When I was in college, I stayed in Philadelphia for the summers. I either had a job, or was still taking classes, or just enjoyed miserable situations. No one stayed on campus in the summer, no one except dorks, nerds, thugs, and me. Woohoo. Here's an oldie about me and this Ethiopian dude who asked me to dinner.
Dinner For Two
I have gotten myself into a lot of strange situations because I couldn’t say no. Odd dates I’ve had, parties, even entire relationships, all happened because somehow I managed to close the door on the fog horn/bomb shelter alarm/fire truck siren that went off in my head.
This is not something I am proud of.
It’s not something I’m proud of, and yet I can justify this tendency by explaining that I am an optimist. If the little angel and devil inside my head are arguing, No don’t do it!/ Go ahead, it’ll be fine, I’ll always listen to that second voice .
Me: I sound like an alcoholic.
See what I mean? All day this goes on.
Once I accepted a dinner invitation from this Ethiopian guy who I had walked home with a couple of times from the subway. I think what happened is he told me where he was from and I said, oh I love Ethiopian food, and he said he would cook me some real Ethiopian food tomorrow night at 7, and I said uh, ok.
I wish I could watch a video of that whole little scenario. I’d watch it like a football coach watches highlights on a Sunday night. I’d break it down. Slow motion. Rewind. Jot down a few notes. Play it back again.
IIIIIII’llllll coooooook you some reeeeeeeeal Eeeeeethiiiiiiooooopian foooooood.
Did my face show the horror/shock/disbelief at what I was being told, or was it cool until after I spoke and realized what I had just said? And then once it realized what it had just agreed to, was it frozen like a deer in headlights or was it one big phony/confused smile like a politician at a debate.
I don’t know.
All I can tell you is that it wasn’t the first or last time my mouth said something I hadn’t realized it was going to say until after it was out. But I remember that I definitely did not vanish into thin air after saying it; I definitely stood there and got directions to his house; I definitely said see you tomorrow before turning down my street, and I definitely said No possible way, What the fuck were you thinking, You stupid idiot fucking moron! as soon as I closed the door behind me.
I didn’t go.
I mean come on. This guy followed me from the subway a few times. We barely spoke more than 10 sentences. There was no spark. There was no unspoken undercurrent. None. Nothing. Jesus, Come on. I justified my behavior with the thought that this would not lead to anything good and quite possibly something very, very bad. I stopped taking the subway for a while, rode my bike, slunk around on my tiptoes and peeked around corners like the pink panther.
But then my guilt caught up with me; I thought what if he had actually cooked the meal (of course he had), I thought I was being racist (of course I was), I thought, what was I worried about, he had glasses and he wore both straps of his back pack. What was wrong with me? And as soon as I started thinking these things, I ran into him. At first I tried to pretend like nothing happened, Oh hey! Good to see you! But then I couldn’t ignore the huge turd between us, he seemed angry and sad in that way that is very attractive. We agreed to have dinner the next night.
I wish I could tell you we had a great time, that we laughed and shared stories and became best friends who later went to see movies together and talked about our problems and dreams but never had any sexual tension, so remained buds without any problem. But that’s not what happened. And nothing scary or bad happened either. I got to his apartment, which was a single room without a kitchen (just a hot plate) or bathroom (it was in the hall). All it had was a bed, which was set like a table for one. My memory of the entire evening/charade/ordeal was that there was mostly silence. I talked about my dog and he talked about being attacked by one. He served me food but did not eat anything. He stared at my boobs the entire time. He stared at my boobs for so long I was worried they might start talking to him. The food was so hot, I thought my ears were bleeding and I said so. We looked out the windows, he to the right, me to the left. I said I needed to go and he said okay.
What did I learn from this experience? Did it teach me to just say no? No thanks. That’s so kind of you but no, it would be awkward, I know this in my heart. Did it teach me to prepare a little better next time, think of it like an interview, get the guy’s story, make a bigger effort. Nope. No it did not. It taught me none of those things. In fact I’m still trying to figure it out.