Mismatch by Charlie Coleman

It started out simply enough. They had been linked by friends who thought that they would be compatible. Whether they realized it or not the compatibility factor had been relinquished up to chance, a tough chance at that. E-mail addresses had been traded like spies in the night. This is where we pick them up, via e-mail of course.

“OK, Jeff, you’re first, tell me about your last three girlfriends. Why didn’t they take?”

“The last one, Sheila, drank two glasses of wine at dinner. That wasn’t the problem, except that that was her dinner. Further, she already had three of their cousins lingering in anticipation of the next two’s arrival in her bloodstream. Then I graduated to Angela, the interior designer who color coordinated the prescription drugs she ingested like popcorn. Finally, there was Celeste. She didn’t drink or do drugs. She probably should have. Her only flaw was her confession after sex that she had an overwhelming desire to become a nun. After that trio I decided that I had to find another way to relinquish bachelorhood. You’re up, Rita.”

“First I’ll give you Eric, who drank vodka every day religiously at noon, working or not. Then Danny who deemed a woman acceptable only if she was a New York Yankees fan. For the record, I’m a Phillies fan. Finally, Ron arrived. In tow was his son of seven years. I could live with that except he rode shotgun on dates. The word ‘babysitter’ wasn’t in Ron’s thesaurus.”

“How long have you lived in New York?”

“I’ve lived in Manhattan since 1997. I’m originally from Lansdale, PA, a small town in the shade of Philadelphia. How about you?”

“I’ve been permanently in Manhattan since 1996. I say permanently because I grew up on Long Island, in Hicksville. Hicksville is like the rest of the New York metro area, for all intents and purposes, suburban Manhattan. It’s impossible to incubate in this area and not be affected by the vapors of Manhattan. Where are you in Manhattan?”

“On the Upper West Side, not far from the Museum of Natural History.”

“I’m in the same area. What street?”

“Eighty-third, and you?”

“Eighty-third too.”

“You’re kidding me. C’mon now, where are you really?”

“Really, honestly and truly, on eighty third, I get regular confirmation on that from the post office.”

“Between what avenues?”

“Columbus and Amsterdam.”

“Did you say Columbus and Amsterdam?”

“That’s right, don’t tell me that you’re the same?”

“Have to, I have no choice.”

“That’s wild, which side of the street, north or south.”

“North, you’re turn.”

“Believe it or not, I’m the same. Unless one of us is fooling with the other, we’re getting closer by the minute.”

“Number?”

“You first.”

“One eighty three.”

“No.”

“Yes, yours?”

“One eighty one.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Are you the guy with the Cocker Spaniel that walks him every morning to and from the newsstand to get the Times?”

“No. I have a Beagle and he prefers The Financial Times.”

“Then you’re the guy who wears the three piece suits and always has The Financial Times under his arm?”

“No, wrong again. My dog enjoys The Financial Times, not me. We have different journalistic tastes. Take another shot.”

“OK, you’re the guy with the silver Toyota who is always moving his car to appease the god of alternate side of the street parking.”

“No, I prefer a silver Kawasaki, which in my case is one of their subway cars. You still haven’t pegged me. You had three shots, you’re a lousy markswoman. Now it’s my turn.”

“OK.”

“My first guess is that you’re the short temptingly toned blond who never seems to be without her blue yoga mat. If a spontaneous yoga class erupts, she’s there. Is that you?”

“No, but that begs a question. Do you have your heart set on a short blond who does yoga?”

“I wouldn’t be averse to meeting one, with all due respect to present company. Apparently, you don’t fit that bill.”

“That’s right. You have two more guesses.”

“You’re the old lady who always wears the worn out brown overcoat and is muttering to herself every time I see her.”

“That’s right, but you forgot I always have on a beat up red beret.”

“Sorry!”

“That’s OK. Actually I’m not her at for least for a year or two. Go ahead, you have one more guess. Make it count.”

“How about the red head that always wears those hippie style peasant dresses?”

“No, but I know her, she’s my next door neighbor. So you’re getting really close, very, very warm, but still no cigar, boy.”

“OK, let me see. Have I ever seen the red head talking with anyone from your building?”

“Good deduction.”

“Unfortunately not good enough, offhand, I can’t think of anyone that I’ve seen her talking to.”

“Guess, let’s go, bonus shot.”

“You’re the brunette that carries the Chihuahua around?”

“No.”

“Wait, you’re the Chihuahua?”

“No, smartass, now we’re both busted. What do we do?”

