I’d been looking forward to our date, until he ordered the fish and chips.
“So what do you get up to when you’re not working?” he asked, shoveling a batter-crusted chunk of cod into his mouth. His teeth clicked on the fork, and a white flake of fishflesh slivered his lip.
I tried not to think of the fish smell. He was cute and tall and had that type of curly hair everyone wants to play with. “I like to … fish,” I said, which was a lie, but all I could think was the word “fish.”
“Oh yeah?” he asked with his mouth full of white mush. “Where at?”
He was dabbing vinegar on the slab of cod. As though the fish smell wasn’t enough.
“Moswa Lake,” I said, thinking of my childhood vacation lake.
“Do they have good fish there?”
“Lots.” I was pushing around my apricot chicken with my knife and fork, too queasy to take a bite. I imagined it tasting like fish, smelling like fish, wriggling and flapping down my gullet with bulging eyes and a bobbing mouth, its tail fin thin and plasticky like human skin.
“Excuse me,” I said, dabbing my lips with my napkin even though I hadn’t taken a bite of anything. I stood up and hurried to the bathroom while Fred watched after me with round fishy eyes.
Maybe if I stayed there long enough I wouldn’t have to watch him eat, I thought as I made it into the restroom. He was digging in quickly. Shouldn’t take him long. I entered a toilet stall and sat down and looked at my phone for a while. After several minutes, my stomach settled and I got up and returned to the table.
The fish was still there. Almost all of it.
“You okay?” Fred asked.
I muttered an affirmative, returning to my seat.
“You didn’t have to wait for me,” I said.
“I like to pretend I’m a gentleman.”
Fred smiled and filled his mouth with a big chunk.
The rest of the dinner was a nightmare to get through. He was nice, genuinely nice, but that fish… Who orders fish on a first date? Fish and chips, a child’s meal, something out of a box that your mom makes for you instead of real food. Fish and vinegar on a date.
I stewed over it while Fred finished up. I choked down a few bites along the way. I didn’t want to have to box it up and make it look like I was using him for a meal, which he offered to pay for when he finally asked me out.
We made small talk for the rest of the evening. It was easier once he finished his food and the waiter took it away. My appetite gradually returned and so did my attraction to Fred. I found myself smiling and laughing and enjoying my chicken. The crisis was over.
He walked me home–a gentleman indeed. It wasn’t far.
“Thanks for the meal,” I said, and when I said it I remembered his part of the meal. My stomach turned once more.
“My pleasure,” he said. And, naturally, he leaned in.
I was close, I was this close, before I could smell his breath. Fish and vinegar. Sour and vile, heading right for me. A Lovecraftian Deep One, with its fishy maw ready to gobble me up like Monstro.
So I punched him. A hard right hook to the jaw. I expected it to be soft and scaly and slimy, but it was stubbly and rough and hard.
“Aah, goddamn…” He rubbed at his jaw. “No kissing on the first date huh? Could have just said so…”
“I,” I said.
His eyes were big and round and I thought about driving a fish hook through them.
“I don’t like fish,” I said.
Day 287’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Fish and chips,” “Romance,” and, “Nitpicking.”
Some people just don’t like seafood.