People We Meet on Vacation

Page 53

He shrugs. “I don’t know. Probably I’d just ask them questions about themselves.”

“That feels like a job interview,” I say. “I mean, yes, it is a rare and wonderful thing when your Tinder date asks you a single question about yourself, but you can’t just not talk about yourself at all.”

He rubs at the line in his forehead. “God, I really hate having to do this. Why’s it so hard to meet people in real life?”

“It might be easier . . . in another city,” I say pointedly.

He glances askance at me and rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling. “Okay, what would you write, if you were a guy, trying to woo yourself?”

“Well, I’m different,” I say. “What you’ve got here would totally work on me.”

He laughs. “Don’t be mean.”

“I’m not,” I say. “You sound like a sexy, child-rearing robot. Like the maid from The Jetsons but with abs.”

“Poppyyyyy,” he groan-laughs, throwing his forearm over his face.

“Okay, okay. I’ll take a crack at it.” I take his phone again and erase what he wrote, committing it to memory as well as I can in case he wants to restore it. I think for a minute, then type and pass the phone back to him.

He studies the screen for a long time, then reads aloud, “‘I have a full-time job and an actual bed frame. My house isn’t full of Tarantino posters, and I text back within a couple hours. Also I hate the saxophone’?”

“Oh, did I put a question mark?” I ask, leaning over his shoulder to see. “That’s supposed to be a period.”

“It’s a period,” he says. “I just wasn’t sure if you were serious.”

“Of course I’m serious!”

“‘I have an actual bed frame’?” he says again.

“It shows that you’re responsible,” I say, “and that you’re funny.”

“It actually shows that you’re funny,” Alex says.

“But you’re funny too,” I say. “You’re just overthinking this.”

“You really think women will want to go out with me based on a picture and the fact that I have a bed frame.”

“Oh, Alex,” I say. “I thought you said you knew how grim it was out there.”

“All I’m saying is, I walk around all day with this face and a job and a bed frame, and none of that has gotten me very far.”

“Yeah, that’s because you’re intimidating,” I say, saving the bio and going back to the slideshow of women’s accounts.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Alex says, and I look up at him.

“Yes, Alex,” I say. “That is it.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Remember Clarissa? My roommate at U of Chicago?”

“The trust-fund hippie?” he says.

“What about Isabel, my sophomore-year roommate? Or my friend Jaclyn from the communications department?”

“Yes, Poppy, I remember your friends. It wasn’t twenty years ago.”

“You know what those three people had in common?” I say. “They all had crushes on you. All of them.”

He blushes. “You’re full of shit.”

“No,” I say. “I’m not. Clarissa and Isabel were both constantly trying to flirt with you, and Jaclyn’s ‘communication skills’ just utterly failed whenever you were in the room.”

“Well, how was I supposed to know that?” he demands.

“Body language, prolonged eye contact,” I say, “finding every excuse to touch you, making overt sexual innuendos, asking you for help with papers.”

“We always did that over email,” Alex says, like he’s found a hole in my logic.

“Alex,” I say calmly. “Whose idea was that?”

The look of victory leaches from his face. “Wait. Seriously?”

“Seriously,” I say. “So with that in mind, would you like to take your new photo and bio for a spin?”

He looks aghast. “I’m not going to go on a date during our trip, Poppy.”

“Damn right, you’re not!” I say. “But you can at least try it out. Besides, I want to see what kinds of girls you swipe right for.”

“Nuns,” he says, “and aid workers.”

“Wow, you’re such a good person,” I say in a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice. “Please allow me to show my appreciation with a—”

“Okay, okay,” he says. “Don’t give yourself an asthma attack. I’ll swipe, just go gently on me, Poppy.”

I bump my shoulder lightly against his. “Always.”

“Never,” he says.

I frown. “Please call me on it if I ever make you feel bad.”

“You don’t,” he says. “It’s fine.”

“I know I joke rough sometimes. But I never want to hurt you. Not ever.”

He doesn’t smile, just gazes back steadily like he’s taking the time to let the words soak in. “I know that.”

“Okay, good.” I nod, train my eyes on his phone screen. “Ooh, what about her?”

The girl on-screen is tanned and pretty, bending at the knee and blowing a kiss at the camera. “No kissy faces,” he says, and swipes her off the screen.

“Fair enough.”

A girl with a lip ring and dark eye makeup appears in her place. Her bio reads, All metal, all the time.

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