Joe Namath and a Toad

[When I left Zendik in September 2004, I remained a true believer. For more than a year, I executed “Deathculture” fantasies in hopes of preparing myself to return and commit for good. One of those fantasies was running a personal ad.]

“Good-looking, fit SWF, 28, seeks fit SM under 45 for dating and other adventures. Let’s ride the cosmic Ferrari* really fast; you can shift and I’ll steer and work the brakes and gas.”

Thus runs the personal ad I have placed in the Chico News & Review. The man I’m about to meet—the first to respond to said ad—has told me on the phone he looks like Joe Namath—

And he does, if you cross Joe Namath with a toad.

Mike Brady, 37, shows up in the doorway of my trailer at six pm on Saturday, as planned. I am on my hands and knees, scrubbing the kitchen floor—the last task in my weekly bout of housecleaning. I look up; my jaw drops to the linoleum. I have never seen an uglier man in my life.

Stall. Play for time.

“Would you mind waiting outside for a moment, so I can finish?” I croak.

He obliges, and I continue scrubbing, my internal monologue keeping furious time with my washrag:

What have I gotten myself into? This man is ugly as sin. What do I do now? Tell him, look, you’re hideous, please leave? I can’t do that. I guess I…could go into this as an…experiment…to see what kind of man… answers personal ads….

I finish scrubbing, and ask him into the kitchen. He hands me a can of Green Giant spinach. I live and work on an organic vegetable farm. I harvest my breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. I religiously refuse to eat food that’s not organic. Here I am accepting a gift of embalmed greens. Dripping with pesticides. Wonderful. Great. Thank you. I smile, take the can, invite him to sit down. New theory: opposites repel.

He slides onto the bench seat across from me, in my dining nook. He says,

“So, what did you have in mind? We could go to town and get some dinner or [here he leeringly eyes my double bed, which is just down the hall past the bathroom] we could just hang out here. I’m up for anything.”

I say, “Let’s go to town.”

So we get in his white Lexus and drive—not to beautiful downtown Chico, but to a sushi bar in a strip mall on its outskirts. As we drive, I obnoxiously and unequivocally offer every shocking opinion I can think of, on every topic he brings up. He, in turn, attempts to impress me with accounts of the many Club Med vacations he’s managed to take, on his gas-station-manager’s salary.

We arrive at the sushi bar, and take stools next to each other. The waitress drops off our menus, and as I pick mine up to look at it, he very deliberately places his hand on my back, as if to guide me through the choices. I tense, grit my teeth, and say: “Please don’t touch me.”

He, offended, acquiesces. We order, and eat. Midway through the fish, he asks, “So, is there anything else you’d like to tell me about yourself?”

“Well,” I say, “I’m a religious fanatic.” And launch into the spiel I used to give on the street, to people I was trying to sell cult literature to, during my stint (only recently ended) as brainwashed devotee of a power-hungry egomaniac who swore she was saving the world. I continue for a few minutes, checking his face every now and then to see what damage I’ve done. Unfortunately, he does not run screaming from the restaurant.

In the midst of my rant, I look up, across the bar, and spot the attractive young male tattoo artist who is responsible for the single piece of permanent artwork on my body. He is perched at the bar with a beautiful blonde. I briefly fantasize switching places with the blonde, and hope he hasn’t seen me.

Finally, we go. It is only eight, and on a midsummer night in Chico it doesn’t really get dark till ten. Tomorrow—Sunday—is my day off. There is no practical reason why I could not stay out partying alongside the frat kids till three in the morning. But I have to get away from this man. I have no choice; I lie:

“Yeah, it really sucks being a field hand. I actually have to get up at 4:30 in the morning tomorrow—the cucumbers will rot on the ground if I don’t harvest them before sun-up. Yeah, I know, it’s a real bitch but hey, nature waits for no man. So yeah, I better get home and get to bed. It’s a tough life, being a farmer.”

He drives me home, drops me off. We do not kiss good night.

Thus ends what I hope will remain the shittiest date of my life.

[*I lifted the line about the cosmic Ferrari from a t-shirt selling email composed by another Zendik, back when I lived at the Farm. I won’t name her here because I don’t think she’d want me to, but I do offer her acknowledgment and thanks.]

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