September 2013. 7:00. Humid night. I’m sitting at my dining table, posing in front of my laptop for a picture to post on Facebook. I want the world to see how excited I am about my date tonight, and to prove that even the youngest old maid can find a man.
I’ve been seeing “Matt” for two weeks. We’ve been on 11 dates in 14 days. He’s the kind of guy you know you’ll never find: amazing on paper and in real life. He’s the first man who puts checkmarks against all of my man-criteria, and he adds checkmarks to boxes I didn’t know I had. I’ve never found anyone who’s been everything I wanted; Matt’s aced the course with extra credit.
Our dates go alarmingly well. Our relationship is more intense than it should be, perhaps dangerously so, and I know that slowing things down is appropriate—he agrees—but we’re infatuated and there’s no stopping us.
Matt makes me laugh, we already have inside jokes, and he’s an amazing cuddler. When he’s not around, I imagine what our wedding will look like and how many dogs we’ll have.
Fast forward an hour and a half and Matt’s sitting at my kitchen bar with a beer. We’re laughing about something ridiculous and I’m reading the back of a box of brownie mix. “Amazing dessert in three steps: heat, stir, bake.”
Step 1. Heat. My baking dish is greased and my oven is preheated. Check.
Step 2. Stir. My eggs, oil, water, extra butter, and baking mix are stirred. Check.
Step 3. Bake for 24-26 minutes.
I put the brownies in my oven, set the timer on my stove, and the countdown to our sinister climax commences. T-minus 25 minutes.
“You know the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” I say. Cliché, yeah yeah. Matt fake laughs and stands up from the bar. He takes me in his arms and we kiss.
We make our way to my sofa and lie down. His body is heavy on mine. His arms are big, his tongue is strong. The man is a MAN.
We’re lying at opposite ends of the couch. I’m massaging his feet. We’re listening to music from my laptop. “Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop” by Landon Pigg.
“I think that possibly, maybe I’m falling for you/
Yes, there’s a chance I’ve fallen quite hard over you.”
It’s an intense song for so early on in a relationsh—no, no. Not “relationship.” Too soon. But is it possible I’m falling in love with him? No. I’m not in love. I’m infatuated. And we aren’t in a relationship. We’re dating.
We’re moving too fast. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’ve forced the rapidity. Maybe I’m the guy I’ve always been afraid of dating: selfish and desperate.
But Matt is so handsome. And charming. And romantic. And wonderful and professional and well put together and gentlemanly and courtship-y and—
“Gosh, I don’t want to cry,” he says.
Cry? Why would he cry?
T-minus 30 seconds.
He gives me that look. That look. The look that says, “You’re great, but…”
Boys don’t give me that look. I give boys that look. My mother taught me as much. You didn’t break her heart. She broke yours. I feel my ego shrinking. I know what’s coming. I’m suddenly falling off a cliff, grabbing at branches to break my fall, conceit and cockiness included.
“I don’t think this is going to work out,” he says.
A loud noise pierces my ears. Beeping from my oven. Step 3 is complete. Check.
I’m dizzy. I look around my apartment, at the exposed piping on my ceiling, at my crookedly hung television and the small collection of DVDs underneath. Everything blurs together and I stare into nothing.
“But…But…Wait. What,” I say, or ask, or state, or whine. I don’t know which.
He sits up. My oven yells at me from my kitchen: Beep! Beep! Brownies are done!
“But why?” I ask, “I mean, I…Um. I don’t—I meant…What? Why? We can work this out.”
Stars cross my vision.
“Everything is going so well,” I plead.
From my oven: OPEN ME GODDAMMIT! I HAVE BROWNIES!
I’m not upset because I’m not sure what’s happening. I’m sick. I know I feel sick. And I sure as hell don’t want any damn brownies.
“Wait, so, um, I guess…I mean, you aren’t attracted to me anymore?”
“No,” he says. “I should leave.”
He stands, slips on his shoes, and walks out of my apartment, leaving behind not so much as a goodbye. What the hell?
From my kitchen: Beep! Beep! BEEP! BEEP! OPEN ME! I HAVE BROWNIES!
I look toward my oven. “0:00” flashes on the timer. My head hurts.
You know what? Fuck brownies.