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In a pub eating a late lunch. Two young people on an apparent date next to me.

Historians will someday pinpoint when the young man confessed to having no fondness for dogs but an affinity for his pet lizard as the moment when his prospects entered into an irrecoverable nosedive.
Updating our top story...

The young woman has a variety of interests and is quite amicably bouncing from subject to subject.

Her companion seems about as lively and interesting as a bag of potatoes.

The lizard prints are on the wall. If she agrees to a 3rd drink, love is dead.
So far, a partial inventory of topics covered by party:

Her: travel, animals, skiing and snowboarding, college sports, multiple popular shows, her opposition to racism.

Him: Dogs, meh. Lizards, good.

If this were a personality contest, they’d be carting him off the field.
She seems untroubled by the sheer tapioca of his personality.

This is deeply troubling.

This is like watching a tennis match where one player hits a forehand while the other sits in a lawn chair eating pistachios out of his navel.

Mankind may well be doomed.
Prince Boring is leaning heavily on the attractiveness of active listening.

Siri and Alexa are good listeners.

That’s an insufficient value proposition.

Her: (says thing with emotional inflection)

Him: “uh-kay”

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Why, fair goddess of love? Why?!
I’m having terrifying visions of a future where these same two are long married and Mr. Oatmeal is frantically dabbing at his forehead in that cute New Mexican place because “that ‘mild salsa’ has a real kick!”

I’ve heard more interesting noises from garage door openers.
You are all riding shotgun as I bear sad witness to what is occurring next to me.

He is 3/4 through his second drink. She is 1/2 way through hers.

There has been a palpable relaxation on both parties’ parts.

He’s slightly less stiff than a mannequin now. Slightly.
She’s laughing a tad more and a tad louder - though the source has thus far been unidentifiable.

He has yet to produce an anecdote. A sentence here. A sentence there.

I suspect his lizard is the chatty one in the household.

Iguana leave but... in for a dime, in for a dollar.
Even the effort to eavesdrop on Wally Wallpaper is sucking the life-force out of me.

She annunciates like a person used to human contact.

He sounds like he’s talking through a fast food drive-through speaker.

Did he just tell me to proceed to the second window?
We are reaching a *crucial* moment in our story.

He has been nursing the last inch of his beer. She has maybe a quarter of hers left.

I don’t want to sound hyperbolic but the fate of humanity, love and hope hangs in the balance during these next critical minutes.
We’re reaching the terrifying fork in the road.

Turn left and there’s a polite hug in the parking lot and a “He’s nice but...” txt to friends at the next stoplight.

Turn right and there’s a 10 yr road to telling the friend who won’t judge you that marrying Carl was “settling”.
His glass is empty. Hers is close.

I’m on the edge of my seat. I’m positively atingle.

The seconds are ticking by like hours.

I both want to call over the bartender and don’t.

Will they have another round?

I never should’ve listened. Now I must know.
I have news.

There’s no easy way to share this.

Hopefuls and romantics... believers in soulmates... aficionados of good fits and great couples... it’s probably best if you sit down.
I tried. I silently screamed. I telepathically warned of a future filled with Dockers and all of the adventure of a trip to the dry cleaners.

There is nothing left to do but settle into the sad, weathered sofa we call acceptance.

I now wish I knew her friends.
Am I supposed to just carry this around?

No. I should very much have access to someone who would return my “so, things seem to be going well with Carl...” with a raised-eyebrow say-it-without-saying-it look of “I don’t get that one.”

That’s all I’m saying.
Carl just started to share an anecdote with all the dynamism of a bag of birdseed.

Future-Mrs.-Carl interjected with an excited acknowledgment.

Carl then aborted the story. Future-Mrs. had to beseech him to finish it.

I envision future cruise ship breakfasts eaten in silence.
They are now looking at pictures on her phone.

This will be the saddest wedding shower I ever wish to be invited to so I can wish I wasn’t invited.

Carl, Jr. will be an adequate speller. His favorite book will be a TV show. He will love iguanas more than dogs.
The review of her photos was much what you would expect. Friends. People she works with. The requisite “okay, this one is embarrassing...”.

While Carl sent several hasty txts while Future Mrs. went to the bathroom, he has yet to produce it to reciprocate.

Stupid boring Carl.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see Carl’s boring-ass pictures of the time he thought it would be totally crazy to dress up Mr. Slithers in a cowboy hat.

What are you even doing though, Carl? Contribute *something*, my dude. Anything.
Carl and Future Mrs. just leaned in super close to listen to something on her phone. Cheek to cheek.

I now know why they used to cover piano legs in Victorian times.

That was more milquetoast intimacy than anyone needs to see.

I feel unclean.
Okay, gotta get my tab and get out of here before my hopes for the future of human companionship are permanently overwritten by the indelible calligraphy of Mr. and Mrs. Carl’s eventual wedding invitation.

I’m sure the cordon bleu will Be lovely.

Sigh. If only I believed that.
My check has been paid.

This story must now fade to black with all of the unsettling dissatisfaction of the Soprano’s finale.

Maybe there’s an alternate ending.

I shall cling to that hope like an embroidered throw pillow for that is all we can do now.
Sadly, the fade-to-black was more Soprano’s-like than I could’ve guessed.

Me walking out...

Place bustling with the clinkety-clink of couples and families eating and drinking...

A final glance back to see Carl’s arm around Future Mrs.’ chair.

...annnnnd scene.
I may need a pair of sweatpants and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to get over this non-breakup.

Maybe a RomCom...

No. I’m not ready to laugh yet. I just need some “me” time.
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