Stu stepped through the door of the bar as if it was his first time in such a place. Perhaps it was his first time, which would be highly unusual for a guy at the ripe age of twenty-four. He wore khaki shorts, a button-up plaid shirt and big black rimmed glasses, thick enough to stop a bullet. His pasty white skin was evidence enough that he didn’t get out much and the way he stiffly walked towards the bartender was evidence that he was not in his element.
“What will you have?” Asked the bartender.
“Orange juice.” Stu replied, meekly.
“Orange juice and what?” Sneered the bartender.
“J-just orange juice. T-thank you.”
Stu was a most unusual guy, timid as if beaten into submission over the years. Some say he’s always been a little shy. Others say it’s because of his job. Stu works as a CCSC at a company who’s name we will keep confidential for Stu’s protection. CCSC stands for Chief Customer Services Consultant, a euphemism for Customer Punching Bag. He’s the person who they transfer the calls to when the customer is in a livid, screaming rage. There is nothing he is “chief” over, it’s only in the title to make the poor incumbent feel better about themselves and to give the dissatisfied customer the comfort of thinking who they’re chewing up has some kind of authority. But a CCSC has no authority beyond listening to the customer for a little before giving something to them for free in an effort to make them happy again. It was a lousy job but it paid well and came with full benefits.
Sipping his drink thoughtfully, Stu’s gaze wandered around the room. Tonight he was on a mission -- a mission to pick up a chick. It was actually an assignment given to him by his friends as it was well known that Stu got nervous at the very thought of talking to a girl and so he never had a girlfriend. A curse that his friends hoped to break by sending Stu to a bar. Funny logic.
Two guys at the pool table were looking his direction, trying to decide if they should kick his ass or not. Stu quickly averted his gaze.
Then Stu noticed a beautiful blonde sitting at the bar, not more than four seats from him. Where did she come from? Her tight, scarlet dress was more like an extended shirt and it did little good in hiding her full figure. Stu stood up. He felt beads of sweat begin to form on his forehead and in his underarm area. His legs turned to rubber but he forced himself forward. There was no telling what his friends would do if he left the bar empty-handed. He must succeed.
“Can I buy you a drink?” His voice was so strained, it nearly came out as a faint squeak.
“I have one already.” She said, without looking up.
“Oh,” said Stu, sliding into the chair next to her, unsure if his legs would support him any longer.
“What are you having?” She asked, giving a flick of her hair and looking up at him for the first time.
Stu shot a sideways glance down the counter to where his OJ still sat. “I’ll have a martini.” He announced, both to the girl and to the bartender. It was very likely that this was the only drink he knew the name of and it’s very probable that this knowledge derived from nothing more than a very passionate love of James Bond movies.
She asked Stu a couple of questions, never breaking a smile or even coming out of the obviously uninterested, monotone voice that she carried fairly arrogantly. That was the furthest thing from Stu’s mind though. She was talking to him. She was actually talking to him.
His foot, out of sight from the girl, shook violently while he strained to keep everything above his hips relatively still. He was so strained, he soon started to lose feeling in his fingers and his lips soon started to tingle. Trying to conceal his nervousness, he took many sips of his drink.
They talked for a bit; Stu could hardly believe it. He kept on spitting out all kinds of nonsense to keep her interested. He wasn’t even sure what they were talking about. Did he just say something about nomadic tribes in Africa? Somehow he kept his mouth moving unless it was to take yet another sip of his drink.
The service-friendly bartender managed to refill his glass every time without ever even being asked. Soon the hectic shaking of Stu’s foot turned to a rhythmic sway. Next drink. Stu’s mouth was still rambling yet, somehow, he felt certain that he was being very funny. Next drink. Stu couldn’t help but notice how his undershirt clung to his chest and biceps. He felt -- strong. With his chin jutting out, he looked at the beautiful girl and cocked an eyebrow. He felt -- sexy. Next drink. There was nothing in the world that could stop him now. He was -- unstoppable.
The air was crisp and the sun was just starting to climb through the trees of the park when Stu woke up the next morning. His shirt was unbuttoned and his hair was tossed about in a sort of hurricane fashion. Other than that, and his missing underwear and missing left shoe, his garb was somewhat normal.
He rolled off the park bench and hit the floor with a groan. His head hurt like a thousand espressos and than no more, he felt like a train had hit him and though he didn’t remember anything from the night before, he knew that train collision was probably not the cause of his massive headache. With one hand on his head and the other sticking out so as to help keep balance, he slowly made his way back to his condo.
