I’m going on a date tonight.
It’s the talk of the farm. Everyone is whispering about it. Yesterday the big news was the goats escaping – but today I finally have my 15 minutes of farmyard fame. It was a close run of course between my date and the woman who picked 30 pounds of strawberries. I won out in the end though. Tonight I’m going on a date, I’m the top of the gossip hierarchy.
Now the thought of me finding a girl stupid enough to go on a date with me is a pretty fantastical one. The type of thought you stumble upon one morning and laugh about for the rest of the day. “Daniel Baird! On a date!” you’d no doubt exclaim before falling into a heap of hysterics. “Did he force a knife to that poor girls throat?” Kind of. My knife is called Shelley.
Farm folk are crazy folk. Shelley is the craziest. A healthy grin is always plastered on her face and she always greets me by trying to do my accent, only to fail and sound like an Australian leprechaun. She’s so positive, that when the end of the world comes – a huge tidal wave bearing down on us – she’ll say “aw, it’ll be ok! We can swim!” Shelley lives on the farm and every evening she finds me and pleads for me to come over for a beer. “Just come over to my house and shout ‘beer me’.” From time to time I do just that and she beers me good with a large does of enthusiasm.
Now that we’ve met Shelley we’ll take a look at a normal day on a strawberry farm. A normal day consists of weeding and looking after u-pickers. Weeding is self-explanatory, you pull weeds from the ground. Looking after u-pickers means babysitting members of the public that come to the farm to pick strawberries.
Since I’m a man, and weeding can often get tedious, I often find myself checking out the girls who arrive to pick strawberries on the farm. This often leads to “personal thoughts” which can really help the day go along quicker.
This one Sunday in particular two girls turn up and instantly my mind clicks into gear. It’s nothing perverted. I’m a gentlemen. I don’t think things like “cor, lovely tits, I’d love to put those baps in my mouth.” I instead think more wholesome thoughts like “phwoar, I bet she’s going to make jam with those strawberries, the filthy bitch!”
The better a girl is at picking strawberries, the better her jam will be. The more “Jam Factor” she has, the sexier she becomes. One of these girls definitely had the Jam Factor. She was picking berries with wide eyes and a large smile on her face. I went back to my weeds and started to think of her mashing up strawberries in a pot. A crucial stage in jamming.
Getting lost in my jamtasies I didn’t notice Shelley walking by. Moments later she interrupted my thoughts of the girl measuring pectin (another crucial stage) by calling “DAN! Have you met my nieces?!” I looked up to see her standing by the girls, all three of them grinning at me. I should have known.
Shelley introduced me. We exchanged pleasantries. The obvious jammer was named Ivy. Her accomplice (and sister) was Devon. They’d both previously worked on farms in Argentina and had a great time doing it. We began to talk about the experience when Shelley interrupted “he’s a reader ladies!!” Shelley makes it sound like the most positive aspect of my personality. That I read books. Thanks. In unison the girls act coy “oh, is he?” They fall into giggles and I head back to my weeds and my strawberry flavoured thoughts.
Yet again I’m interrupted. Just as things are getting good. The boiling of the jam. “Pssst.” I look around but can’t see anybody. “Over here!” I try to find the voice and suddenly notice Shelley, her head poking out from a bush. “Continue to weed!” she orders. So I comply. “I’m trying to play matchmaker – what do you think of my nieces? Devon has a boyfriend, Ivy doesn’t though, what do you think of her?” I look over to Ivy and instantly picture her stirring some jam in slow-motion. Playing it cool though I shrug and apathetically say “I guess she’s alright.” The bush shakes “oh come on! She says you’re cute!”
Oh, realllly. Suddenly we’re stirring the jam together and just as I’m about to add a little sugar Shelley interrupts. “Sooo?”
“So I’m making lunch for them. Bring some of those cookies you made or no more ‘beer me’.”
“You wouldn’t take away the ‘beer me’. Don’t be daft!”
Shelley looked at me with all the seriousness she could muster, “oh, I would!” She disappeared into the bush and an hour later I appeared at her house with a plate of cookies.
