On The 5th Day of Christmas The Lunchbox Shared With Me

...A Book Exerpt.

MERRY CHRISTMAS To you and your families. Not that I expect anyone would be reading on a holiday, but I posted just for the heck of it. This is another excerpt from the book found in a chapter titled "Match.Con." The chapter itself goes over the misserable time I had with online dating even though it eventually led me to Ashley. Here's a taste of one of those horrible dating experiences.

... However, if I thought being sought out as a cheesy cyber-gigolo was bad, the actual dates were worse. The first match I ever replied to had an attractive photo, was playful in her emails to me, and, because she was a grad student studying art therapy, seemed intelligent. After a few phone calls we planned to meet, and when the time came I took the train north to Evanston where she would pick me up at the station. That night was forecasted to be one of the coldest on record, and standing in below zero temperatures on the curb, I hoped she’d show up soon. Twenty minutes later a grey hatchback that looked as if it had barely survived Mad Max’s Thunderdome rolled up.

“Hey,” she said kicking open the passenger side door, “Sorry I’m late. Some asshole in the library was taking his sweet ass time helping find a couple books I need for this report.” Ooookay, I thought, at least it will be warm inside the car. Oh, by the way, the heater doesn’t work.

Although my first impressions were tepid at best, things started to improve over dinner where we bantered flirtatiously back and forth through the entire meal. What I was exceedingly grateful for was that even without the two drinks I’d already downed, my date was as attractive in person as she appeared in her photo. Sometimes this isn’t always the case, as girls will substitute a picture of themselves from back in their prime, or the one likeness they have that looks good only as a matter of accident or through computer generated improvements. Watching her as she tried to get the waitress’s attention for another glass of wine, I was glad that what I’d seen was what I’d gotten. Not only did she have a pretty face, but she was tall and slender as well. Just a few of the items I’d indicated as being attractive in my compatibility test. This online dating gig wasn’t so bad after all. I thought as we got ready to leave. That’s where I jinxed it.

As I helped her into the full length winter coat she was wearing, my eyes were immediately drawn to her stomach as it just seemed to roll out from under her blouse as she lifted her arms to fit them into the sleeves. The way it crested the top of her slacks, reminded me of thick batter as it starts to pour from a bowl. At first I thought maybe she was pregnant, but recalling how I was laughed at for ordering the salmon while she herself packed away an entire steak and lobster, half my mashed potatoes and refused to even entertain the idea of splitting a dessert, convinced me otherwise.

“Want to go back to my place,” she asked buttoning up her coat.

Will the belly be joining us? Ah, well it’s kind of late don’t you think? This is the universally accepted phrase in the world of dating politely letting the other person know that in fact, no, would not like to go back to their place. Apparently this was not a language my date was fluent in.

“Oh come on. It’s only like 9:30.” It was a hasty claim considering she wasn’t wearing a watch. I however did, and it read closer to 11:45. “Listen,” she continued, “I want to show you a few of my paintings. We’ll have a glass of wine and I take you back to the train station. Okay?” It seemed she wasn’t giving me a choice.

“Sounds good.” How bad could it be, I thought. Well, other than that instant pudding-like gut. It’s questions like these that only set me up for failure. Upon entering her first-floor apartment things took a turn towards the dysfunctional. First off, I was greeted by a massive dog who jumped up, slapping his front paws onto my shoulders so it could look me right in the face the way a housewife might greet her husband as he walked through the door after a hard day’s work.

“Oh, that’s my dog, Sparky,” she said. Sparky in turn looked over at her as if to say, “Well, aren’t you going to introduce us?” Right on cue, my date slaps me hard on the back, “And, Sparky, this here is Ronnie. Now hop down so he can take his coat off and stay a while.”

The way she said “awhile” made me nervous. Great, I thought, she can’t pick up that I want to get home, but she speaks dog perfectly. I hate dog people.

“I’m going to pull out some of my artwork and that bottle of whine, be right back.” Sparky followed her not being much of a conversationalist. The low ceilings made me feel even all the more trapped, while the cracked paint chips that hung like dead leaves made me curious as to whether they contained lead that could possibly explain my date’s dulled senses. That’s when I noticed a man waking up from the living room couch. He seemed just as surprised to see me as I did him. “Hey,” he said as his eyes adjusted.

“Oh, that’s just my roommate, Ryan.” My date had walked up behind me. “He’s was just heading out.” The way she said it sounded to me as it were a pre-arranged setup. I could see her grabbing her coat on the way out the door. “Hey Ryan, if I bring this guy home and tell him that you’re headed out, that means I plan on getting’ some tonight. Got it?” Apparently he did get it because it took about thirty seconds for him to skedaddle. “Come on back to the kitchen, I got something to show you.”

