For the first two installments of this Dateland Mystery, go to www.jenniferparello.com.
I’m not certain why Lucy asked me out, because everything I did seemed to irritate her. The only reason I decided to go out with her was that I enjoyed irritating her.
On our first date, she ordered me to pick her up at her office at a specific time. “Don’t be late,” she commanded in the no-nonsense message she left on my voicemail the night before. “I’ve made reservations at a white-table-cloth restaurant.”
“What’s a white-table-cloth restaurant?” I asked my spiritual and dating adviser, Robert, after I played the message for him. During my fertile dating periods, we’d spend hours at work analyzing messages left by prospective love interests.
“It’s a restaurant that has white table cloths,” he said with a yawn. “Instead of the gnarled, graffitied bare picnic tables you’re used to eating at.”
“She referred to herself twice in the third person the last time we talked. Do you think that’s a red flag?” I asked.
“I think she’s one big red flag,” Robert replied. “Here’s my prediction: She’ll bully you into ordering something you don’t like, and she’ll spend the evening questioning your career choices. But all that aggression will disappear in the boudoir. She’ll be completely passive and needy, and you’ll have to reassure her constantly. But, she makes a lot of money, so you might as well get a free dinner out of her.”
True to Robert’s prediction, the dinner was a miserable experience. Lucy treated me like a hostile witness, battering me with intimidating questions about my romantic and professional history that left me feeling guilty and defensive. And then, she insisted on ordering for us.
I’m a good sport when it comes to dining out. I never whine about the restaurant choice, and I always manage to find something I like on the menu. Lucy had chosen a sushi restaurant for our date. I do not eat anything that still has enough life left in it to bite me back. So, I ordered edamame and California rolls.
Lucy issued a wave of dismissal, and told the waiter to bring us a fish whose name suggested that it spent its miserable life wallowing in muck before it was plucked from the shallows, and rolled in a bit of rice. It arrived, still quivering with what seemed to be a pulse.
“I won’t eat that,” I said, pushing the plate away from me.
“Oh, yes, you will,” she said, sounding way too much like the rage-filled mother of my childhood nemesis, who demanded that the kids in the neighborhood call her “Hoot.”
“No, I won’t,” I said. Then, I began humming a Sinatra song quietly, knowing that Lucy hated Sinatra. (What kind of fool hates Sinatra?) We spent the rest of the meal arguing over whether I’d eat the raw thing squirming its way across the table.
The argument continued on the cab ride back to her home, an impressive brownstone bought on the backs of the oppressed she brutalized in her role as a corporate attorney. She commanded me to follow her inside to continue the argument, and pounced on me as soon as we stepped inside.
“Be gentle with me,” she whimpered, as I cursed silently, knowing that no way would she allow me to sneak out early the next morning.
This mystery series follows my dating adventures over one damp autumn. If you can guess which woman I end up, I’ll send you a fabulous prize. Register your guess—and find new clues—at www.jenniferparello.com.