Essay, Humor

VENTI CARAMEL ICED COFFEE

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.45.25 PM“Can I get a venti caramel iced coffee?” I tell the Starbucks cashier. She nods and scribbles my name across a plastic cup the size of a baby crib.

“I’ll pay for it,” he says, pushing his card across the counter. I smile at him.

“Thanks!” Fucker.

We sit down at a small circular table, him fiddling with his car keys and me leaning forward, perched on my elbows.

*****

I’m sitting in the library, books strewn across the table obnoxiously, forcing my tablemates to cramp into the corner of the space. They shoot glares at me, which to me are like Nerf pellets but to them are probably daggers. My phone gives a small, discrete bzzz.

I slide it open and click on the yellow Grindr app, the black mask of the icon like a gay Phantom of the Opera except even less faces and more torsos. A message has popped up from a cute Latino guy with curly hair and a mild-mannered smirk.

“Hey. At first I thought you were looking for a centurion, but then I read it again and I’m mistaken,” he texts. Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.44.16 PMI laugh out loud. My profile, a 10/10 picture of me, has the caption, “Looking for centenarians. Anyone born after 1914 need not apply.” The fact that someone A) knew what a centenarian was and B) knew what a centurion was, is enough to make me text back an answer.

His name is Corey, and he goes to a college near mine. He wants to hang out—no sex, just mac n’ cheese—but I’m swamped in finals and migrating back to New York directly after. After a few more minutes, I find out that he’s actually from the adjacent town to mine in New York, so I give him my number.

Eventually, I delete Grindr because having it on my phone always make me feel like I need to shower incessantly. But we begin texting back and forth, at first gingerly, and then more frequently.

Corey is dorky but funny, and works for an engineering company back in our college town but travels back to New York occasionally. He’s two years older than me, a junior to my then freshman. I find out his last name, immediately stalk him on Facebook and find that we have three mutual friends and he’s not Hispanic, but Mayflower white.

Corey keeps asking me out, so after the fourth or so attempt, I accept his offer and we make a plan to meet up when he’s back in New York.

Weeks pass, and I kind of create a boyfriendish allure around him. He’s at the top of my messages, and has sent me enough pictures for me to be relatively sure that he’s not a forty-five year old serial killer looking to make me into a sports coat.

“Do you want to see Maleficent with me?” I ask. Looking back, I don’t know why I keep insisting on bringing dates to children’s movies. I’ve brought a date to see Frozen—pre hype—and that ended about as well as the Hindenburg. Additionally, Maleficent was so subpar and I really would’ve liked to see Angelina Jolie portray a more fleshed-out “villain.”

“Yeah!” he answers, and we make a plan to meet up that night at a public mall.

Hours later, after I’ve planned my outfit but before I’ve prayed to the gods and made my ritual sacrifice, Corey Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.46.27 PMsuggests that we buy tickets ahead of time, online. When I point out that it’s unlikely that the movie will be sold out, since it’s been out for two weeks, he insists that we “don’t want to miss out.” Also, he can’t order the tickets because his laptop is broken so can I please order them and he’ll “pay me back with coffee or…other things ;).”

“Coffee is fine,” I text back and order the—per his request—IMAX tickets, knocking me back about forty dollars. I don’t think I would pay this much for a prostitute, much less a date, but the metaphysical check has been cashed and I’ve selected two seats—so basically we’re married—so I can’t back out now.

*****

“You’re tall,” is the first thing out of his mouth when I walk up to him. He’s been leaning against the metal railing.

I have no idea how to respond to this fact. For some reason, because I’m over six feet, people feel the need to point out that I am tall, as if that’s a secret my parents have been hiding from me for 18 years and they’re springing it on me in an Italian restaurant. Being tall is one of those things that people assume is socially acceptable to have an opinion on. No one walks up to someone else and says, “Hmm, I didn’t think you be as ugly as you are,” or “Oh, you’re Jewish? You don’t look Jewish in your pictures.”

I answer with a “Ha, yeah,” mingled with a fake laugh. He is still looking jarred, but manages to pull it together enough to walk with me towards the escalator. We still have a little bit of time before the movie, so we’re going into a Toys “R” Us because apparently going on dates regresses us into middle school.

