I get to the bar early, so I get myself a drink and scroll through Instagram.
I only know him through the app where we made the date to meet at the bar, and from texting. He was perfectly fine and funny in the texts. We both have jobs in media. He shows up more or less on time, like a normal person; we say hello; and he asks me if I want a beer.
I point to my drink and say I’m good for now, and invite him to put his first drink on my tab. “I’ll buy this round,” I say. He seems annoyed and rolls his eyes in a dramatic, cartoonish way, but goes and comes back with a beer. When he returns, he tells me he’s scared of me, and he asks me if *I think* he should be scared of me.
Something to know about me is that I watch a lot of TV, and I often stick with bad shows. My desire to “see how this plays out” also applies to my personal life. This is the point where I decide to strap in and see what happens next.
We talk about work, the internet, and TV. He tells me he loves Vanderpump Rules. Surprised, I ask how he got into it—admittedly, my version of “Oh, yeah? Name their first 5 albums”— and he goes silent, looking panicked. The awkward pause is a bit much for me, so I tell him it doesn’t matter. He overcomes his struggle to speak: “No, it’s just…I watched it with an ex-girlfriend.”
Again, I need to see how this plays out. The conversation moves to books. I tell him about a couple of books I blew through on a recent trip. He seems uninterested in my garbage reading and tells me he only reads 19th century literature. OK. He keeps steering the conversation back to his job (he works for A Magazine) and how unhappy he is. In an animated description of some workplace drama, his hand smacks his beer off the bar, soaking us both. The bartender comes to clean up the broken glass, and I joke that we should call the cops. The bartender and I laugh; my date does not.
He offers to buy me a second drink. I’m so entranced by his weirdo behavior that I say yes. I ask for a cider and he rolls his eyes at the choice. Dick. When he comes back from the bar, he hands me my drink and proudly says, “I paid for this, like a man.” I force a laugh and congratulate him.
At this point, his speech starts to deteriorate very quickly. He keeps doing this thing where he will start a sentence and wave me on, wanting me to finish it. This is impossible but I play along.
I continue to blow through small talk and ask where he lives, and this is when things start to go off the rails.
HIM: I live on Nostrand and…. **WAVES HAND IN MY DIRECTION TO TRY TO GET ME TO FINISH HIS SENTENCE**
ME: Do you want me to guess, or…?
HIM: I live on Nostrand and…uh…the bad place… **CONTINUES TO WAVE HAND**
So I start guessing! Why the hell not?
ME: Bergen? Dean? St. Marks?
HIM: The bad place **STILL WAVING**
ME: Why won’t you just tell me where you live?
HIM: It’s just the dark place.
He eventually tells me the street name (I won’t dox!) and adds something about how it’s related to an ex. He’s trying to string sentences together but they’re coming out as a bunch of words that don’t connect. I ask if he’s OK a couple of times, and he responds saying I better not “tweet or blog” about him.
He gets up and stands next to me, silently, for a minute, then picks up his bag. I ask if he’s going somewhere. “You don’t seem like you’re having a good time,” he says, “so I’m going home.”
Then he says: “Everyone quits on me.”
He turns around and leaves. Had I quit? On him? I’d been ready to stay however long it took. I kept on staying, next to his empty seat, to finish my drink and text my friends. I keep waiting, to make sure I don’t bump into him outside.
Eventually, I get up and close my tab. When the bartender hands me the bill, I see that the drinks he’d Paid For, Like a Man, somehow got put on my tab. I sign the bill and go home and obviously never hear from him again.