Finally! They were seated at a table. She informed Diego what she wanted for dinner and made him order it on her behalf, which he found odd. He thought back to chauvinistic displays in days of yore, where men did that sort of thing. It never seemed to be from a place of love, though.
He knew she was more than capable of ordering for herself. Somehow, this small difference made dinner seem like a date, even though he knew she’d consume whatever she ordered with gusto as if he wasn’t even sitting there once it arrived. He’d eaten with her before, after all.
However, her attention was on him and only him while they waited for the magical moment of having food set before her. Of course, they’d never eaten together anywhere but the bar where they met each other. Being at the steakhouse certainly helped make it a distinct memory for the both of them.
“Hey… Sansara, I have a couple questions. The first question is… would you kill me if I look at what you’re giving away to Goodwill before I take it to the donation centre?”
She blinked at him a few times. “I don’t know why you’d want to do that, but I can’t stop you since it’s in your SUV and you are the one taking it to Goodwill for me. You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, y’know? On the other hand, I’m bewildered why you want to see what I decided is no longer part of my life. I mean, maybe you’d like one of the books in there or something… so go ahead. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, as they say.”
He did not expect any of that. He expected daggers and a swift kick under the table. She normally offered much less information. In fact, she almost seemed like a completely different person. Almost. He’d have to keep an eye on her, certainly. He was elated, though. She just gave him her blessing to look through her donation and take whatever he wanted. Her words indicated that she didn’t care he was going to snoop on her. That meant only one thing: she had nothing to hide from him, he thought. She may well be willing to be an open book for him. That would explain the difference he was observing tonight…
Their first date was turning out to be pretty romantic. They were already sort of playing footsie — if you can call feet touching sedately footsie. He did and he was finding it to be pleasant. Before this, Sansara was adamantly against being touched most of the time. He’d learned his lesson when he automatically went in for a hug when the Pirates won a really close game with the Cardinals and she decked him for it out of reflex. All the other guys at the sports bar who ever tried to touch her without consent learned the same lesson. If she didn’t counter with physical aggression, she stared daggers until you withered inside. She made most people feel foolish for trying to lay a finger on her.
He was still amazed that she never ended up in a bar fight for standing her ground so resolutely. She wasn’t a twig, so maybe that lent gravity to the threat of violence. Or maybe it was her propensity for wearing spike-studded leather. Because of this, some people who didn’t know her name would call her Spike. She was a Goth punk most of the time, if any label could be applied to her attire. Or perhaps biker chick would be more apropos.
He was elated. He thought for sure dating Sansara would be quite challenging, but it was like an animal that flopped over and exposed belly. She was being soft and oh so fluffy! (<– Song link here.) She was staring at him like she’d never get bored, which he found to be the opposite of the woman he’d come to know. Did he get himself into some sort of trouble, he wondered?
“You said you had questions,” she finally said. “As in, more than one. What else do you want to know? I’ll tell you about whatever you want to know.”
Oof! There were a million things he wanted to know about this babe. Where could he even begin? He decided to start with the one he’d already had in mind. “What is up with those Music Legs?” he asked, referring to the nylons by their brand name. “I mean, is there a story?” he added hastily as her countenance changed from a smile to a thoughtful look.
“Well, darling,” she said in a mock southern accent. “I bought them because I have thunder thighs and I thought because that part was open that they might fit better… then I realized my hips are a bigger issue for fitting into them. That was one hundred pounds ago, though, so I probably should try them on… if there’s ever an occasion that calls for it.”
Diego blinked at her rapidly. What did he just hear? She bought them because they might fit better than normal nylons? It came out so quickly, so naturally, that there was no way that was some cockamamie story she cooked up on the fly to baffle him… was there? He waited, expecting her to tell him she was fibbing, since she sometimes did when she was getting his goat.
