As you know, I like to participate in NaNoWriMo, the month-long writing challenge to write a novel in 30 days. This year is no exception. I am writing a chick lit novel called “There Was No Second Date,” in epistolary format. Basically, it’s a series of emails and chat logs between Charlotte, a late-20’s budding-blogger who is navigating the world of dating, and David, a 20-something writer who is getting over a broken heart while lending a sympathetic ear to our heroine.
Charlotte is something of a “serial dater,” who views dating like a very strange social sport. For her, dating is a hobby, not a quest for The One, and she eventually turns that energy into blogging about dating (an activity which leads to professional success, but which creates tension as a successful search for a relationship means the end of her career).
David, meanwhile, is much more interested in finding a life-long partner, so he’s understandably crushed when, during the conference where he meets Charlotte, he also breaks up with his long-term girlfriend. He doesn’t mind listening to Charlotte’s stories, however, in part because he can live vicariously through her, while he isn’t ready to date himself.
We were talking about something– family, maybe? He started shifting in his seat.
“So, do you have any siblings?”
“I do– two sisters. Mary lives in Washington. Husband, a daughter– my niece Elspeth.” Shift shift. “And Joanne, who lives in Virginia, about four blocks from my mom.”
“Ah, so she’s close by then?” A little bit of worry that he might mean “my mom and me.”
“Not really– they’re on the other side of the state from where I live.” Shift shift.
“Oh, cool.” I’m starting to wonder if he needs to use the restroom. The waiter comes by and refills our water glasses. I watch Kevin like a hawk– does he seem more uncomfortable by the pouring water?
Nope. Seems fine. I can almost smell the plantains now and my mouth starts watering. I take a sip of my water. He shifts in his seat.
“What about you? Any family here in Chicago?”
“Oh, just my aunt,” I say. “Sophie’s in her seventies, and starting to get a little touched in the head….” I start describing my wonderful aunt and her antics, and as I do so, he seems to be engaged and listening, distracted enough that….
He picks up his butter knife and reaches behind his back, mindlessly scratching his back with the knife.
I’m mid-sentence when this happens. “–and right there, in the middle of Macy’s, she starts having a loud discussion about women’s clothing sizes and why she used to be a size 10 and now they want to put her in an 8–” I’m making eye contact with Kevin, because I just can’t look away. Breaking eye contact means acknowledging what’s going on– he’s scratching his back with his butter knife!
Thankfully, his itch satisfied, he sets his knife back down and the crisis passes.
And then the bread arrives. The Cubans make this wonderful, buttery bread that I adore…. and as soon as it arrived, he picked up his knife and cut himself a slice.
I sat, disappointed, watching him eat bread and talk about his job for the next few minutes, wondering how to get out of this one.
“You sure you don’t want any bread?”
“Uh, no,” I say, staring at the bread like I’m a starving African child. “I’m saving room for the plantains…..”