Stu’s condo looked like a cut and paste version of page thirty-three of the Pottery Barn catalogue. Solid, earthy colors filled the room from threshold to back wall. He flicked on the stereo and instantly soothing tunes from the latest Starbucks-bought album saturated the air.
De-robed and on his way to the shower, Stu stopped in his tracks. His answering machine, displayed in cheerful red letters, “6 new messages.” He had checked his messages before going out the night before and he didn’t even get that many messages in a week, let alone in one night. His finger was halfway to the play button when he shrugged. “Probably just my friends, wanting to see how I failed.” He pulled his hand back and went into the shower.
Minutes later Stu emerged from the bathroom, a scent of Old Spice misted from the room. Stu was not one to give in to clever marketing schemes, in fact, he detested them but every once in a great while he’d fall victim to some commercial or another and when he did, he would become devoted to that product. In this case, it was Old Spice. Though the public targeted in those comical commercials were women that have the power of influencing their men to buy, those commercials skipped Stu’s non-existent girlfriend and directly effected him. It didn’t seem to bother him that the scent was a nicer version of how his grandpa smelled, he liked it.
Stu slumped down on the sofa, massaging his head. Across the room the number “6” stood out, blinking a cheery cherry red and with no further ado Stu found himself at the answering machine.
“Hey, Stu, this is Tiffany,” came a soothing female voice, “I just wanted to say that it was nice meeting you last night and I look forward to seeing you again. Call me!” Stu’s jaw hung in suspension, two inches wider than it would be if he were trying to cram in a large bite of hamburger. Tiffany? She sounded beautiful. He could almost picture her in his mind. She was a blonde, no doubt. She sounded like a blonde and, besides, her name was Tiffany.
The next message came on. “Hey Stu-Bear, it’s me, Tanya. Thank you for helping me with my ex. He can be such a jerk sometimes. I thought it was really brave how you stood up to him, for me. You’re really sweet. I want to make it up to you somehow, just let me know what I can do. Anyway, kisses!” Stu was stunned, unable to move. She sounded exactly like Tanya, the Victoria’s Secret model. Or, at least, she’s exactly how Stu always fantasized she would sound. He imagined Tanya as having jet black hair with a bright red and pink personality. A bead of drool formed in the lower left corner of Stu’s mouth.
“Stu this is Tim, your rent is three days past due, please bring --” BEEP! Stu skipped to the next one; what a buzz kill.
“It’s me,” came the next girl’s voice on his answering machine, “I realized that I forgot to give you my number, it’s a good thing I got yours. I’d like to take you up on going to that concert you talked about so just give me a call, 310 555 1995.” Stu’s eyes rolled up into the back of his head in pure ecstasy. This nameless girl had the voice that epitomized female fertility and youth. He imagined that she was well endowed to where the weight pulled down and gave her that rich voice. She had to be a bombshell, he was certain. It was almost as if you could hear her voluptuous lips pressing together as she spoke and though she undoubtedly had a body that was built to do the devil’s bidding, he knew from a gentle undertone in her voice that she also and the face and heart of an angel. Until he found out her proper name, she would be listed as “Angel Face” in his phone.
“Hey Stu! It’s John. Where did you go? You chicken out?” There was the sound of three guys laughing in the background. Stu loomed over his work badge. The picture showed greasy, wiry hair that was matted in random places and a pale face that was studded with zits. Even the angle of the light was against him in that it came from the side, making his already large Adam’s apple the most prominent thing in the photo -- almost more than his thick glasses. He pulled out a fine tipped sharpie and added a “d” to the end of his first name so his badge read, “Stud Anderson.”
“You’re in big trouble, mister. I know you stole my panties last night and I want them back. If you do, maybe I’ll try that thing you mentioned. You know what I mean.” As this unarguable goddess was talking Stu looked through his pants pockets. In there he found some phone numbers and, yes, a small black g-string.
There are so many varied things most any guy would do in this exact circumstance. For one, they’d have an ego boost by about fifty times or more. They might even get on both knees, look up to the sky and say “Thank you, so very, very much.” So on and so forth. Stu, however, expressed his regards by fainting and falling bodily to the floor.
