Put a Ring Around the Rosie Excerpt
“Guess maybe you shoulda put a ring on it,” I tell Alex as we’re closing up. He’s been bitching, for the past half-hour, about some woman who texted him to break their date and I am. So. Over it. Yeah, it sucks; no one likes to be rejected. But it’s not like he’s hurting for either companionship or sex. Ever since he and his boyfriend broke up, he’s been indiscriminately dating both men and women. And I do mean indiscriminately.
I mean, I get it, okay? He’s gorgeous. Of course, everyone he meets—and their brothers, and their sisters, and probably all their cousins as well, are gonna wanna try and get a piece of that. But does he have to take so many of them up on their offers?
“Besides,” I add. “Dates, for you, are like mosquitos for everyone else. Maybe this one got swatted, but so what? Just hold still a minute. There’ll be a new swarm comin’ through before you know it. Whether you want ’em to or not.
He stops packing up the leftover baked goods to stare at me. “Are you high right now?”
“I’m at work, so no. Why?”
“Dates are like mosquitos? That’s a terrible analogy. What the hell does that even mean?”
“Okay. It could maybe use some work,” I admit.
“Also, nobody ever ‘wants’ a swarm of mosquitos. That’s not even a thing.”
“Needs work. Like I said.”
“And…put a ring on it?”
“Like in the Beyonce song?”
“Yeah, I got the reference. But did you, somehow, fail to realize that I barely know this woman? This would’ve been what…our fourth date?”
“Why ask me? I’m not your social secretary. I don’t keep track of your love life.”
“Not the point. What I mean is who in their right mind makes the decision to marry someone after just three dates?”
“It was a metaphorical ring, Alex. What I meant was that sometimes you need to exhibit a willingness to commit yourself to someone, or to something, that you care about. Lord knows you’re cute, but that’s not always going to be enough, you know? A lot of people, a lot of women anyway, aren’t gonna want to keep dating someone who gives them no indication that they’re at all serious.”
“You think I’m cute?”
“Really? Out of everything I just said, that’s the part you pick up on?”
“Well…” He makes puppy dog eyes at me. I roll my own eyes in response.
“Nope.” I shake my head. “Forget it. Not going there. I’m not here to stroke your ego. It’s big enough as it is. And, even if that weren’t the case, you’re still gonna have to find someone else to do it—because I am not interested.”
“Well, do you think maybe you’d be interested in stroking something else?”
His question catches me off guard. Or maybe it’s that I’m trying to focus on the drawer I’m counting, because whatever he’s getting at, it sails completely over my head. I stare at him blankly. “Like what?”
“Oh, I dunno. Something else that’s ‘big enough as it is,’ but could still get bigger?”
It takes another moment for the nickel to drop. When it does, my eyes widen, my face gets so hot, so quick that I feel like I’ve been hit by a blast of steam. My heart starts pounding as my imagination provides a not-at-all-helpful, and extremely graphic image of exactly what that something else might look like. And also what it would feel like, how it would taste… I shut that line of thought down fast, just like I always do. Because it’s a fucking thirst trap and I don’t dare to get caught in it. “Eww. Gross.”
Alex’s eyes widen. “What are you, ten years old? Who uses words like gross?”
“Oh, please. You’re over there making dick jokes but I’m the one who’s talking like a ten-year-old? I don’t think so. Besides, we’re at work. So, watch your mouth. Because I’m pretty sure that counts as sexual harassment.”
“What? No. C’mon. We’re friends. I’m goofing around. You’re not really offended, are you?”
“No, but someone else might be. You can’t do that sort of shit.”
“But also, you’re right about us being friends. Which is another reason not to say things like that. Because, in general, I try not to have those kinds of thoughts about my friends. You know?”
“Obviously I don’t,” he says as he shoots me a look I can’t interpret. “Anyway, getting back to our previous discussion. Yes, I heard you. But I don’t agree. I’m not serious about Candy. And I’m not going to pretend that I am just so I can continue to date her.”
“The woman we’ve been talking about. The one who stood me up?”
“You’re dating someone named Candy?”
“No. Try and keep up. I’m not dating her. She dumped me, remember? And yes, Candy, which is short for Candace.”
“Which makes it a perfectly reasonable nickname for a perfectly legitimate name.”
“If you say so.”
“I mean, just because you happen to have a problem with cute-sounding nicknames—”
“Oh, don’t even go there.”
“That, tragically, have unfortunate associations with lesser-known medical conditions—"
“Alex…” He flashes a grin, and that damn dimple appears and derails my thoughts. “Don’t, okay? Just don’t.”