On the dating app Colin told you he does yoga at an Episcopalian church. You don’t know much about Episcopalians, except that Charlotte on Sex and the City was one and she ended up with a Jewish man (Harry), so maybe you have a chance.
At dinner, Colin discusses politics. He talks about a waste plant in New Mexico two hundred stories underground where they store nuclear waste from World War Two. He gesticulates. His arms are smaller in proportion to his body, T-rex like. He smells like something, what is it?
“It’s my passion,” he says.
Maybe it’s Tide.
Or thrift store.
“It’s highly toxic waste. If it leaks…”
A Swiffer. He could smell like a Swiffer.
“That would be scary.”
Cumin. That’s it. Thank god.
“It would pollute our groundwater, it would make us sick, it would be the end of the world,” he says.
You marvel at Colin’s confidence. His oaky eyes, his linear posture, the fact that he can express his concerns about the future of mankind in said posture.
You think now is the best time to reference a conversation on the app about your love for Shania Twain.
“Shania would know what to do.”
Colin laughs. He covers his mouth with his fingers. He’s clipped his nails and his cuticles have been tugged down. Where you come from people laugh with their mouths open, tonsils jiving, saliva tossed about indiscriminately.
“Do you like to sing?” he asks.
“In the shower.”
“Have you ever tried getting on stage?”
“How did it go?”
“My voice doesn’t work as well in front of crowds.”
You like the fact that Colin has chosen a checkered button-up with purple and grey undertones. Feminine, professional.
“I know it’s scary, but you just have to practice,” Colin extends his neck, he focuses on a point behind you.
“You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips…” he sings.
The waitress is about to hand you your martini, but she stops to wait. Her eyebrows perk up, give one long pulse, and you have the kind of exchange women do behind men’s backs, “So this is what we have to go through?”
Except Colin keeps going. And now he’s moved into the chorus and he’s snapping his fingers.
“You lost that love and feeling…” He’s leaning back in his chair. “Wohhhooohhoooo, love and feeling…” Somehow there is light. It crosses over Colin’s hair—auburn, highlighted, serene. The waitress still hasn’t given you your martini. Her mouth slackens. Her eyes grow, and fix on Colin’s plaid shirt. And now you’re both thinking the same thing. Is this what it’s like to grow up a white man in Marin?
Maybe you could get used to that. Maybe it’s time you were with a man who had his life together, who erred on happy. It wouldn’t be so bad would it? You could buy a house in San Francisco together. Your kids would go to private school. You’d have enough money to move your parents up here, slot them into a boutique nursing home or even build an in-law unit out back. You wouldn’t mind being gently raked over happy hours and promotions and marble countertops for the next fifty years.
“Bring back that love and feeling but it’s gone, gone, gone…and I can’t hold on…ohh ohhhh.”
Colin ends with a baritone hum and a self-satisfied smile.
“Great job,” you say, because you haven’t been with anyone for six months.
The last person you were with was a Scottish man who talked dirty to you in bed. You felt more comfortable with him, he seemed to understand the plight of the underdog. He was a writer. He had blue eyes, and curly hair and a wrecked family. When his dad died, his mom had stolen his inheritance by advising him to sign documents he didn’t understand. He spent seven years addicted to crack and got clean.
Later you’ll realize you like him more than the successful Episcopalian.
It’ll be around the time you pitch a tantric sex workshop in Oakland to Colin. Maybe it’s a test. He’ll say he needs more information and you’ll be disappointed. You want him to say definitely. You want him to grab your ass, and pull your hair and ask through breath and teeth, do you want it? Do you? You want him to curse out the government and dismiss every serious idea about social change. You want him to not want kids because this world is a terrible horrible place. And because that feels right. That somehow, really feels right. You don’t want him to be, of all things, hopeful.
But you don’t know this yet. For now you eat your mushroom risotto and talk about where you’re from.
Image Credit: Alfred Bastien, Still Life with Mushrooms (1932)
Ali Littman lives in San Francisco where she is earning her MFA at San Francisco State University. She is the author of Radio Underground (Last Syllable Books, 2018) and her play, “Marla” premiered this spring at the university’s fringe festival. She is the recipient of the Kathryn A. Manoogian Schol Prize in Creative Writing. Her work has been featured in Barren Magazine, The Brooklyn Review, and elsewhere. She tweets @alimcshpiel.