Through These Eyes: Bait-and-Switch


“Yes,” he says and his lower lip quivers. This is his response to, “What kind of beer do you like?”

We’re in my kitchen on either side of my island. “Paul” is sharing a whisky with me before our first date. He likes beer, which I don’t have. We’re drinking scotch instead.

Paul’s vocabulary consists of “yes”and “no.” His answers are brief, strained, and totally adorable.

“Sorry,” he says. “I mean, I like beer, yes. But I already said that, sorry. I like Fat Tire.”

“You okay?”

“Sorry. I’m kind of nervous. I haven’t been on a date in a while.” He looks bashfully down into his lap.

Puh-lease. I’m the last guy who gives a damn. I’m usually the awkward one. And clumsy. Just for you, I’ll spill a glass of wine on my shirt at dinner tonight.”

Paul fake laughs. He pushes up the sleeves to his button-down. His arms are hairy and strong and masculine and perfect. His face is statuesque, handsome but hard. He’s clean-shaven and has a Koolaid-mustache razor burn. His body is neither fit nor unfit—it’s masculine in a way that tells a boyfriend, “I’m more into yours.” In other words, dorky and manly and sexy.

“I’m usually more outgoing, I promise,” he says.

I move from my side of the kitchen island and sit on a barstool next to him.

Let’s change the subject. How about, hmmmmm, what’s your craziest first-date story?”

He smiles. His breathing slows.

“I, uh,” he says, “It’s not very crazy, but I once went out on a date with a guy and I tried opening his door for him but he screamed at me. Like, really, screamed. I thought I was being sweet and gentlemanly and all, but he yelled at me for it. Not really crazy, I know, but ego-damaging and memorable.”

He’s clearly used this on other boys, but I still “awwwwww” because it’s sweet and because I want him to open my car door. Conversation moves into our plans for the fall, our hometowns, and admissions to being bad drivers.

Paul’s more than settled by the middle of our second drink and he’s growing increasingly confident and flirtatious: winking, nudging, come-hither smiling, when, out of nowhere—

“Why don’t you cook dinner for me tonight and let me take advantage of you?”

He doesn’t ask this ironically, nor is it a buzz-fed attempt at funny conversation. His eyes are red. He’s facing me, massaging my knee, legs spread wide around my barstool.

I want to erase what he’s said and replace it with something more tactful and playful. But no, of course this is happening. Of course he’s devolving into a douchebag before me. At least this is happening now and not after he gets me drunk.

I stand up, pseudo-jokingly struggle to escape his legs around me, and walk back to the other side of my island, pretending like I’m after something, my wallet, keys, whatever. I need to get away from the increasingly apparent third leg in his Levi’s.

“What can you cook? Can you cook sweet and sour chicken? I’ve been craving Chinese. Should we stay home and eat in tonight?”

Is he drunk off of a glass and a half of scotch? And did he call my house “home?” Really?

“Do I need to take that scotch off your hands, Mr. Paul?”

“Pshhh. Maybe you can come over here and [insert demand for fellatio].” His hands begin exploring his lap.

I don’t respond immediately. I feel stupid, gullible, ashamed. How could I not have seen this coming? Paul’s tactic for bedding someone isn’t new, but it’s definitely faster acting.

And welcome, friends, to the World of Open-Your-Door sweet, Suck-My-Blank sour, its current ambassador slouching at my kitchen island, drunk off three fingers of scotch and playing with himself—an otherwise attractive, successful man with so much to offer and not a damn to give.

I stare at him, through him, off into the distance behind him, through the entryway into my apartment, through the wall behind that, and through the one beyond that, and the one beyond that, and on and on, circling the world, looking for a regular douchebag to date. You know, one who’ll at least buy me dinner before going sleazy. Not that regular douchebags are better, but at least they’ll feed you.

“C’mon, JJ. You know you want it.”

“Oh, Paul.” I roll my eyes and walk over to him. I drape my arm over his shoulder, in a side-by-side, proud-big-brother way. I lean my head onto his.

“Not even a little bit, Paul. But I sure wish I had your optimism.”

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