Stu found himself at a local café a day later. He shifted about nervously looking around for the girl he was supposed to meet. He couldn’t understand why he would possibly be so nervous about meeting a girl that, per his answering machine, was previously eating out of the palm of his hand. Maybe it was because he can’t talk to a girl to save his life or, perhaps, it was because he was blackout drunk when he first met her and had no recollection whatsoever of even meeting her. This could be a problem. What if she expects him to remember something about her? What will he say? Instantly the blood started to rush from his head and his knees locked up. His breathing got short and the room started to rock gently. “I need to get out of here.” He muttered to himself. Spinning around toward the door he was greeted by a brunette 36-24-36.
“Stu!” Tanya greeted him with a big hug, her full chest squishing against his. He sat down quick, hiding his excitement. “So sorry I’m late, traffic was horrible. You know how the one-o-one can be around this time.”
Stu said nothing but maintained the expression of a mime who had just been shot.
He came to his senses fast. “Yeah, baby. Just fine. You lookin’ hot today.” He figured he had nothing to lose and he assumed girls of this caliber liked the strong, insensitive type.
She looked confused only for a second then proceeded to touch up her lips with crimson lipstick.
“So, uh, we had fun the other night, didn’t we?” He asked.
“Does a bear shit in the woods?”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“Huh?” An awkward silence ensued.
Stu snatched up the menu and started looking it over. Within minutes a waitress showed up.
“I’ll have a steak, a side of French fries and a large strawberry smoothie.” Said Stu.
“And I will have a small salad with light dressing.” She turned to Stu. “Atkins diet.”
“Oh.” He said, though he wasn’t quite sure what that meant.
“Would you like to try today’s special?” Asked the waitress. “Chocolate mousse.”
Stu looked at Tanya. “We can split one. Would you like some mousse?”
“Oh, thanks sweetie, but I’m a vegetarian.”
“No moose then, thank you.”
His mind wandered and he thought, if only for a second, and it was as though he could foretell his near and fast approaching future. He saw himself at the table, with nothing smart to say, the soft clattering of silverware in the distance occupying the void his silence provided and a beautiful Tanya who had finished her salad and was trying to hang on his every word, only to find him wanting in the conversation department and herself largely disappointed. “And two martini’s,” he added. He thought it might help take the edge off things.
Tanya looked up. “It’s only brunch.”
Stu was backed off briefly before he remembered his “strong and insensitive” character.
“Girl, don’t tell me when I can or can’t get my drink on,” and immediately he realized his mistake.
She stopped dead, eyes narrowed as if ready to launch a full force estrogen attack. Stu was sure he felt an oncoming stroke.
“Or, m-maybe not.” Stu stammered.
“What’s gotten into you?”
“I’m so nervous!” Stu blurted out, unashamed of how much he’d lost his cool.
She sat silent, her Bette Davis eyes demanding an explanation. Stu proceeded to tell her the whole story of what happened. His verbal diarrhea poured from his mouth like the water pours from Niagara Falls. Were she a psychiatrist and he the client on her couch, she would have taken her own pills to keep from having to listen to his rambling. But she was better than a white coat and she sat there patiently, listening, while Stu explained everything. He explained how he didn’t remember the previous night and how he now had so many women calling him and he even went into his childhood where he never so much as received a favorable look from the female gender.
Tanya nodded sagely, thinking over everything Stu just told her. Stu grabbed the Hines ketchup and was pouring it onto his plate out of sheer nervousness. Suddenly, her eyes sparked with excitement. “I know what you should do,” she said.
“Yes! You must go out again and repeat everything. Get drunk but this time record it so you can find out what you’re doing right. Of course, I could give you a few pointers off the bat and that is: don’t be a prick, girls like to be treated well.”
“So, I record it?”
“Yes, with a mini hidden camera. You can get a button camera that transmits to a device that you can keep in your pocket.”
“That is a great idea.” Stu actually dreaded the idea but he wasn’t able to muster the cahones to tell Tanya, “No.”
So it was how Stu found himself in a bar that very night and after an untold number of martinis -- though not too much as Stu had a low alcohol tolerance -- he blacked out.
Tanya woke up the next morning only to find Stu sleeping in front of her door. “Stu!”
“Don’t shoot, I’m unarmed,” he murmured.
“It’s me, Tanya. How on Earth did you find out where I live?”
“Where am I?”
“At my apartment!”
“Oh, I have no clue.” Stu was desperately trying to wipe the sleep from his eyes and the drool off his chin.
