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Popsicle Stick on Floor

Lisa Ferber

A comedic peek into the minds of two people on a second date.


You hope she won't notice that all you have in your cupboards are Ramen noodles. So, fine, you're just not a well-stocked fridge kind of guy. If she likes you, she won't really care. Thought perhaps you should've cleaned the house a little, you realize while lifting a large dustball off the floor.

Well, there's still ten minutes till she arrives. You race around the room and retrieve seven more dustballs, a crunchy used napkin, and a Popsicle stick. Then you survey the terrain; foldout futon sofa, two straight-back chairs from your parents' old bridge table, a bunch of books in milk crates, and your TV. All right, you think, lookin' good.

Now's your last chance to set a mood. You feel awkward about traditional romantic things such as dimmed light, soft music, and candles, but you do want her to think you're smooth. Well, you want this date to stay in the house, more importantly, since you're kind of low on cash this week. All those comic books add up after a while.

So maybe you'll just light one candle and leave on the overhead light, that's not too obvious. You take the candle, a gift from an ex, out of the closet. Isn't it scented, cinnamon or apple pie? You smell it and can't tell. Maybe it's cinnamon apple pie. That should set a safe, homey kind of scene and make her want to stay in. Yes, and with that bottle of wine you have from that party three months ago, you should be all set.

Second date's a tough one. You didn't kiss her on the first because she hugged you and then stepped back. What does it means when girls do that? Is it like, I want to get physical with you so here's a hug, or I don't want you to kiss me so I'll hug you and that's it? All you know is, it throws you off. You were hoping to kiss her, just a short one to see her response. Now you'll have to spend this whole night looking for signs she wants you to make a move. Or maybe you'll just jump in; see how it feels at the time, whatever.

You are wearing the same shirt you wore yesterday because your coworkers complimented it. Okay so you forgot to wash it, but you showered this morning. Besides, if she gets that close to you she probably likes you enough not to get turned off. You hate wearing nice clothes and are looking forward to the sweatpants-stage of the relationship. It's been a while since you've had anything serious, and round-the-clock sweatpants-wearing is something to look forward to.

The doorbell rings and you have not lit the candle. "Meghan?" you call.


"Just a sec!" You scamper to find the matches in your kitchen drawer, and then light the candle. Another Popsicle stick catches your eye, on the floor next to the remote control, so you race it over to the garbage. Then you pray quietly, "Please God let me get some," and open the door.

Wow, she looks even better than you remembered. And she's showing cleavage, a good sign. You say, "Hi, you look terrific!"

She blushes. You love that. "Thanks. Nice shirt."

"Come in." You notice she's wearing a fancy dress, which is cool but it makes it seem like she's expecting a night out. Hmm. You close the door. "Can I interest you in some wine?" you ask, feeling smooth.

"Sure, what do you have?"

Oh no, you think. She knows wine. "Um, it's…Cabernet Sauvignon?" You don't know which parts are important to tell her. The brand? The date? The date is this year, and you heard that old ones are the expensive ones.

She seems to be waiting for more but you don't know what to say, so you add, "How bad can it be?"

She shrugs, says, "Sure!" and sits down on the sofa. A good start to your plan of staying in. She looks around and says, "Nice place you have."

"Really?" No one has ever said that except that one guy you let pass out on your sofa after a party. "Thanks so much. Yeah, I call it home. Got my TV and futon, don't need much more."

You hand her the wine, then sit down near her and say, "Cheers." Unoriginal, but you're not the kind of guy who can get away with "To a romantic evening" or some other bullshit. That's for guys on TV shows who wear stuff in their hair, own tuxedos and have a bed that unfolds out of the wall.

She asks, "So what would you like to do tonight?"

You don't know how to tell her you think this is what you are doing. It hits you that the two of you might have talked about going out to dinner, but you hope that's not true. "Um, I…" Your phone rings, the answering machine message plays, and the caller hangs up. This has been happening ever since your breakup with Siobhan. You will never go out with a drama queen again. You smile at your date.

She says, "Shy person?"

You laugh. "I guess."

She fidgets with her pearl necklace. Girls who wear pearls usually expect fancy dinners. In your life experience this has often been the case. "So, how was your week?"

"It was cool," you say. "I worked my usual shifts at Kinko's, you know, I mean sometimes people freak if there's a smudge on their paper, whatever, but I try to be nice about it. Usually. And I wrote a song this week. Um… Spoke to my brother, he's in trouble again." You don't yet know what she cares about.


You hope you don't have lipstick on your teeth and wish you hadn't forgotten your pocket mirror. His building is a little tackier than you'd hoped for, but he is really cute and maybe this is just his slumming period. Lately you have been trying to be more "deep" and not so focused on whether a guy has a fancy house, but so far you've gone on three dates with guys who live in crappy walkups and it's just not feeling right.

