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It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was the age of parents¶ paying credit card bills; it was the age of no money. It was the epoch of liberal beliefs; it was the epoch of not watching the news. It was the year of our President Barack Obama and the origin of the NOH8 Campaign. Moments after entering the dimly lit restaurant, Lucille Wallace regretted choosing to wear her black stiletto combat boots. Gingerly, she spiked her way across a wooden floor littered with peanut shells, grabbing on to the backs of cow-hide lined chairs at random intervals to avoid slipping. The entire restaurant reeked of steak sauce and grilled meat. Tables that had yet to be bussed were lined with untouched salads and used plates, still holding their full servings of assorted vegetables and remnants of potatoes. In her white skinny jeans and tiger emblazoned off-the-shoulder t-shirt, she looked nothing like the typical patron of such a place. After stumbling through the dining room and murmuring a few curses and prayers to various gods, she spotted whom she assumed to be her date at a corner table in the back. Assumed because every other table was filled with at least three people. Oh no, she thought. He¶s the only one sitting alone in this entire restaurant. Is this a family place? Oh God, our waitress is going to assume we¶re married and we¶re going to have to correct her. What if he corrects her first and uses a tone to suggest that he doesn¶t wantto be married to me? Even though I could not want to be married to him. For all I know his family could have a history of mental illness or voting conservatively. For all he knows, I could not even believe in the institution of marriage. Or, maybe I¶m waiting until gay marriage is legalized
to even consider getting married. And of course he¶s in the back. Of course. Because it wouldn¶t be a night out if I wasn¶t forced to endure some type of humiliation, like walking a mile across a floor littered with peanut shells in inappropriate shoes. How long have I been walking? I should¶ve brought a pedometer; I might not even have to go to the gym tomorrow. I think I hate him. Oh God, what if he hates me? If the waitress asks, I¶ll correct her first. She paused and clutched the back of an occupied seat, realizing that she only had a few minutes, at most, to decide whether or not she wanted to ditch this date. She considered her options: there was still time to catch the live broadcast of that singing competition²you know, the one with the washed up pop star judge from the 80s and the mean guy?But there wasn¶t anything to eat at home. Order in? She thought, imagining the decadence of placing an order of heaping piles of lo mein, egg rolls and, if she was being honest with herself, probably a couple orders of crab rangoons, too. All for one person. Was this guy going to be able topthat? Her datewas studying the menu, his eyebrows knitted together in concentration behind thick rimmed black glasses. His head was just slightly bent down, enough so that Lucille could see he had a full head of black hair. Virile, she thought. He was thin, but not in a way that would make her feel self-conscious about her own weight, she thought with relief. He wore a loosely buttoned chambray oxford shirt, rolled up three-quarters length and complemented by a yellow plastic Swatch on his wrist. His front shirt pocket held a pack of American Spirits. Hip.
She ran her hands through her dyed black hair, intentionally flipping her bangs to one side and began to approach him. As she walked away from her balancing post, the man whose seat she had been holding on to whispered to his family: ³What the fuck was that about?´ But she couldn¶t hear him. Her date looked up from the menu and watched her approach, slowly wobbling through a field of peanut debris. She stopped at the table at exactly the moment her bangs fell back into place, sweeping over her kohl lined eyes in a way that she liked to believe gave her an aura of mystery. She smiled and tilted her head, letting her hair obscure half her face. ³I¶m Lucille,´ she said. ³Your eye is beautiful.´ ³Thank you,´ she said, sliding into the booth and taking his menu. She leaned over the table and began to speak in a mock-serious tone. ³I want you to know that I¶m vegan and this place is entirely inappropriate.´ ³Good, because I only come here for the booze,´ he said. ³I¶m Sydney.´ ³What are we drinking, Sydney?´ He took the menu and scanned it for a moment. ³Budweiser.´ ³American,´ she said. ³Is it on special?´ ³Never.´ ³Wonderful,´ she said. ³Great,´ he said. ³Where¶s our waitress?´ ³Good question,´ he said, turning to look around the restaurant. ³Nurse?´
³Are we playing a game?´ She said, in a stage whisper. ³You be Chief, I¶ll be McMurphy.´ ³What about the closeted gay one? I want to be the gay one.´ ³Fine,´ she said. ³But only because I¶m open-minded.´ An overweight man wearing a brown sweatervest filled with multicolored ribbons, buttons and a name tag reading ³Dave´ approached their table. ³HimynameisDaveandIwillbeyourserverforthenightcanIstartyouoffwithanythingtodrink?´ ³Excuse me, Dave´ Sydney said, repeating his name as if it were a dirty word. ³Do you have any hummus here?´ ³Um«´ Dave said, glancing at the menu at the table, which Sydney promptly moved out of eyesight. ³Lemmegocheck.´ ³Let¶s go,´ Sydney said as soon as Dave was gone. In a moment he was on his feet and quickly moving toward the exit. ³But we haven¶t ordered our drinks,´ Lucille said to the now empty seat opposite her. She hopped up and hurried after him, almost crashing into various tables as she attempted to speed walk in her shoes. She arrived outside exhausted and a little annoyed. ³What was that about?´ She said, leaning in the doorway to relieve the pressure from her aching feet. Sydney removed a cigarette from his pack and turned his back to her. ³My boy scout troop leader touched me,´ he said, releasing this confession on the back of a cloud of smoke. ³Oh my God, I¶m«´ ³Maybe,´ he said, cutting off her apology. ³Maybe that happened.´
He turned back to her and dropped his barely smoked cigarette, grinding it out with the toe of one of his dirty white Converse sneakers. ³Those shoes were a bad choice,´ he said, as he began to walk away from her. ³They might not be the only the bad choice I madetoday,´ she quietly said to herself. ³What?´ ³Nothing,´ she said, slowly following behind him. ³I can only hope they don¶t end up being the only bad choice you make tonight,´ he said, turning around to give her a wink. He crossed the street and pointed his keychain in the direction of the full parking lot. Lucille stopped, in part to get a better view of what car he was getting in to but mostly so that he would realize that he needed to come around and pick her up from the curb. He climbed into a fairly new looking silver Audi and let the car run for a minute before pulling around to get her. The static sounds of a live recording of some anonymous indie artist with a tinny wail and an acoustic guitar poured out his windows, all of which were rolled down. ³Did you see that asshole Hummer next to me?´ He said, leaning over the passenger seat and opening the door for her. ³Capitalism. Everybody just wants everything, no matter how ridiculous.´ He swept the CDs and empty fast food bags that had occupied the passenger seat onto the floor and patted the seat, welcoming her to sit. ³Thank you,´ she said. ³I know what you mean. It¶s just kind of sad, you know? Our entire American world is just built on things²these impermanent things that have no meaning outside of what we give them.´ She flipped the visor down to shield her eyes from the sun and removed a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses from her purse.
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