She took him inside where they hooked up the device and played the video on her computer.
The screen showed nothing for hours, only Stu drinking his martinis. He noticed the camera scan across the room more than once but oddly enough he didn’t see any women. After a couple of hours Stu got up and staggered toward the exit when a beautiful girl came in through the door. The woman had curling midnight-black hair, sky-blue eyes and a complexion of powdery snow. She was beauty personified. “Oh a girl,” came Stu’s voice, “I’m sorry, but I was just about to leave this place on the assumption that it was a gay bar but now that you’re here I see this is clearly not the case.”
The girl gave a gentle giggle. “Well, if it’s a gay bar you’re looking for I heard there’s one not too far from here.”
“No ma’am, I’m straight as an arrow. If need be, I can prove it to you but for now you’ll just have to take my word.”
She smiled. “What’s your name?”
“My name’s Stu but you can call me whatever you like, I never liked the name anyway.”
“Awww, Stu’s a great name, it reminds me of the Rugrats.”
“You watched that show as a kid too? Here, I must buy you a drink.”
“Okay.” She agreed.
Stu was watching the TV screen in pure disbelief.
They both sat down at the bar. “What will you have?”
“Sex on the beach.”
“And what drink would you like with that?”
She laughed. “That’s the drink.”
“Wow, that’s embarrassing. Who would name a drink that?”
“Not half as bad as a blow job, porn star or screaming orgasm.”
“We’re still talking about drinks, right?”
She laughed again. Despite being black out drunk, it was baffling how sharp and witty Stu managed to be.
Then, as soon as the girl had her back turned, Stu grabbed the camera, looked right at it and said, “I wonder if you can swim.” The last thing the video showed was Stu’s martini up close and then the transmission ended.
Stu turned to Tanya. “Well, that was still a bit revealing, even though we didn’t get to see the whole night.”
“Yes,” said Tanya, pausing a moment, “Stu, are you a virgin?”
“I don’t know.” He said with a shrug.
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember?”
“Well, you saw the video. I might have lost my virginity then again, we can only assume.”
“Just because she thought you were funny at the bar doesn’t mean she went home with you.”
“So, then, maybe I am a virgin, I don’t know. Based on the times when I was sober, ‘Chastity’ is my middle name -- though not voluntarily so. Based on the times I was black out drunk, I could be a stud for all I know.”
“True.” Tanya thought for a bit. “It’s amazing how charming and confident you are when you’re drunk.”
“Yeah. You saw that girl too, right? She was beautiful. Not that you’re not beautiful because you are but she was -- WOW. You are too, uh, but her --”
She didn’t speak.
“I mean, you saw her. If you were a guy -- I mean, not that you look like one because you don’t, er, well.” Tanya was still quiet, leaving Stu to dig himself a deeper ditch. “She is so hot and out of my league that I can’t even score a girl like that when I’m dreaming. I mean, if a girl like that enters my dreams then I am just lucky if she looks at me and that’s in my dreams where the possibilities are supposed to be unlimited. In my dreams I can fly and walk through walls but still girls like her wont look my way. On a scale from 1-10 she’s a solid 25. Again, not that I don’t think you’re beautiful and I’m certainly not comparing you to her I just -- could you say something please?”
Tanya laughed. “You’re cute when you’re nervous.”
Stu wiped a bead of sweat off his brow. “Glad you think so.”
“Listen, I think you should call up some of the other girls that left you messages, see what happens.”
“Oh, that’s a bad idea.” Tanya raised an eyebrow. “--a bad idea because I have to meet a friend today but tomorrow works j-just fine.”
She smiled. “Great. Let me know how that goes. Talk to you then.”
Roughly an hour later Stu emerged from the restroom of the Starbucks on Sunset and Vine. His friend, Robert, sat in the chair sipping his decaf grande café vanilla frappucino with extra whip cream, or DGCVFEWC as he like to call it.
Stu sat down at the table looking abashed. “There was this guy in the bathroom and I think he was um… That word that rhymes with exacerbating and starts with the same letter as mother.”
“I get it, I get it. And don’t ever use mother in the same sentence when you’re trying to describe something like that,” said Robert.
“So, how have you been?”
“I’ve been, confused.”
“Confused? Like, confused on what your orientation is?”
“Very funny,” said Stu. “No, confused because, well, you know how I get nervous when I try to talk to girls, right?”
