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A First Date Immediately Following Quarantine


Man and Woman are seated together in a restaurant. She has lipstick on her forehead. His tie hangs down his back. It is clear that they have not done this in a while.

Woman: It’s so nice to meet you.

Man: You, too. You look a little different from your pictures; did you—

Woman: Not shave for six months? Absolutely.

Woman lifts her arms over her head to reveal impressive armpit hair. They laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Woman: So what do you do for fun?

Man: These days? I leave the house and touch my face, now that I’m allowed! Sometimes I even bathe in Purell, since it’s no longer an endangered species.

They laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Woman: “Species,” that’s funny—

Man: I’m really funny, yeah. It’s actually one of my main qualities.

Woman: I love that about you. What’d you do for fun in . . . Before Times?

Man: Oh, I’d count all the pennies in my coin jar seventeen times, or rearrange my stack of toilet paper to look like the ships in that Manet painting of the Civil War—

Woman: No, ​Before​ Times.

Man (pauses, stoic): Oh. Those times. I think I . . . did yoga?

Woman (lights up): I think I did yoga, too! Before I spent six months locked in my apartment.

Man puts hand on Woman’s hand.

Man: I also just spent six months locked in my apartment. It’s nice to finally meet someone I have so much in common with.

Woman: You know, my friends said I was crazy. They said, “Why do you keep talking to that guy from Tinder? You won’t see him for months, and you’ve never met, and he has a photo of himself beating his chest while holding a knife.” But I said, “You guys just don’t get it.”

Man smiles. There is a long pause.

Man: So do you have any siblings?

Woman: One brother.

Another long pause.

Man: Brothers, am I right?

They laugh, and laugh, and then suddenly fall quiet.

Man: I’m not used to talking to people.

Woman: I know. I feel like there should be a screen right now, stopping me from actually touching you.

She holds her hand out, flat, in front of his face, like a mime. He’s clearly uncomfortable, but, still, they laugh, and laugh, and laugh. It’s obvious that neither of them has laughed in months. It’s also obvious that neither of them finds the other funny. The waiter enters.

Waiter: What can I get you started with to drink?

Man and Woman look at each other and then speak in unison.

Man and Woman: Anything but beans!

They laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Like, so much. Like, a lot. It’s weird. The waiter does not laugh.

Waiter: That’s not actually a beverage, anyway.

Man and Woman (in unison): Vodka on the rocks, please. Double. Triple.

Waiter exits. There’s another long pause.

Man: So, uh, did your entire world view flip on its head in response to this global pandemic?

Woman: Let’s skip the small talk. I haven’t touched a man in six months!

Woman jumps up onto the table and starts making out with Man. Man kisses her, but then pulls away. Man coughs twice. Woman jumps down in terror.

Woman: Is that a dry cough? I knew I couldn’t trust you!

Man: I already had it! I’m immune!

Woman: We don’t know that for sure! Were you coughing before this?

Man: It’s water caught in my throat! Water, I promise!

Woman: You didn’t drink water! You’re a liar. You’re just not who I thought you were, when I projected a whole personality onto you to keep me going through quarantine. My friends said that I was crazy, but I said, “Sheila, he’s only holding a knife in two of his Tinder photos—shut the heck up!” I should have listened to her. This was a bad idea.

Their phones light up. They look down at them.

Man: Oh, it’s an emergency alert—apparently we’re supposed to go back into quarantine. They let us out too early. Wave two.

Woman: Yeah. Bummer. Text tomorrow?

Man: Sure.

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