“I actually turned down a threesome to be here,” Corey says, in what I can only assume is an attempt to break the ice and not an attempt to get me to break his neck.

“Oh,” I say, laughing. Note to reader, I will be uncomfortably laughing throughout this entire date. Brace yourself.

On the list of things that have been said to me that hover in between Flattery and Fuckery, this is right up there next to someone saying that it “wasn’t your looks” that made me single.

I’ve texted out three SOS’s, so this date isn’t going categorically great, so I breathe a sigh of relief when he suggests we go get coffee, which means A) I get coffee B) the movie is nigh and C) I get coffee.

I decide to forgo my usual grande and get a venti, because I’m going to eke everything I can out of this $40 dollar date. The barista gives me the venti iced coffee, which is large but barely even a movie theater small.

*****

We sit down at a small circular table, him fiddling with his car keys and me leaning forward, perched on my elbows.

I’m rambling on. He’s quiet. When people get quiet, I tend to talk more. So I’m all chattering mouth in the silence, chattering teeth from the iced coffee, and gesticulating arms. At this point, the date is basically a dead horse. Not even one you want to beat, just one that was formerly stumbling on weak legs and now has completely given up.

We chat, and he’s perfectly nice, but it’s obvious that I’m carrying the date. And my arms are not that strong.*

*This statement has now become false, as I have been working out and my arms are pretty toned.

“Should we go over to the movie?” I asked brightly, rattling the melting ice around.

*****

The movie is good but not great. Much like myself, Angelina Jolie is visually stunning but seems too skilled for the meager sliver the writers carved out for her. I wanted her to be violently cruel, tantalizing evil, all scorned and scorching.

Times I get up to go to the bathroom: 3

Times our knees knock together: 5

Times I awkwardly crane my head to talk to him: 2

Times he seems about to put his arm around my shoulders: 1

By the end of the movie, I am exhausted from getting up to relieve my bursting bladder, which has been going full steam ahead from the massive amount of coffee I just drank.

We parked in different levels of the same lot, so we walk over together. His car is closer, so I mosey over with him. “I can drive you to your car,” he offers, standing next to his car.

“No that’s fine,” I laugh. He offers again, and I survey him and realize—for the first time—that I would be nervous to be in the car with him, with anyone that I didn’t know, and that makes me squirm.

He leans in and I lean in for a hug. Out of the corner of my eye I see his head swivel and feel a kiss placed awkwardly close to my ear. I pull back from the hug and see him looking expectantly at me.

Oh, fuck.

Our heads careen towards each other as we kiss. It’s all scrape and stubble and the lingering acrid embers of the coffee. What do I do with my hands? I think. I unclench them and swing them halfway towards Corey before swinging them back and keeping them firmly at my sides.

The kiss ends and I smile and say goodbye. I can feel his eyes rolling over my neck as I walk away and I don’t look back until I can hear his engine breathe to life. I wave then, and I can see him waving back through the slant of the windshield.

*****

It’s only later—when I’m recounting the date to my friend—that I realize that I’ve just had my first kiss, my first boy-to-boy kiss.

*****

Corey and I exchange a few texts after our date, but the connection we had via digital communication has fizzled with the reality of our selves. I don’t think about him until eight months later when I accidentally swipe right for him on Tinder while trying to find subjects for a photo essay.

I blindly send him a message detailing my photo essay without looking at who the profile belongs to. A few days later, I’m at dinner with my friends and am alerted to a new Tinder message. My phone gives a small, discrete bzzz.

I slide it open and click on the app’s red flame. It’s one of my potential subjects. I look at the message:

“Um, hi to you too?”

My eyes flash to the name at the top of the page: Corey. I let out a half-shriek-half-laugh. Okay, it was more like three quarters shriek and one quarter laugh.

My friends ask me why I’m gasping. This time, it’s a full laugh, and I tell them all about Corey and the threesome and the hands-clenched kiss and the coffee peeing.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.45.03 PM

P.S. Thanks to my dear friend Nina who helped me brainstorm what I should write about for this essay and who accepted the fact that I had texted her solely to shoot down her ideas until I could think of one better with grace and aplomb. Thanks, N. ❤

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