“Every girl who’s aware that you exist, knows that. All ten of them.”
“Thanks, again. Anyway, I’ve had many beautiful girls calling me up--”
“That is confusing.”
“--and I was only able to pull that when I was black out drunk. I’ve been unable to repeat that while sober.”
“Hmm, that is interesting.”
“How did you do it, how did you get a girl let alone settle down with one? You’re a married man, wow.”
“Well one thing you need to know in order to keep a girl is to answer their questions correctly. For example if she asks, ‘Do you like my new dress?’ That’s a trick question because nine times out of ten if you say ‘Yes’ then you are at fault because the new dress was a size four when before she was a three or some shit. So, you’re inadvertently calling her fat. She’ll be offended. The correct answer is to say, ‘You are so beautiful.’ Or change the subject or just jump out of the window but whatever you do, don’t say ‘Yes.’”
Stu processed the new datum.
“Likewise, ‘Do you think she looks cute?’ Could be an innocent question or it could be a test of monogamy or it could be pure jealousy. The correct answer is to say, ‘Yes, but not half as beautiful as you.’ or jump out the window.”
“You’re out of your mind.”
“Been married five years, buddy.”
“And that’s what has kept you together so long?”
“No, it is the secret every husband must learn and that is the only two things a successful husband should ever say: ‘Yes, dear,” and “You are right.”
Stu bit his bottom lip. “Marriage sounds complicated and you sound whipped.”
“Whipped and proud. Besides, it’s not as confusing as being single.”
Stu sat there, wholly unaided by his new wisdom and only feeling more confused then he did before.
“Okay, see that girl over there?” Robert pointed to a blonde girl on the other side of the coffee shop.
“Of course I have a good eye, I come from a long line of carpenters. My eyesight is so keen I can see the curve of the horizon.”
“There is no curve to the horizon.”
“Oh? And I suppose you think the world is flat? So stupid. I want to introduce you to my friend, Christopher Columbus. Yeah, he discovered Colombia.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s credited with discovering America.”
“Then why don’t we call our country Columbia then?”
“I think some people thought we should have, back in the early days but that’s off the topic. Get back to the girl, please.”
“Yes, pretty girl but she’s actually not a blonde at all but a carrot top. It’s so hard to tell with girls these days as they always want to change their hair. The blonde wants to go dark, the brunette wants to go blonde. The girl with curly hair wants to straighten it, the girl with straight hair wants to curl it, etc.” He got back to his point, “Now, you are going to go over there and introduce yourself. Just be honest and speak your mind and it will all be okay.”
“Okay, here goes nothing.”
Stu walked up to the girl who was glued to a copy of Stories for Tots.
“Hi, I’m Stu. Is that a book?”
The girl looked up, astonished, as if he were a mind reader. “It is!” She said, “Nice to meet you Stu.”
“C-can I join me -- I mean you?”
“Yes you can -- wait -- do you put milk in your coffee? I can’t stand somebody who would support such animal abuse. I’m vegan.” She spoke as if all her thoughts came out as one breath, without so much as pausing for syllable breaks.
“I’m a soy latte guy,” said Stu.
“Great, have a seat. My name is Eden, like the garden.”
Stu sat down obediently, his feet shifting nervously.
“What are you reading?” He asked.
“Tom and the Hill.”
“Isn’t that for kindergarteners?”
“Not necessarily. You see, part of the beauty of intellectual reading is imagination. A good writer will leave part of the story un-described, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks with his own imagination and thus the story comes to life in his mind.” And so she read, “‘Tom ran up the hill. Tom ran down the hill. Tom is hot.’ See? Pure literary genius. Now I’m thinking it’s a summer day in the mid afternoon. I picture Tom as a boy in his early teens, fit enough to run up and down a hill. He’s no porker, this Tom.”
“Can’t you just look at the pictures?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, those are for kids.”
“Trix are for kids,” he said under his breath.
“Oh, I love Trix!”
Stu was in this deep so he went for it -- speaking his mind. “I have a confession. I’m a total wreck around girls. I just get so nervous that I can’t function. Talking to a girl as beautiful as you is something totally new to me.” This was his idea of speaking his mind.
“That’s so sweet. Okay, my turn for confession. You see, my boss is from Uzbekistan or something like that and all this time I’ve been acting like I know where that is because I went to college and I don’t want him to feel offended that I don’t know his country because I’m, like, educated.”
