Chapter Seven

I've dined at this restaurant and others like it regularly since 2002 and have never once eaten a dish I couldn't have made better at home.

The hour before I had to set up for the student government meeting at the student union wasn’t enough time to take on a significant amount of reading, so I rehearsed reasons to run into Allison on her floor.  My ideas were growing exponentially contrived when Julian popped his head into the office.

“Anyone home?”

“Glad to see you, where have you been the last few days?”

Julian smiled and said, “You know Jason Baxter’s girl?”

“The one your pledge uncle or whatever said was crazy, obsessive, and filled with STDs?  I might remember you mentioning her.”

“Nevermind,” Julian said.

“Come on, you stopped in to say something.”

“I was going to tell you that I’m taking her, whose name is Sophia, to The Den’s formal.  And then I was going to tell you that I got you a date with her roommate, so one of us could get into their, uh, room and see if see if she has Jason’s phone and keys.”

“But what about Allison?”

“What about Allison?”

“She said she’d ask her dad to take a look at the coroner’s report.”

“Grove, you haven’t heard from her in almost a week — about his possessions or your ‘magical night,'” Julian said, using air quotes. “This is a plan b — that I hope will lead to Plan B — if you know what I mean.”

“You only ever mean one thing.”

“Alright, I need to go but should mention that our special night is tomorrow and Sophia’s roommate is vegan, which should make dinner either easy or incredibly difficult.”

I groaned.

* * * * *

“To recap, Kate: You’re from Los Angeles, incredibly open-minded but don’t eat meat, excuse me, ‘animal products,’ couldn’t live in any American city smaller than Boston, have never been anywhere in the United States besides a coast until college, and don’t understand why people find solace in Jesus, vote Republican, bear children, or watch MTV.”

“Basically.  What about you?”

“Oh, the same.”

I poked at the pasta dish I had ordered at one of the only two vegan restaurants near Hanscom College.  Don’t Spill the Beans was casual dining, and Rise-Up Bakery was for dates with vegans.  This basically meant everyone in the restaurant was starving, biding their time with reasonably edible and insanely over-priced ‘organic/fair-trade/locally grown/green’ food until they went back to her (vegans are always female) place and got laid.

“Seriously?!”

“No.  I’m from Nebraska.  I love to eat animals that have been bred for human consumption because, if they hadn’t been, they’d have gone extinct centuries ago — the animal species that have become modern livestock were incredibly stupid.  Also, I would like to take my opportunity to speak to clarify that eggs are not chicken abortions but chicken periods.  That’s not any more appetizing, but let’s at least base your bias on accurate information.”

My behavior would have foiled Julian’s plan had Kate not been looking over what the restaurant called dessert and not really listening.

“Since you’re from Nebraska and know about cattle, does that mean you grew up on a farm?”

“Yes, ma’am.  In fact, everyone in Nebraska raises corn and rides cows to a one-room schoolhouse when the harvest permits us to learn,” I said in my best yokel accent.

“That’s so cute.  It’s like the 1950s there.  ‘I like Ike,’ ” Kate chanted as she raised a fist into the air.

I was not amused.  Actually, I was as hurt as a person can be by someone he doesn’t respect.  Her complete ignorance about Nebraska, and by extension me, was just so palpable.  This was made even worse by her disinterest in learning anything substantive about it.  Sarcasm wasn’t working, so I tried giving a civics lesson: “I like to think that the Nebraska of today is the 1950s that voted for Adlai Stevenson, socially progressive to a point but fiscally conservative.”

“So you’re a Democrat?”

“Yes.”

“And Christian?”

“Do I believe there is an omnipotent being to whom I should pray to grant wishes for things I could do for myself?  No.  But I do think Jesus existed and taught people to be nice to one another.  I guess that makes me Christian.”

“What about kids?”

“In this economy?,” I said, only kind of joking.

“Oh, I agree.  If I can’t afford a nanny to drive them to karate, dance lessons, and private school, then I don’t see the point of having one at all.”

“It takes an African village,” I said.

Kate motioned to the waiter and asked for the check.

Apparently we were skipping dessert.

* * * * *

Sex was messier and shorter than I had imagined, and I had imagined it a lot.  I had practiced on my own and knew what to expect on my end but hadn’t anticipated the confusion that ensued when the number of participants was doubled.

I had also assumed that, because it was a biological imperative, the basics would be instinctual.  Unfortunately, the pleasure seems to come from technique and nuance, which can only be gained through experience.  Anyway, I’d never had much luck with innateness and should not have assumed sex would be any different.

Were I Greek hero, my skill would be that I could learn anything, but my fatal flaw would be that I had to be taught.

Still, I had a great time until I realized Kate hadn’t.  I started thinking about what I’d done wrong but decided I didn’t really care whether Kate had had as great a time as me because I didn’t cared about her opinion of anything else.  This train of thought further sullied my opinion of my first sexual encounter, and I felt I had to get out of there before it got any worse.

Then I remembered what this whole scenario had been about: Jason Baxter.

Kate had gone to the bathroom, so I had time to snoop.

Lucky for me, Kate’s roommate and Julian’s date, Sophia, was a neat freak.  Everything on her side of the room was labeled with either Post-It notes or Sharpies.

Inside her desk was a plastic bag containing a phone and keys labeled simply “J.B.”  Given the specificity of all of her other notes, this cryptic use of initials convinced me these were the items missing from Jason’s room.  This did not bode well for Julian.  His dream girl may be as crazy as everyone said.

I hurried to dress and was slipping into my shoes when Kate returned.

“I have to go.”

I moved to give her a kiss on the cheek, but she backed away.

I recovered, gave a little wave and said, “Thanks for a great night.”  I walked out the door and into the hallway.

She shrugged and shut the door.

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