Tuesday, April 5, 2011


"Hey, so, why don't we grab a drink tomorrow night?"

The words had come perilously close to leaving Eric Dunn’s mouth. The lovesick near-suitor didn't quite have the courage to ask out Deidre Hines from apartment 6C, but he was nothing if not well-intentioned.

The conversation had started off pretty well this time. He had segued smoothly from a brief conversation about their respective days, a conversation they'd had in the hallway outside their apartments many times before. Dee (as she liked to be called) was flipping through her mail while they talked, and Eric could sense the conversation was coming to a close, but an offhand line about some upcoming St. Patrick's Day festivities seemed like the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, instead of saying what he thought he wanted to say, his brain opted for a much safer choice:

“Yeah, heh, it’s too bad, really. I’m actually allergic to green beer. Ugh, if only they’d dye it orange, you know, then I'd be all set!”

Deidre gave Eric an adorable little smirk, added a “you’re funny,” then wished Eric good night as she turned her back and closed the door to her apartment.

Though he had failed, Eric was still mostly happy with how things went. He did make her laugh! Or, at least, he got her to tell him he was funny, which was probably just as good. In hindsight, he figured he probably should have said “purple” beer instead of orange, that would have been funnier. In any event, he'd definitely get it right next time.

Eric was all about practice. Or rehearsals. Or 'attempts', as he’d ultimately label each one. This past encounter was, in fact, Eric’s 27th attempt to ask Dee out. Not every attempt was made in front of her. Most of them weren’t, but regardless of the scenario, she always remained in the dark.

The prior failed attempt, #26, came just two nights earlier, when he noticed her at their local ABC store. After mentally preparing himself for forty five seconds in the chips aisle, he briefly focused all his intentions on a bag of Bugles and delivered what would hopefully still sound like an improvised speech about her 'needing to stop stalking him all the time,' and how 'if she really wanted to hang out, they should just grab a drink sometime.' It was always so easy to script what ought to be said. He approached her wearing a mask of confidence and called her name out from a few feet away so as not to startle her, something he noticed she was particularly susceptible to.

When she turned around to greet him, he noticed her hands doing their best to obscure the box of tampons she had just picked up. Shit. Suddenly his intentions seemed inappropriate. They were in public, she clearly hasn't expected to see anyone - though, even without makeup and wearing an oversized New Jersey Devils sweatshirt, he thought she looked as cute as ever. Calling a last minute audible, he told her he had to run but he was sure he'd see her soon back at their building. He plunged his sweaty hands into his sweatshirt pockets and thanked God he didn’t have to go through with it. He was also thankful that he wasn't there long enough to comment on the fact that his mother used the same brand.

Attempts #18, and #19 were made in the presence of close friend and confidante Emil, who at the time was being less than helpful to Eric:

"Ok, I'll be this girl. Ask me like you wanna ask her." Emil said, turning his back and immediately getting into character.

"No, come on. This is stupid." Eric protested. He was generally up for something like this, but right then he wanted serious advice.

"Hmm? Oh, hi Eric!" Emil said, in a voice 4 octaves higher than usual, "what's stupid?"

Eric grumbled, "Fine. Hi Dee. I was gonna go grab something from that new fish taco place on Center Street, do you wanna come?"

Emil demurely balled his fists and put them together, as he liked to imagine all woman doing when being asked such an emotionally-charged question, "oh - uh, I dunno, is this like, a date? Teehee!"

Eric then leaned back and crossed his arms, "Ugh, she's not gonna say that...is she?"

Emil slapped Eric across the face, shouting: "Who is she?!? Is that another woman!??!?! The date's off!!"

Eric assumed Emil would be taking all of this more seriously if Emil had any clue whatsoever what it was like to be single. Emil was currently married to his high school sweetheart, and hadn't had to deal with any uncertainty with women, or his woman at least, ever. Or so Eric assumed.

"Do yourself a favor," Emil finally said, after a hearty laugh and a large gulp of his beer, "and just get it over with already. No one girl is worth this much preparation."

"What about your wife?" Eric quickly responded.

"You know man, I asked Stacey out just before going outside to smoke pot by the bleachers with the guys. She means the world to me now, but if she had said 'no' back then? I dunno, I would have found the next pretty girl and seen what she had to say. You can't let any one girl dominate your mind like this so soon. There'll be plenty of time for that later."

Eric nodded his head in agreement, while his mind remained stubbornly on course.

Emil then decided to close out his performance. Pressing his hands against his chest, he whimpered: "Eric, baby, I have some bad news. I lost my boobs in a boating accident. Do you still like meeeeeeeee??"

His 5th, 9th, 11th, 16th and 25th time asking her out were done mentally at various times during his commute to and from his job. She appeared in his daydreams frequently, often bringing him back down to earth (relatively speaking) after a brief fantasy about flying through the streets as 'Nic Drune,' a superhero with a name based on an anagram from when he was 11, when he first learned about anagrams ('Nice Nurd' was also discovered, and quickly rejected). Drune had natural super speed, strength and the ability to, if needed, teleport, which Eric decided would always come at a cost - a full day of his life, to make the decision to use this power have a price.

Eric would often imagine Dee witnessing the impossibly handsome Nic performing a heroic feat, or perhaps herself being saved from a tragic fate, and afterward being so impressed that she couldn't help but run up to him to give him a kiss right on the mouth (there was also an X-rated version of this fantasy that you will be spared the details of). It was then that the mighty hero would scoop her up into his arms and tell her not to make any plans for Saturday night, double checking that she still liked Indian food, which was information gathered by his alter-ego.

Nic Drune never had to worry about being rejected, because the idea that he even could be rejected was ridiculous.

The very first time Eric asked Deidre out (but really didn't) was ostensibly no different than the other times, save perhaps for the free space in his mind. During their second meeting in January, he held the door open for nearly 20 seconds while she slowly made her way up the path into their building. She was on the phone at the time, but her smile and "thanks," - said in a quick breath between lines about repaying a loan and a friend who "should never have trusted Clarissa in the first place" - made it entirely worthwhile.

Moments later, in the elevator up to the 6th floor, Eric found himself standing directly across from what currently qualified as the love of his life. Dee briefly made eye contact with him as she listened to her friend expressing a very long-winded opinion. At that moment, she rolled her eyes at her phone, which Eric found incredibly endearing. Her friend was totally boring! He decided to agree with this sentiment immediately, flapping his fingers near his face while mouthing "blah blah blah" over and over. Deidre giggled, and Eric's heart soared.

Right then, because he could, because he feared he might never get to say it for real to her or to any other women this beautiful, and because in his head this seemed like the most logical thing to do at the moment, he changed the words he was mouthing to a much more specific:


He nearly closed this silent statement with "elephant shoes," but he quickly realized that was way too risky, and obvious. Besides, even he knew it was too early for elephant shoes.

Dee responded by putting two fingers to her head and pulling an imaginary trigger.

Eric blinked twice.

Realizing that responding with anything less than a smile would be crazy, he then upped the ante and rounded out the bit by reacting horrified to the imaginary brain matter all over his body. As he picked off an unlikely piece of medulla oblongata from his shirt, they reached their floor and Eric let Deidre get a few steps ahead so he could hear just a little more of her conversation without coming off as a stalker. He was rewarded with the discovery that she was never eating Korean barbecue ever again.

Eric slowly made his way into his apartment. He turned on the lights, dropped off his bag, and went into the bathroom, where he spent the next five minutes slowly replaying and perfecting his favorite parts of the elevator exchange in front of the mirror.

He'd definitely get it right next time.

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