Fathers and First Dates

“Help. It’s an emergency!” Fat’s voice shouts on the other end of the line.

My back hunches over as I hold the cell phone up to my ear and turn to look out the passenger side window at the storefronts we drive past. There really is no way to get privacy in a car other than turn your back to the other person and pretend to be alone. Gentle thuds from the rainy and grey day patter against the roof of the Mazda – way to be cliché, Vancouver. I’m delighted that we’re planning on going to dinner and a movie tonight; a stroll by the ocean is less romantic during a monsoon.

“Calm down. What’s wrong?” The silver lining to an emergency: James only picked me up from my place ten minutes ago – it won’t take long to get back home to fix whatever catastrophe has befallen the apartment. I go through the rolodex in my head of all the possibilities of things that could go awry leaving Fat at home without supervision. Any number of disasters could have occurred in my absence. For some reason, I’m quick to assume arson – and if that’s my first assumption, why on earth would I ever trust the feline home alone? She’s called me an idiot before. I’m sad to report that it could be true; maybe I am an idiot.

It’s our first time hanging out and here I am taking a personal call from my housecat. Awesome. Depending on how this goes could really affect how things move forward with this fella. I’m not really sure how I’m feeling about him yet. Better keep the ol’ pro/con list on standby.

“Is everything okay?” James turns down the car stereo and the Foo Fighters are forced into near-silence. In a normal circumstance, this would never happen. Foo Fighters are meant to be loud; if this guy is willing to mute a great band for my benefit – that’s a tally in the pro column.

I glance over my left shoulder and shrug. James alternates between navigating the busy street and throwing quick looks of concern my way before his attention returns to the road. His blue eyes widen with questions. He cares – another pro for the gent.

“I don’t know.” I turn back to my phone, “Faaa…” I can’t say her name, this date will be over instantly if he finds out who’s ringing me at this moment, “…ather, what’s going on?”

“Father? Is that what you call me behind my back? It’s my wisdom, isn’t it?” I hear the smile in her voice. “You didn’t have a fancy English childhood, just call me dad like a normal Canadian.”

My concern evaporates instantly. If something was actually wrong, she wouldn’t be dicking me around like this. “What’s the emergency, Fat?”

“Should I find a place to pull over?” James shoulder checks in preparation to get to the next side street. He makes no mention of me calling my pretend father Fat. That speaks to his overabundance of politeness – con. I need a dude that shoots from the hip.

I pull away from my phone, albeit briefly, and minutely shake my head, “You can just keep heading to the restaurant.” Good driver – pro.

“So how’s the date going?” Fat’s words are weighted with intrigue and gossip.

“Tell me why that’s not the reason you’re calling.” I wave my hand forward, reassuring James that he’s good to keep driving. The windshield wipers move in their rhythmic pattern. “I’m kind of busy at the moment.”

“Boss. I’m giving you an out here if it’s not going well. I noticed he was blond. If you need this phone call to be an emergency to get away from the man bimbo, take it.” The feline makes a point: blonde – con.

“It’s only been a few minutes,” my words hiss into the phone, and I adjust course when I catch the look on James’ face at my sudden change of tone. “It’s hard to tell so soon…father. Stay positive. I’m sure your team will win.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Fat’s words are clipped and she clearly does not understand what I’m trying to do. “You hate sports. There isn’t even a game on right now, dumb ass.”

I roll my eyes and try to spell it out for her. “The game (massive emphasis to let her know we’re not discussing something on TSN) just started. Anything can happen. I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Have I told you recently that you’re an idiot?” The sound of buttons accidently being pushed on her end rings in my ears.

“I love you too. Bye.” I end the call, turn the ringer off and drop the phone in my lap. “I’m really sorry about that. I shouldn’t have answered.”

James searches for a tactful thing to say, “Your dad sounds like an… interesting guy.” There’s that politeness again – con.

Another call from Fat lights up my phone. I hit ignore.

“Huh? Oh yeah. My dad is a real cupcake.”

A Woman Needs Girlfriends

“For a stick and bones frame, you sure jiggle a lot, Boss. Hold still. Stop fidgeting.”

I feel a brush sweep gently across my eyelid. If I was better at being girly I wouldn’t need to enlist the help of the hefty feline. Speaking of whom, my legs are going numb from her weight. Our tiny apartment doesn’t have room for a vanity, so I’m perched on the ledge of the bathtub with Fat balancing precariously on my lap so she can apply layers of makeup to my face. Unfortunately for me, I’m nervous about tonight and that feeling made me jump at the chance for any help. Fat, of course, came to the rescue.

The bathroom is ridiculously bright today. I’m pretty certain she switched out the regular lightbulbs for ones with greater watts. God forbid the feline misses a chance to check out my wrinkles under harsh lighting. Beside the tub, a multitude of products is displayed on the closed toilet lid; I have no idea what most of it is. Where is a good drag queen tutorial when you need one?

