"So what's your tattoo of?" You lean over the table, your finger finding a sinuous path through the dinner's debris. Your elbow almost touches the baby-corn that I pushed off my plate over an hour ago. I'd left it there, hoping you might perceive it as erotic, or mildly provocative, or at least very casual of me. Back when freshly lubricated by black bean sauce, it had seemed a tad more tumescent. Now it just looks RE-vocative. Like a rolled up post-it note in a patch of dried beer. Or a giant Lego-man poo.
I gulp as the tip of your index finger grazed my bicep. I've been told that I gulp frequently. And loudly.
"I think I can just make out the edge of it..." you continue. "Is it a wisp of smoke emerging from a bullet hole? Or... hmmm... would one follow it to find Tacitus' refutation of Nero's incendiary solo?" Your finger jumps as you hiccup, catching the edge of my shirt. I gulp again.
"Um," I break eye contact. "Actually, I sneezed in the ashtray when you were in the bathroom. I must've scratched myself, my armpits have been so itchy all day. I think I'm allergic to my new antiperspirant. I hope I don't get hives, my aloe plant died last week. I'm not very good with objects. Physical objects. Er, ones that live."
Armpit hives? Somewhere I'm sure a Happy Elf falls off his Happy Branch. Dead. Or at least hemorrhaging quite badly from the ear.
"So it's kind of like dermography? I wonder what word is written?" I have no idea what dermography is, so I default-laugh and look frantically around for the manifest inspiration of a witty word.
"HA! I think it would say... fortune nookie. COOKIE! It would say fortune cookie."
You smile your crooked smile, a good, winning smile for the tail-end of a dangerous second date. Your arm is still stretched across the table, playing with my cuff.
"That's a far cuff for you!" I give you what I think to be the flirtatious frown of admonishment. Your smile falters slightly.
"Oh, no, I didn't mean. Er... you know, I am thinking of getting a tattoo though. Yeah. A big one of the life-cycle of the lancet fluke Dicrocoelium dentriticum. Breeds in the digestive tracts of grazing ungulates, the eggs of which are eaten from the dung by slugs, which then cough them up in these slime-plaques which are subsequently consumed by ants. The eggs pupate and form these cysts in the heads of the ants and then control their brains, making them climb grass-stalks so that they complete the loop by getting eaten again by cattle."
"Now that I think about it, that might actually be the single most repulsive idea for a tattoo that I've ever heard. I think I'd rather get a portrait of Dick Cheney water sliding naked. Or one of that baby corn by your elbow there. With syphilis."
You retrieve your hand so quickly, you clink your bracelet against a bottle, thankfully disguising my latest gulp.
"Nakedly," you correct me. "I think I'm going to take my fortune cookie with me, if that's OK with you? And I'll call a cab. It's only a $30 ride from here........"
And it is THIS line of deleterious imaginative projection of how our second date will go which prevents me from mustering up the courage to ask you out again. I wish I could instead pretend that you are an arsonist or that I find your elbows too flabby.
Actually, we didn't even have a first date. I thought all this in between glances at you in the candy aisle at Blockbuster.
It's why I didn't smile back. Sorry.