A/N: This is based on a "date" I had. There are some similarities, but the guy in Sabrina's life is more disturbing than the guy I was with.
I'm Sabrina Newcastle. I'm a very laid-back girl who works as a psychic hotline operator. My cat is one of my best friends and my family is insane.
I've only had one serious relationship in my twenty-five-years of life. It didn't end well. He took a business trip and never came back. But, he was sweet enough to call me from London to tell me he had found someone else. I bet she's blonde. I bet her name is Bambi.
Bitter? Not me.
About six months after John's permanent departure, I started going on dates. Countless amounts. Blind dates, internet dates - I even used a dating service.
I'm going to tell you about the last date I went on using the True Connection Dating Service. I should sue for emotional distress.
True Connection is one of the dating services that uses videos. I managed to get a friend to let me borrow her video camera. I didn't tell her why I needed it, I was too embarrassed. I'm still worried to this day, however, that she thinks I used it to film myself doing things sexual in nature, since I was so evasive about telling her my reasons for needing the camera.
When I returned the recorder she tried not to look me in the eye, and she said things like, "If you need anything, anything... like padded envelopes, just come to me." She'd pat me sympathetically on the arm and say, "John is a bastard. You do whatever necessary to get back at him."
I think I just enjoyed her being that uncomfortable with the conclusions she jumped to. She probably bleached the camera when she brought it home.
Back to the video. I had set up the camera in my kitchen on a tripod. The first six or seven tries, I ended up stopping the camera because I just froze up in front of the blinking red light. Plus, I felt like an idiot. Phil, my obese cat, thought I was an idiot too. He simply would not be in the kitchen with me when I tried to make the video.
It took me about three days to get the tape to the point where I could handle sending it to someone else to view. Though I'm well aware of the fact that I was sick of talking to the camera after that third day, and would have given my left foot to just be done with the whole embarrassing situation.
When I was done, I sealed the tape up in a padded enveloped and sent it off to True Connection. I don't know how most dating services work, but True Connection requested one tape. They then made copies if someone saw your description on the website and was curious to learn more about you. It never made sense to me why the company would pay for tapes and postage - the fees to join the service were minimal, definitely not enough to make a profit.
Of course, I soon found out that the company was run by people with brains the size of sunflower seeds. They would have to be complete buffoons to set me up with Lyle. They had to be.
I remember it was a Wednesday evening. I was exhausted from work, especially after being on the phone with Carlos, excuse me, Carleeta, who wanted to have a sex change operation and then join the circus. He wanted to know what I saw in his future. He ended up in tears, sobbing, while telling me his life story for the better part of an hour.
I checked my mailbox and spotted an orange, padded envelope from True Connection. Hot damn, someone wanted me! Unless True Connection watched the video and, after fits of laughter, decided to send the tape back so I wouldn't cause myself any further embarrassment.
When I made it inside my apartment, I tore open the envelope and read the note inside. It informed me that someone had seen my video, was very interested in me and asked to have his tape sent to me as soon as possible. My possible match: Lyle Lloyd Jewelba.
I was filled with anxious excitement. And, a sort of nauseous dread feeling was in there too. I should have listened to the latter feeling.
I popped that bad boy in, settled onto the couch and called Phil to join me. He muttered something that I know had to have been offensive in Cat. He didn't want to see Lyle. Fine. More for me.
The beginning of the tape was a cheesy True Connection introduction. A couple running on the beach, another prancing through a meadow of daffodils, all the while, Enya blared. I hate Enya now. I hear her and visualize people frolicking. People shouldn't frolic.
"Are you looking for this kind of happiness?" the TV asked.
I felt myself nodding. Frolicking was accepted in my world before Lyle.
"Are you looking for the man or woman of your dreams?"
"Good. You are about to hear and see..."
There was a pause. A crackle and then a man said, "Oh yeah, Lyle Lloyd "Coooool" Jewelba."
His voice was sort of sexy, despite the way he said the word "cool". The screen faded to black. A few seconds later, I saw a kitchen. Lyle stepped in front of the camera and sat down. He was beautiful.
I actually yelled, "Yes!" and made a power fist.
Lyle was nervous at first. It was endearing. He had to straighten out his button-up shirt several times - nervous habit.
He had dark, mocha colored skin, gorgeous sea green eyes and a beautiful smile. When I saw dimples, I was ready right then and there for him to whisk me away.