“Are you going to miss the spinster life? You were just starting to get good at it. That Chinese restaurant will miss delivering food to this particular shut-in. Their business is going to suffer, you know that right?” She leans over to her make-shift counter to get some more colour on the end of the brush. “Boss, close your eyes. I’m working here.”

The brush goes over the crease of my eyelid. Seems unnecessary; I was more or less hoping for some help with making my skin look better. The situation snowballed pretty fast – Fat’s even wearing one of those makeup tool belts to hold her brushes like the gorgeous people who work at MAC. “What kind of eyeshadow is this? It smells terrible.”

“It’s cigarette ash. I was going for that smoky eye look all the harlots are after. Do I have to tell you to close your eyes again? Honestly, I swear you like being difficult.” Fat cups my face in both paws to assess her work. In the moment I’m entirely dumbfounded, Fat licks the pad of her paw and wipes something away from the corner of my eye with her saliva.

“Could you please stop doing disgusting things to my face?”

Fat doesn’t respond to my, what I consider entirely reasonable, plea. “So tell me about the guy. Where did you meet him?” She grabs one of the bigger brushes out of her waist belt and grabs a small container of blush. God I hope it’s blush. She applies whatever it is to my cheeks.

“He’s a friend of a friend. Funny. Tall.” Remember, self, minimal details are your friend here. You don’t want the cat to get the idea you want to talk. Before you know it you’ll be hugging a pillow while lying on the couch and discussing your mommy issues.

“Gangly doofus. Sounds like a winner.” She goes for my face with something that looks like a hot pink Sharpie.

“Whoa, whoa. What the hell is that?” In an effort to dodge out of her way, I come dangerously close to falling ass backward into the bathtub. I regain balance and hold tight to the off-white edge of the tub.

Her green eyes travel to regard the pen then back to meet my gaze, “Lip liner.”

“Nope. No lip liner. My people don’t do most of this stuff that you’ve attacked me with. I’m taking a stand. This much makeup is unnecessary; I’m neither a pageant queen nor auditioning for a circus. I’m going to dinner and a show tonight. We’re done here.”  I pick her up and drop her on the floor and get on my feet before she can jump back up.

“If you just give me three more minutes…”

When I look in the mirror, I’m entirely horrified. “Fat, I look like the asylum gave me a day pass.”

Only panda bears and Avril Lavigne should have eyes that look like this. The blush is so orange against my pale skin it makes me feel like my face is attempting to outdo a sunset. No is the only word that comes to mind. No. No. No. No. No. No.

“I was trying to give you a look that says, ‘No need to buy the cow’. You don’t think it’s a success?”

I grab the makeup remover wipes. Multiple wipes. A handful. Less than three will not erase the catastrophe that used to be my money maker. I bury my face in the damp cloths and rub vigorously. Paint remover may be necessary. Oh Christ, the audacity.

“Who says concubines get to have all the fun? Excuse me for giving you the Pretty Woman treatment so you can go out and bag us a rich guy.”

When my face emerges from the collection of towelettes, the formerly white cloth is now an absurd rainbow. “I’d rather have a nice guy.”

“Money talks, Boss, and it says, ‘Buy your cat some decent food so she can stop eating the drivel you consider quality.’” Fat grabs a tube of mascara and jumps beside the bathroom sink so she can see herself in the mirror. Her mouth forms an ‘O’ shape as she applies the makeup to her whiskers to make them longer and more voluminous.

I reach for my phone when it beeps. “My cat deserves to starve for what she did to my face.” I read the text, “We can continue this later. He’s parked out front, I’ve got to go.”

“You’re going out like that?” The feline meets my eye in the mirror’s reflection. “No makeup?”

“Au natural.” I nod. “At least I feel like myself.”

“I’m sure it’ll go great and he’ll want to spend all the time in the world with a looker like you. So…see you in about ten minutes?”

 

Because I Love You…

“How’s the V.D. going?” Fat jumps up on the desk beside me and stares at the open window on my laptop. The pictures of shrimp and noodles momentarily capture her attention.

I glare at her. “Can you let that go already? It’s not my fault syllabus and syphilis sound similar. It was 2008; get over it.”

“Let’s reminisce once more for old time’s sake.” Fat snickers as she repeats a quote that has haunted me for the last six years, “I checked out the syphilis from my Marketing professor. That shit sucks.” The feline’s head dips down as she laughs, her forehead rests on the edge of the computer screen. “That poor woman. If only she knew the accidental lies you told about her.”

“You done?” I watch Fat’s belly jiggle as the laugh gradually works its way out of her system. Thankfully, this was a sentence shared with a feline and not another human.

A grey paw dabs the moisture from her left eye. “You are too precious, boss. I meant, how’s the Valentine’s Day going?”

“Huh?” My brain takes a moment to process the fact that her previous question was not, in fact, about venereal disease.

“Today. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Uh huh.” My finger uses the touchpad on the laptop to scroll through the page one more time. I’m not sure why, I called twenty minutes ago to order the food. Now I’m wishing I added the spring rolls. Damn it.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me. It’s Valentine’s Day.”

