OK? Cupid?

“Why am I here again?” I mumble to myself as I futz with my wine glass. I’m sitting in a small booth encased in a musty velvet curtain. The lighting is low and my nerves are high; my next “date” will arrive any second now. I snort, recalling the flyer’s promise to “Rediscover mystery, passion, and excitement in five minutes or less.”

The curtain parts. I look up to see warm brown eyes, shaggy blonde hair, and a strong jaw. At least this one looks promising.

He smiles cautiously.

I smile back.

He sits down, tells me his name is Sean. He asks the standard questions, what I do for work, where I grew up, boring but safe topics. I’m starting to lose interest when he puts up a finger to ask for a moment. Sean bends over to tie his shoe, and suddenly he’s under the table.

“Drop something?” I ask with a laugh.

Clammy fingers tickle my toes, and his voice drops a few octaves as he compliments my plumb polish. I scoot my feet back, but he clamps his hand around my ankle and oh shit oh shit oh shit he’s sucking my toes!

I yelp and kick; the table rocks precariously. He grunts in pain. The curtains rustle as he scurries away.

I throw back my wine, order a jack and coke, and regard the pile of index cards at my elbow. After each “meet” we’re supposed to provide “encouraging feedback”. I frown and push the cards aside.

The buzzer sounds, the curtain parts, and it’s…My ex. I groan, slap my forehead, and sink low in my seat.

He turns on his heel and stalks out.

I flick the pile of cards to the floor. The waiter deposits my drink with a raised eyebrow. “Don’t,” I bark in warning.

My next date has me choking on my liquor.

“Hi sweets.” My grandfather pats my hand awkwardly as he sits down.

I knew he was trying to get out more, but really? I close my eyes and rub my temples. He chatters away as I stare at the bottom of my glass.

Eye-patch is contestant number four. He asks if I want to be his wench. I tell him I’m not into pirates.

The next dude lives in his mother’s basement. He asks if I want to come over to see his comic collection. By this point, I’m too tired to laugh. I order another whiskey instead.

When ‘roid rage steps in, I bury my head in my hands. After telling me I have a “promising figure”, he lectures me on the merits of eating clean and incorporating exercise into my daily routine. I imagine shoving a brownie in my mouth while giving him the middle finger.

I can’t believe I actually paid to meet these people. I check my watch and want to cry. Twenty minutes and three more “matches” to go. Unless…

Warily, I peek around the curtain…

“Thank God!” The coast is clear. I snatch my purse and sprint for the exit.

The warm summer air caresses my shoulders, and I sigh in relief. Research accomplished!

But…my editor will expect the article on his desk first thing tomorrow morning. My heels click purposefully against the pavement as I make a beeline for the subway entrance around the corner.