At thirty-three, he had a home and a successful career. He lived in his home with a roommate: Scruffy. Scruffy was picked up and held in front of the camera. An adorable Shih-tzu.
Lyle had been an architect for over eight years, made a good living, and on the side, he was working on his music career. Music was his passion, what got him up in the morning. In terms of relationships, he wasn't looking for anything serious at that point in time, but he was up for it if the opportunity presented itself.
I was sold. I called True Connection and left a message with their answering service since it was after hours.
By Friday, two days later, I had talked to Lyle on the phone and we had a date for Saturday.
All Saturday, I was bouncing off the walls. I was excited. My hopes for him were high.
I got all dressed up and waited for him to call. The phone rang at 7:00. We were both anxious. I gave him directions to my apartment and waited impatiently.
He called from his cell phone thirty minutes later and I met him in the parking lot of my apartment complex. We smiled warmly at each other when we got into his car. He was even more beautiful in person. He told me I looked stunning. I blushed.
His car was a souped up Honda with a GPS console in the middle of the dashboard. He was very proud of it and explained the details of it to me for twenty minutes. In all honesty, cars don't impress me that much. But, I figured that I was as impressed with Phil as Lyle was with The Super M, that's what he called the car. Not everyone was impressed by the same things.
We decided on going to the Olive Garden. He put the information into the console, even though I told him I knew how to get there, and the car started talking.
"Make a U-turn and head South."
I smiled. "Yeah."
We talked as we drove, being interrupted by the automated woman's voice telling us when and where to turn. We parked and headed inside, having a nice conversation. The wait was fifteen minutes, which gave us even more time to get to know one another.
Five minutes into our conversation, he pulls out the hugest wad of cash I have ever seen, and hands me a twenty dollar bill. In the middle of the conversation where money was not a topic.
My forehead instinctively scrunched up in confusion. "What's this for?" I asked, staring at the bill in his hand.
I pointed to the bar. "It's open, you don't have to wait until we order to get something. You can get it now."
I eyed him curiously.
"You can get it now."
He looked at me like I was the strange one. "Well, I figured you could get something for yourself, too. I don't know what kind of drinks you like." He smiled at me. "I want a Long Island Iced Tea." He dropped the bill in my lap and placed the wad of cash the size of Madison Square Garden back into his pocket. "Plus, I don't want to lose our seat on these comfy benches."
I snarled inwardly and went to the bar.
Minor road bump, I told myself.
I got the drinks and brought them back.
We slipped back into conversation again. He was telling me what it's like to be an entertainer. He said that he has performed with such people as Alicia Keys and Brian McKnight. He said he's been performing since he was ten-years-old and has been featured on many albums and soundtracks.
I smiled and nodded a lot, not quite sure if he was full of hot air.
A few minutes later, it was our turn to be seated. He was still rambling about his success as a performer.
We were seated in a booth. He didn't like the location. After the greeter had left, Lyle went on and on about how unhappy he was with where he was seated. When the waiter came to ask if we wanted wine with our dinner, Lyle got snippy.
"No one can see me here," he said.
The waiter looked confused. He glanced at me, as if I had an idea about what Lyle's problem was.
"I am an entertainer. People need to see me. I'm well known in Sacramento."
The waiter still looked lost. "Do you... want to sit in the middle?"
"Yes," Lyle said, sounding quite perturbed.
I shook my head and followed Lyle and the waiter to a table in the middle of the room. On the short way to the new table, Lyle spotted someone he knew and went talk to him. I sat alone at the table, watching him chat away with the man and his girlfriend. Ten minutes later, he joined me.
"That guy and his girlfriend were at my concert a few nights ago. I'm big in this city, I'm tellin' you. The only place I haven't played is Arco Arena."
He looked around. He seemed annoyed. "Switch with me."
"What do you mean?"
"Switch seats with me."
He stood up. "Stop playing. Switch seats with me."
I sighed loudly and moved to where he had been previously sitting.
He smiled. "Yeah, people can see me better from the doorway in this seat."
I think I might have grunted out loud. I was trying to figure out if I still liked the guy. I barely knew him and he was already starting to grate on my nerves.