I stop scrolling and my head tilts to look at Fat. “Did you finally give up on the phony therapist thing and decide to become the world’s most annoying calendar instead? I’m aware that it’s Valentine’s Day.” I stress the word for her benefit.

“And you’re here with me waiting for Chinese food to arrive. You must be what they call an old school romantic.” Fat silently moves to sit behind the computer screen.

Fuck it; I’m starving. I get up and open the door to the snack cupboard. Puffy Cheetos. Yes. The bag crinkles as I pinch the sides and pull the plastic open. I don’t respond to Fat. Instead she watches me snack on the toxic orange puffs. After only a couple Cheetos, the fingers of my right hand become coated in a fine simulated-cheese dust.

“Why are you staring at me like that, Fat?”

Her head has lopped to the side, and her mouth hangs slightly open in a disgusted kind of way. “I was so surprised when you landed yourself a man but it would appear that you have no desire in keeping him. And he loves you in spite of the V.D.”

“I don’t have V.D.”

“That’s not the rumour around your old campus.” Fat smiles with that all too familiar evil glint in her eye.

“You’re an asshole.”

Fat shakes her head insistently. “No, you’re the asshole. Today of all days you need to give Boyfriend attention and show some kind of emotion of the loving variety. He puts up with all of your stupid shit and your one redeeming quality is that you call to order Chinese food? Happy Valentine’s Day indeed.” The bitch feline seems genuinely disappointed in my lack of Valentine effort. I close the laptop leaving orange smudges from my fingertips.

“Christ.” I sit and think for a moment. “I have to do something, don’t I?”

Fat quickly nods, “I would.”

“Well fuck me,” As the words come out of my mouth I glare at the cat, “Swallow those words in your mouth right now. The V.D. train has left the station. No more comments. You’re done.”

Fat steps back with fake surprise mimicking a young  ingénue, “I would never…”

“Shut up, Fat.” I wipe my Cheeto fingers on my jeans and grab my purse. I holler in the most romantic tone I’m capable of – something that makes me sound like a bona fide woodsman, “Boyfriend, grab your coat, we’re going out.”

Boyfriend comes out of the bedroom, delightfully surprised that the plan is no longer to stay in tonight doing nothing.

God damn it, Cupid. You win this round.

An afterthought: I forgot about the Chinese food. Probably won’t be allowed to order from there anymore…

Timeless Classics and Friendships of the Opposite Sex

“How was your date?”

It’s late when I come into the living room to see Fat lying across the back of the couch with one leg draped seductively over the back cushion.

“Wasn’t a date, Fat.” I tug the elastic out of my ponytail and shake my fingers in my hair until the dark tresses become a lion’s mane.

Fat licks her front paw; her coolness infuriates me. I try to keep my temper in check because I know she’s just baiting me for an angry outburst. Her paw hangs midair in front of her mouth as she regards me with disbelief. “Please.”

“Don’t you ‘please’ me.”

The bitchy feline smiles, “I never do.”

I focus on a slow inhalation and exhalation, trying sure not to look at her; that smug expression paints my vision in scarlet. Fat takes my lack of contribution to the conversation as a prompt for her to continue.

“The two of you, alone, at a late movie after dinner together? That’s got classic American date written all over it.”

With two quick flicks of my feet, my flip flops propel across the living room, landing somewhere in the hallway. “Just stop. A dude and a chick are allowed to be friends. Why are you trying to make this into something it isn’t?”

Fat mulls over my words as she finishes washing her face. “Because you’re acting like a naive fool.”

“Huh?” I sit on the carpet, kick my feet out and lean back on my hands.

“‘When Harry Met Sally’? It set the cultural precedent for friendly relationships between men and women. They can’t just be friends. You’re too preoccupied living in your own head that you don’t register the obvious signs around you.”

I resist the impulse to let my forehead wrinkle when I consider this. “The basis of your advice today is from a movie from the late eighties?”

Fat holds up a paw. “Whoa. A classic, and still relevant movie from the eighties, thank you very much.” Her eyes narrow into serious slits. “I will not have you use that tone when discussing the work of the fabulously talented Billy Crystal.” Fat rises from her relaxed pose on the couch to sit straight. She towers over me with an ignited passion I’ve never seen from her before.

“Uh,” I stare up at her with uncertainty, “alright.”

As quickly as her fuse was lit, it is extinguished. She settles back down, tucking her paws beneath her well-insulated body. “Who paid for dinner?” She comes back down to a cordial, conversational level.

“He did. But–”

She doesn’t let me explain. “Date.”

“It wasn’t a date.” I push myself up off the ground.

“Who paid for the movie?” When I sigh in defeat she repeats herself. “Date.”

Arms crossed over my chest, I observe her. “He wouldn’t let me pay, Fat. He scared the server into putting the whole bill on his debit card. And at the movies, he bought both tickets with ninja-like speed. Can’t people just do nice things anymore without expectation?”

Fat shakes her head. “Tsk tsk. You really don’t get it do you, dumb ass?”

“Get what?”

With a backwoods drawl, she drags out the words, “You done got yourself another boyfriend.”