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Eric looked at himself in the mirror as he slowly swirled his glass of bourbon. Despite it being his second of the evening, the familiar buzz he was hoping for hadn’t arrived. Instead, he just felt his nerves jumping and his stomach churning. It was Thursday evening, and in just a half hour, he was going to embark on his first first date in over three years.
As he ran his fingers through his hair, his mind began to race with possible scenarios. What if the conversation ran dry? What if she was one of those people that said “that’s so funny” instead of actually laughing? What if she was a serial killer? Even worse, what if she wasn’t as attractive as her Bumble photos? He finished his bourbon and forced himself to pull it together, taking deep breaths and focusing on Kendrick Lamar’s newest album playing from the speakers of his Amazon Echo.
He looked around his room, which looked exactly like the room of a guy hoping to get laid that night. It was clean, with the bed made and the trash empty. Instead of its usual pipe and grinder, his bedside table even held a dog-eared hardcover. Sure, he’d only read three chapters since it was given to him as a gift years ago, and sure, he had purposefully creased the pages to make it look more worn, but that wasn’t the point. The room looked like its inhabitant was a mature, interesting, and successful man.
And that’s exactly what I am, Eric thought, as a grin spread across his face. He didn’t know if it was the room or the whiskey finally doing its job, but he felt better. Much better. He was an all-American romance machine, and he was going to charm the pants off of Courtney tonight. Wait, was it Courtney? Chelsea? Shit. Eric pulled up the dating app on his phone to refresh his memory. That’s right. Carly. 5”3”. Brunette. Liked yoga and dogs. He rolled his eyes at the basicness and swiped through the photos. At least her token yoga photo showed off a rocking body. She also had gone to school in Georgia, and Eric wondered if she had an accent. God, a southern twang would be hot.
His phone dinged to alert him to the fact that Gustavo, his Uber driver, had just arrived. It was go-time. He grabbed the bottle of Bulleit and took a pull for the road as he walked to his front door.
“Hey Alexa, you bitch,” he yelled aggressively at the speaker system. “Queue up my sex playlist. Daddy’s getting some tonight!” He didn’t even care that the Echo apologetically responded that it didn’t understand his command. He had a date to crush.
Sitting at the bar of a local Mexican joint, he felt the alcohol and butterflies wrestling in his stomach. He sipped a Dos Equis and mumbled to himself as he planned out the night.
“Stand up and introduce myself with a hug. Nothing says, ‘this guy’s a pussy’ like going for a handshake on the first date. Pull out her seat and order us margs. Does ordering her drink make me look like rude or charming? I’ll just let her order. Too big of a risk. After that, I’ll run through the ‘getting to know you’ questions I’ve got, and hope she can hold a conversation. Gotta get some jokes in. Alright, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, if she ever gets-“
“Eric?” He heard a melodious southern drawl behind him as he turned around. A petite brunette smiled at him and continued, “I’m Carly. Were you talking to yourself?”
Shit. He thought as he stared at her. She was gorgeous. The only difference between the pictures and the reality was that she was rocking a deep tan. He swallowed hard.
“Uhh, just singing along to the music,” he responded with a panicked smile, knowing full well the restaurant was playing a lyric-less Mexican ballad. He stuck out a hand. “You must be Carly. Great to meet you.”
She looked at his hand like it was an alien appendage. “I’m more of a hugger. Come here!” She gave him a teasing smile and wrapped an arm around him. He returned the gesture, internally cursing himself for putting out a guy-who-was-picked-last-in-gym-class vibe. He pulled out the chair for her and turned to her as they cozied up to the bar. “I’m going to grab us margaritas. Do you like rocks or blended?”
She frowned as she looked at him. “I think…I can order for myself and don’t need you picking for me.” The seconds ticked off in slow-motion as Eric’s face drained. An apology began to stammer its way out of his throat, but he couldn’t wrangle it and get the words out in time. Right as he opened his mouth to say sorry, he saw the corners of Carly’s frown twitch. Her tense face melted into a smile as she pushed his arm.
“I’m just fucking with you, Eric! On the rocks is the only way to drink a margarita, so don’t even think about getting yours blended.”
The warmth returned to Eric’s face and life as he realized that, despite his best efforts, he hadn’t fucked up the date before it could even begin. He also realized that he was going to need to pick up his game if he wanted to keep up with the firecracker sitting next to him. He smiled sheepishly at her and signaled to the bartender. It was going to be a hell of a night. .