“We start over. Jettison all those possibilities fermenting in our minds as to who the other person is and just agree to meet somewhere.”

“OK, where and when?”

“How about now? Just walk to the front of your building. I’ll do the same.”

“Now?”

“Yeah, right now. See you in five minutes.”

“Wait, how many stories up are you?”

”Four.”

“I’m three, so I’ll wait an additional two minutes so we hit the street at the same time. That’s only fair.”

He raced to his bathroom. She raced to hers. He did a quick once over focusing on hair to be sure that the portion that adorned the top of his head was behaving and the portion that had assumed tenancy in his ears and nose was evicted. She teased her tresses with an ever so slight wave of hairspray. He commandeered a gargle of mouthwash, a splash of aftershave and a slap of deodorant for good measure. She seconded the mouthwash experience, substituted the aftershave with perfume and matched him in the deodorant area. As the minutes deteriorated both of them simultaneously stressed. Their respective hearts unwittingly were married in a joint rhythm as they walked out their respective doors and descended their respective stairways. Their feet slapped out a drumbeat of anxiety on the marble steps as they exited their buildings. They arrived concurrently on their stoops turning and facing each other across what seemed to both like an ocean of concrete.

“Jeff?”

“Rita?”

“Yes.”

“Yes.”

They gawked at each other slightly dumb struck as their minds scrambled to orient what they were seeing against what they had anticipated. She was immediately drawn to his Robert Redford style all American jawbone, pale blue eyes and jet black hair. He thought that maybe he didn’t get his blonde yoga aficionado but he came awfully close. She had the athletic leanness and toned physique of a dancer. Her short blonde hair framed her tom boyish good looks.

“I thought that you said that you weren’t the short blond yoga type?”

“I lied. I’m a compulsive liar. It’s considered an endearing, positive trait in Manhattan.”

“That’s OK as long as you admit to it.”

“Should I keep reciting my negative traits across our stoops and educating the entire neighborhood to my shortcomings?”

“No, I think we should go somewhere for coffee or a drink. There you can enumerate your failings. This way I can write them down on a napkin so I won’t ever forget them. I can tack them on my refrigerator so I’ll have daily affirmations of your shortcomings. It will make me feel superior.”

“OK, let’s get on with the interrogation. Just remember, I get a shot at you next and last.”

“That’s fair. How about the bar around the corner? It’s a neighborhood place, fairly quiet. You can get a drink and sit a while without being harassed by waiters or waitresses.”

“Sounds good, let’s go. Who needs to be harassed by others when we’re both perfectly capable of doing it ourselves?”

After rounding the corner and entering the dark, wood paneled bar, they marooned themselves from the masses. Their booth was situated in a secluded section. If you Mapquested it they were in Fiji. It was so remote they thought that they would have to send up a flare to attract the waitress. Jeff waved frantically like a swimmer attempting not to concede to the ocean. Finally, the waitress approached.

“You two look like you belong together. Can I bring you something to help seal the relationship?”

“Actually, we’re still an empirical study. But liquids that double as lie detectors wouldn’t hurt. Rita, what will you have?”

“Vodka tonic, please.”

“Just a Bud Lite, please.”

“OK. I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

“You’re cheating already. I get the hard stuff and you wussy out with a Lite beer.”

“Get used to it, I like to set people up and make them think that we’re on a level playing field. At the first opportunity I double cross them. And you were beginning to think that you had me trumped with your compulsive lying.”

“Am I underestimating your prowess at obliterating a potential relationship? I take pride in being the one who sabotages everything before the other person gets a chance. Why be reactive in destruction when you can be proactive. The best offense is to kick them in the groin before the game starts.”

“Why have I just crossed my legs?”

“Because mister, you don’t want me spilling this scalding coffee on you that I’m carrying in addition to your drinks. That’s my opinion. Here’s your order. Now she can give you her opinion. I’m sure it will be much more colorful.”

“It’s simple, that will be the area that will ultimately do you in. One way or another, the little head and his hangers on always seize the day if men are left to their own devices.”

“You’ve just summarized a stereotypical male. How do you know that I fit?”

“What’s a stereotype but a representation of something that, to a greater or lesser extent, rings true?”

“That may be the case but it doesn’t mean that I’m subscribing. I may not have the credentials that you think that I’ve got.”

“Let’s see. Jeff, are you up for a little test?”

“OK.”

“Yes or no answers only, no explanations or but ifs.”

“OK, but I warn you, you’ll go next.”

“Pleading for mercy already?”

“Go ahead, Rita, start.”

