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Adult Skate

I wrote this story in August 2023 for the first round of the 2023 NYC Midnight 500-word Fiction Challenge. For the second round, I wrote Transubstantiation, which you can read here.  

The words are so offensive in their obviousness, five bullets meant to disarm, not destroy. Still, they sting. 

“So, what do you do?” 

It’s my third date this week, the seventh this month, and if I think too long about the year’s tally, those imaginary bullets might as well materialize and kill me. Consistency is key, but dating is a sport, and I’m not great with those.

Take skating. In the mid-2000s, birthdays were synonymous with Skate City. I’d struggle at first, clunking around the rink on my four wheels. But by hour three, the pizza boxes empty and the DJ prepping for adult skate, I’d finally graduate to inlines, soaring under the disco ball like goddamn Michelle Kwan. I didn’t have many friends, though, so by my next invite, I’d forgotten everything I knew. I lived on square one. I fear the same if I stop dating.

Back to his question. I press my lips together to say mortician, but that was last month. I should start a list. 

“Zookeeper.” He seems unimpressed, which is psychopathic at best. I end it after 30 minutes, not waiting as he struggles with the check. The hostess stand has the good mints, puffy and melting, and I grab three to counteract the liquor coating the insides of my cheeks. At home, I sit on the toilet and swipe right 10 times. I dream about tigers. 

 

Philip has matched with you! The ping wakes me from primitive sleep. I scroll with one eye open. He’s cute. Only three photos and no bio, which my friends would say is scary. But I like the mystery. As a mortician/zookeeper/hockey coach/middle-school janitor, I have no room to talk. Put that way, I sound like Wonder Woman. Maybe that’s my next answer. 

“Why are you here?” 

I let out a guttural sound in response before it registers. He smiles at his beer. This bar was his idea. The mints at the front are hard; I already checked. 

“What?” 

“Why are you on a date with me?” 

I’m not sure when I started lying about work. My job isn’t exciting or scandalous, though I wish it was. I need something more from these dates, some shock, some awe. I want to cut through the bullshit and niceties and find something real. I’m certain I’ll know it when I see it. 

He repeats himself. Rattled, I go on offense. 

“So, what do you do?” 

“I’m a typesetter.” 

Suddenly, he’s familiar. “No, you’re not. You’re a beekeeper.”

We went to a low-lit wine bar the first time. No mints.

Another smile. “What about you?” 

Fuck. A Hail Mary. “I’m an Uber driver.” Not even close. 

“Looks like we’re at a standoff.” 

“Yeah, Philip, it does.” 

I feel it then. I let it linger for a moment before I ask. 

“Do you want to do something else? I’m sick of getting drinks.” 

“I’d love to,” he says, and I believe him. 

“How do you feel about roller skating?” 

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