“Oh god, oh god, oh god.” Ray kept repeating this to himself until Sam and his burrito sat down across from him.
“What happened? What did you just do?”
“I hung up on her.” Ray said.
“You what?! Why would you do that?”
“I panicked!” Ray said. “But her voice is so incredible.”
“Call her back, dipshit!”
“Yeah, no, you’re right, you’re right. Hang on.” Ray said. He fumbled with his phone, but before he could do anything with it, it began to ring. Startled, he looked at it, then to Sam, then back to the phone. “What do I do?!”
“Answer the god damn thing!” Sam said. Ray held the phone to his ear.
“What’s up, you got Ray.” he said. Sam looked at him and whispered “What?”
“Oh hey Carrie. What? Did I call you? Oh, yeah. Yeah, I did. I get crazy bad reception on this thing.” Ray said. “No, the iPh- I mean, yeah, the Droid. Um, yeah I remember the whole coffee thing. Sure, I’d love to. Sounds great. Yeah, I’ll meet you there at, let’s say seven? Fantastic. Lates.”
“Did you just say Lates to end a phone conversation?” Sam asked.
“Yeah.” Ray said.
“Why am I your friend?”
“I’m supposed to meet her at the coffee house at seven, but I don’t even know what I’m going to wear.” Ray said.
“Don’t say things like that when you’re with her. Or when you’re with me.” Sam said.
“Should I wear a suit?” Ray asked. “Or like a tux or something?”
“Seeing as you’re not James Bond, maybe you should leave the tux at home.” Sam said.
“What about a blazer with leather elbow patches? I could smoke a pipe the whole time.”
“How are you a real person? No. Just wear your regular normal person clothes. You’ll be fine.” Sam said. He took a bite of his burrito.
“So, no pipe?”
“Unless you’re planning on taking her over to Watson’s house afterward, no. No pipe.” Sam said. Ray sat in silence for the next few minutes, and Sam took this opportunity to finish his burrito. He sat back, wiped his mouth with a napkin, and sighed happily. “You’re right, that was a damn good burrito.”
“Told you.” Ray said. “So, I should just play it cool, then.”
“You should play it actually cool, as opposed to the fucked up fictional version of cool that you think is cool.”
“The hell is that supposed to mean?” Ray asked.
“Leather patches on a blazer. Saying lates to end a phone conversation. Freddie Prinze Jr. These things are not cool.”
“You are a crazy person.” Ray said. “All of those things are cool.”
“Whatever, man. I’ve gotta get going. I need to go home, puke up this burrito, then continue wishing for death.” Sam said. “But Ray, seriously. Good luck.”
“Thank you.” Ray said.
“You’re going to need it.” Sam said.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have called him back.” Carrie said. Ellie sighed.
“I don’t understand how a person so neurotic can function in daily life.”
“I’m serious.” Carrie said.
“So am I.” Ellie said. “You’ll be fine. He’s a nice guy, he agreed to meet you tonight, coffee at that coffee house is amazing. You guys are going to have a great night.”
“I hope so.”
“Have you thought about what you’re going to wear?” Shawn asked.
“Oh god.” Carrie muttered.
“Why would you do that? Why would you ask her a question like that?” Ellie asked.
“I don’t know, I was making small talk! I don’t know how to have normal conversations with girls.” Shawn said.
“Oh god, I don’t have anything to wear.” Carrie said.
“Yes you do.” Ellie said.
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes. Yes, you do. You have a closet full of fabulous clothes that I’m sure he’ll love.” Ellie said. “Do you think he’s worried about what to wear tonight? No. So, you shouldn’t either.”
“Come on, girl.” Ellie said. She put her arm around Carrie the way a bird takes its recently hatched young under its wing. “I’ll help you pick something out.”
The dimly lit room was a mess. There were magazines and empty beer bottles strewn across the floor, dirty laundry sat in huge mounds upon the furniture, and in the middle of it all, Sam was fast asleep. The phone rang a number of times, but Sam did not move. It began to ring again, and this time Sam reluctantly moved his hand around the floor, not once opening his eyes, before finally resting it on his phone.
“I don’t know who this is, but I hate you.”
“Sam, she’s late.” Ray said on the other side of the line.
“What is- Who’s late?”
“Carrie!” Ray shouted. Sam cringed as though hot pokers were just pressed against his temples.
“First off, if you ever yell at me while I’m hungover again, I will fucking end you.” he said. “Secondly, what time is it?”
“Seven-oh-five.” Ray said.
“Are you shitting me, Ray? You’re calling me because she’s five minutes late? Jesus.”
“Should I leave?” Ray asked.
“No, don’t leave. She’s probably just stuck in traffic or something, alright? Calm down and just wait. Order a muffin or something.”
“I hate muffins.” Ray said.
“Then order a scone.”
“I don’t even know what that is, Sam.” Ray said. “What if she loves scones? I should know what a scone is. What if she orders one? What do I do?”
“You throw it on the ground and do a dance on it.”
“What?” Ray asked.
“I don’t care, Ray, I think I’m dying.”
“Oh! I gotta go, I think she’s pulling up now. Bye.” Ray said. Sam put the phone back on the floor next to him.
“No, I’m fine, Ray. Don’t worry about me, Ray.” he muttered before falling back to sleep.
“I can’t believe I’m going to be late. I never should have let you pick out my clothes.” Carrie said, from the back seat of Shawn’s car. Ellie, sitting in the passenger seat, looked at her in the rear view mirror.
“If I hadn’t helped you get dressed, you’d still be there, screaming at your clothes for not being good enough to wear on a date.”
