hello, are you religious at all?


word had gotten out that i was an eighteen year-old virgin, so naturally, all the boys at tower records, my coworkers, wanted to help me out. what's funny is that, at the time, i thought they might actually be able to help me. they were a weird, dirty group of of guys, but i trusted them anyway.

john decided he was going to make it happen. john was a dopey-looking white guy with ears that stuck out and a dumb and dumber haircut. he always wore a baseball jersey, and he loved country music. he'd bring a big bag to store his baseball equipment, and later, after all of this went down, everyone found out he had been using the bag to steal a shitload of cds every night.

john told me that his girlfriend knew a girl, recently single, and that we could make a double-date out of it. i didn't want to get set up. it wasn't supposed to happen that way. but after a week of john badgering me, i had finally given in. scott rangle-cherry, a native american bodybuilder who only worked one day a week, advised against it. dude, he said, you're really gonna let john set you up? why not, i asked. i mean, scott said, taking a look at his busted-up girlfriend, you know she probably ain't gonna be all that. i shrugged.

john told me a little bit more about the girl. he said that, like me, she was a senior in high school. she went to mira loma or north highlands or some shit like that. he said she had just gotten out of a relationship, and that her ex-boyfriend just got of jail. i couldn't tell if he was fucking with me or what, but i was excited either way. what kind of girl had an ex-boyfriend who had been to prison? i had wanted to find out. maybe it was just what i needed.

friday finally came, and i had made sure to get my haircut the day before. a $5 haircut from pro-cuts on folsom blvd. i knew enough not to wear my hat that day, but i still wore my baggy cargo pants, my puffy skater shoes and a striped polo shirt from the thrift store. john saw me in the backroom. dude, he said, is that what you're gonna wear tonight? what's wrong with it, i asked. he put his fist to his mouth and started laughing. i thought it was a dumb thing for him to do, since it was practically my uniform. we'll go shopping at lunch, he said.

i knew that if john was laughing at me, i must've really been doing something wrong. i didn't want to go shopping with him, though. what was i even thinking? going on a double-date with a dude i didn't even want to go to the country club plaza with? i asked bronwyn if she would help me pick out an outfit instead. she was eager to help, but our lunch hours didn't coincide, so i was stuck with john. just get some pants and a nice shirt, she suggested. i wished then that i could've just gone home after work.

when lunch rolled around, we went to macy's at the country club plaza, downstairs to the men's department. we found a pair of slacks for $30 or so, and a nicer polo shirt for me to wear. i tried not to think about my bulging belly as i tried on the slacks in the fitting room. i was about three ultimate cheeseburgers overweight. i wondered if this was something i could really go through with. i felt a strong pressure to go through with it. it was unnatural, after all, to be eighteen and to have never gone on a date. this is what people did.

i wore my new clothes back to work, so that i could get people's opinions. bronwyn said i looked nice, and she gave me a hug. somebody else probably looked at me and said, yeah, that looks a lot better. thinking about that time now, i realize that those people were a lot like family to me. i didn't have brothers and sisters to help me out with this sort of thing, but at least i had them. and they were nice to me and cared.

i don't remember much of the blind date itself. i remember that i drove to john's girlfriend's house, and the three of us watched tv while i waited for my date. i remember hearing her car pull up to the driveway, and then john's girlfriend looking at me and saying, here she is. are you nervous? i probably shook my head and said, no, even though my pale face showed i was full of shit. the girl came in, and she hugged john's girlfriend. i got up and shook her hand. from what i remember, i wasn't blown away, but i wasn't completely uninterested, either.

the girl had clear frame glasses, and she was short, probably 5'2" or 5'3." she had on a pretty brown dress, and i liked that, that an actual woman had bothered to spruce herself up and dress up for me, even though she didn't know who i was. well, john's girlfriend said, are you guys hungry? should we get going? everyone agreed that we should go eat. we took separate cars, and my date rode shotgun in my camry.

i drove her to t.g.i. friday's, and on the ride over, i was most likely listening to weezer's green album. i put it on low enough to make sure that we could still talk, but audible enough that she might perk up at one point and say, i love weezer! and at that point, i could confirm that the deal was sealed. my heart was pounding, and my palms were sweaty. i didn't know what to say, so i just kept asking her questions. do you have plans for college? do you have siblings? are you religious at all? she laughed at the last one, and so did i. it was almost an admission of awkwardness, of running out of things to say.

i remember her smelling really, really good. it was one of those scents that was hard to pin down, and i had to keep sniffing to figure out where i had smelled that before. was it those bubble toy things that came in a toothpaste type of tube, ones i had only seen in the philippines? was it some other woman's perfume i smelled in church on a sunny easter morning? it was the scent of nostalgia, and i understood that night why women wore perfume.

at the dinner table, i didn't say a whole lot. i just kept quiet and ate my chicken alfredo, or quesdailla, or whatever it was. the girls got up to use the restroom together, and john said, dude, i am so sorry; i had no idea she looked like that. i thought it was a rude thing to say, and i actually thought my date looked better than his girlfriend. they were already heading back to the table, and john kept apologizing. just shut up, i said, here they come.

i still don't know why i didn't talk at the dinner table that night. maybe i genuinely had nothing to say. maybe i thought, this is hopeless, anyway. this girl isn't into me at all. they hadn't taught us flirting or social skills in catholic school. i only learned that, if i was ever lucky enough to have a woman sleep with me, i should use a condom for a variety of reasons. it was like teaching us how to bust a three-point game-winner under pressure without first showing us how to dribble. when the bill came, john and i paid, and then we all agreed to go back to his girlfriend's house.

john and his girlfriend immediately went to the bedroom. my date and i just looked at each other like, uhh, okay. i had seen it before in movies and in television. it was my cue to start something up with my girl, but like i said, i didn't even know how to dribble. instead, we watched indiana jones and the temple of doom on cable. i opened up a little more, and i said something about the movie that made her laugh. every time we heard john's girlfriend laughing through the wall, we just looked at each other.

after half an hour of this, john and his girlfriend came out. how are you two doing, his girlfriend asked. good, my date said. then she said it was getting late, and that she should probably go. i'd like to think that i got up, shook her hand again at least, and walked her to her car, but i'm fairly certain i didn't. most likely, i didn't even bother getting up from the recliner, and i said something like, it was nice meeting you.

the next day at work, john's girlfriend came up to my register. did you have a good time last night? i said that i did. you were so quiet, she said. yeah, i said, sorry about that. it's okay, she said. she said that my date said that i was really nice, but that she couldn't tell what i was thinking. i waited for her to say something like, she'd like to see you again, or ask, would you like to see her again? but she didn't. i just nodded, and i said, cool. and then she nodded, too, and said, okay.

i never saw that girl again, and i don't even remember her name. i only know that it wasn't supposed to happen that way. and it didn't.

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