“I mean… I could lie and tell you that I bought them the day I thought you were probably the most attractive male specimen I’ve ever met and…” she suddenly looked down. Was there a trace of a blush on those cheeks? It had to be, they were pink! His interest was piqued and his ego was summarily flattered, too. He’d had no idea she’d thought so highly of him until now. Could that be why she never really looked at him?! ‘Oh my God, I’m an idiot,’ he thought to himself. She was definitely shy. She didn’t seem shy at the sports bar but now that they were on their first date…
“Sansara, you don’t have to lie about why you have them. But now that you mention it… when did you buy them? You clearly already lost the weight before we met.” Diego offered his hand to her from across the table. Their drinks just arrived, too. The waitress gave them a knowing smile as Sansara clasped his hand. He insisted on buying her sauvignon blanc, her wine of choice, and purchased a beer for himself. It was what they normally ordered while they were watching a game together at the bar — that was the primary way they’d connected with each other. She had glanced at the hard liquor menu but was ultimately disinterested. He would have gotten her anything she wanted, really. He would stay all night while she boozed it up, until they were kicked out at closing time, if that’s what she wanted. It was, in part, because he had a notion of getting her muscles to relax so he could try to manipulate that hip and relocate it. He promised himself that was all, however, unless she was stone sober. ‘Otherwise, I might as well be a carbon copy of Psycho Boy Ben,‘ he thought.
“Oh… I bought them maybe ten years ago. I was into nylons for a short period of time. I even had some thigh highs for a bit, but those don’t fit anymore since my legs are like… half that size now. I didn’t like the fact that sites didn’t list their size guide as well as they do these days. It’s how I ended up with tights that don’t fit. My hips are still kind of big, anyway, so I’m not sure they’d fit even now… but that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up hope completely.” She looked up at him suddenly. “Besides, I’ve gotten the distinct impression that perhaps a certain gentleman would love to see them on his girl,” she declared in that southern drawl.
She did that from time to time… adopting accents and using voices. She had a pretty good Cartman impression, a bellow that could put at least some men to shame which she used to cheer for her teams, and a few others. He didn’t really think anything of it these days, but it jostled a thought loose in his brain. Could it be that Sansara had multiple personality disorder? He’d never asked that… ‘I suppose I could now,‘ he thought. He smiled at the his girl part.
“I would love to see them on you some day, but I don’t think I want anyone else to see them on you,” he said, responding to the topic currently on the table.
“That’s why you wear a beautiful and long dress over them, silly,” she declared. “They look just like regular nylons, dude. Duh.” His eyes were glued to her face. He tried to recall if he’d ever heard her say Duh before. He didn’t think so.
“Okay, you’re right, but the thought of someone else potentially knowing about it bothers me greatly,” he said earnestly, trying to impress upon her that he had notions regarding the subject. Feelings, even. Feelings of protectiveness. And, yes, of course he had an avid interest over what might happen if she wore them for him, but primarily he was concerned with protecting her.
She just smiled at him, her eyes sparkling a little too much, like she might cry. Good lord, what did he say wrong now?! He waited. She might have something to say if he didn’t fill in all the blanks with his own chatter. He’d learn to wait for her after they’d had a few run-ins at the bar. If he didn’t, she would stop talking altogether and he grew bored of the sound of his own voice in no time.
“Diego… I’m not going to wear them to the bar,” she admonished in a near-whisper. “I’ll give them up since you’re uncomfortable with them.” And there was the classic Sansara move: he expressed his discomfort and she went completely the other way. She chose to offer the thing she thought might please him most. And it did, too. ‘Maybe I’m too overprotective,‘ he thought.
“Although… I have something I want to ask you first. Before I pitch them into a Goodwill bag…” He stared at her, waiting for her to go on. Her eyes scanned his face a few times as she paused. “What about having a date night at home once in a while? I could wear them then. But I’m not putting those fucking things on just for sex. I’m telling you that right now.“
If he’d been drinking water, he’d be sputtering right now. He forgot for a moment that she had a mouth like a sailor. What other reason was there for such a thing? Crotchless nylons were expressly made for having sex without getting undressed! This woman was something else, he decided. And most importantly, she just called his place home. That was fast, but as we all know, home is where the heart is. ‘Her cats are her heart,‘ he thought. He knew that for sure.
