Eggplant: Short Story

“These questions are fucking ridiculous. I’m not doing this.” I slam my laptop closed and let my head thump on the table. “No one will ever love me.”

My best friend, who’s also filling out an online dating profile, keeps typing. My dramatic protest goes unnoticed. I rotate to study her. She’s prettier than me and thinner; she doesn’t have to give the illusion of being something she isn’t. I sigh.

Megan finally looks up. “Men are the dumber sex. Unglue yourself from the table. Where are you stuck?”

I sit up and wrench my laptop open again. “It asks me about body type, and eggplant isn’t an option.”

“Beth, you are not an eggplant. Here,” she points to Plus Size.

I roll my eyes. “Okay, and here it wants my employment status. I don’t want to say I’m unemployed and living at home with my parents and five cats.”

“Select, Self Employed. Then in your description tell them you are an environmentalist. I’d skip the fact that you live with your parents, but animal lover seems legit.”

“Environmentalist?”

Megan counts all the of ways I could qualify for the job. “You recycle, garden, compost, and volunteer to clean the park. Therefore, you care about the environment. That’s all it really takes.”

Surprisingly, the job title sounds appealing. With a bachelor in History, there isn’t much available. My parents entertained my college experience assuming I would teach; however, it didn’t take. Being the center of attention makes me feel targeted: a sniper’s victim.

An environmentalist has a cool ring to it.

Megan interrupts my thoughts. “Is your profile done?”

I hand my laptop to Megan. She taps the keyboard a few times and smiles.

“You are officially active! Let the men roll in.”

“Wait!” I reach for the computer to change my profile status, but it freezes. I check the signal strength of the Wi-Fi; it’s dead. “Augh! I need to call the cable company. I keep losing my signal.”

“Do it, and leave your profile alone. When was the last time someone dipped into your canoe? Filled your taco?”

“My vibrator batteries have been replaced three times since the last time I had sex.” A girl has needs. There isn’t much I can do with the lack of suitors lining up.

“Talk about a dry spell!”

“What if my hymen grew back?” The idea of being with a man after this much time is terrifying.

“That’s impossible; it’s like cracking an egg, you never forget how. Tomorrow we’ll swap stories on all the men that flooded our inboxes.”

“Yeah, right.”

After Megan leaves, I stare at my computer. The possibility of meeting someone feels alive. Atomic sparks ignite throughout my sex-deprived body. Maybe this dry, vacant, dusty well can be refilled.

I try to use my computer again, but it’s useless. I call the cable company and set up an appointment between 10am and 4pm, the next day. The perk to unemployment is being able to deal with ridiculous windows.

Thinking again about dating I realize I haven’t shaved in 3 months—it’s the middle of February, there hasn’t been a reason to. The lady-scaping that lay ahead is fierce. “Time to recharge the weed whacker.” I pluck, wax, shave, cry, and dye the gray from my hair with my array of organic products. Maybe I am an environmentalist. Reassessing the situation, I’m not too hideous.

The next morning, I check the online dating app on my phone for any new messages. My heart jumps into my throat when I notice four messages. They seem fake, likely to fade as soon as I acknowledge them. I’ll wait for Megan; she can tell me if these are trolls, or not.

Waiting for the cable guy takes forever. My parents are working, and I’m alone feeling unconnected to my peers. I need change. I know a man isn’t the answer, though one could help with my cold and hostile vagina bleating at me like a forgotten animal.

A knock at the door convinces me to put aside the woes of my lady bits. The cable guy arrives at 3:55. He is wearing sunglasses, a knit hat, and balaclava. He’s in uniform; good thing because he looks like a serial killer.

“Hello. Your cable has come loose from the box. I’ll try to fix it without having to rewire, but I can’t make promises.”

“Okay. Thanks.” I shut the door and watch him through the window. He climbs a telephone pole where dozens of wires split in a tangled mess. I wonder how he knows which one is right. Losing interest, I load the dishwasher. Then I hear a scream and a thump. I look out the window and can’t find the man anymore. I walk out the back door, where I find the cable guy sprawled out on the frozen lawn.

“Oh my god! You okay?” I rush over still in my slippers.

