Few things filled Michael with simultaneous joy and trepidation like what stood in front of him, his newly Facebook-official girlfriend Rachel, and the decision over what candy to buy on this, their ninth date. This contrast in emotions was new in the relationship with Rachel. He was enthralled with everything about her, but she pushed him so far outside of his comfort zone that he had begun to bring a second pair of underwear on their dates so she would not see the nervous ass sweat that always became visible about halfway through. This contrast in emotions was commonplace in his relationship with candy. When Michael satisfied his sweet tooth, it was a shortcut to a long-forgotten sense of childhood comfort. The prospect of a disappointing candy experience steeped Michael’s selection process in anxiety, which is one of the few things he was more self-conscious about than his ass sweat.
Michael was feeling comfortable on this date having picked the spot and having recently made a new goal weight. The five-screen theater had drawn date goers since Michael grandparents took in their first air-conditioned experience here. Outside, the brick was simple and the marquee still flashed with the gently golden light of real light bulbs and not LEDs. The inside housed ornate light fixtures, cascading red curtains, and glistening brass hand rails. The setting made something as commonplace and modern as a package of Twizzlers look regal displayed in the luminous glass case, but Michael was a Red Vines guy, so he would make another selection.
Waiting in an unusually long line for the concessions, Michael asked if she remembered the first movie she saw in theaters. Rachel took a deep breath indicating that she had a lengthy story accompanying her answer. She began to regale Michael with an epic tale of a 6-year-old, a broken down sedan, and The Iron Giant, while a subtle force began to pull Michael’s consciousness away from the conversation.
Michael noticed his eyes slipping toward the waist-high candy case full beautifully market researched candy packaging. He fought in vain against slipping out of the conversation and into a full candy fantasy. Instead of indulging in Rachel’s beautiful childhood memory, Michael’s mind debated fruity vs. chocolatey, and whether the rattle of candy in a box was more distracting in a movie than the crinkle of plastic.
Michael could see himself savoring the crunch and the melting chocolate of Buncha Crunch. He could feel the saliva and tension in the back of his mouth on that first bite of a Sour Patch Kid. He could imaging the strain of his jaw as his teeth fought to get free after each chew of the sticky red Swedish Fish. Just like when he was a kid he found himself miles away from the conversation only this time this time he did not miss a viscous parental shouting match, but the stunning and beautiful tale of a tight knit community helping a disappointed child.
Even as he witnessed the childhood adventure in Rachel’s eyes as she reached the climax of her story, his mind escaped him to the final debate. He could not decide between the Airheads Bites for a chewy and mouthwatering fruity experience or the classic chocolatey munch of Snowcaps. His eyes snuck again to the corner of his field of vision and he felt himself lose track of time and space as his first true love vied for his attention against a potential new one. The candy presented itself to him from the glass case as though it were an historical artifact at the natural history museum. It beckoned him, perfectly lit as if posing for a Maxim photo shoot. A look of carnal desire came across this face as he stared at the candy, and lusted over his available options.
“What the hell are you doing.” An annoyed voice broke through Michael’s hypnosis.
His eyes darted to Rachel, but by the look on her face it was clear she was not the speaker. His eyes scanned for an answer.
“Ya you. Don’t try to look away like I didn’t just catch you.” A tattooed and facially stunning woman with an aggressively hipster hair cut at the front of the line had turned in full confrontation towards Michael. Her hands on the hips of her tight black jeans and the motion of her head clearly indicated she was ready for this moment to escalate.
“What… I uh, I’m sorry what?” Michael stammered, truly confused. Even though the fury in her eyes burned a hole through his face, he could appreciate how remarkably beautiful this woman was.
“Uh Uh Uh,” she started in a classic impression of a dimwitted male. “Don’t act like you don’t know what’s going on, dude. I just caught you staring at my ass, twice!”