“I think they’re pretty,” she added after a few heartbeats. He had to admit, the design was quite lovely. They had a lace pattern look to them. He briefly thought about them covering her legs and tried to push the thought away immediately. He wasn’t going to be a great conversationalist if he let himself roll around in the gutter. That happened once in a great while. Primarily while he was actively spending time with her. Sometimes he thought about her while they were apart, as well, but he tried to be a perfect gentleman in his head, not just in the real world everyone shared.
“Okay, duly noted…” He had no idea what else to say to that. He did think from time to time that the woman was completely insane, but normally it was the funny kind of insane. This wasn’t all that funny. He also noted she was halfway through her wine glass when the onion rings arrived. She looked so happy to see some food appear before her. He’d seen this a hundred times by now. It never changed. She truly delighted in food and it was no secret.
He thought about her request to put an onion ring on her finger. She had already covered her fingertips in grease, so he figured he’d just go for it. He dropped to one knee beside her, an onion ring in hand, and asked her the big question while he looked into her eyes. “Sansara, will you marry me?”
She positively melted in response to his romantic display with the most preposterous kind of ring one could propose with: an onion ring. She thrust her left hand out to him and declared, “Yes, I will!” After he put the ‘ring’ on her finger, she threw her arms around him in a hug and kissed him on the cheek again. He smiled and then kissed her lips, another kiss just like they’d shared in her old apartment’s doorway. He couldn’t help but marvel at how soft she was. She was soft everywhere, it seemed.
She couldn’t help but smile now. As silly as her request was, it was incredibly meaningful to her. They both were genuinely happy. Diego tried to ignore all the people around them that had just witnessed his whacked out proposal to the gorgeous Ms. Crystal Scordias, minorly uncomfortable at all the attention the proposal attracted. It was certainly extraordinary, to say the least. He might not know everything about her. In fact, he suspected his knowledge merely scratched the surface. He still decided he didn’t care. This was the woman for him.
She told him more about her dietary restrictions once the proposal buzz faded and their drinks diminished significantly, which was several minutes later. She could only eat one or two pieces of the appetizer. She had stopped eating gluten for her health, but she loved them anyway. That’s what she meant by poison, he found out.
She had a long, long list of foods she would not eat anymore because they made her miserable. She explained her diet the best way she knew how to as she broke the breading off half the rings to eat only the onion portion. She had said she wasn’t sure yet but she might be celiac. She would get tested eventually, when she had health insurance again, and in the meantime quit gluten herself. He hoped not, considering that meant any gluten contamination was bad. He still ate gluten-laden foods himself and wasn’t exactly keen on changing his diet. In fact, he had a wheat based cereal on top of the fridge at home. He decided he ought to plan on updating his diet to the best of his ability since he sincerely wished to wed her. On the bright side, he barely had anything to eat there at the moment. He’d just cleaned out his refrigerator, actually, to make sure she could fill it up with whatever she could eat. He had to do something while he waited for her text.
He had asked her about her avoidant attitude when it came to doctors while he’d driven them to the steakhouse. That’s when he found out she didn’t currently see a chiropractor, either. She hadn’t been to any doctors since she moved into town, though she did end up in the mental health ward of the local hospital for five days right after moving into town. He thought her choice to avoid a chiropractor was bold, considering her chronically dislocated hip. It turned out that she had gotten used to the pain over time and it barely bothered her anymore. In fact, all four of her limbs were dislocated once upon a time, she’d said. He couldn’t even imagine. He’d dislocated his thumb once and that was so painful he thought he’d cry, especially when he bumped it against anything in carelessness. She was walking around with that hip without a whimper. She knew it made her weaker, though, and she wasn’t happy with that at all.
She told him that the doctor situation was too long of a story for the car ride to the steakhouse, though. So he decided to ask again now. “So, is it too late in the evening to ask about the doctor thing?” he inquired.
He started to see a correlation between her behavior and the amount of wine she drank. At the bars, she never drank more than one glass of wine. She only stayed for two hours at the most, no matter how a game was going. She drank her wine, sobered up, and went home. She almost never left after dark. It would get dark soon, he thought. ‘Maybe she turns into a pumpkin,‘ he thought.
