“You can order anything you want,” Gordon said, concerned she was ordering light just to protect his pocket book. “You can get fish.” He nodded in encouragement.
“Oh, no.” She waved her hand and smiled. “I don’t eat meat. Or fish. Or cheese. Or eggs. I’m vegan.”
Gordon sat unblinking for a few seconds. “We can go somewhere else.”
“No! I like it here.”
Gordon could tell she was flustered and was already driven by a mysterious need to protect her. He grabbed her hand and gave it a quick squeeze. The bottom half of his body melted to the chair. Now flustered himself, he turned to the waiter.
“We’d like some of those.” Gordon pointed at the table next to them. He mimicked Mindy’s behavior on purpose. He thought she might think it was cute. He was right. She laughed. He couldn’t help but notice how perky she was, even without a bra.
The waiter nodded. “I’ll bring them right out.”
To the waiter “right out” meant something more like twenty minutes. Gordon and Mindy both remained patient and graceful during the wait. It was their first date, after all. The impatience and the bitterness would come later.
“Sorry for the wait,” the waiter said when he returned.
“No problem.” Gordon smiled. Friendliness seemed to come easy to him when he was in Mindy’s presence.
“Those look great,” Mindy said. “I shouldn’t be eating onions rings, but what the heck.”
The appetizer sat deliciously between them. Fresh from a hot oil bath, the golden brown crust steamed into the air-conditioned room.
“You first.” Gordon motioned to Mindy.
“How about both of us at the same time?”
Gordon grabbed a piece before Mindy, but she beat him to the taste test.
“How is it?” he asked.
“Oh my…oh my…”
“That good?” Gordon looked up. He expected to see pleasure on Mindy’s face. Instead he saw disgust. She brought her light blue napkin up to her chin and spit out the bite.
“It’s not onion,” she said, wadding up her napkin.
Gordon took a bite and played with it in his mouth. Definitely not onion. Somewhat rubbery in texture. He didn’t mind the flavor.
“Everything all right here?” the waiter asked, making his customary rounds.
Opposite the table from him, Mindy started to moan faintly.
“Uh…actually…no.” Gordon looked at the waiter, pointing to the appetizer. “We ordered onion rings.”
“Onion rings? No.” The waiter gave Gordon a puzzled look. “We don’t serve onion rings.”
“Then…” Gordon, still pointing at the basket, raised his eyebrows.
“You ordered calamari rings,” the waiter said. “I gave you calamari rings.”
“What are calamari rings?” Mindy asked with a quiver in her voice.
“You don’t know?”
“No,” Gordon and Mindy said in unison.
“It’s fish. Yes. Well…squid more specifically. Squid. Do you like it?”
Mindy clutched her stomach and ran to the ladies room.
Ask Gordon what he and Mindy fight about most and he’d probably say food. Not money, sex, or housework. “Gordy you drink to much.” “Gordy, you eat too much fat.” “How’d you like supper Gordy?” “Why do you have to be so damn picky?”
Picky? As Gordon sees it, Mindy’s the picky one. Always picking at her food like a bird or a rabbit. Munching on every bite until it’s a thick paste so it digests better and all that healthy crap talk.
Gordon doesn’t attempt to mix food and science. Cheese and beer are easy. Beer goes down his throat and straight to his head. Cheese is practically predigested so his stomach hardly has to work at all.
As for fish whenever he brings it up Mindy clutches her stomach and sticks out the very tip of her tongue.
When Gordon wants to give his buddies a laugh, he tells them about how he made his wife puke on their first date. They get a good laugh every time, usually because they’re drunk, so it’s always like he’s telling a new story.
“That’s so like you,” they say. Then one of them turns to the bartender and says, “Give this man another beer on me.”
When the night’s over, Gordon always ends up paying for the drink himself.