Lucy had been on a date with Alex for 26 minutes and he had corrected her opinions on the likelihood of rain, the rate at which bees were dying off, the implications of police body cameras on civil liberties, whether red wine gave Lucy migraines, and where to park. Lucy was focusing on deep, even breaths and calibrating the timbre of her voice so as not to reveal her rage. They had only just arrived at the restaurant. She was furious at herself for not driving separately. Stuck for at least an hour and a half, she resolved to find a way to make the evening worthwhile.
They were sat and Alex ordered a bottle of red wine. “I’ll also have a margarita,” Lucy cut in before the server left. Tequila was going to be a necessity.
Alex rolled his eyes. “You’re only depriving yourself with that choice.” He tucked his chin under resentfully while he scanned the menu, and Lucy wanted to tell him that a man with his weak chin should not pout in that particular manner. But she knew if she could just get a little wasted, she could keep from becoming the epic bitch he would tell stories about forever. She smiled and changed the subject.
“How did you spend your summers growing up?” she sweetly asked. Lucy was the master of the redirect.
Alex enthusiastically took the bait. As he launched into his autobiography, the server came back with the first of four margaritas Lucy would tuck herself into that evening, nestling in the toasty warmth of drunk passivity.
At the two hour and fifteen minute mark Alex took a break from talking and they sat in silence while Lucy mentally dared him to ask her a question.
“So….you’re going to be a social worker?” He let the words drag out of his mouth with the effort of a strong man pulling on airplane by a chain crossing his chest.
“No, I’m going to be a family therapist. I’d like to work with traumatized kids.”
Alex huffed. “So you’re not going to earn any money?”
“Sure.” She was too relaxed by the tequila to engage in his judgment. “Sure, that’s a possible take you could have on my professional choices.”
Alex steam-rolled past her detachment. “Women always think they’re going to marry rich so they go ahead and pursue these do-gooder jobs, and then they’re surprised men don’t take feminism seriously.”
“What a terrible thing to say to me” Lucy spit at him. “This is how you live your life, saying terrible shit to the people putting up with you?”
“Whoa, I didn’t mean to touch a nerve.”
“You disrespected my vocation and you didn’t think that would touch a nerve.” Lucy stood up. An Uber would be much less expensive than the psychological toll of being around this guy. “You don’t seem to think about any of the shit that leaves your mouth.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, I was out of line. I’m sorry, I’m a jackass. You’re on a date with a jackass. Please sit down.”
Lucy remained standing, “No, I’m done, I’m so done.”
Alex stood up. “Ok, I’m going to pay and I’ll drive you home, ok? I messed this up, I really did, let me take you home, I’m sorry.”
He drove her home in silence. When he pulled up to her apartment building he let out a deep sigh.
“Lucy, I really messed up. You’re a beautiful woman and I get stupid around beautiful women.”
“You think I’m stupid for wanting to help kids. You think that makes me stupid.”
“No, it’s just….you know, I hate my job, and I’m in it for the money, and when I meet someone who made different choices I get kind of agitated because I think about what if I made different choices.”
Lucy’s shoulders relaxed a little. “Well, you can’t talk about my life like I’m stupid.”
“I don’t think you’re stupid. I’m used to talking to jackass brokers all day, I’m not used to having to not be a dick. I think you’re special and I just have been a real jackass because I don’t know what to do with someone like you.”
The rest of Lucy relaxed. She was a sucker for an apology, especially combined with a compliment. “Just relax and like, ask me some actual questions and don’t make nasty judgments about my life.”
Alex seized the opportunity. “Can we just go somewhere now and I’ll do exactly that, that’s what I want to do, that’s how I want to relate to you.”
“Ugh,” Lucy lowered her forehead into her palms. The tequila was catching up with her.
“Will you just let me take you somewhere really quick? Just real quick, there’s a beautiful spot near here I want to show you.”
Lucy, who was exceptionally fond of second chances, nodded her assent.
He drove them to a nearby park, parked the car, and they set off down a trail which followed a creek. The woods hummed with crickets. All the stars were out. The air was warm, and he wound his fingers in between hers as he led her down the dark path. She could hear the water of the creek rushing faster and louder, and then they went down a hill and turned a corner and they were looking at a waterfall.
“This is my favorite place,” said Alex.
“It’s beautiful,” Lucy replied.
He turned and took her fact in his hands and kissed her gently. Lucy, who had felt her anger melting in the warm night, kissed him back, and it was lovely. The world was made of soft, dark secrets, the waterfall rushing, the stars shining, the warmth of two faces being close for the first time. They sat down on the edge of the creek and kissed more, and the kisses started to change. He pulled her on top of him, and he laid back and she was straddling him, finding a shared rhythm. His hands were in her hair, and then they were rubbing her shoulders, and then she noticed he was applying pressure, trying to move her down his body.