He wasn’t sure what planet she was on but he went with it. “Any clue where it is?”
“Okay, from what I understand it’s somewhere in Europe, South of Antarctica, where the Himalayas meet the Pacific Ocean. It’s not too far from where the equator intersects the tropic of cancer. I’ve been told that if you line up true North with magnetic North and draw a straight line down past the Easter Equinox then you’ll hit Uzbekistan’s capital city which is named “Las Vegas” after the capital of Nevada. Funny how that is, isn’t it?”
“You know what Forrest Gump’s momma always used to tell him?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t get the reference, is that from a Lady Gaga song?”
“Don’t sweat it.” There was a brief silence. “Well, as long as we’re doing confessions, there’s something I should tell you. My first name is actually ‘Lampshade.’ Stu is just my middle name. I use my middle name because I refuse to make it so obvious that my parents were high as a kite when picking my name.”
“Thanks for telling me. I feel like I’ve already known you for so long even though we just met. It’s like we’re connected on a spiritual level, you know? Can you feel it?”
“I guess so, yeah.”
A little voice in Stu’s head was telling him to run for the hills.
“I got to split now but here’s my number.” She touched Stu’s nose and winked. “Call me.”
Stu made his way back to Robert who had a grin of a father who just initiated his only son into manhood. “Now, we must wait at least five hours before we call her.”
“You’re the boss,” said Stu.
This would mark Stu’s first half-successful, sober conversation with a live, breathing girl that resulted in digit procurement. It was indeed a milestone in his life, one which is usually achieved by any other guy years before their voice even starts to break but this conversation would mark yet another first for Stu and that was his first lie ever told to a girl. No, he wasn’t lying about his first name being “Lampshade” he was quite honest about that. He lied about drinking soy lattes and putting up the façade of being vegan. In fact, Stu probably went through a gallon of milk every other day, he was probably the complete opposite of vegan -- a meatan. This white lie he told is nothing to be proud of but, nonetheless, it was also a first for Stu.
Approximately five hours later Stu found himself on the phone with his new acquaintance, who was all too receptive to Stu.
“Hey, Eden, it’s me, Stu.”
“Hey cutie, I was wondering when you were going to call.”
Stu’s face got red but he calmed himself down, trying to play it cool. “So, uh, what are you wearing?” He always wanted to ask a girl that on the phone.
“Oh, nice.” He paused. “Wait, what’s a Chanel?”
She laughed. “So?”
“So?” He repeated.
“When are you going to ask me out, silly?”
“When am I going to ask you out? I don’t know.” He got a sharp jab in his side from Robert. “T-tonight. How about tonight?”
“Alright, pick me up at nine, I’ll text you the address. I’m going to get ready now, see you soon. Bye.” There was a sound of her blowing a kiss and then she hung up.
Stu sat there with the phone against his ear, a glazed look in his eyes and his mouth dangling.
“What’s she saying now?” Asked Robert after five minutes of silence.
Stu came back to Earth. “She hung up already. I got to get ready, I have a --” He was having trouble breathing, “--a DATE!”
Some time shortly after, Stu was on the third level of an apartment building located just outside the projects. The dimly lit hall smelled like a century of dust that had been embedded into the old, rotted wood and the carpet smelled like it had been a kitty urinal for almost a decade. He was knocking on door 308B½. It was numbered as though the already economy-sized apartments were divided several times more for budget purposes. The space between the doors of 308B, 308B½ and 308C were so close that the space inside couldn’t have been bigger than a closet, where only a twin bed would fit if it were turned lengthwise.
Eden came to the door wearing an aphrodisiac-blue dress, the fragrant scent of Chanel filled Stu’s nose, the light from her apartment backlit her figure, making a halo around her vibrantly blonde hair.
“Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” She asked.
Stu took a moment to find himself, to find Earth again. “It is a banana and, yes, I’m happy to see you.” He produced a yellow Dole banana.
“Wow, it’s big.” Her eyes widened and she put on a devilish smile.
“I guess so. Though I’m told it’s not the size that matters but the quality.”
“And what you do with it.” She added.
“Yeah. Would you like some?”
“Oh, yeah, I want some. I want to put all of your big banana in my mouth.”
“Well, no rush, you can take smaller bites if you like.” He said, gesturing the banana toward her.
The girl’s connotations didn’t seem to register with Stu for whatever reason and the whole time he thought they were literally talking solely about the banana.
