"Do you have a favorite toe?": My Worst Date Ever
I went out with Arvin (not his real name) a few days after a boyfriend of three years and I broke up.
I was young and heartbroken and just wanted a distraction. So when Arvin asked me out, I went for it. He had asked so casually that I didn't think it was a question. It came out like a whispered sentence, like his only goal was to put out a wish into the world and speak it into existence.
"Sure, why not?" I said to him in the hallway outside the school newspaper. In retrospect, I remember feeling reluctant.
Arvin was the guy in college who went around talking about nihilism all day. He pieced together what he called a "sword" out of a metal stick and a black plastic doohickey. I never knew where he found either of those items, but he hoarded that "sword" in the newspaper office for years until I dismembered it and threw it out.
All of this swirled and more through my head in the few, almost palpable seconds of hesitation I took before answering. But I was tired of crying over a boy I had broken up with who was never a good match for me anyway. So I said yes.
A few days later—on my birthday—he messaged me on Facebook. Not to wish me a happy birthday, but to plan the date. Then Arvin started brainstorming places and activities, presumably as a nice gesture to celebrate my birthday, I thought. He mentioned rock climbing and the "Queens Natural History Museum."
When I hadn't yet responded—again, on the day of my birthday when I was likely celebrating with family and other friends and probably attending class—he texted me a follow up hours later asking how the museum sounded to me.
In all my decades of living next door to this museum, I've never once heard someone call it the "Queens Natural History Museum." It's always been the Queens Museum to me, and that's what it's called today.
The artsy-fart in me chose the museum. We made plans for the weekend immediately following my birthday. At this point, I had forgotten he asked me out, so I went into the date thinking we were just hanging out. As friends. In the days leading up to the event, Arvin made no mention of the word "date," and neither did I, having forgotten all about it.
Day of, I got to the museum a bit early, so I opened a book and began to read. The next time I looked up, half an hour had gone by. Arvin was 20 minutes late. I checked my phone to see if I somehow missed the sound of the Facebook message ping while I had my head down in my book. There was nothing.
I sent a text telling him I had arrived and went back to reading. He answered seconds later, telling me he was on the way. Arvin lived close enough to the museum that, judging from the amount of time between his text and his arrival, I'm certain he left his house the moment he texted he was on the way.
When he got there, I didn't say anything. I didn't mind having extra time to read in the park. The museum itself was amazing (and I highly recommend taking the trip). The conversation, though, was odd. Arvin asked me a series of questions at each art piece. Some questions were normal (think: what does this art remind you of or make you think of?). Others were not.
"Do you have a favorite toe?" Arvin asked as he stared into a painting. I don't remember any details about the painting–probably because I was so taken aback by the question.
A few seconds of silence passed between us until I asked for clarification. "Did you say favorite toe?" I asked, hoping this would turn into a funny mishearing.
I'm paraphrasing because this conversation happened years ago, but he said something like this in response: "Yes, I think if I had to cut off one toe, it wouldn't be the pinky because it's good for balance."
"I actually hate feet and thinking about them makes me want to barf," I told him. At that point, I walked to the other side of the museum for a few minutes to myself. As we navigated the different corners of the museum, Arvin followed me around and asked me more unusual questions. I was relieved to exit, thinking that the artwork must have elicited from him a bunch of odd thoughts.
After the museum, we went on the hunt for some food. On his recommendation, we landed in a crowded cafe bursting with tables and tightly tucked chairs. We stood inside for a few minutes, scouting for an empty table. When we found one, there were no chairs so we just stood around it.
After settling in, I went to the bathroom and left Arvin for a few minutes. I returned to two full plates at the table, sandwiches packed tight with pink deli meats and cold cuts.
"What's this?" I asked, wondering if they brought food to the wrong table.
"I ordered for you," Arvin told me. "The best thing on the menu. Tongue and liver meat between the bread."
Arvin didn't realize I was a vegetarian. When I told him, he apologized profusely and said I didn't have to pay him back. He went on to eat his sandwich. I didn't want to be rude and leave him in the restaurant (but the thought definitely crossed my mind—multiple times), so I picked at the bread, waiting for him to finish.
He walked me to the subway after lunch. He asked which direction I was heading in. Knowing he lived along the route I took home, I lied and told him I'm walking to a friend's house.
At that point, Arvin chose to drop a bomb. "So, would you like to go on a second date?"
It dawned on me that this was the date Arvin had asked me on a few days ago. After a few more seconds of palpable tension and silence, I turned him down.
"No," I said, mustering as high-pitched a voice as possible and tacking on a smile. I turned and walked down the street, heading to the pretend house of my make-believe friend that I told him about.
A couple seconds in, thinking he must have already gotten to the subway station and swiped in the turnstiles, I turned around to head back to the subway station. I rushed through the turnstiles and chose to go to the very front of the 7 train home, hoping Arvin was the type to prefer riding in the middle or end of the train.
I didn't run into him on the train. And after this "date," I didn't message him again. I actively avoided him in the hallways and was relieved when he graduated a few months later, knowing I would not have to see him while finishing up my remaining three years.