It seems like he might be wanting a stay-in night, which you think is too fast on a second date. He's probably used to those bohemian arty girls who have theories on why sex is meaningless or something. Plus do you really want to sit on this too-soft futon all night? You saved room for dinner and that's what you're expecting. Not to mention you didn't put on this great dress and the pearls grandmother gave you to sit around someone's apartment. Still you don't want him to think you're fussy. Maybe he'll get hungry and suggest dinner soon. He's telling you about his week and you're trying to find a commonality, because you do have a weakness for guys with that sandy-colored hair that falls in their eyes.

He asks, "What kind of music are you into?" You notice the lit candle next to him and realize he is definitely planning a stay-in evening.

He is a musician and looks a lot hipper than you, so you try to sound on top of things. "I like techno…alternative…and stuff." You don't really know what you mean, but hope he'll just let it slide.

"Anyone in particular?"

"Um, yeah you know, I never really remember the names, I just know I like it when I hear it." You're not really lying. There are tons of painters you like whose names you don't remember either. So there. "I'd love to hear some of your favorite stuff?"

He searches a minute and pulls out a CD. "This is a bunch of guys from Seattle called Gumball Machine. Right now their bass player is in the hospital on a drug OD thing but…so anyway my favorite song is called 'Caged Persona,' they wrote it like in five minutes one night or something like that. Here goes."

He presses play and it sounds like pure noise. You wonder if you are getting old. You sit there with a forced pleasant smile, hoping he says something. After what must be a full minute, he says, "Innovative stuff, don't you think?"

"Yeah," you say, "I don't really know what to make of it."

"They sort of defy definition."

You run with it. "Yeah! It's like, they don't remind me of anyone else?"

"I know! Totally unique. It took me a while to get into them…They're sort of abrasive but they grow on you."

Hearing he found them abrasive at first makes you think maybe you do have stuff in common. "Yeah, I can see that. So…do you want to take a walk, get some dinner or something?"

He says, "Oh, ya know, I actually already ate."

You wonder if maybe he thinks you want an indoor date with fool-around potential because you'd hugged him last time. Maybe he thinks you're a fast mover. Or, perhaps he thought your hug meant "let's be friends," and friends don't take each other out to dinner; they grab a slice of pizza. And really the reason you hugged him was because you find first-date kisses so awkward that you figured you'd avoid the whole potential for that by just hugging him and ending the night at that. Maybe you are thinking too much? You say, "Oh." Now you're embarrassed about being hungry, though you don't know why. And you're almost positive the two of you had talked about getting dinner. "Well. Do you have anything…maybe I should…" You are about to suggest running out and getting a sandwich for yourself; you feel uncomfortable asking him to feed you.

"Let's go grab a slice, how's that?"

Pizza is not "being taken out," in fact it's the ultimate "not being taken out." But you don't want to sound like a princess. "Sure, pizza. Let's go."


There goes fifteen dollars, you think as you order a large pie. And of course she had to get mushrooms. You would have asked her to chip in but you can tell she expects to be taken out. Certain girls just have that "buy me stuff" air about them.

She really is pretty. Not too much makeup, and on the slim side without being skinny. It's already her second slice and she hasn't said a word about getting fat from it or some other diety thing girls always say. So that's good. Your last girlfriend always asked you if she was fat and when you'd say, "Would I be with you if you were fat?" she'd get really upset. You did not understand this.

You ask, "So how was your work day?"

She says, "Superproductive. We just got this big baby food account everyone's excited about, which means long hours but I kinda get juiced from that, you know, when you really just have to sink in to something and give it all you've got."

You do not understand people who get off on working late. "Yeah, sometimes I stay up late writing music. I'll even miss my favorite TV show or a party if I'm into it."

"Yeah, sure, I've totally cancelled dates with friends if I'm at home and I get an idea for one of our accounts."

"Yeah! Like, you're just…in your space?" Maybe this is going to work out. Maybe you are connecting. Plus it means she'll be independent and not all clingy since she works a lot. You hate when someone needs to be with you all the time. But then, you also hate when you need someone and they're not around. So maybe she works too much? "Have you always wanted to write advertising stuff?"

"No, when I was little I wanted to be a trapeze artist."

"Why the switch?"

"Risky, short-term…impractical. Though sometimes I like to dream… What about your job at the copy shop?"

You don't know how to make your job sound interesting, because it's not. You briefly wonder if you can create a speech on how it's very important to be part of the work force and that somebody has to do what are considered menial tasks, to keep the whole society running. But you had tried to work this once before and felt ridiculous. "I mean, you know. Whatever supports me on my path." You are about to tell her how you won the third grade talent show for your guitar rendition of Hendrix's "Purple Haze," but realize you already worked that on the first date.


You let him tell you the story about getting backstage at a Stones concert when he was fifteen even though he told you already because you are dislodging a piece of mushroom from your tooth. It's great that this guy has a passion, but you need to know things like, if you keep going out, will he take you to cultural events and lectures? Will the meal plan include non-pizza items? Perhaps he will take you to rock concerts, however, which you might like. You went to one when you were seventeen and hated it, but maybe you've changed.

You ask, "Do you like lectures and seminars and stuff?"

"Sure," he says, "I went to one recently on science fiction in movies and literature.