Lucy sat up. “This is nice but I’m not going to suck your dick.”
Alex frowned. “You seemed into this.”
“I am into this. I just have this rule I won’t do that first.”
“Oh. Well, I don’t go down on women unless we’re pretty serious.”
Lucy sat up straighter. “What’s that about?”
Alex propped himself up on his elbows. “It’s just very intimate, and you really have to know a woman well to know if she’s even clean.”
“But you were just trying to get me to put your dick in my mouth.”
Alex smiled like she’d caught him in a white lie. “Well, dicks stay cleaner.”
“Your dick, which you pee out of, stays cleaner than my vulva?”
“Stuff can’t get inside a dick in the same way. It’s an engineering difference.”
“There’s an engineering difference that means my pussy, which can make a person, is too dirty for you to put your mouth on, but I should be cool with tonguing your peehole?”
Alex rolled his eyes, “Can you just chill for 5 minutes to see if you really want to make a big deal about this?”
Lucy rolled off of him. “This was a big mistake, it’s time to go home.” She started walking up the path.
“Are you seriously walking away from me for this? Maybe I’m not even going to drive you home. Maybe you should stop and think before you’re a huge bitch to your ride.”
Lucy was already 20 feet up the path. “You’re driving me home.”
“I don’t have to. I could leave you here. You should be more careful with men you don’t know.” His pitch was rising as she got further away. “Seriously, I’m not driving you home. You can hitch hike. Good luck with that, crazy slut.”
“You are going to drive me home or I’m calling the cops.” Lucy yelled back.
“Bitch, you don’t want to threaten me,” Alex threatened.
Lucy pulled out her phone. “I’m dialing now, so if you want the cops to show up keep being an asshole!”
She heard him pulling himself upright and following her up the trail. She walked quickly. She had already dialed 9 and 1. Her heart and head were both racing. She didn’t actually want to get in the car with him. She’d probably be safer waiting it out in the woods overnight.
“You probably have a disgusting pussy!” he bellowed at her.
Her rage overwhelmed her fear and she screamed as loud as she could, “You won’t ever touch my disgusting pussy because I am one hundred percent you have never made a woman cum!”
Alex yelped in pain. Lucy jumped- she was proud of the sick burn but that was a big reaction to it.
“Fuck, something stung me,” he shouted out.
Lucy shook her head and kept stomping away. It was quiet for a minute before he yelled out again.
“Shit, it was a bee, shit shit shit!”
Lucy paused. She’d been a camp counselor for 8 summers, so she’d had her fair share of stabbing terrified kids in their thighs with epi-pens.
“Lucy! Lucy I’m very allergic! You have to run to the car, there’s a first aid kid in the trunk with something called an epi pen in it!”
Lucy wanted to scream in frustration.
“Fucking come get my car keys! My throat’s gonna close up!”
She ran down to him. He was already on his knees, hyperventilating. He threw the car keys at her.
Lucy’s hands were shaking with hate for him. She ran to the car nonetheless, found the first aid kit, ran back down to Alex. He was laying on his side wheezing, his face and neck swollen, puffed up shiny red.
“It’s an orange tube” he wheezed out.
“I got it, I’ve used an epi pen before.” Lucy crouched beside him, opening the kit and rummaging through its contents in the darkness.
“Pull the blue cap straight up,” he wheezed.
She got the epi-pen in her hands, squinting in the darkness to see which end had the blue cap.
He was choking and rocking with his wheezing, but managed to say, “Fucking faster!”
Lucy had administered 12 epi pens in her lifetime. But never, in all the times she had injected a kid with one, had she had a moment’s hesitation about whether the kid needed to live.
Alex, however. Did he need to live? How many more years did it make sense for him to stomp through the world, condescending, making threats, giving fake out apologies, creating scary circumstances so he could get his dick sucked?
“Orange end,” he wheezed, “fucking use the orange end.”
They were alone. The crickets had gone quiet. The creek was only a whisper. The realization descended on Lucy that this was a lovely moment also, another moment of quiet soft secrets, perfect in its intimacy. Her head felt clear, her lungs filled effortlessly with breath, and that was so correct, that breath would fill and sustain her easily while he writhed in the dirt struggling for it. She smiled with the start of an awed laugh.
“Tell me again,” she said, putting her smiling face down very close to his, looking into his eyes as they rolled up into his head, “Tell me one more time.”