“Is it too late in the evening to order a second glass of wine, designated Dave?” she counter questioned. “Wait, I should change that to designated Diego,” she amended.
He studied her for a very long moment. He had no way to tell who she would be after a second glass of sauvignon blanc. He decided to ask her a question instead of providing an answer, “Do you think that’s wise?” He gently nudged her foot with his own to subtly remind her they were dating. He thought if anything would, that would. He didn’t want to say it after his public display of affection.
“Aren’t you going to be a perfect gentleman for an entire day and just marry me tomorrow?” she asked somewhat provocatively. She waved the wine glass that was in her hand in his direction, almost losing some of her drink. “I mean… how badly do you need the sex, baby?” (<– Song link here) Her southern drawl came out again just then. The way she said baby was more like bay–bee. Two distinct syllables said with rhythm. She frowned at the threatened loss of her white wine and doubled down on sipping it.
He blushed. Of course, her timing was impeccable. The waitress just arrived with their steak dinner. He thanked Jeannie for his plate and Sansara did the same, giving the waitress eyes almost as round as saucers and clasping her hands together in front of her heart as she asked, “Would you please bring me another glass of sauvignon blanc?” His date — no, his fiancée — almost sounded French in that moment and he wondered again what he’d gotten himself into. Where did she come from? It was almost like dating a Conehead, except she didn’t look any different than a typical human being. Jeannie chuckled and said, “You got it, lady. I hope you deeply enjoy your steaks, you two.” She winked at him as she walked off to retrieve a glass of wine for Sansara.
“My darling,” Crystal drawled as Jeannie left earshot. She switched to her Cartman voice for the rest of her delivery. “As much as it would please me to take you to the bed, I think you are getting cold feetses and therefore I am counting on sleeping alone. I happen to know you just decided you don’t really know me, so let the games begin!”
“Actually, I’m counting on sleeping with my three kitties,” she amended. He smiled softly over that.
“It’s my turn to bore you with too much chit chat, Diego. I have questions now. Can I call you Go for short? Also, did anyone torment you with L’eggo my Diego as a kid? I could see that one being a thing. I got called Crystal Burger King. That one wasn’t even clever, if you ask me.” He started to laugh as she spoke, but when she said a name that was completely out of left field, he sat up straight. “Oh, baby, settle down. I changed it legally ages ago so I could leave the old life behind and embrace a new beginning. I didn’t tell you before because I wasn’t really sure where we stood with each other… I was just playing it safe. Mostly because I believe Psycho Boy Ben will try to follow me some day and I really don’t want to see that man’s face ever again. If I do, I might stab him and then I might be in trouble with the law and let’s not.” He found himself nodding along, cutting into his steak and eating his dinner since she wasn’t giving much room for reply. It was riveting and he was also incredibly hungry, so her sudden babbling streak was serendipitous. She was talking and eating at the same time, which she had done in front of him at least once before. He forgave her barbaric approach to the proposal dinner because he wanted to hear everything she felt like telling him, especially since he just learned she had another name once upon a time. “This steak is wonderful!” she interjected randomly.
“I’m sorry if anyone teased you about being a waffle. I love waffles. I actually have a doughnut waffle recipe. I’ll have to make us waffles! Bullies are one of a kind and a dime a dozen.” She paused as Jeannie returned with the second glass of wine. “Thanks, Jeannie! You’re the best!” she declared without a hint of sarcasm. Jeannie laughed and asked if they needed anything else. Sansara stared at Diego to see if he had an answer as she herself stuffed more steak into her mouth.
“I think we’re doing great, but I might need more water in about five minutes or so,” he informed the bubbly server.
“Oh, make that two, please!” Sansara said suddenly, picking up her water glass to drain it. Jeannie told them she’d be back with some water shortly, adding that she appreciated Diego’s forecast for more water as she left again.
