instead of clearing things up, I find I may have committed a major breach of protocol by not going for the goodnight kiss. Never the less, one friend actually has detailed instructions for people like me:

  1. Establish eye contact
  2. Move closer
  3. Tilt head and close eyes
  4. Stop and await response

I’m told the last step is the most important: you can’t have a good kiss without reciprocity.

“If you’re gonna make a move, you go 90% and make her go the other 10 if you’re gonna kiss her,” my helpful friend explains, “then you know she’s into you.” This is the best advice I’ve been given on the subject.

Another buddy tells me to track down the lobster from the little mermaid – the one that sings Lalalala, go on and kiss the girl – maybe it can give me the encouragement I needed. We’re in BJ’s when he tells me this, so naturally we stop by the live seafood tank to see if they sell crustaceans that could pose as my wingman. It seemed like a more plausible idea while I was drunk.

It isn’t until I remember that lobsters don’t really talk that it hits me: here I am, thinking about whether I should’ve kissed Her, while I’m not even entirely sure if it was a date. But instead of shrugging it off like a normal human being, I’m sobering up in a chain retailer trying to pick out an anthropomorphic sea creature who can do the legwork for me. Not only am I definitely overthinking it, but also I’m probably the reason that women write these, “Am I on a date?” articles. My God, I am the problem.

A.H.W.