“Fine…lost my footing. Perfect end to my shit day.” He stands and brushes himself off.

“You landed hard.”

He shakes his head, then wobbles a little. I grab his arm and help him to the porch. He uncovers his nose and steam trails from his nostrils.

“Whoa. Got the wind knocked of me. Mind if I sit a minute?”

“You might have a concussion or something.” I am truly worried, and I briefly wonder if he has insurance.

“I’m fine. I’ll go hang out in the truck and warm up before I go.”

“I’ll walk you to your truck to make sure you’re okay. Let me grab my boots and jacket. I’ll be right back, don’t move!” I rush inside and put on proper gear. When I return, he’s gone. I hear an engine start then fade as the truck pulls away. Stubborn asshole; he better have fixed the cable.

Megan arrives just as I realize the internet works. “Okay, let’s see what we have!” She beams as I reveal the mystery dates.

The first profile is of a man in a small room lined with wood paneling; gold trophies line the bookshelf. We both stare. I am the first to speak.

“I hope this isn’t the best. Look at his handlebar mustache.”

“Mustache rides for every new member.” Megan laughs, I punch her in the arm.

“Next.” I grumble. The next two are equally bad. Megan refers to one as a puppy killer, and the other as “the one who would enjoy a good munging.” I Google munging; it’s not a good thing.

The next fellow doesn’t look too bad. He’s tall and husky with receding sandy hair and a well-kept beard.

Megan shouts, “He’s perfect! Let’s message him and set up a date!” She feverishly types as I try to smack her hands away. “Done. You have a date this Saturday with Chris. Aren’t your parents visiting your grandmother this weekend? That’s perfect. The shaggin-shack is open for business.” She thrusts her hips up and down and makes moaning noises.

“Funny.” I try not to hyperventilate. I circle the room with my hand on my forehead wondering what to wear.

“Oh look, Chris already responded. He said he’ll pick you up at 6pm. He’s an eager beaver! Speaking of beavers.” Megan points at my crotch. “He might get lost in the overgrowth if he goes downtown.”

“Shut up! I did some trimming.”

“Already? I guess Chris isn’t the only eager one.”

Megan leaves, which I need because I’m spinning with ways I’ll screw this up. Will it be my lack of income, wiggly arm fat, inability to hold a conversation? Probably all of the above.

The days leading to Saturday creep by, and I start to get cold feet. With luck, mother nature predicts a snow storm. Relief floods me; Chris will probably cancel. The desire to check my profile fades as I settle into the idea of dying alone.

My parents pack for their trip early, leaving before the storm hits. Before they go mom reviews the rules and my chore list like I’m 17 years old again. When the storm starts, the house creaks and groans. By nightfall, the snow starts to sway its way into the yard, resembling ashes falling from a cigarette. I settle in for a peaceful night and prepare for a long day of lounging tomorrow.

In the morning there is a foot of powder outside. I feed the cats and make myself feel productive by doing a job search for environmentalists. Interestingly, there are some appealing leads. The snow piled up. I should have the house to myself for at least another day or two. Having my parents out of my hair is a gift. Speaking of which, I wonder if my vibrator is charged. It might be time for some self-romancing.

The couch? Hmm, why not. I’ll even light a few candles, it will be romantic and maybe a little sad, but I’ll focus on the romantic side. I go upstairs to find my Rabbit. I keep it hidden in a box under my bed so my mom won’t find it while tidying up, which is her excuse to snoop. While I’m stuffed under the bed, I hear the doorbell ring. I freeze. Maybe it was the TV. The bell rings again. I wonder if it’s an emergency.

With the Rabbit tucked into the pocket of my hoodie, I run downstairs. I open the door enough to see a man in a parka and knit hat standing there with a bouquet and a bottle of wine.

“Um, hello? Can I help you?” He’s crazy to be out in this storm, and clearly, he has the wrong address.

“Beth? Hi. We have a date tonight. I’m to pick you up at 6, right?” The man smiles through his beard, and I remember Chris, the date Megan set up for Saturday.

“Chris? There’s over two feet of snow on the ground. The governor declared a state of emergency. How did you even get here?”