“Diego, I have bad news… I’ll be right back. Watch my drink, would ya?” Sansara said as she slid out of the booth. She turned and winked at him before she made a bee line to the bathroom. This was normal, though what wasn’t normal is that she had a drink to watch. ‘I’m pretty sure she’s being ironic, but it’s so hard to tell!‘ he thought to himself. She was autistic, after all, so she often delivered irony without a trace of displaying whether or not she understood the irony. She was often deadpan, especially when she delivered jokes. He noted that she always ran off to the restroom after a glass of wine and a glass of water. That, too, was normal.
She reappeared in no time. He was still thinking about everything she’d said that day and the day before when she slid back into the booth. He presumed she’d gotten some water on her shirt since there were tiny dark spots, but she otherwise looked exactly the same as she’d left. He noted that she did look different today. Normally, she wore jerseys or oversized Rob Zombie shirts to the bar. She wore them with strange pants that reminded him of Aladdin, which often were not attractive at all. And spikes. Not today, though. Today she had on skinny jeans and a blouse that left almost nothing to his imagination as he gazed upon her. She’d never wore anything like that to the bar. Not ever. He should not have been surprised that she wouldn’t wear those stockings there, either. He actually didn’t know where else she went during the day, aside from shopping at the grocery store he was employed by daily. He decided he was quite pleased she was living with him now, even if she had more facets than he’d previously experienced.
“My apple geez,” she said in a funny tone. “Or apologies, for those of us who are adults that use English.” She picked up her wine glass and raised it toward him. “To us. I wish I thought of this before you drained your beer, but it is what it is.”
He picked up his water glass and clinked it against her wine glass. “To us,” he murmured. He was fascinated and waited for the next curve ball she’d toss to him.
“I don’t drink very often but I posit that a bottle of wine at home is the same price as two glasses of wine out and about, Sir Deli Man,” she said, using that odd moniker a second time. This was only the second time he’d heard it, anyway.
Diego raised a finger into the air and waited. Sansara looked at him expectantly, hoping he’d go on without verbal prompting. She relaxed a little when he did. “Sansara… Why do you call me Sir Deli Man?”
“Because I used Mountain Dragon Man on a dragon boy in the deep past now, although you can have that title, too, if you want it. I almost can see you as a Volcano Phoenix Man instead. Explosive! KaBOOM!” Thankfully she didn’t actually shout the word boom, but she was louder when she said it. This was possibly the most animated he had ever seen the woman since he met her two years ago. “Because you’re a deli man and I respect you and if you’re my white knight in shining armor, you definitely deserve the title Sir. And because I have an idea for an anime but uh… I don’t want to tell you here. In fact, I don’t want to tell you until after we’re married.” She narrowed her eyes at him, still somehow looking playful at the same time. “You might try to steal my great idea just like the hilly dragon whelp and then I’d have to rethink it all up again and just fucking marry me already. I knew I wanted to be with you the first time I saw you.“
This time, he did sputter water. But she didn’t pause for his sake, nope. “Anyway, you’re an incredibly handsome chap, if I do say so myself, plus you laugh at things I say without a trace of malice in you and you have the dreamiest eyes and did we talk about how your biceps are like rocks?!“
Diego couldn’t help himself. He started laughing again. That’s when Sansara finally paused. She let him catch his breath before she said, “I suspect you’re going to want to know all about Crystal and telepathy before you marry me, though, so I kind of ruined our second date tomorrow. I’m not really sorry, though, because you should know I’m two people. At least. Maybe more. Well, only two of us have names right now, although the one you met at the bar likes to be called Evie. Anyway, as you might have guessed, I’m nuts and so is everyone else. And if you can accept that, then I’m yours, Sir Deli Man. Forever.”
He sobered up by the end of her speech and just stared at her. She stared back, sipping her wine. Their dinner was finished, but she still had half a wine glass left. He briefly thought about dessert as he looked across the table at her. He didn’t actually want the date to end, despite the insanity unfolding right before him.
“I don’t mind.” She said suddenly. “In fact, let me get that for you.” Sansara nodded at Jeannie, who had just looked at her in that moment. Diego stared as the server appeared at their table side. “Ms. Jeannie, would you please bring my man an ice cream topped brownie with all the little extra swirls of chocolate and bits? We would be ever so grateful.” The character sitting across from him gave Jeannie her signature smile. It was blinding.
