Saturday, February 14, 2015


Calisto walked out to the podium as the applause died down. Good, there was a podium. Something to anchor her unsteadiness. She squinted through the house lights, unable to register any particular face, the audience rendered a fuzzy abstraction of humanity. "Hello," she spoke into the microphone, waves of echoing sound crashing through her. "Good morning, and thank you for your interest in Lunch Dates. If you'll check beneath your seat we have provided info packets which include special offers for discounts on places to eat. You and a friend, or something more, can eat for free today. But our hope is that your good fortune will not end there." She felt herself droning. This part of the presentation always felt rote to her and she'd wanted to shorten it or skip it entirely and maybe tack it on at the end.
"You see, we believe there's someone out there for everybody. I mean, that's obvious. You ever see a couple and be like 'Eww, why?'" Scant laughter from the audience. "Well, we want to be that why."
She cleared her throat. The perfect memory of what she was supposed to say next was embedded deeply in her mind, but it wasn't what she wanted to say anymore. Instead, she began, "I started this site because I got dumped. No, that's not true. I mean I did, but that wasn't why."
Oh dear god. That kiss. He had kissed her and the effect of it was just barely starting to register. She hadn't even recoiled. In fact, it was suddenly making her feel dead sexy. He had kissed her when she had shown up drunk and disoriented. Had he planned it? It had a staged feel. A confidence booster of some sort? Still reeling from the memory, she soldiered on.
"The truth is, I met somebody. Under reallllllly strange circumstances. Maybe how you meet someone is just as important as who you meet. And we both were in some pain, ready to embark on some kind of new chapter, you might say. I don't need to be going into this. All I mean to say is, we wanted people like us to have new and exciting experiences as well."
It was astonishing at this point how functional she was being. She was way off script at this point, but the direction she was going in felt more intimate, which seemed to suit a dating site presentation. Monte was working the Powerpoint file projected behind her, but as she went on and her speech had less and less to do with any of the slides, he froze and watched with the rest of the audience, enraptured.
"Lunch Dates," she said (this part of the speech was actually in the script, though paraphrased greatly at this moment). "We call it that, but it's really for any meal, or even any occasion. Our careers, our professional lives, make it nearly impossible to really meet new people. You're out busting ass, eight days a week, going so hard that by the time you actually get some free time you're too exhausted to make any real connections.
"Lunch Dates changes all that. Changes..." She began to notice that people who hadn't bothered to be at the start of the presentation were now trickling in, often in groups. Was she slurring? If she wasn't so drunk, she'd be able to tell. Maybe she was talking too loud. She tried to get a handle on her volume level. "...all that. It changes all that by making connections faster than fast, more instantaneous than any other dating app. Food... We believe in food. What that means is, if you're eating the same food as someone, that's an immediate thing in common right there. Not like eating off someone's plate, oh God that'd be creepy." She chuckled with the audience. "Like tastes palates, that stuff, preferences. That's important. It might be more important than anything. All couples end up eating the same crap. Even if they don't at the start.
"We don't know why that is, but it seems universal. So right off the bat, that means your chances are awesome. Your potential maybe hinges on this. We don't know why. We also noticed that fat people tend to date other fat folks, and skinnies tend to attract others. No offense to people with different body types. But it's true, we looked into studies. We don't know why. Maybe it's because we're more comfortable that way. Maybe it challenges us to keep up or to improve. Maybe we're hardwired to find similarities. Maybe it's because love is not so much blind as it is stupid. Or, maybe it's because food is the most important thing in the world."
She coughed. "I wish I had water. Maybe that's more important than food. Anyway. My time is almost up, I think. Is it? I can't tell. Okay, I have to go. Thanks for listening, thanks for your time. Now go, please, download the app, it's free and easy to use. Please... do this for me. I don't... I don't have anything left. Basically my entire happiness is riding on this thing." Was she crying or just ready to cry? Her voice was sure wobbling. "Anyway, thanks. Now my partner Monte is going to conduct the Q&A session. I was supposed to, but I can't do this anymore. Excuse me."
She rushed offstage while Monte approached the podium nervously. No applause. The atmosphere in the room had gone poisonous. Pure trainwreck fascination. Now full-on blubbering, Calisto flopped down on the backstage couch, coughed, belched and vomited all over it.