Going on Dates with Murderers

I think I somehow missed the part in my young adult life when I was supposed to be reckless and excusably stupid. I didn’t graduate college with stories about waking up in bathtubs or fondling strangers in foreign countries. I’m guessing those are stories that people have. I wouldn’t know. I prefer showers and I never studied abroad.

One time, I did go on a date with a serial killer, though.

I mean, not a proven serial killer, and he wasn’t on the date with me. I was just there for protection. Not that I’m much of a bodyguard. I’m very scared I’ll ever be in a situation where I’ll need to use my pepper spray, because I will undoubtedly mace myself in a fit of panic. And I’m equally as fearful of the shame that comes with explaining to the authorities that I can’t work pepper spray properly as I am of being assaulted. Girl power!

So, a few summers ago, I was out to dinner with two friends at a Mediterranean buffet. If you’ve never experienced a Mediterranean buffet, stop what you’re doing asap, go put on your stretchiest pants, and get your hummus-less belly to the nearest MediBuff.

(I know MediBuff isn’t a thing people say. Just go with it. I’m on an entirely different level of consciousness right now thinking about endless baba ghanoush.)

After we falafel-ed the shit out of ourselves, we paid our respective tabs, and left. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, one of my friends got a notification on her phone saying she had a new Facebook friend request.

“Do you either of you know who this is?” She asked, showing us the profile picture of a 20-something male wearing sunglasses and standing somewhere outdoorsy like a mountain or very large hill. Neither of us recognized him. We assumed he was a fake robot person and carried on with our lives.

Until a few minutes later when my other friend also got a notification from the same 20-something sunglasses guy requesting to be friends. Cue suspenseful music.

I waited for my friend request, but none came. Cue “slightly offended by a robot” music.

Upon further examination of his photos, we realized he was not a robot but a real live human we all knew. Specifically, one of the employees from the MediBuff. (Shh…don’t fight it.)

We pondered how he could have known our names. Did we introduce ourselves when he took our order? Did he overhear us call each other by full name in conversation? No, because neither of those are things that human people do.

But apparently, learning a person’s name by looking at her credit card when she pays her check and then Facebook friending her is a thing that people do. Or maybe just a thing that he did. He must have felt some spark when we each handed him our credit cards because that was the sole interaction we had with him during our entire meal.

We felt it only right to look through every corner of his Facebook and learn a little more about our new friend. We found out that English was not his first language, that he may have been engaged to be married at some point in his life, and that he’d recently friended an “Amelia Mercado,” which is my given name. The name that would have been on my credit card.

Cue “Oh good I am worthy of being stalked” music. And then transition it into the “But I’m not memorable enough for a stalker to distinguish me from the thousands of other racially ambiguous Amelia Mercados there are in the world” music.

When I said I missed the reckless part of my youth, that isn’t to say that I’ve missed the reckless parts of other people’s youths. I’ve often been the overly cautious mother bird to my baby bird friends, hovering closely when they leave the nest, regurgitating maternal nervousness into their mouths.

One of my friends – bless her baby bird heart – noticed our new friend listed his phone number on his Facebook page and decided to text him. He responded and the conversation eventually ended in an established meetup between the two of them. Cue anxious music/the sound of me internally hyperventilating.

All three of us went to meet MediBuff guy because I was not about to let one of my friends be murdered. At least not all by herself. We arrived at the hookah bar where he’d said to meet and saw him seated at a table near the door. I was already devising an escape plan and trying to remember which way to spray my mace.

He stood to greet us and introduced himself. He said he knew the owners of the bar and ordered us baklava and some fancy kind of hookah (if you can consider a communal tobacco-smoking device fancy?). He was attractive and polite, and I thought for a moment “At least I’ll die at the hands of a man with nice teeth.”

We learned that he was originally from Jordan and his family owned the MediBuff. He was going to school for something science-y. Microbiology, maybe? I was distracted by his well-kept facial hair and my own mortality for most of the conversation. I eventually got the courage to ask him very bluntly about the credit card name thing after shoveling more baklava in my face.

“Ha ha! Yes!” he laughed and very proudly extended his hand for a high-five. You know how you aren’t supposed to wave or give a “thumbs up” signal in some cultures? I would list “celebratory high fives for stalker behavior” as an American no-no.

Much of the conversation was typical, getting-to-know-you banter while he subtly peppered in completely insane details.

On Where He Grew Up
Us: “Tell us more about growing up in Jordan.”
Him: “It was good. For fun, we’d sometimes throw rocks at birds.”

On Pets
Me: “I’ve had a couple of dogs.”
Friend 1: “I had a steer when I was in 4-H.”
Friend 2: “We traveled a lot and never really had pets.”
Him: “Once, I put a cat in a dryer.”

On High School
Us: “High school was a weird time for everyone.”
Him: “Yeah, once my friend and I pulled a prank on our teacher by cutting the brakes on her car.” (recollective laughter)
Us: “…was she okay?”
Him: “Not really.”

On How Our Day Had Been
Us: “Work was long, but that’s about it.”
Him: “A car accident happened in front of me yesterday.”
Us: “Was everyone okay?”
Him: “I think so. Do you want to see the video I took of it?”
Us: “No…Also, was that before or after you called 911?”
Him: “What?”

We tried to pry on the almost-marriage he’d alluded to on his Facebook. But conversation on personal relationships was a line not to be crossed. Murderous, psychopathic tendencies? Sure! Previous girlfriends? GTFO.

Eventually, we called it a night, and that was really the last I saw of him. We went back to his family’s MediBuff once or twice, mostly at the prospect of free baklava. But I avoided initiating any conversation at the risk of becoming an accessory to another one of his crimes.

(Side note to murderers: if you want to party and talk about your feelings, apparently I’m easily enticed by complimentary pastries.)

In retrospect, I’m a little surprised this story doesn’t end with me in a bathtub. But like, chopped into pieces in the tub with my skin hanging off the side, drying out to be used as a lampshade or for human jerky.

This is why I don’t get offers for freelance writing.

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