Dan Smolding asked his date how old she was and she slapped him across the face and that was the end of that date.  It was five minutes in and he hadn’t yet gotten a chance to tell her about his brain syndrome, the glitch in his adrenal medulla that made him unable to experience the fight or flight impulse, and perhaps also discern what was and was not a good question to ask on a date, but now it was too late and he was stuck with a whole bottle of wine that he didn’t want to drink by himself.

But he did.  And he stayed at the restaurant, just because. Why not celebrate life?

After his third glass of wine he got out his iPhone and found out that Nicole G. Estravante was in fact 43 years old, and that her open (why?) Facebook profile said she was in a relationship and that it was complicated.

“Is that relationship with me?” thought Dan Smolding–but then he thought that would have been odd since this was technically their first date, even though they had been Internet dating on and off for about five years, even though they only lived 20 minutes for each other.  That’s how Dan Smolding liked his relationships:  mysterious.  So mysterious that he had never asked her age before…if a 13-year-old girl walked through those doors he would not have been surprised. And Dan never really liked to talk about his brain thing unless he really knew the relationship had potential. That’s why he hadn’t told her yet.  He had planned to tonight, but now he didn’t have to.

Then Dan  remembered that he had driven Nicole here, and because she stormed out, now she was probably going to have to take the bus, the one with all the rapists on it.  The 43 that went down Nicollet and right past the Jail for the Criminally Insane and Marginally Deranged.

Well.  She’d find her way home, thought Dan.   She’s Latina, she probably knows how to throw a punch.  Was that racist to think?  Doesn’t matter, he thought, pouring himself the last glass of wine, it’s more racist to think that just because she’s a woman, she can’t defend herself.  Or is it?

Anyway maybe she had deliberately started a fight, thought Dan.  She finally meets me in person and sometimes you know within the first five minutes if there’s chemistry or not, and if there’s not, then five years of internet dating is still going to leave you in the swamp.  Dan recognized that and immediately made peace with it.  He also stood up and accidentally knocked the table over.

The waiter waved Dan off when he tried to pay his bill.  That was nice of him.

Did he feel bad?  It was hard to tell.  That night he did shut his bedroom door, though, so he could think about things.  And all through the night, he listened to the komodo dragons scratching, scratching, trying to get in.