Then conversation happened. He was intelligent. He was witty. And those eyes. Hot damn! The waiter returned twenty minutes later asking to take our order. I wasn't sure what I wanted, and the fact that Lyle and I were talking so much didn't give me a chance to go through the list of dishes thoroughly.
Lyle pulled the menu from my hand, stacked his on top, and handed them to the waiter. "We'll both have spaghetti and meatballs."
"Excuse me? I didn't say that's what I wanted."
"Everyone likes spaghetti." Then he shooed the waiter away.
I did want spaghetti. The point was, I should be able to order for myself. I was glaring at him, I think.
"What's wrong, Cookie?"
"Cookie?" My face scrunched up slightly at the sickening nickname. "It's Sabrina."
His eyes widened. Then he leaned towards me and said, "What's going on here? Why are you so stand-offish?" Then he whispered, "Is it PMS?"
"Why do all men always assume everything can be traced back to menstruation?" I asked loudly.
"So testy. Just calm down," he said, leaning back in his chair. "We don't want to draw attention to ourselves."
"What about your adoring fans?"
There was the slightest trace of a smile on his face. "Are you mocking me?"
"Maybe." I was fighting back a smile too. I don't know why, the guy was slowly driving me nuts. Maybe it was attraction, on the physical level, at least. Maybe it was insanity.
We ate. We talked. We laughed.
When the bill came, he suddenly had to use the restroom. It took me well over twenty minutes to ask the waiter if he could send someone to check the restroom for Lyle. The waiter came back to say that Lyle wasn't in there. I paid, ready to find and gut Lyle like a fish, and stormed out of the restaurant.
The Super M was waiting by the entrance with the door open. Lyle was inside on the phone. I paced back and forth on the sidewalk, debating whether or not I should get in the car. Since he was my ride, I got in and slammed the door. He didn't even look at me, he just started to drive.
"Make a right on Heritage," the car said. I was annoyed. I mocked the automated woman with my own, perfected five- year-old voice.
Lyle looked at me like he was disgusted. He covered the mouthpiece and said, "Do you mind? Can't you see I'm on the phone?"
"Well, excuse me." I folded my arms and stared out the window.
He eventually hung up, clearly not driving in the direction of my apartment, and told me he had been on the phone with his cousin. "She's crazy."
It was silent.
"Sorry for running out on you in there."
"I got the call when I was in the bathroom. It was quieter outside."
"Can we go somewhere quickly?" He smiled at me, I could see his shining pearly whites out of the corner of my eye. "You might like it."
Things would have been different if he wasn't so beautiful.
We drove for the better part of fifteen minutes, and ended up in a bad part of town. He pulled into the parking lot of a Middle Eastern liquor store.
"Be right back," he said.
'Be right back' my foot. He was in there for far too long.
"Make a left on Hamilton," she said for the fifth time.
I whacked the dashboard. It felt good. Silence filled the car.
"Make a left on Hamilton."
"Bitch!" I glared at Lyle, trying to see what in the world he could be doing. I assumed he was buying cigarettes. But, why drive to the other end of the earth for cigarettes? A cancerstick is a cancerstick, right?
He finally came back without anything in his hands. He pulled out of the lot without a word. We ended up in an alley. He parked the car. "You'll like this."
I smelled marijuana. He turned the car light on. He was rolling a joint.
"Oh god! What are you doing?"
"Just going to smoke some herbal shit."
I couldn't believe it. "Do you have to do this now?"
"Why are you being all uptight? Just relax, baby."
"All right, chill." He stared at me for a beat. "I'll take you home as soon as I smoke this."
"You look tense. You need some smooth tunes to relax."
"Make a right on Hamilton."
"Make her shut the hell up, now!" I yelled.
"All right." He shut off the console. "We'll listen to my slow jams. Straight out of the studio. This cut right here is going to be on Lil Krazy Eye's new album."
"You know why my nickname was destined to be 'cool'?" he asked, while he put the CD into the player.
I sighed. "Why?"
"Just look at my initials. LLJ. Throw a 'cool' in there and what do you get?"
I hid my face in my hand. "LL Cool J."
I shook my head.
He turned up the volume just as his first "original" song came blaring through the speakers. I did everything to keep from laughing hysterically, or running for my life, I couldn't decide which felt like the best course of action.
He sounded like a dying cat. Actually, a dying cat would have sounded better. Lyle, however, was swaying while he licked the paper for his joint.