For reasons that seemed logical at the time, I believed physcologist specializing in art therapy would actually be at least to a certain degree proficient in art themselves. Turns out that’s not the case at all, unless she ranked among the bottom of her class, because what she pulled out was more apt in sending me to therapy than it was to help me through some deep emotional crisis. “Well, what do you think?’ I knew she was going to ask this.

“Those are pretty good.” In my mind I might be the meanest bastard in the history of mankind, but it’s just not in me to be outwardly cruel. “Did you say something about wine.” The look on her face told me she thought I was implying a desire to get a little more intimate, but in reality, I wanted to avoid any further moments for forced compliments. “Right this way, Mr. Smooth,” and she lead me to the kitchen.

If the pudding-gut, the dog and her poor artistic skills weren’t enough to kill the evening, the kitchen was the final, and most lethal, blow. The sink was jammed full of dirty dishes that spilled over onto the counters. Next to the trash can was an already full bag of garbage that the corners had been clawed open by some animal smaller than Sparky, spilling an unknown fluid onto the faded linoleum floor. “Those damn cats,” she said sort of apologetically noticing how I was staring at the mess. “You’d think they’d eat their own food instead of tearing into the trash.”

Yes, you would given that it was so accessible sitting out in the open on the counter next to the stove. I wanted to hurl, but held it down. I’m not sure it would’ve changed any plans my date had for me anyway. She dug around in the cupboards for the wine glasses which might have been easier had she turned the lights on, but as she explained to me earlier, the kitchen lights didn’t work for some reason. “Here we go,” she said setting the round, almost globe shaped glasses traditionally used for reds down next to the cat food. I had to grab one to keep it from falling as one of her cats jumped up from the floor to the counter for a midnight snack. “Oh, that’s Socks,” she said from the refrigerator. Her head was half-way inside as she bent over, freeing her belly to peek out and smile at me like a shy five-year old. “Ricco, he’s the other one, he’s probably hiding in the bathroom again.” She stood up, holding the fridge door open as she pulled the cork out of a half full bottle of Chardonnay. “This smells like it’s still good.”

As uncouth as this method was in checking the integrity of wine, it was nothing compared to the full litter box illuminated by the light of the fridge as its door swept across the lumpy pile of grey granules before closing. I was going to hurl again. “Here you go.” I heard her say, which, thankfully forced me to turn around and grab a glass of flat wine that would force the vomit back down my throat. If I thought the litter box was the worst of it, I once again had my expectations exceeded as I faced her, only to watch as she lowered her own glass to a level where Sparky could lap up a little for himself. “He like Zinfandels best, I think it’s because of the fruity flavor,” she said raising the glass up and chugging the rest of it. “But he’ll drink Chardonnay in a pinch if he has to.”


She wiped an errant drop of wine from her chin as she grabbed my arm and dragged me to the living room to watch some TV. I reminded her it was getting late. By then it was close to one in the morning, but she insisted it would only be for a few minutes so she could even out enough to drive after so much alcohol. It was that point I realized that I really had no exit strategy. Shit, shit, shit, shit! You are such a dumbass, Ron! Of course, as we sat on the couch watching God knows what, my date did even out, and by even out, I mean she put her head on my shoulder and feel asleep, pinning me between her and the armrest. Now what? Getting up will only wake her and then she’ll claim she’s too drunk to drive and that we should just hop in bed. I’m sorry, but that mini-Buddha sealed her fate in that department hours ago. My other option was to make my best attempt to sneak out without waking her, and then figure out how to get myself home.

I looked over at my date as she drooled on my shirt. Suddenly, I felt bad for her. She was lonely. Some girls are just sluts willing to jump in the sack the systematic way most people execute a fire drill, but her awkwardness in trying to pull that maneuver made me believe she wasn’t the sort. And despite my higher standards of cleanliness, what really made me any better? I was lonely too and had been for a while. That’s why I didn’t protest more about getting home when we left the restaurant. Belly or no belly, there was a part of me deep inside that hoped for some companionship of my own. Still, I couldn’t let myself give in just for the sake of sympathy. It would be settling for something less than what I was really looking for and that wouldn’t be fair to either of us. I had already done that once before in my life, leading to a failed marriage with three sweet little boys innocently caught in the middle.

My date was snoring now. Poor girl, I thought, I know how you feel, but I’m sorry. When Sparky rested his huge head on my knee and looked up with eyes that seemed to ask, “Are you my new daddy?” I decided to just go for it. I managed to slide out without disturbing her. Sparky walked me to the door. “Is there anything you want me to tell her,” he asked?
“Tell her she’s very nice, but I had to go.” I answered in a whisper. Guess my fluency in dog is better than I was willing to admit. Then I headed out into the sub-zero night where I walked three and a half miles to catch the train home at 2 in the morning.

The next day she sent me a text message apologizing for how dumb she had acted. You could easily sense her actual feelings of embarrassment. I tried to reassure her otherwise telling her I thought it was cute. Later that day, however, I deleted her number from my phone. It was best for the both of us.

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