8 Minutes

Breathe, Ian, breathe, I told myself.

Cupping my hand, I checked my breath for the seventh time. I peered into the rearview mirror again to admire my fresh cut and scan the coffeehouse’s door. My watch read 11:13. We’d set up the date for eleven but I know chicks are always late and get a thrill out of making dudes cool their heels. I always wait until I see the girl show up make sure she’s a hottie and not a hoggie and then wait exactly eight minutes. Eight minutes is the sweet spot. Just enough time for the chick to worry if she got stood up and get all juiced up with self doubt but not enough for them to leave. This was pure science and I’d done my research. I had twenty different online profiles my photos with different names and jobs and interests but my interest was pretty just having a good time and it’s not you it’s me.

At 11:22 I checked my phone. No text, this chick this MyraBird969 had better had a kidney fall out to make me wait this long. I checked my breath and fished in my glove compartment for a Lifesaver. The candy was sticky and I licked my fingers. Some goth loser waiting at the bus stop looked up from his phone and smiled at me. I flipped him off. I checked my own phone, no text. I checked Plenty of Fish reading and re-reading our messages. MyraBird969 had been into me, a petite redhead with forest green eyes, a shy smile, and some big ole bitties. I had played the sarcastic, self-deprecating, and earnest nerd part perfectly. She was gagging for it. I could have been her something special for a while. It was 11:28. Fucking 11:28! I looked at my stupid hair and punched the dashboard.

“Stood up, stood up!” I shouted punching the dash over and over.

A flood of verbal bile spewed out of me at girls at myself. A knock stopped me. Tomas the barista at Had Beenery was tapping on my driver’s side window.

“Dude you chill. I got your drink here.” Tomas held up a coffee. I turned down my window.

“What?”

He handed me the drink and a small bag and walked away like I was a psycho.

Fair enough, I thought.

The bag was warm. It was a dark chocolate croissant, my favorite. I dropped it in my lap. I checked the coffee, hazelnut cap with oat milk and two Splendas. The cup in Tomas’ familiar scrawl read “8 minutes Ian”. My passenger door opened and the bus stop weirdo climbed in.

“’Sup Ian, I’m Martha, aka MyraBird969. I’ve watched for a couple of months at the coffeehouse burning a swath through the bobbleheads on your dates. I was supposed to be writing poetry but your shic was performance art on the perils of online dating. I listened to your lines. Your banter is so good, so creative, it is damn near diabolical. I watched you make them wait, I watched begin again finegan. Ian you are profoundly damaged.”

Shocked speechless, I watched this person, pale and multi-pierced, with black fingernails making air quotes around the word date. I opened my mouth to let this freak show have it. The stranger put one hand over my mouth and took off the hood of her hoodie with the other. A violet buzz cut sprang from the hood and I noticed the forest green eyes. Martha took her hand away, took my bloody fingers into her hands, and rubbed them against her pale cheek. My whole body thrummed with electricity.

“Luckily for me, you’re stupid hot and profoundly damaged. Luckily for you, I enjoy them hot and damaged. So what do say Ian to a really bad romance?”

Photo by Quang Anh Ha Nguyen on Pexels.com

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