Eva's Short Story Challenge Romantic Comedy
All I know is that his name is Rich and he’s an architect.
As I park my car on a side street in downtown New Orleans, the thought shoots through me that Rich might not exist. He’s probably a robot. I’ve heard about robots in the online dating systems, tricking lonely men into thinking beautiful Russians with poor grammar are in love with them. I’ve never heard of male robots, but a tall, handsome architect named Rich isn’t likely to be a real person. I should go home.
And yet I’m here, and I’m hungry. If he doesn’t show, I’ll treat myself to a baked potato. I step out of the car into the balmy, spring night and smooth my skirt over my butt. I’m wearing something my mother picked out for me: a flimsy, flowered skirt and a low-cut top. It’s not at all like the clothes I normally wear, but tonight I’m not trying to be me.
A few weeks ago, just after my thirtieth birthday, my mother created a dating profile for me and started messaging men on my behalf. The profile says a lot of things that are untrue – that I’m an office manager and I enjoy playing volleyball, for example – but the Men of the Internet seem to like the fake me.
Most people would have been annoyed if their mothers did this, but I’ve decided to give it a try. I’ve done a very bad job of meeting men on my own. It might be worth acting like someone else, to have a person to snuggle with at night. We spend a third of our lives asleep, and in those hours does it really matter who you are?
I step inside the ritzy steakhouse and look around. The restaurant is dim, except for the bar, where tiny lights illuminate liquor bottles on mirrored shelves.
A man approaches me, and it’s Rich. He has dark hair and green eyes, just like his picture, and yet there’s something awkward about him in person. His height is gangly instead of dapper; his shoulders and elbows make sharp corners in his clothes. And when he smiles I see that his bottom teeth are crooked. I’m glad. His imperfections make me feel more relaxed.
“I hope this restaurant is okay,” he says as the waitress leads us to a small table.
“It’s great,” I tell him. “I love steak.” This isn’t true at all. I’m a vegetarian. But my mother told me that men like it when skinny women eat big, meaty meals.
We sit down, and I rack my brains for something to say.
“So you’re an office manager?” Rich asks.
“How do you like it?”
“I love it.” I smile widely. “I love every minute of it.” My mother told me to be positive. She said my normal attitude is too dark and strange for most people’s tastes.
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