“Coming right up!” Jeannie replied and was gone again, snatching their receipt from the table to update it with dessert.
“Hey Diego,” Sansara said as she turned her attention back to him. “How much is the rent, anyway?”
His jaw dropped as he stared at the woman across from him. She ordered exactly what he wanted for dessert. He tried to remember if he ever had anything like that at the bar where they normally hung out together, but he didn’t think so. The bar didn’t even have brownies topped with ice cream.
“Rent, Diego. How much?” she prompted him again as she slid a card out of her metal wallet and slid it out just as Jeannie brought dessert. “And no, you didn’t.” Diego stared some more, flabbergasted. Sansara smiled softly as she noted there were two spoons in the dessert before pushing it over to Diego. “This is yours, sir. I cannot eat it at all. And you better brush your teeth if you plan on kissing me tonight.”
Diego blinked a few more times. “Should I feed it to you?” Sansara asked suddenly, eyeing the decadent brownie with all the fixings. He couldn’t help but laugh again.
“No…” he said finally, waving his hand out in front of him. “I wasn’t going to ask you for rent because I know you’re between jobs right now, honey.”
“No way am I being a deadbeat roommie! HOW MUCH?” Sansara demanded. He was taken aback. She wasn’t a roommie. She was his future wife. He wished he had a real ring to give her just then.
“Uh… How about $200 a month and you do some cleaning?” he asked. “And if you’re feeling extra nice, make dinner on the days I work?”
“Size 7. That depends on what chores you want to give me. Bending over isn’t really my forte with my bum hip right now, you know. Deal. I’ll have it for you tomorrow. Unless I somehow forget. If I do, I’ll give you a check. Also, are we getting hitched tomorrow? No? Okay. No problem. That probably costs something, as well.”
Diego blinked again, his mouth full of brownie. This was a lot for him to take in. He’d never seen Sansara anything like this. Was this her other self, then? She nodded at the exact moment he wondered that, staring him in the eyes. The two were almost polar opposites, it seemed. She nodded again, almost imperceptibly. One was completely reserved and the other was completely animated. One was the epitome of a lady and the other? He wasn’t sure yet, but sailor came back to mind. Sansara grinned at the exact moment he thought that… The way she mentioned sex so casually caught him off guard completely. And then she winked at him.
‘Was she telepathic?’ he wondered just then. She gave him the biggest smile.
Jeannie came back with the receipt, Sansara’s card, and a pen. Sansara signed her name with glee, added a tip, and put her card back away. “I don’t want you think you got me all drunk tonight. I got myself drunk because my hip is pissing me off and because I don’t have to drive anywhere thanks to the most wonderful man I’ve ever had the chance to date. I might have had positively lovely dates once upon a time, but the past is completely hazy. I still have to tell you all about Dr. Death!”
Diego just kept eating. He had no idea what to say right now. At least her foot hadn’t moved; their toes were still exerting a gentle pressure against each other. It was kind of comforting, knowing she wanted contact, even if it wasn’t overt. The brownie was delicious, of course, but he refrained from making any noises of appreciation. The way Sansara eyed it told him she wanted some, too, but she couldn’t possibly partake. The woman had ordered him something she used to love, he wagered.
“I certainly did used to love brownies topped with ice cream and chocolate syrup and chocolate shavings, but I’ve long since given that poison up. And this is my thank you dinner for giving me sanctuary. I just literally can’t anymore with those people. I’m up to my eyeballs in disgust over their habits. Plus, you know, you came through like Superman. I can definitely appreciate that. But I ain’t no Lois Lane,” she said abruptly, her countenance changing for a minute. “That woman has absolutely no sense. She plays victim all the time. She should learn to defend herself already. Also, I’m not telling them that I moved out, I’m going to wait and see how long it takes them to figure it out.”
Sansara propped her chin up on her hands, waiting patiently on him since her drink was finished. She kept babbling on and off again, but nothing too overwhelming… just left field. He thought he was dating a level-headed lady and it turns out she had an effervescent teenager locked away inside her, as well. “A telepathic teenager named Crystal,” Sansara told him.