“This is the turn, right?” Shawn asked. He was gripping the steering wheel tightly.
“Yeah, that’s it.” Ellie said. “I hate the traffic in this town.”
“Why do I say I was late?” Carrie asked.
“It was traffic.” Ellie said.
“No, I know that, but what do I tell him it was?”
“Uh, traffic.” Ellie said.
“No one ever believes you when you tell them you were late because of traffic!”
“Is that him?” Shawn asked, pointing at Ray. He was standing outside the coffee house, talking on his phone.
“He’s on his phone. Probably making plans with some other woman by now.” Carrie said.
“Please stop.” Ellie said. “Look, he just hung up. He was probably passing time until you got here.”
Shawn’s beige Honda Accord slowed to a stop just outside the coffee house, and Carrie stepped out of the back seat and onto the curb. She waved to her friends, who both gave her the thumbs up, to which she responded by rolling her eyes, and walked to Ray.
“Hey, wow, you look great.” Ray said.
“Oh, this? I just threw this on, I wasn’t even paying attention. But thank you.”
He hugged Carrie when she approached, but then immediately backed away. “Was that weird? Should I have maybe not done that?”
“No!” Carrie shouted. Ray’s posture deflated. “No, I mean yes. I mean, no you should not have not done that!”
“I don’t- So, the hug wasn’t weird?”
“No, it was- It was sweet.” she said. “Thank you. For the, you know, hug.”
“We should probably just go inside and order coffee now.”
“Yeah. Yeah, no, you’re right.”
He extended his arm like gentlemen do in old movies. She smiled and accepted it, and the two walked, arm-in-arm, into the coffee house.
Shawn and Ellie sat in the beige Honda Accord across the coffee house parking lot and watched the beginning of Ray and Carrie’s date like two proud parents.
“Is there anything cuter than two awkward people being awkward together?” Ellie asked. Shawn shook his head and put the car in drive.
“I could use a hamburger, myself.” he said. “Care to accompany me?”
“Is it a date?” Ellie asked.
“It’s a date.” he said, and the two drove away.
The clock read 1:48am and there was a knock at the door. Sam pressed pause on his remote and got up to answer it, at which point he found Ray standing on his doorstep.
“This is going to have to wait, because I’m watching a DVR’d Sports Center right now.” Sam said. Ray held up a paper bag. “What is that?”
“It’s a scone.” Ray said. Sam paused for a moment and then grabbed the bag with a sigh, stepping aside as to allow Ray to enter the apartment.
“It went fantastic, by the way.” Ray said. Sam took a bite out of his scone and nodded. “We had a sort of bumpy start, with an ill timed hug.”
“I hate those.” Sam said.
“But once we ordered our coffee and started talking, all of that nervousness just went away. It was amazing.”
“That’s great, man.” Sam said. “You have a second date lined up?”
“Yeah, I’m going over to her place next week and we’re going to have a Freddie Prinze Jr. movie marathon.” Ray said. “And before you say anything, that was her idea.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“No, she’s huge into the Prinze.” Ray said. “We’re the perfect couple. In fact, you know all those stories where the guy and the girl go on a date and then the guy tells his friends ‘That’s the girl I’m gonna marry’ and then later on, he does marry her and they tell the story to their grandkids and shit?”
“Yeah, I do.” Sam said. “Because you said that about the last three girls.”
“Yeah, well I was wrong those other times.” Ray said. “But I’m serious about this one. That’s the girl I’m gonna marry.”
Sam scoffed in response, and regretted it instantly. He looked into the eyes of his friend and felt a sense of genuine sincerity that he had never sensed there before.
“Well, good for you, man.” Sam said. “I’m happy for you.”
“Do you think she would object to a Star Wars themed wedding?” Ray asked.
“Maybe not, as long as there’s also an open bar.” Sam said. “Now, in the highly unlikely scenario in which this woman does not want to marry you, this isn’t going to be one of those times when you call me at three in the morning and I come over and find you crying on the bathroom floor, two thirds of the way through a large pizza, while The Cure’s greatest hits plays in the background. Right?”
“I make no promises.” Ray said.
“Right now, I just want to play some Madden on the ol’ X-Box, drink a couple of brewskies, and talk about tappin’ asses.” Ray said. Sam shook his head.
“No, you don’t. You want to talk about how amazing you think Carrie is.”
“That is crazy talk.” Ray said. “But she is amazing, right?”
“Right.” Sam said.
“I was serious about those beers, though.”
“There’s a few in the fridge, help yourself.” Sam said. He sat down on his couch and took a sip from the beer he had already started before Ray knocked on his door. Ray grabbed his own beer from the fridge.
“Her laugh is adorable, by the way.”
“That’s good to know.” Sam said.
“And her eyes are like fucking swimming pools. Is that weird?”
“Eyes that resemble swimming pools is a weird thing, yes.” Sam said.
“No, I mean, is it weird that I think that way? I’m being poetic and shit.” Ray said.
“Poetic and shit.”
“Yeah.” Ray said. Sam watched Ray sit on the couch next to him and open his beer. Sam didn’t really want to spend his evening listening to a list of reasons that Carrie was the best person in the universe, and he knew he had a few options available to him in this situation. He could politely explain to Ray that he had an early morning the next day and really needed his sleep. He could tell Ray that, while they were friends, he had no interest in this woman other than whether or not she made Ray happy. He could smile and nod and let his friend drink beer and gush until they were both drunk.
Sam turned off the television, grabbed another beer from the fridge, and returned to the couch his best friend was sitting on, still waiting for an answer.
“No, man.” Sam replied. “It’s not weird at all. Tell me more about her.”