“Wait, what?” Michael responded from his heels, trying to catch up with whatever this goddess of beauty and war thought was going on around his candy daydreams. “I was just uh… I wasn’t… see I’m here on a date, so clearly I wasn’t…”
“Of course you are,” she turned her attention to Rachel. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but you’re on a date with a pig. I just caught this breeder, blatantly checking out my ass while he is on a date with you. If I were you, I’d grab a pint of ice cream and dildo and tell this jackass to fuck off.”
“Oh my god. Is that what you were looking at? Were you checking out her ass while I was telling you my favorite story about my dead dad?” Rachel barked as she assumed the same stance as the Goddess of Beauty and War.
The whole lobby was now silently watching, bewitched by a moment in real flesh and blood that was proving to be more entertaining than any movie they were about to see. “No, that’s not… what happened was…”
Michael scrambled to put together the pieces. He had just been thinking about candy, what could possibly be going on. Then it hit him. At the front of the line, as the rookie cashier struggled with the card reader, his accuser waited leaning on the counter placing her perfectly round butt in the sightline of the candy case. As his eyes wandered and the look of lustful desire for candy crossed his face, based on a lifetime of experience the woman had only one way to interpret these actions.
Being a man who strived to treat everyone with respect and dignity, Michael was not the least bit prepared to defend himself from these wildly inaccurate accusations. To make matters worse, his own anxiety about his candy habits and how for years the closest he ever felt to love was at the bottom of family sized bag of M&M’s, trapped the real explanation of events at the back of his throat where he began to choke on them.
“I’m so sorry, see what happened was, I was looking at the candy case, and see I really love candy…” He attempted.
“Really,” She interrupted. “I could feel you undressing me with your eyes and you expect me to believe ‘Oh I wasn’t gawking at you, I was gawking at that thing right behind you, duh!’” Her impression of his voice was disturbingly accurate.
“You don’t understand,” Michael continued as the his adrenaline pumped through his veins. He tried to communicate the truth, but his complex about food kept pushing a viable defense further and further from his lips. “See I’m not even a butt man. I’m a boob man…”
Even before the words escaped his mouth, he knew he would replay this mistake in his mind for years. Not only was it not the best defense but it was a drastically inaccurate representation of him as a person. He had lost his ability to defend himself like a filthy possum in the headlights.
“Wow, seriously!?” His attacker interjected once more. “You’re so not worth it. We’re out of here. Enjoy your date with Andrew Dice Clay.” She called to Rachel over her shoulder as she exited.
A brief and everlasting moment passed.
“Um, I don’t know what just happened… but I think I need to go.” Rachel looked clearly uncomfortable.
‘What, wait, what?” Michael reached to grab Rachel’s arm as she pulled away.
The way she wrenched her arm assured Michael and everyone else in the lobby, that this had been a bad move.
“Ya, I’m out of here. Sorry. Maybe just… listen I’ll call you soon, ok?” Rachel backed away without much reassurance in her voice. Michael acknowledged without speaking as she turned quickly and walked out the door.
Michael could feel the heat of every eyeball on him. He wanted to run after Rachel, and explain. He wanted a printout of his thoughts so he could show her the misunderstanding in no uncertain terms. However, he did not move. He worried that any attempt to follow her would be misinterpreted by the witnesses and they might be compelled to call the cops. Instead he stood in the middle of the line for the concessions frozen in shock. He felt the buzz of noise slowly rise around him and people began to mind their business, but everyone left Michael a five-foot cushion.
Michael pulled out his phone and found the location of the nearest bar. Very few moments in his life called for a whiskey neat more than this one. The debate over candy was nothing compared to what he would debate over whiskey. He would either have to admit to himself that sugar had complete control over him, and find a way to explain it to another human for the first time in his life or risk losing someone he had foolishly begun picturing as the future Mrs. Candybrain. A militant butt precariously placed itself in his line of sight and the prospect of losing someone special were the first things that had ever spurred Michael to truly examine his relationship with food.
Michael swirled the brown elixir in his glass and shifted in his seat, as the ass sweat on the barstool became uncomfortable.