The cookies were soon eaten and enjoyed and inevitably I had to ask Ivy “so, what do you plan to do with your strawberries?” Looking embarrassed she replied “I think I might make some jam.” Oh baby! Can I help1 Keep playing it cool though, Dan. “Jam? Pfft. Not too sure I like jam.” Shelley looked at me in confusion “you just made a load of jam yesterday. Why did you make it if you don’t like it?” Damn. Think fast. “Oh, JAM. I thought you said…GAM. You know…the…um…African strawberry juice drink?” They nodded politely and I decided I’d better skulk off to cry in the dark. Instantly Shelley was on her feet. “Give him your email addresses girls! Maybe you could go out and do something” she said to me and Ivy. We both smiled uncomfortably. “Sure, maybe” said Ivy “I’ve wrote down my number, give me a call.”
The next day I decided to do just that. I punched in the number: 555-272-2277. It started to ring. I’m getting nervous. Maybe Shelley forced her into giving the number? Maybe she was also threatened with lack of beer? The ringing stops and an automated voice appears, “Sorry. The number you have dialled isn’t in existence. A girl probably gave you it to get rid of you. Please try again so you can feel more rejected.” Not wanting to let the automated voice down I tried again. Again it was there to greet me. “I can’t believe you tried the number again. What a loser!” I hung up and stared at the phone number. 555-272-2277. All those 2’s and 7’s? God damn it! This number is so fake!
I stomped to Shelley and she grinned in greeting. “So did you ring her?” I waved the number in her face. “The fuckin’ bitch gave me a fake number!”
“My niece would do no such thing?”
“Oh yeah? Look at it! All those 2’s and 7’s?! She couldn’t even be bothered to use more than two numbers is her horrible lie!” For a moment Shelley’s constant grin faltered, then her eyes lit up. “You did put a 1 on the front, right?”
“The number is 1555-272-2277! So you going to call her!?” Shelley handed me her phone. I shook my head. I can’t handle rejection twice in one day from the same girl. Instead I went back to my room to sulk.
That night the phone rang. It was Ivy calling me. “So, do you want to do something?” she asked. I did. “how about we go bowling?” Ivy beamed back “I’d LOVE to go bowling.” Her enthusiasm was scary, but enjoying bowling is a good thing.
My hypothesis is that a girl who enjoys a date of bowling is firstly a fun girl who doesn’t take things too seriously. She’s willing to enjoy pointless, out of fashion games. Secondly bowling isn’t the classiest of dates, so if a girl enjoyed it she’s obviously easy to please. With jamming and bowling under her belt, Ivy was turning out to be a pretty healthy prospect.
That brings us to tonight.
I’m going on a date tonight.
I ring up Ivy to arrange a time to meet. Now is the best time to say that one of the nicest things about Ivy is her voice. You can hear how excited she is with every word she says. You don’t need to see her to know she’s speaking through a smile. This made it hard to feel too down trodden when she said down the phone “hey, do you mind if I bring a couple of friends along tonight?”
Now what does one say to that? “Fuck off, this is a date.” “Oh my God, I hate you!” Or do you simply hang up? No. One says “sure, that’s ok.”
I’m not going on a date tonight.
As I make my way to the bowling alley I picture myself standing alone behind Ivy and her friends while they laugh about a joke I don’t get and bowl on a lane totally separate from mine, they’ve barely noticed my existence. When I meet Ivy I plan to say “hey, why did you invite your friends along?! Do you think I’m some weird English, bowling serial killer or something?” Instead though I say “hi.”
I’m introduced to the friends. A couple. A sweet girl with red hair called Kassandra and her boyfriend Rye.
We bowl. In the scummiest bowling alley in the world. The only positive thing any of us can say about it is “this place smells like old people.” But Ivy seems to be enjoying herself and my bowling date hypothesis seems to be working well. Pretty soon though I realise a flaw in the plan. Bowling is not romantic at all or intimate. It’s…well…it’s bowling. It’s throwing a ball along the floor to knock over pieces of wood. This is definitely not a date. Date fail.
I sulk and eat a corn dog, trying to catch Ivy’s eye. My expertise in making eye contact can only really be called amateurish and no matter how hard I try I can’t get her attention – but for some reason Kassandra can get mine. She keeps on looking over and smiling at me. Woah, Kassandra, what about your boyfriend? He’s sitting right there!