“First, have you ever had a subscription to a men’s magazine. And you know I’m not talking about Sports Illustrated.”

“What’s the point of this question, to check if I‘ve ever indulged in self abuse?”

“What did I say, no explanations, questions etc. and, for the record, I know that you have. The fact that you mention it implicitly pleads you guilty.”

“Yes.”

“Second question, have you ever frequented a strip bar or similar establishment?”

“Yes.”

“Third question, have you ever solicited the services of a commercial sex worker?”

“Aren’t we getting rather personal rather quickly?”

“Yes or no?”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe as in yes, I’ve proved my point. How can you assert your innocence? You just pled guilty to being a typical heterosexual male. I rest my case.”

“All that proves is that I have a healthy sex drive. It proves that I’m a healthy boy, just doing what I’m supposed to be doing, working at fulfilling nature’s promise to the species. When I was born nature made a vow that I would do my utmost to reproduce. It’s simple biology.”

“No, it’s simply using impulse as an excuse.”

“Really, what if all those systems shut down. Where would we as a species be? Also, I do control them. They don’t run my life entirely. Because I consort with a female now and then does not brand me as a mongrel. That’s what you’re inferring.”

“Just don’t give in to your impulses. Don’t objectify women.”

“I’m not objectifying women, I’m lusting after them. Lusting, objectifying what’s the difference? Where are we drawing the line? Don’t tell me that you don’t enjoy being lusted after? If I don’t objectify women, will you then not monetize men? For that matter, why is there a difference between a woman’s reaction to a guy in a three piece suit and a guy wearing a gas station attendant’s uniform? Jesus, I’m beginning to sound like a New School course on interpersonal relationships.”

“Look. what we’ve just done is to reduce you to his lowest common denominator. That done you can now be rebuilt into a responsible member of the species. It’s basic training, if you will.”

“You’re beginning to come off like an analyst. Let’s shift the emphasis to you. What do you do anyway? You’ve had quite enough time to interrogate me. It’s your turn.”

“I’m a guidance counselor at a high school.”

“So you give students direction.”

“I think if you asked them it would be that I tell them where to go period, end of story.”

“Do they dislike you?”

“Wouldn’t you dislike someone who told you not to drink, not to smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t, don’t, don’t?”

“Why do you have to tell them don’t, don’t, don’t. Can’t you try to reason with them? They’re not seven year olds.”

“You’re giving them more credit than you should. They, to a great extent, fall into the same category that you do. The difference is they’re a mishmash of emotional ebbs and flows. They can’t figure out which end is up. That makes their construction, as opposed to your deconstruction and reconstruction, so much more difficult. I don’t have that much to work with. It’s like erecting a building on wet cement that you hope will solidify at some point.”

“Since we’re conveniently back on the subject what makes you so sure that I would let you de and reconstruct me? You seem pretty confidant. How do you know I won’t reconstruct you?”

“Simple, I’ll have you by those two little propagators that snugly sit in your BVDs.”

“Well, then I’ll just terminate this relationship. You can’t feminize me.”

“When did I say that I wanted to feminize you?”

“You didn’t, but it’s implied with your line of questioning and attitude.”

“You have a problem with my attitude?”

“Your attitude is the problem.”

“Really?”

“Really, but it doesn’t matter much. Based on your interrogation I can get what I need from other sources, which, reading into your attitude, is all that I’m after in the first place.”

“Are other sources a habit?”

“No, but once in a while it has proved to be a necessity.”

“That’s exactly what I’m relying on. I can meet those needs better than a so called ‘professional’.”

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

“If you’re lucky.”

Charlie Coleman‘s work has appeared in The Subway Chronicles and The Cynic Magazine among other venues.

4 thoughts on “Mismatch by Charlie Coleman”

  1. Very insightful… this was quite an interesting read, Charlie. I get a nice little sense of desperation from both of them.

    Thank you for your story… I enjoyed it very much. The progression is great… good timing… believable characters…

    1. Veronica,

      Thanks so much for your comments. Their desperation grew out of the writing of the story.

      Charlie

  2. Charlie, this is so fun and clever. I thoroughly enjoyed their jaunting back and forth all the way through, especially when she said she was a compulsive liar, and she sort of took control and he thought he had the upper edge. So hilarious. The ending was great. I always look for your stories here. Charming as ever. 😉

    1. Jodi,

      It’s always good to read your comments. You’re always quick to pick up on the subtlety in stories.

      I’m looking forward to the next installment of WWB.

      Charlie

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