Dead End Job: A Louisa Hallstrom Novel(8)

By: Ingrid Reinke

I thought about cleaning more of her mess, but, in preparation for my date, I had also promised myself I would get to the gym today. If the date went well and I hung around, I would most likely drink a bit too much, then come home starving and binge eat—switching back and forth between a bowl of cereal and slices from a giant block of creamy, fifteen dollar French cheese that I had splurged on at an organic grocery store on Monday night. After a year of unemployment and those pesky, weekday morning wine and cheese binges, I had gained nearly 20lbs, which had sneakily deposited itself in what I’d self-critically deemed as the sloppy, paunchy areas around my stomach, hips and thighs. I now divided my months in two, surrounding my period. There were the first two (pre-rag) guilt-ridden, near masochistic work-out filled weeks of moping and body-hating PMS, followed by the second two (post-rag), careless weeks of eating cheeseburgers, drinking beer with abandon and lazing around the house. Today caught me smack dab in the middle of the first week, so appropriately I was currently in the throes of body detesting disgust. I roused my English bulldog, Winston, from his daily twenty hours of slumber, prodded him into the yard, and took off for forty-five minutes on the elliptical in order to bolster my self-confidence as much as possible before my upcoming date.

Showering, I thought about my evening and hoped that tonight’s guy would actually be a bachelor, and not another married man. My forays into internet dating had taught me that the only way to spot fake bachelors was to absolutely insist upon meeting friends who can vouch for their stories. I had learned the hard way that if a man won’t introduce you to his friends, he’s married. Or crazy. I prayed that my date tonight would be neither, but I wasn’t holding out much hope. I dried my thick, long, wavy blond hair bone straight (which took considerable effort), expertly applied my makeup, slipped in and ripped the tags off my new dress and threw on some heels, and did a quick evaluation in the full-length mirror. I thought that I looked nice: not too many zits, only a couple of wrinkles, I had spanx on under the dress and had just enough of my ample cleavage out to walk the very thin line between classy and total hoochie. Success. I headed out the door.

My date and I were going to meet downtown at a wine bar across the street from my office building. This spot had become my go-to for first dates for a couple of reasons. First, it saved me money on parking, since I could park in the (very expensive) downtown spot I rented on a monthly basis next to the office. And second, it had a rotating weekly wine special, and I love love my wine.

Chapter 3: Dates and Drugs

His name was Jonah and he worked over at RealNetworks as some kind of computer guru. Online, he seemed cute enough, pretty successful, and apparently normal. He also had lots of pictures of himself on his profile page doing very frat-boyish activities like golfing or playing beer pong, and he was proud of it. I hated to admit that I was a sucker for the bad T-shirt wearing, beer guzzling, popular party guy. He even included some of those blurry bar photos of himself partying. That, and his funny and sometimes quirky email messages, sold me hook, line and sinker. I was still murky on all of his details, but I was guessing that he was about thirty-two, and from our conversations, it sounded like he just gotten out of a long-term relationship. I hoped that he wouldn’t totally blow it by proving himself either a “glom- on-er,” (calls you every single day after the first date) or a “brush off-er” (says he will call and never does). The appropriate mix had been a tough one for most guys I had met to achieve, but I was hopeful about this one.

When I walked into the restaurant, Jonah waved me over to his spot at the bar. I knew it was him because of his profile pictures, and he clearly recognized me, hence the wild arm waving. When I walked up he held his arms out, indicating that I should give him a hug. Ok, fine. I was not a ‘huggy’ person, but whatever, I could do it when called upon, I figured. Unfortunately I sucked at it. Jonah and I both tried to have our arms on the top of the hug, then both realized the error and went for the bottom, and ended up in one of those one-arm-up, one-arm-down, “bro” hugs. Thankfully, he brushed it off.

“Louisa! You look beautiful,” he said. “It’s so nice to finally meet you. Please sit down. I got us a spot at the bar, but we can go into the restaurant if you want to.”

“Oh, thanks, this should be fine.” I replied, and took the seat he was offering. Then, he sat back down and turned his chair slightly to face me. “You can call me Lulu, all of my friends do.”

He smiled. “I like that. Lulu – very cute.”