–“… (Smile back)…ahemmm…hhhmmmm… (clearing of throat)”
–“… tap tap tap (fingers tapping nervously on the table linen)”
In case you’re wondering what the hell is going on, rest assured that I am similarly at a loss. The above is just a sample of the brilliant exchange of minds, hearts and souls between yours truly and her date of the evening, On-the-Dot Dariush.
I call him On-the-Dot because he has been calling me on-the-dot at the same time every day since we met. Which I found endearing at first. So refreshing from those “Eye”ranian guys who play games with you. Like the two-day rule: You don’t call a girl until two days have passed from when you got her phone number. After that, you never call her more than once every two days…if that!!!
So yes, it was nice to find someone who is not into playing games. On the other hand, a tad lacking in spontaneity. But the biggest problem? We don’t really have anything to talk about.
And now, we are finally sitting face to face at a restaurant, waiting for our dinner to arrive, and sadly, nothing has improved. I thought at least I could get him to open up once I had him in front of me but I have given up. As much as I like hearing myself talk, there is only so much time that you can carry a conversation with yourself.
–“….hmmmm…hmmm… (more throat clearing).
–“…glppp…glpppp… (taking a desperately long sip of my pinot grigiot).
Total, awkward silence, interrupted only by idiotic permanently frozen smiles back and forth. This is embarrassing. I think back wistfully to the time complete strangers interrupted my animated dinner conversation with Ali. The lady next to us seemed mesmerized. She admitted that she and her table-mate had a bet going on that this was our first date, because we were so passionately talkative, like we were just discovering each other. But we had been together as a couple for many months, and friends even longer than that.
The thing is, with Ali, I could not imagine EVER running out of conversation. We could discuss the silliest things. On the treadmill, at the gym, we would invent these ridiculous pop trivia contests, such as who could remember all the names of 80s sitcom moms. (Elise Keaton on Family Ties, Claire Huxtable on the Cosby Show, etc). Or quoting the grossest metaphors for sex in modern pop/rock music. (I won, with Def Leppard’s “Pour some sugar on me!”).
On the other hand, may a time did Ali and I huddle under a blanket in our balcony, looking over at the ocean in front of our eyes, with just a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and a quote from Albert Camus to keep us company until the wee hours of the morning.
I feel so bad because the more I try to go forward (for instance, going on a date with On-the-Dot Dariush), the more I seem to move backwards. I am trapped by my memories of Ali like a swimmer caught by the thick seaweed, preventing her from reaching the surface. Will I ever be able to breathe again?
Oh hell! I hate sounding so melodramatic. Meanwhile, I have to contend with this situation, which is getting more uncomfortable by the minute. Mercifully, our dinner has been served so we can pretend that we are occupying ourselves with food.
It’s a symphony of sounds, with the clanking of forks and knives, slurping of soup, gulping down of liquid, and forceful mastication of meat. If Yoko Ono could record us, she’d have her newest album out!
I have the biggest urge to excuse myself for the restroom then try to climb my way out of a back window. But I feel too bad. This guy is nice. And so handsome. Maybe he is just incredibly shy or boring or maybe he is just completely uninterested in me (Wouldn’t be the first time!) But then, why the insistence on asking me out?
Suddenly, our symphony screeches to an abrupt halt. On-the-Dot Dariush looks up at me, his eyes like those of a deer caught in a headlight.
Lowering my voice, I continue.
–“Can I ask you something … and you can answer me honestly… No hard feelings…”
Oh gawwd!!! I’ve made the poor man blush as red as a lobster.
He bashfully nods his head in the affirmative.
–“Did you feel obligated to take me out because our moms are friends?”
Now, another interesting reaction as the blood drains from his face and is replaced by a deathly pallor.
Exasperated, I can’t help screaming out:
–“Dariush will you stop changing colors like a rainbow and just answer me?”
But instead of answering me, he merely turns blue!!! I am ready to bash his head in when I suddenly catch a glint in his eyes that something more than shyness may be the problem here.
–“Oh my go… Dariush!.. Are you okay?”
My poor date suddenly grabs his throat with one hand and motions to me with another. A waitress nearby drops her tray and in the midst of the horrible sound of broken glass, she shouts:
–“OH MY GOD HE IS CHOKING!!!!”
Without realizing what I am doing, I find myself suddenly out of my chair and behind Dariush. With Herculean power, I lift him up by the armpits and give him the best Heimlich manoeuver that money could buy (It pays to be a girl scout I guess!!!) Ptttttteeeeewwwwwww… A fishbone the size of New Jersey flies out of Dariush’s throat onto Sunset Boulevard. His throat unblocked, Dariush finally is able to utter the first sound of the evening. It sounds like a kind of tribal ululation:
Then he falls in my arms, shivering. Everybody around us breaks out in applause and cheers. The restaurant’s owner, who has rushed to the scene, breathes a sigh of relief when he sees that he won’t have a wrongful death lawsuit on his hands. He smoothly offers us a complimentary crème brulee on the house to make up for his lack of fish fillet-ing skills.
–“No thanks!” I reply, “I think we’ve had enough.”
On the way back home, I take the wheels as Dariush is too flustered to see straight. I feel extremely guilty. Here, I was, hoping for some excitement to rival my exuberant dinners with Ali. Well, be careful what you wish for.
Once in front of my building, I invite Dariush to come up and spend the night in the guest room if he does not feel up to the drive back to Calabsas. But the poor soul looks like he wants to get out of here prompto.
Oooofffff… Another evening a la Nazanin! Why am I even surprised???
I have never been so glad to be back home. As soon as I step in, Artie runs excitedly towards me.
–“Naz! Naz!… I have great news!”
–“Good!” I whisper, suddenly exhausted, “I could use some.”
–“I found us a new roommate!!!”
–“What??? Artie! How could you make this decision without me?”
–“But Naz!!! You should have seen it. He came with his German sausage.”
–“Arrgghhh!!! Puh-leeze, Artie, I told you, I am not interested in your sex life!”
Artie giggles like a schoolgirl but I am in no mood.
–“Naz!!! You dirty old bag! I mean, he brought us a truckload of gourmet meats and sausages from his native Germany, look?”
He puts a plate of cold meat delicacies in front of me. Hmmmm, on another day, maybe I could share in his excitement, but tonight I have definitely lost my appetite.
–“Okay Artie, congratulations. I just hope he doesn’t think he’s going to pay the landlord in sausages too!”
I retreat to my room and plop down on my bed. As soon as my head hits the pillow, I am gone.