"Oh yeah?" You love science fiction, and you know that guys value this because it's a rare quality in a girl. You wouldn't take it so far as to go to a Star Trek convention and dress up like Uhuru, but it's definitely one of your interests.

"It was really educational." He goes on to tell you the big-name authors that were on the panel, and you're getting happier. He then asks you your feelings on Philip K Dick, who you dislike and so does he, and Robert Heinlein who you like and so does he. This is great. You could keep talking to him forever, except it's noisy in here and you really want to be out on the town. "So you want to find a nice jazz club or something?"

He's facing out the window and says, "Well, it's kinda raining now. Wanna go hang out at my place?"

You still need to let him know it's hands off, but you agree. Well, it's maybe hands off. You'll see how you feel when you get there. This pizza isn't really so bad, come to think of it. "Sure, that'd be nice."


You are thankful for the rain. This girl is growing on you, and it's cool that she has a real job that she's into. You need to be around people with drive, maybe. You get to your place and say, "So, wanna listen to more music? Why don't you choose something you like?"

She rifles through your selection and selects an Elton John CD. You secretly like Elton John; he's a freakin' genius, but you know he's not considered trendy and edgy so you don't talk about it. Except that some people know about how Axl Rose says he loves Elton John, so you can say it around people who know that fact, but not around people who don't. She sits far enough away from you that you need to strategize how to put the moves on her. The song "Daniel" comes on and she says, "God, this song always makes me sad."

"Yeah?" You shift closer to her, but still not close enough to do anything.

"Sure, when he goes, 'Your eyes have died, but you see more than I.' It's like…"

You shift closer once more, as quietly as possible so as not to ruin the tender moment. You put a hand on her shoulder and say in what you hope is a soothing tone, "I know, like when he says, 'Can you still feel the pain.'"
"Oh, I know, I know."

You are so close now that if she just turns her face you can kiss her on the mouth.


He is so close that if you turn your head it will be kiss time. You do want him to kiss you, you've decided, but the moment right before makes you squeamish. Still, it will only last a second and you've survived it before. Okay, at the count of three, you will turn your head to face him. One, two, three. You turn your head.

Zoom, his mouth is on yours and his tongue is instantly in there, just sitting like a big lump of food. Passive and heavy like that hippie guy last month. You don't get the point of this. What are you supposed to do: Let your tongue sit too, or are you supposed to take charge? Kissing is the most important part of all the sex stuff so you're not sure where this will go.

Things pick up when he starts running his fingers through your hair. You used a particularly pricey conditioner just in case this was to happen. He's good at the hair stuff. Kind of makes up for the kissing.

His phone rings and it's a woman's voice: "Hi, Alex." He stops kissing you. "I was just wondering what you were up to….I'll be home all night…so, okay…bye."

You ask, "Who was that?" hoping it's not to possessive.

"No one. I mean, my ex-girlfriend. I don't think she knows it's over."

You wonder if maybe it isn't. What if you're just his rebound? Or worse, the girl he sees before getting back together with the person he just broke up with? "Do you want to call her back?"

"Nope." He leans in and keeps kissing you, which feels rocky for the first few seconds due to the interruption, but he's so good at the hair-petting. Then somehow a hair makes its way between your mouths. How does this happen? You consider being blunt and saying, "Let's get rid of this hair," or not saying anything and just yanking it away, and then you notice him actively transferring the hair into your mouth. Did he really just do that? And it's no accident, it really seems like he sensed the presence of a hair and decided, Better in her mouth than mine. You stop and say, "There is a hair in my mouth."

"Really?" he says.

Maybe it wasn't deliberate. You are trying to be more trusting.


That was embarrassing when Siobhan called. You hope it won't mess things up. Kissing this girl is really nice, though you do feel bad about accidentally moving that hair into her mouth. Still, you've never been big on kissing and hopefully she isn't either. The problem is you're really tired today and you want to end the night without being rude. You look at her and say, "I'm having a really good time. I wish I were more awake."


You feel like that wasn't a good word choice. "I mean, I was up early and I need to turn in."

"Oh, sure, okay."

You exchange a few more words and get her coat. You kiss her goodnight and say, "I'll call you." You are not certain you will, though you probably will; it's just that this is your default date-ender.

"Great!" You can't tell if she wants you to.

You lay back on your sofa and stare at the ceiling. You will probably call her. But at the same time, you know Siobhan is sitting home right now wanting you to call. It'd be easy to get back together. It wasn't perfect, but at least she knows you and can put up with a certain amount of your stuff. This girl might put up with all of it or none of it. Meeting new people is a drag.

You will sleep on it.


The taxi driver is playing dance music, which is a great way to end the night. You know you will wait for him to call you these next few days, though you're not completely sure you want to date him again. It's just that you feel so bad if the guy doesn't call.

Though he's not a great kisser and his house is shameful, he had other fun qualities. Still, that phone call from his ex, not a good sign.

You get home and check your Filofax for the next week. Spinning class Monday, Wednesday and Friday; dinner with Marisa at Sarabeth's Kitchen Thursday; well you've got Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday open in case he calls. Just in case. And you will say yes if he calls you. Probably.

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