Monday, April 4, 2011

Cereal Therapy

He sat across from her looking as if he’d be more comfortable in a plastic booth at Whataburger than a leather chair at this Olive Garden table. But he had told her to choose her favorite restaurant. So here they were.
Staring at the menu, his brow was furrowed as he gnawed fervently on his lip. She couldn’t tell if he was nervous about pronouncing those Italian dishes or if he was calculating the price of the meal.
It was her job to make him comfortable, so she folded her menu and asked, “What looks good to you?”
“Um, not sure.” Seeing that she had already put down her menu, he scanned the menu more feverishly. “Geez, you know what you want already?”
“I usually get the same thing every time. Lasagna Fritta.” She sipped her water.
“I’ll uh, probably just get the spaghetti and meatballs.” He laid down his menu and fell silent, looking down at his overturned wine glass, as if wishing it were full.
“So, Billy tells me you work on cars, Dusty.”
“Um, yep.” He picked up the straw wrapper and started fiddling with it.
“I think that’s one of the most enduring occupations ever because people will always need to drive and cars will always break down. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
"Um, yep. That’s what I always say.”
“I always wanted to learn how to fix my own car. I mean a good mechanic is hard to find. They usually try to trick you into getting a new motor when all you needs is an oil change.”
“Yep, some of ‘em.”
He was trying to be involved in the conversation, she’d give him that much. But even she was bored of her own conversations. To spice up the conversation, she decideed to mention her occupation. That always seemed to work. “I work at Victoria Secret.”
“That’s real nice.” He looked out the window, unfazed by the information.
Good grief! Billy had sent her on pity dates before, but this was by far the worst. That girl must’ve torn his heart out; he practically had a DNR tacked on his forehead. It wasn’t as if she ever thought it would work out between them. Or even that she had come out with him under those pretenses. She smirked, looking out at the parking lot. No, nothing would work out between them, not with that monstrosity of a truck he drove.
This guy was clearly in distress and needed something more than small talk to get his mind off his problems. He needed therapy.
She needed to perform a test to see just how bad it was. First, the silence endurance test: see how long a stretch of silence could go before it bothered him. She sat back in her seat and watched him patiently, like a lab worker might observe a specimen.
After three minutes passed, he still just stared out the window. It was clear that this would go on for as long as she decided to remain silent. He wasn’t initiating conversation anytime soon. Next came the observation test.
“Look at that rain coming down.” She grinned.
“Uh, huh,” he nodded.
“Cats and dogs.”
“Mm hmm.”
She shook her head, squinting at the sunlight streaming through the blind. Her diagnosis was complete.
Just then the waiter walked up. “Y'all know what you want?”
“Yes. We do.” She stated matter-of-factly. “We’re leaving. Come on, Dusty.” She gathered her purse and opened it, handing the waiter a couple dollars.
“But, but—“ Dusty sputtered. “Look. I’m sorry I’m not good company—”
“Dusty, it’s all right.” She laid a hand on his arm across the table. “Any man who can’t tell a rainy day from a sunny one is clearly still in love and needs to talk about her. C’mon. Let’s get you out of here.”
He followed her, weaving in between the tables to the front door.
“Wh-where are we going?”
“To my place. I’ve got a box of Cap’n Crunch at my house. Cereal is a comfort food.” She stopped to let him catch up. “And a bowl of cereal on my back porch definitely isn’t a date. You need to talk. I’ll listen.”
When he had helped her climb into his truck and gotten in himself, he looked over at her still a little confused. “H-how did you know?”
“Apart from the obvious signs?” She chuckled softly. “Billy always sends his buddies my way right after one of them breaks up. I generally know how to help them get over their girls. But you—you’re just hurtin’.” She reached over and patted his hand.
“Let’s go. The Cap’n’ll help you feel better.”
For the first time that evening, he smiled.

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