You make small talk, rehash the movies and books you both like, but there’s no depth to it.
The drink you ordered disappears too quickly, before the girl is even a third of the way through hers. You wish for magical refills, for your mouth to do something normal. It’s not doing normal things right now. It’s suddenly talking and talking to fill the gaps in conversation. You’re telling a story about your first dog, about how you made presentations for your parents to convince them to buy the dog, how you sat in the whelping box and picked her out on your tenth birthday, how when she pooped in the house, she covered it with a towel because she was ashamed. “And then, once, after a soccer game, we emptied the whole cooler of ice cubes in the yard. And she just lay there in the yard, eating and eating ice cubes, until she started shivering, but she just kept eating, until we had to pull her away.” You force a laugh. The girl smiles politely. You tell three more dog stories. Then, you realize you haven’t asked about the girl’s dogs.
“I’m allergic,” she says. “Though I’m kind of more of a cat person.”
“Oh,” you say. And then your mouth takes off again, and its cat stories now. Not even your cat stories, your friends’ cat stories, and none of these are good or interesting either, but you don’t seem to be able to stop yourself. Shut up shut up shut up, your brain says, but it’s impossible. Also to late.
When the server comes by and asks if you need anything, you say “No.” She says, “The check.”
She insists on paying. She’s got a very good job, one that allows her to be creative and problem-solve and lead teams in projects that create positive change, a job that makes the world better and makes her a lot of money. You don’t object to her paying, though you feel you probably should. But reading the miniscule numbers on the receipt is also impossible without a production for you, so you watch as her card is whisked away, and then as she signs, businesslike and final.
When you get up from the booth, she hugs you in a way that feels pitying. You might be projecting, because you are feeling pretty self-pitying at the moment. She smells incredible, like cinnamon and roses and success, and her back is strong and tight. You know this is the only contact you’ll ever have with her, and you force yourself not to hold on too long, sniff too deeply, be generally weird.
You pretend you have to go to the bathroom so she’ll leave ahead of you. Tucked into a stall that has a distinct whiff of recent feces, you get the phone close enough to your face to call an Uber home.