Story A Week (SAW) 12: March 19th, 2018
By Adam O’Sullivan
Another day, another date. Mila was tired of the ritual. Why was finding a decent man so difficult? Go on enough dates, and eventually they all start to blur together. She would turn up to the restaurant, and the night would start off one of two possible ways: one, her date would be eager and early, already sitting at the table. The type of man who wants to make a good first impression. Or two, the table was empty, and the man was running late. It sent out a strong message – his time was more important, she should chase him, that he would always be the dominant one in the relationship. This would be the type of guy who thought that light insults made a woman want him more, the habit of ‘negging’ that so many pin dicked little pick up artists tried to spread across the world to try and explain why women wouldn’t sleep with them without being manipulated. This type of man wanted her to know that she wasn’t on the top of his list, that she had to work for his affections.
For the record, if Mila turned up and the guy wasn’t already at the table, she walked out of the restaurant and never returned his calls. She didn’t have time to play those sorts of games. Years of first dates had taught her not to bother with the self confident assholes who didn’t have respect for their partners.
Tonight’s date was squarely in category number one.
Derek was early. He had arrived a solid 15 minutes before the scheduled time. He did the same thing for all appointments. 15 minutes was a good amount of time to be early, he thought. Just enough to show that you’re eager and want to be there, but not so early that you waste time waiting around.
As the waiter walked her to the table, Mila made her initial assessment of Derek. Jeans and a button down shirt. Smart casual, first date dressing 101. The biggest surprise about his appearance was that the colour of his shirt was grey. Mila had come to realise that nearly 50% of all men wore a blue shirt to their first date – probably to their job interviews too. Somewhere along the way, these men had been told that blue is a neutral, inoffensive colour. Everyone should like blue. Mila hated the sight of it. If everyone wore blue, then no-one stood out. Mila preferred the most garish Hawaiian shirt in the world to a standard blue button down shirt. Rule number 2: If the man is wearing a blue shirt, don’t even bother. Seriously, Mila had been doing this for what seemed like an eternity. Grey was alright. Although, Mila realised, grey could be construed as gunmetal grey. If he made a joke about his muscles being ‘guns’, she was instantly out of there.
She had a lot of dealbreakers.
Grey was Derek’s favourite colour. It reminded him of the steel coloured kitchen appliances from his childhood. As an engineer, he saw metal and steel all around. It was a solid, dependable colour. Derek was a solid, dependable guy. He stood in his chair as Mila came over. He considered holding out the chair for her, but it was the modern age and he didn’t want to come off as old fashioned.
“Thank fuck,” thought Mila, “he didn’t hold the chair out for me to sit in. I can do that myself or, at the very least, that’s one of the reasons the Maitre De is for.” She smiled at how well this date was going already. Most men didn’t even make it this far. She might actually get to eat something at tonight’s date.
Mila leant in for a quick hug of greeting and a shock of static electricity passed between them, making them both jump slightly. Mila started laughing, and Derek joined in, a little startled.
“We’re electric!” he said before he chuckled again. Mila joined in but was already marking a cross against the scorecard she was keeping in her head. The same joke, every single time. Few variation, male to male. Thankfully he was still in the positive so far. It just really was a dull, annoying joke.
After they had ordered, they started talking about work. Well, Derek started talking about his work as an engineer.
“So you’re an engineer? That’s interesting” is what Mila said to him, but what she was thinking was much different. ‘An engineer, you say?’ she thought. ‘Yeah, you and half the city. Jesus, the only way to be more generic would be if you’d just told me you work in an office.’
“I really enjoy being able to see something I’ve designed come to life.”
‘You want to work with your hands without actually getting them dirty’ is what Mila thought.
‘She seems nice,’ thought Derek. ‘Such a good listener.’
“Fuck, I’m a bitch,” thought Mila. Derek took the silence to mean that it was his turn to start asking the questions.
“What do you do for work?”
“Oh, I just freelance. I find what people are looking for and get it for them.”
“Like a detective?”
“More like a personal shopper.”
“That must be fun.”
“My last request has taken a little longer to find than I expected. It really is wearing me thin. I may take a break after this. Take a holiday.”
“Where will you go?” Derek’s ideal holiday spot was Bali. It was overseas, things were cheap there and there was so many other Australians there too to hang out with!
“Oh, honey, somewhere far, far away from here. I doubt you’ve heard of it.” The image that flashed through Mila’s mind at that moment would have been incredibly strange to Derek. She doubted he would even have comprehended what the landscape was.
“You don’t have an accent.”
“I’ve been here for too long. Studied too much. I’m sure my accent will return if I ever go back home.” Mila realised she was talking too much about herself. That wasn’t the point of the date. She needed to know more about ‘dependable’ Derek. “Anyway, tell me a little bit about yourself.”
Derek started talking about himself – where he had grown up, what his parents and siblings were like, what his child hood was like, what hobbies he enjoyed. Mila was so incredibly bored. She wished she could publish the results of her dates, just to show guys that they really are all the same – the same funny family stories, the same upbringing. There might be a few different key details, but really most guys were all the same.
Sometimes it was just so difficult to tell any two humans apart from each other.
Eventually, Mila couldn’t take any more of it.
“I’m just so sick of dating. Day in, day out, another guy, another date. It’s all the same, really. There’s a base reality that each date takes with little change. Other than the major ones. One guy may only be interested with sex, another guy might be only interested in himself. One will be too aggressive, another will be too passive.” As she spoke, data scrolled across the surface of Mila’s glasses. The electricity from the first handshake was actually Mila collecting a small piece of DNA. The test results were back. He was clean. Boring, but clean.
“Lunch dates, dinner dates, breakfast dates. Who goes on a date for breakfast? Sadists, that’s who. This is literally one of hundreds of dates I have been on this year. 622, to be exact. To be compensated, I have to keep very strict records, you see. Who knew there would be so many single men in this city? Who knew that they would all be incompatible, incorrect for my purposes.”
Derek laughed, but it wavered a bit. He wasn’t sure if she was just making a joke that he didn’t get, or if she was crazy. Was this woman on drugs? Maybe it was time for the date to end. Little did he know, but Mila was thinking the exact same thing.
“I’m so sick of speaking this tongue. Hell, I’m sick of this tongue.” She reached out and grabbed Derek’s hand in her own, faster than he could react. She fixed him with her steely blue eyes, and the boredom was replaced with determination.
Derek went to say something in response but he was engulfed by a bright flash of light. The light left everyone else in the restaurant blinded for a second. When their vision returned, the table that Derek and Mila were sitting at was now empty. The plates and glasses were left untouched, as if they had both vanished. The manager of the restaurant called the police, sure that it was some sort of ruse to get away with not paying the bill.
Derek was never seen ever again. At least not on this planet.