“I need to take care of something real quick,” she turned around, “I have crabs.”
She opened the door a bit wider, revealing a fish tank with crabs in it. “Hungry little devils,” she said, dropping some food into the tank.
Stu gave a sigh of relief.
Only a twenty minute drive down the 5 Freeway and the two doves were soon at a posh, all-vegan restaurant. They sat down at a table for two, near the deck.
The waiter came and Eden instantly spoke up. “I’ll have a number sixteen for myself and the gentleman will have a number three.”
Stu chuckled to himself. “Wow, I’m on a date. I was starting to think that my bad luck with women was because I never forwarded any of the chain letters my friends sent me, you know the ones that say ‘If you break this chain letter you will have bad luck for ten years.’”
“Yeah, you don’t want to mess with those, it’s bad Karma. Keep ignoring them and you’ll come back as a cricket or, worse, a mosquito. Do you know the difference between a blonde and a mosquito?”
“One’s a person and the other is an insect?”
“No, a blonde doesn’t stop sucking when you slap it.” Her voice lowered with intensity, “I wont stop sucking, Stu.”
“Woah, that’s um…” Stu felt his cheeks getting hot.
“Sorry, to be so lewd, it’s just that my last boyfriend said I was too frigid and so I’ve been trying to be just the opposite ever since.”
“If you were cold, he should have turned on a heater.”
“I love heaters.”
“Yeah,” said Stu dreamily.
There was an awkward pause and then Stu asked, “So, do you play any instruments?”
“Just air guitar,” she said solemnly. “How about you?”
“Flute. Only on the Wii though.”
The waiter arrived with two plates. “That was fast,” Stu remarked.
“Split pea tofu for the lady and a lima bean steak for the gentleman.” The waiter smiled politely. “Bon appetit.”
“It’s a lima bean steak, tastes just like beef but it doesn’t involve animal cruelty,” she insisted.
“Is that even possible?”
Stu took a bite. It tasted nothing like steak. He imagined she never ate real steak in her life nor did she have a clue what it tasted like and instantly the scene from the first Matrix came to Stue’s mind, where Mouse was arguing about how the machines couldn’t know what Tasty Wheat tasted like and they might have it wrong because what they thought tasted like Tasty Wheat actually tasted like oatmeal or tuna fish. He could hear the movie scene playing in the distant background of his mind.
“Stu, that name sounds Italian,” said Eden, breaking his thoughts.
“It’s practically a shortened form of Stefano.”
“I don’t think that’s right.”
“If Bill is short for William, I’m sure Stu is short for Stefano, the Italian man.” She looked dreamily into the distance. “Have you ever been to Italy? I’ve always wanted to go somewhere that incorporates all the qualities of the Latin American culture while remaining English in essence.” It was as if Stu was witnessing a one sided conversation. “That’s why I’ve always wanted to venture to British Columbia.”
“Oh,” said Stu, forcing down another bite of his lima bean steak.
After several minutes of silent chewing and tableware clanking softly together, she leaned in. “Well, now that you’ve had your entrée how about getting some dessert?”
“That sounds good.” He wanted to get the horrid taste of his pseudo steak out of his mouth.
She motioned for the check, which Stu paid, and they left. Of course, dessert was only meant figuratively.
Not too long after they were on a quiet beach in Malibu, walking arm in arm.
Eden hugged Stu’s arm tight. “The moon is so big,” she cooed.
“Actually, it’s just an optical illusion. When it’s closer to the horizon it only seems bigger in relation to the objects it’s near. The higher it gets, the less you can relate it to the other points of reference and it sort of gets lost in the wide, black void and so it only appears smaller.”
“That’s so romantic.”
They paused. A breeze tickled her dress as she closed her eyes. They kissed. The world seemed to spin, Stu felt like he was having an out of body experience, he was so ecstatic. He fainted.
Stu woke up on the beach the next morning, alone, and with sand infiltrating every crevice of his body. You’d think that he would have woken up with an insatiable lust for more of this girl. You’d think that the keen prick of cupid’s arrow would have had him starry-eyed and love struck. This was not the case, however, as he woke up with an epiphany.
It was there all along, hidden in plain sight, like the carton of milk that you can’t find even though it’s in the refrigerator door. He knew, as clear as day, exactly what he needed to do.
A series of bus connections later, Stu found himself in front of Tanya’s door yet again.
