by Marta Balcewicz
Lisa falls asleep and Jeffrey stays up, watching her. He’s propped on one elbow and lying on his side. The bed sheet is draped around where underwear would normally go.
If a stranger were to come into their room right now, they would say that the man on the bed looks incredulous. In awe. He can’t believe all that he’s seeing. All that beauty. Lisa. Sleeping. Woman.
Lisa wakes up around 3:30 a.m. She drank two 7-Ups just before she and Jeffrey started making out and now her bladder’s two seconds from bursting. She manages to ignore Jeffrey on the way out, but when she returns to bed she’s acutely aware of the other body on the mattress. She feels like she’s being watched.
Yeah, Jeffrey’s still looking.
Lisa sits up. Jeffrey remains as he was, staring at the dent she left in the pillow.
Jeffrey’s eyes remain fixed, his lips folded in a peaceful smile. Looking at the pillow.
“Are you asleep?” Lisa knows certain animals fall asleep upright and wide-eyed: cows, mallard ducks, bottlenose dolphins. “Hello-o,” she says in a clown voice. She waves her hand ironically. She leans in and looks Jeffrey straight in the face.
Jeffrey’s eyes are large and blank. He looks like a stunned marionette. A really excited bug.
Lisa runs out of bed and stands with her back against the wall. She tries to make sense of what she’s seeing.
Jeffrey’s still looking at her pillow. He doesn’t blink.
“Grave’s disease,” the doctor later says. “Or it could be love.”
Stan is on his sixth hour of reading restaurant reviews. He’s narrowed it down to four places: Marianno’s, Lester’s, Candelaria’s, and Svend’s. He’s going to ask Jenna if she prefers Italian, Anglo, Argentine, or Scandinavian cuisine. Whatever her pick, he’s sure she’ll love it because he spent all that time reading and planning and shortlisting every place in town.
These are the best four restaurants in which they could possibly end up.
Jenna picks Argentine—she’s nuts for Cecilia Roth.
It’s Candelaria’s, then.
Stan meets Jenna in front of the restaurant. It’s got a powder-blue-and-white awning. The hostess wears a powder-blue-and-white dress. She leads them to a table with a tablecloth made from the same fabric as the awning and the dress. “I feel like I’m in Buenos Aires,” Stan says. He’s a little uneasy. It’s their first date. “One thing I can say,” he recovers, “is that this will be the best food you’ve ever had. You will not find better food than this. That much I can say.”
The food arrives and they start eating.
“This really is good food,” Jenna says. Her mouth is full. She scoops more papa chola with her fork.
The plates keep coming. Jenna keeps ordering. Stan orders too, but not as much. “You found the perfect restaurant for our first date.”
Stan can’t believe he’s hearing it. All his labor, now this reward. “Keep eating, then!” he says, beaming. He asks for the menu to be brought back. A new woman in a blue-and-white tunic brings more food. Jenna puts a piece of steak in her mouth.
It’s 10 minutes to closing and Jenna’s grown frantic. She’s swallowing food more quickly. Asado from imported beef. Seafood. Bean stew.
“We can take some of it home,” Stan says, guardedly.
“But it’s the ambiance. I can’t recreate it at home.”
The restaurant has a little bull in the center of the main dining area. It has Murano glass lamps shaped like the Sun of May.
In the final 10 minutes Jenna manages to eat another steak, a beef sausage, and quinoa.
“The restaurant is closed,” says a man with a mustache and blue-and-white chef’s hat.
Stan leads Jenna out the door. The blue-and-white staff shut it behind them and twist the lock.
“So you really liked it, huh?” he asks. But Jenna is already sliding down his body, she’s grabbing his waist, now his knees, and she’s down.
“Gourmecide,” the toxicologist’s report says. Stan can’t help but smile.
Joy meets Brad at the park. He recognizes her from the description he read. Tallish with brown hair, yellow shoes, and brown eyes. Joy recognizes Brad. Average height, athletic, brown hair, and a green T-shirt.
They hug awkwardly for hello and start walking down the park trail. They walk back and forth for two hours and sit on a bench near a playground. They’ve spent the entire time talking. Each thinks: I guess this is how it happens. You’ve been told your whole life: one day it might just happen. If you’re lucky.
“Am I crazy or are we in love?” Brad asks.
“You’re not crazy,” Joy says. She’s so affected by everything he does that she can barely control her own actions. She’s putting her hand to her mouth and taking it away. She’s shaking her head and then nodding. “I love you,” she says, meaning it.
“I love you, too,” Brad tells her.
“I can see my whole life before me. I never want to be without you.”
They both look around the park frantically, like spooked squirrels, afraid that someone might snatch from them what they just found.
“I can see children.”
“Me too. I want children with you.”
“Two!” they yell at the exact same time.
“Oh my God,” Joy says slowly. She can’t believe that just happened.
They both know what to do.
“I can see children,” Brad says, but he’s looking to the left, not into Joy’s eyes.
“Me too,” Joy says copying Brad’s actions and zeroing in on the monkey bars.
They rise slowly and lock hands.
“Attempted abduction,” the news anchor says. “The children are safe and sound.”
Joy and Brad are described as “a white male and female, average height, and brown eyes.”