Kelly Delany spends her days feeding people and answering phones in her best hospitable tone. At night she sits in the back of her favorite coffee shop creating other worlds. To find more by her, find her on her only form of social media The Gram @kellylikescake.
Dylan’s profile all consisted of head shots. Something you hadn’t even though twice about as you swiped right and watched as the screen went black. Your photo lining up next to his, as curvy white letters informed you of your match. Conversation was simple and to the point. A first date was suggestion immediately.
As you sit at the bar, your finger nails push down the ruffles framing the red napkin under your water glass. With each ruffles’ demise you try to recall the few things you remember talking to Dylan about, making sure not to lead into uncharted territory by perusing a conversation that was actually started with Brian, Greg or even John. Feeling good about conversation you push your hair to one side. Then the other. Then back again deciding it does look best at its natural part to the right. In the shiny reflection of the bar you check to make sure there isn’t lipstick on your teeth, and that your year old mascara hasn’t started to create black pools under our eyes.
Glancing up, you see a familiar tuft of brown hair come through the door. Your fingers brush the pile of paper bits you’ve started onto your lap, as your eyes and memory try and agree that the man walking through the door is Dylan. The head and shoulders sitting on top of a grey sweater match the head shots that your phone’s florescent lights burned into your eyes. It’s what pokes out from under the cuffs of the long sleeves that have your mind disagreeing with your eyes. You hope it’s just a trick. Maybe he’s wearing gloves. Maybe your eye sight really has gotten worse. As he steps closer you begin to come to terms with the fact that this is not an optical allusion. Hanging from the sleeves of his sweater are two shiny beige claws. This is not a drill.
As this clicks, so does his recognition of you and he makes his way to the empty bar stool you saved for him.
“Hey it’s so good to finally meet you!” His tone is warm as he wraps his arms around you, obviously avoiding a handshake.
He sits back on the empty stool and tucks his claws under the puddle of wool that sits in his lap. A simple nod gets the bartender’s attention and Jordan orders for you and himself. With a beer on the way you retreat inside your thoughts where the messages you sent each other bounce off your skull. Hoping to find clues that hint at this being a misunderstanding not a lie feed to you so blindly. You begin constructing the denial speech you’ll give him after he reveals to be more diabolically then a liar, over the course of your date. If someone could forget to mention they’re half crustacean, what else could they forget?
He doesn’t seem to notice the look of concern that has to be plastered across you face, likely because it’s not the first time he “forgot” to mention his claws. He takes the reins of the conversation. As you listen for more plot holes, and question why you let your friends convince you to online date. His voice is low and rough as if he’s been smoking and singing folk songs on the beach his whole life. Sitting under bushy eyebrows are a set of grey eyes that make it hard to look away from his face. Soon you find the thoughts of claws drifting out to sea. You’re grip on the bar stool tightens as words bubble from behind your lipstick-free teeth. You can’t really hear what you’re saying but it makes him smile. You’re memorized by the crinkles that begin to grow form the corners of his eyes.
You’ve got small talk down to a science, everything from the perfectly summarized synopsis of your life. To “adult” topics of politics and world events. Then back to your opinions of the day to day workings of the man who fills the cracks on the faces of Mount Rushmore (that documentary you rented finally coming in handy). Of course this doesn’t play out exactly the way every other date’s did and conversation takes on a route you were not prepared for. A road paved with intimate questions about family and friends. Witty movie references that you navigate slowly in between sips of whatever beer it was you told him was also your favorite.
Conversation comes to a screeching halt as he unravels his claws to pull the chair next to him out for a new person bellying up to the bar. Swinging back his claw clinks the new comers beer off the table. Beer waves crash onto the bar, spilling over the edge drenching your black halter. Whispers hum throughout the bar, but no one makes direct eye contact. The grey of his eyes fill with a mixture of sorrow and shock. Similar to the look you’d find on a puppy sitting in the middle of your living room on top a puddle of his own piss. How can you be mad at that face?
Beer pools in the creases of your jeans, and your shirt clings to your skin like the sea weed left behind after low tide. Without a word he drops money on the table to replace the newcomer’s beer and clamps down on your wrist. The bottoms of your shoes squeak against the beer raining form your top as he pulls you towards the bathroom.
The bathroom is tiny and the door locks, but not very well. He has the look of a proud school boy as he shows you to the white hand dryer on the wall.
“It’s the best way to dry your shirt. Unless you’d rather go home, I just was having such a good time I’d be upset to see you go because of my clumsiness.” He smiles as he says this. Your stomach pulls up into your ribs with how flattered you are that he wants you to stay. It does this so enthusiastically it soars up passed your rib cage and gets stuck behind your tongue, making it impossible to answer him back.
The top half of his claw clinks on the dryer, while the left hooks under the hem of your shirt. It’s bumpy and warm as it runs across your stomach, sending goose bumps up your spine. His teeth glimmer with triumph as his eyes dance from you to the dryer, waiting for your praise. You just smile, the sound of the dyer, and the way your stomach is lodged in your throat making it impossible to express your happiness any other way. It was a great idea, and it got you alone, away from the glairing eyes of the other people in the bar. After a few moments of heat the smell of hot hops coming from your shirt mixes with the bathrooms “air freshener” and the slight smell of salt coming from his claws, creating an aroma that rubs against every hair lining your nose.
Pushing your stomach back to its cozy home between your liver and kidneys gives you enough air to push out a comment.
“God it reeks in here!” Your words come out a lot louder than necessary. The hard lines of his face line up as he brings his free claw up and closes off your nostrils. Memories of unseen crabs pinching at your feet below murky ocean water fill your head, but they don’t seem to match with the way he’s clamping onto your nose.
Unable to put your finger on what is happening to you right now your mouth gapes open and a sound similar to an asthmatic cat on a treadmill comes out. Laughter bellows out drowning out the whirl of the hand dryer, his grip clapping down tighter. In retaliation you take your fingers and clasp onto his nose. The contraction manufactures an even more adorable laugh from Jordan. The wheezing nervousness of your laugh grows louder. Your head stars to feel light as you attempt to catch your breath between giggles. Something that’s a lot harder to do when someone’s got your nose.
Slowly he reels you in by your nose, tilting your head up as the distance between the two of you closes. The bones of your hand slide along the small trail of bumps lining the top of his claw before getting caught on the black tip of the largest bump. You can see the cracks in his lips. The black heads that border his mouth and beard like little pieces of tar in the sand.
The sound of the dryer stops as the lock on the door flips open, sending the handle into your back. Your spin curves and you pull back on Jordan’s nose. The cartilage between your fingers gives with a loud crack.
“Sorry, didn’t realize someone was in here.” A voice says as the door is pulled shut. You watch as blood begins to trickle down Jordan’s chin. Clumsily he brings his claws to his face but he can’t seem to stop the bleeding.
Your feet glue to the floor, as you weight your options. The door is a short running distance away you can leave. Hope that no one will notice and someone can just convince him that he did it to himself in a drunken daze. You could save the day. Carry him to the ER like a great fantasy hero would rescue a damsel in distress. Best case scenario you could shut your eyes and pinch your skin till you find yourself sitting in your bed.
Realizing his claws won’t stop the bleeding he tilts his head back, and with the moment of alone time you close your eyes and pinch and tug at your skin. Opening them brings you back to the bathroom. You’re arm is now red, and Dylan’s nose is still bleeding. You reach into your back pocket for your phone. After telling the woman on the other line your location, you run over and unravel half the roll of toilet paper, and hold it up to his nose. He smiles, his white teeth bright against the blood on his chin as he asks.
“Is this the wrong time to set up a second date?”