It all becomes clear later when Ivy whispers in my ear “it’s their first date.” Instantly I feel bad for Rye. Not only did I make it so that his first date was to a shitty bowling alley, but I also turned up with my stupidly gorgeous accent. Fortunately the night takes a turn upwards (literally) when Kassandra suggests we drive to the top of a nearby mountain. I fear she will lure me to the bushes and take advantage of me. A fear that grows when she starts to drive up the mountain like a maniac – this is not the type of girl that makes jam. At full speed she drives along the pitch black road, screeching around corners wildly. She screams “this is so much fun.” I just scream.
I feel like I’m about to die and am just about to convert to Judaism when Kassandra stops and says “we’re here.”
“Here” is a dark, empty car park. When we jump out the car we realise it’s freezing cold on the mountain. My nipples invert as we slowly plod up a trail towards the summit.
As we walk along I look up and see hundreds of stars in the sky. The moon shines between some clouds, lighting them up. A silence surrounds us. It’s a beautiful night. Dare I say…romantic? I turn to Ivy and smile. All thoughts of romance are dispelled along with my smile when she says aloud “man, I’m desperate for a pee.”
When we reach the top of the mountain we look down on the world below us. Thousands of tiny street lights disappear into the horizon all around, mirroring the stars. For a moment we all stand in silence, hearing nothing but the wind in the trees, focusing on nothing but the world. All of a sudden I feel incredibly lonely. Whenever I see a large view of the world I realise the scale of things and just how small I am. It’s humbling. In the silence I guess we all feel the same way.
We head to the car and drive back in silence. Although I am almost a stranger to these people I feel like we now – through sharing the experience – have become friends. Kassandra’s mood has changed and she softly floats the car down the mountain. The drifting of the wheels starts to slowly rock me to sleep. I stay awake though, afraid that falling asleep will make me forget the memory and turn it into a dream.
When we arrive back in town and Ivy sleepily starts to drive me back to the farm. I search through her music collection to find something good to match my mood. I hold each of her CDs up to the street light in an attempt to read them. Each time we pass a light, for a split second, I can see the CD name flashing up. One CD, no matter how hard I try I can’t read it. Ivy yawns and tells me it’s Badly Drawn Boy. Instantly I push it in.
Driving along, we listen. “I can’t remember the turn for the farm” Ivy says. I reply “Turn right at the old house.” She smiles with acknowledgement. She knows the house, her sister said it looked haunted. I relay a story to Ivy that I heard. A man used to live there with his wife, but she left him and a week later they found him hanging from a tree. It probably is haunted after all. Ivy shivers.
Turning at the house, Ivy slams on the breaks. A skunk runs over the road in front of us, making its way to the haunted house. Ivy speaks with superstition in her voice, “I’ve never seen a skunk run over the road like that before.” I smile deviously. “Imagine if tonight, when you’re driving back, you stop at the turn and suddenly the dead man is there, staring into your window.” Ivy squeals “stop it!”
“His face half in shadow and his lips softly moaning your name…Ivy…Ivy.”
“Seriously, if you don’t stop it I’ll have to ring somebody on the way home.”
I stop, the thought never crossing my mind that I could be the one she calls if I only scare her hard enough. Instead I skip to the song on the album she says is her favourite – Four Leaf Clover.
Now it’s my opinion that when you travel you should fall in love at least once a week or you’re just not doing it right. The time had come for this week.
As the song began, Ivy started to sing along with it. Her soft voice creating a melody. When a girl sings without self-consciousness, love can be almost instant.
When Ivy sings her normal voice seeps away. The enthusiastic grinning girl disappears. Another girl appears in her place. A sweet girl who sings from the heart
I listen. An audience. Even if Ivy doesn’t know it.
The date finishes along with the song and Ivy pulls the car up to the farm. With a squeeze we say goodbye.
“Good luck on your travels” she says.
“You should email me to tell me if Rye and Kassandra end up together.” She smiles at the thought but says she’ll tell me if I email her.
I know I wont email her though. Or call her. She wont email or call me.
In the darkness of the car I try to think of something to say. Only one word comes to me.