She was about make a quip about his disheveled attire but refrained when she saw his beaming, Bambi eyes.
“What’s new with you?” She asked.
“Love!” He exclaimed.
“Aw, hun, come on in.”
Stu came in and sat down on her couch, posture awkwardly perpendicular.
“Date went well, I take it?”
He looked puzzled for a moment. “Date? Oh, no, I’m not in love with Eden. She’s a bit loopy around the edges, if you capiche me.”
“I don’t think that’s how you use that word but, yes, I ‘capiche’ you.” Stu was still grinning like an idiot. “Who are you in love with, then?”
“Her name is Dora, we work together. She’s the embodiment of Aphrodite’s lust and beauty, hidden under the façade of a nerdy secretary; her pent up will awaiting the knight who would come and unleash her plethora of dark desires and oblige her deepest, primal feminine needs.”
“Whoa buck-o, tone it down a notch or two or maybe six.”
“Sorry,” said Stu bashfully. “I’ve had a crush on her since the day I first saw her but I’ve never had the courage to talk to her. I always go to the supply room to pick up Post-its just so I can pass by her desk. I’ve always wanted to say something but I never knew what to say.”
“Alright, Romeo, maybe we can role-play. I’ll be Dora and you be you. Remember, just have confidence, look her in the eye and tell her how you feel.”
Stu stood up and Tanya took a seat, pretending to be working on a computer.
“Hi!” His voice squeaked and face flushed. Tanya gave him the nod of confidence. “Ah-hem! Hello, I’m Stu. I’ve been watching you from afar for years and I feel that now it is our time to shine. I’ll turn your world upside down, hell, I’ll turn you upside down.”
Tanya slapped him. “Don’t be a jerk-off-aholic. Now, good job on the confidence now just cut out the prick wording. Be real with her.”
“What should I say?”
“How about ‘My name is Stu,’ followed by some trivial jibber jabber and concluded with, ‘I would like to take you to the movies, as a date.’”
“‘I want to take you to the movies, as a date.’ That sounds good.”
This role-play went on for countless hours that night until he felt he was ready. The following day, Stu found himself at work with his hair combed, glasses polished and he was wearing his lucky pair of underwear. He marched up to Dora’s desk trying to appear valiant in manner.
“Hi Dora,” Stu said, arms stiffly at his sides, gripping the seams of his pants nervously like a kid performing in his first school play.
“Hi Stu.” Her brown hair was braided tightly in two braids, a style that most girls had outgrown well before middle school.
“I just came over here to say hello. I noticed that you changed the color of your braces again.” She smiled bashfully, exposing her adult braces then quickly covering it with her free hand. “Don’t be shy. I think that green is a very nice color on you. It brings out your eyes.”
“You have nice eyes too, Stu.”
He blushed. “I must confess: My name is not Stu, it’s Lampshade and I have a drawer full of Post-it notes and paper clips that I never use because I think they are old fashioned and creepy but I always go to get more just so I can pass by your desk as I’ve had a crush on you since the day I first saw you.”
“Of all the things I just said, which one did you know about?”
“All of the above! I’ve sort of asked around about you.”
“Really?” Stu could hardly believe his ears. “Look, I want to take you to the movies and not as a friend, but more than a friend. Not that you wouldn’t be my friend too because you would and not that I usually use a double negative, if that was one, because I don’t but--” It had been so much easier when he rehearsed it with Tanya.
“I would love to go to the movies with you, as a date.”
“Great, I’ll pick you up at six,” said Stu, walking away.
“Wait, you didn’t set a time and you don’t know where to meet me.”
Stu turned around, face flushed. “Sorry, I’m not really good at this.”
“It’s okay, it is cute. Also, picking me up is old fashioned and chivalrous but let’s meet at the movies, tonight at seven.”
“Thanks for taking the pressure off,” Stu said.
“It’s the least I could do,” she said sweetly.
A surge of courage swept over Stu and he grabbed her hand, kissing it softly. An irrepressible smile swept over his goofy-looking face. “I’ve never felt more happy.”
“Me too,” she smiled, braces sparkling under the luminous overhead light.
Stu didn’t need to walk away, it’s as if his legs were carried by unseen, heart-shaped balloons.
Needless to say, the date went well and so did the second, third and fourth date. It wasn’t long before Stu realized that, not only could he talk to girls but he enjoyed it immensely. Especially when talking to his new girlfriend, Dora.