"This is my jam!" And he swayed some more, singing even more out of key than his recorded self, which I honestly didn't think was possible.
He lit up the thing and takes a drag. "Wanna hit this?"Yes, just not in the way you're thinking. "No."
"Suit yourself. This is some good shit."
The car started to fill with smoke and I was doing everything possible not to die. If the inhalation of the smoke wasn't going to kill me, 'LL Cool J''s "slow jams" sure as hell would.
"Shiiit," he said half-way through his joint. "You might have to drive The Super M home."
"I get real sleepy when I smoke."
"Oh hell. Just get the hell into the passenger seat now, I'll start driving."
He got out, and made it to the passenger seat. I was standing outside the car, inhaling the fresh air. I left the driver side door open, in order to air out the car a bit before getting back in.
I nervously put The Super M in gear and pulled out of the alley.
"You need Bertha on to help guide you?"
"Damn, chill, baby."
I glared at him. "Right. Sabrina."
He settled into the passenger seat, and I waited to turn onto the next street. I drove Grandma-Petunia-slow, worried what would happen to me if something happened to The Super M. Not that it mattered. Within ten minutes, Lyle was fully passed out. Snoring. Head back and drooling.
I turned off the "slow jams" as quickly as possible. I talked to myself for a few minutes, convincing myself that finding a cliff, putting the car in neutral and then shoving it over the edge with Lyle inside would be bad. I mean, how would I get home?
The car ride was very peaceful, despite Lyle's snore. When we pulled into the parking lot of my apartment, I parked and turned to Lyle. I poked his arm. No response. I shoved him. Nothing.
"Lyle!" I yelled in his ear.
He shot up and shook his head.
"Sup, baby?" He yawned and rubbed his eyes.
I didn't even correct him that time. "We're here. You passed out."
"Oh." He looked around confused.
It was silent. The awkward kind, too.
He winked at me. "You're very beautiful."
"Um... thanks. Can you hand me my purse, it's on the floor by your feet."
"I want to do things to you."
"Not things sexual in nature. Romantic things."
"Oh." I smiled weakly. "Can I have my purse?"
He ignored me. He placed his hands on my shoulders. "I'm very comfortable around you. I'm not comfortable around most people."
He sighed and let his hands slide down from my shoulders. He tried to pretend that both of his hands running down my chest was a mistake. He pulled his hands back in surprise. "Sorry!" he exclaimed when I slapped his hands away. I sighed deeply. Trying to ignore my urge to hit him over the head with my shoe. "Can I have my purse? Please."
"Oh yeah, sure." He reached down and grabbed it. He looked at it, then me. "You have very nice titties."
My eyes widened. Titties? Is that supposed to be a new pickup line? I have nice titties?
I held out my hand. He placed my purse in it and then quickly got out of the car and ran to the driver's side. He was standing there when I got out.
He smiled at me. The smile wasn't sexy anymore. Our eyes were locked. He leaned in to kiss me. I turned my head, and he settled for kissing my cheek.
"I like you." He grinned. "But, one piece of advice, Cookie."
I stared at him.
"If you ever mock me, or Bertha again, I'll burn your hair."
Before I could formulate words, he whipped out a lighter. The flame danced between our faces. He turned the lighter off, slipped it into his pocket and waited for me to get out of the way. He slipped into The Super M and smiled at me.
"I'll see you tomorrow!"
I stood there in shock as I watched him drive away. Then I bolted up to my apartment, threw away Lyle's tape and called True Connection. I got their answering service. I demanded to be taken out of their system. I said that if there were problems with getting me removed, I would send my father, a lawyer, after them. My father's retired. From working at a factory. True Connection didn't have to know that. I also suggested sticking a giant, red warning label on Lyle's tape and over his picture on the website.
I told Phil, who was sprawled out on my bed, about my night while I stripped myself of my clothing which reeked of marijuana. The whole time Phil was giving me that "I told you so" look.
The moral of this story is: don't use the True Connection Dating Service. Not that I think anyone even can anymore. The last I heard, the company was being sued because of ill-use of people's tapes. I heard that the company was sending the tapes off to agents, exotic dance clubs and strip joints in hopes of gaining some of the royalties if these companies wanted to hire anyone they saw on the tapes.
No one ever contacted me about being an exotic dancer. Should I be offended?