“I texted you before I came, but you didn’t respond, and since I only live two blocks over I thought I’d brave it. I’m a little stir crazy alone in the house.”

“Right. Okay.” My brain went on auto-pilot, and the hospitable side of me spoke out. “Do you want to come in?” What am I saying?

“Yes! Please.” He steps through the door, bringing buckets of snow with him. When he takes off his coat and hat, a handsome man appears. My ears grow warm with the acknowledgment.

“You look familiar.” I can’t put my finger on it, but déjà vu nags.

“I was going to come clean if you recognized me. I fixed your cable earlier this week. I’m the dumbass that fell in your lawn.”

I gasp. “You left me! What the hell? I was worried you were seriously hurt.”

Chris smiles and offers me the wine and flowers. “Sorry. I didn’t want to fill out an insurance form, so I bailed. It’s not a good excuse, I know.”

I take his gifts, and we stand in the foyer. The Rabbit pokes me in the stomach and reminds me that the house is lit with candles for myself. Chris eyes the room suspiciously.

“I like candles!” I blurt out. “Want to watch a movie? I was putting in this romcom…”

“Oh god, please no. Not that trash.”

“Well, tell me how you really feel.” Flustered, I curl my lip and put my hands on my hip.

“Do people enjoy that crap? Sorry, I’m an honest guy. I will watch anything else. You pick, just please not a romcom. The people that write those must be the saddest most desperate people ever to live.”

I feel my face flush. “You know what? I live with my parents! I’m an unemployed environmentalist who can’t even afford main-brand popcorn. Romcoms offer a nice escape from reality. Truthfully most men are self-centered jerks who think with their dicks. You want to stay, then you’re watching the remake of Overboard, and you’re going to shut your hairy mouth for the entire movie.”

Chris put up his hands in surrender. “Yikes, I’m sorry. Okay. I’ll bite. I can’t go home and play Fortnight anymore. The teenagers are kicking my ass, and their language is over the top, even for me. Can we at least do the original Overboard?”

I consider it; I haven’t seen that version in almost fifteen years. It might be fun to see before the new one.

“Okay, deal. But still, no talking. I’m not throwing you out because I don’t abandon people, unlike someone else in the room.”

I motion for him to follow me to the couch. We settle in for the original Overboard and find all the same parts funny. The movie ends, and it’s not even close to bedtime. I suggest we watch the new version to keep the momentum alive. He rolls his eyes but agrees. When he goes to make more popcorn, I open the bottle of wine he brought. The situation feels comfortable. I imagine myself with someone to come home to every day.

He brings in the popcorn and sits close, swinging his arm behind me. I find a cozy hole at his side; my butt was made to be snuggled right next to his. I look at him chomping on popcorn and wonder if this could be the start of something. He looks over at me and leans in for a kiss. It was short, sweet, and as magical as unicorns galloping through rainbow fields made of marshmallows. He leans closer and pulls me onto his lap to continue our make-out session. As our bodies draw closer, the Rabbit in my pocket starts to vibrate. I must have hit the on the switch when I pressed into him.

“What’s that?” He leans away and runs his hand down my stomach.

“Uh, nothing!” My hand fights to get into my pocket. The vibrating jiggles my belly fat up to my breasts. Chris reaches his hand into my pocket despite my squirming to find it first. Like a prize, he pulls out a pink rechargeable sex toy.

“Well, I guess I know who the candles were for.” He laughs and hands it to me.

“This is great.” My face heats up, and tears prick my eyes.

“Hey, it’s okay. Don’t be upset. I was teasing you. We all have to shepherd our own flock sometimes.”

I laugh. “That’s the first time I’ve heard that one.”

“I’m a weird guy Beth.”

“I like weird.”

“Good, because this has been the best date I’ve had in years. Let’s watch this horrible romcom, and stuff our faces with popcorn.”

“Perfect. I’ll even let you talk this time.”

“Wow, that’s as good as getting to second base.”

We plop back down on the couch and cozy up for round two of Overboard. I find my cozy butt spot and lean into his side. I think I’ll keep him, even if he hates romcoms.

Contest Info: Heat 40 – Romantic Comedy / Living with parents / An environmentalist.

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