She sits across from me, tearing her muffin into many pieces, but not putting any into her mouth, like she’s preparing to feed a family of ducks with it instead.
“This music is, I don’t know, deep,” she says, tilting her head to the ceiling to hear it better. In her hair is a flower patterned scrunchie.
“What do you mean?” I ask, afraid of her answer. As far as first dates go, this was the weirdest. I feel sorry for the muffin.
She gestures wildly, theatrically, her bracelets jangle loudly as her hand sweeps the air. “There’s a certain primalness to it. It’s raw. I can feel it vibrating in my bones. Her lyrics are so… true!”
I want to tell her that ‘primalness’ isn’t a word, but let it go. “I like it. It’s catchy. Kinda searingly innocuous,” I admit, “but easy to listen to, I guess.”
She gives me a look like I just confessed that I poisoned her beloved Shar-pei.
We are in a Starbucks in Santa Monica, listening to Sheryl Crowe’s ‘All I Wanna Do’ — there’s nothing primal about it.
“Well, I like it! Sherly Crow is a genius!”
She, in fact, does have a Shar-pei, another reason — along with requesting we meet in Starbucks — that should have alerted me this date was going to go badly.
“So, you’re an actress?” I ask, looking to steer the conversation to non-Sheryl Crow topics.
“Yes. Well… no. I mean, I haven’t gotten any work yet, but my class is going great. My teacher says I’m a natural. I think you’re born one thing or another, and I know I was born to act, so, naturally, I’m an actress!” She throws her arm in the air and knocks a few pieces of her muffin off the table, without noticing. I mentally check the location of the exits, just in case I need to make a quick escape. “And what do you do?” She asks as an afterthought.
I take a sip of my coffee — without half and half, for the record, because she insisted cream causes cancer — and answer, “I work in television, producing; but I write fiction, as well, that’s my thing.”
She laughs a rough little snort that blows a froth of foam from her latte. “Do you really?” She asks incredulously, sneering. “Write?”
“From time to time. It’s a lot of work, but every now and then it’s rewarding.” I don’t know what else to say. I’m secretly imagining all the vicious ways I could get back at my friend for setting me up on this date. Where did he find her? Roaming around the highway leading to the insane asylum? Didn’t he notice her half hospital gown and ID bracelet and the feral look in her eyes? Did I do something incredibly mean to him a long time ago and he has been patiently plotting this perfect revenge ever since?
She sighs. “That sounds so boring…”
“I can’t argue with you there,” I say. I down the last of my coffee and check my watch, hoping she will get the hint and hurry up and finish.
“Who bothers reading anymore?” She asks, sounding annoyed. Yet in a flash her face retreats from hostile to fragile. She’s now wearing a sad frown on her face and I wonder if this is something she learned in acting class, how to switch moods, or if she’s just a ‘natural.’ She finally pops a piece of her dissected muffin into her mouth and mumbles, “you know, I have the feeling you’re not going to call me again.”
She’s absolutely right, but I have to know why she thinks that. “That’s not true,” I lie. “Why do you say that?”
Her answer surprises me. “It’s probably because I’m too dynamic for you.”
I really don’t know what to say. I stare at the ground. All of a sudden my shoes have become highly interesting to me. We sit around awkwardly silent with the cappuccino machine hissing loudly behind us.
I have the feeling she doesn’t know what that word means.