Julia liked Eric. She wasn’t in love with Eric, she didn’t fantasize about marrying him or idly think about what their children would be like, but she liked him, an appropriate amount for having met him only two times. Internet dating was strange to her, and she knew that dating took work. And besides, it was a good sign she was mature enough to not feel those goofier feelings yet. She would instead be, appropriately, cautiously yet earnestly excited.
He had invited her to his apartment to cook for her (she had requested burritos) and to watch a movie with her (she had requested Harry Potter). With those choices, even if there was no proper “click,” she could still ensure that the evening would at least be pleasant, and hopefully a more relaxed atmosphere, with a bit of wine, would get them to have a smoother rapport and a more natural chemistry. First dates are always awkward, but Eric had potential!
Julia arrived at the Union Square train station, which was the stop for his apartment. She used to work near this stop, but had never met anyone who actually lived in this neighborhood before. Eric had a job in finance, and so could afford such things. It must be nice! Julia wasn’t ready for that yet. She still had roommates. She still felt like a child pretending to be an adult — not that Eric would know that. Although, she supposed, the Harry Potter might have been a hint.
The doorman was very tall, hunched over a little, hovering over everyone. She went up, trying to look up the apartment number in her text history, but the doorman preempted her: “You must be Julia. He’s on the 9th floor. Have a nice day!” Julia blinked a few times and went into the elevator, realizing afterwards that she probably should’ve said something to him in response, wondering if it was common for people to pre-register their guests like that.
It wouldn’t really surprise her if that were the case. She always felt strange in luxury buildings. The hallways always made her feel more like she was in a hotel than in a place where people live all the time. Every time she entered into one, she felt like she would immediately be exposed as an imposter, trying to pass as a yuppie without proper credentials, like they had a magic passport or something. She supposed that passport was money.
She eventually managed to find the apartment number on her phone — 9D — and with slightly more work had also managed to find the apartment door.
She rang the doorbell, and tried to clear her mind, but Eric was there before she could get her thoughts properly in order. He ushered her in, and the first thing she noticed was how clean it was. She tried to be an organized person, and he was blowing her out of the water. To see such cleanliness in a man was downright suspicious, and she said so.
Eric laughed and said, “The benefits of having a cleaning service! It comes in handy, keeps things presentable. I suppose you’re less impressed now that you know that this isn’t the real me.”
Julia blinked, and didn’t say anything.
“Here, sit down,” he said, sweeping his arm in a wide arc that seemed to cover the entire apartment until finally it settled on a quaint, tasteful wooden table. She pulled up a chair and sat, facing the kitchen counter which had several plates with burrito fillings on them.
“Here we go,” he said, as he moved each plate, one at a time, over to the table. “And time for plates, plates, plates…” He opened three different cupboards, while continuing to mutter the word “plates,” until finally the third one had a pile of plates in it, which he took two of and also set on the table.
Julia smiled, and said, in a tone she thought was teasing, “Not sure where your own plates are?”
“Yeah,” said Eric. “Cleaning lady reorganized my kitchen recently. Much better-looking, downside is I don’t know where anything is anymore!” He laughed nervously, and looked like he was sweating.
“Do you have any wine?” Julia asked.
“Oh, of course,” said Eric, and he darted into the living room only to return a few seconds later back into the kitchen and open up the first cupboard where he’d tried to find the dishes. “Here it is! Now, bottle opener, bottle opener…” he continued to mutter as he pulled open two different drawers.
Eric must really need his cleaning lady, Julia thought, and this level of disorganization bordered on a problem. She had thought he was a little bit absent-minded, but she hadn’t thought it had reached this extent. Ah, well, she’d need something to distract from it. “Can we get the movie going too? I’m ready to watch as we eat.”
“Oh, of course,” said Eric, in exactly the same tone of voice, and walked over to the TV. He grabbed a remote, pointed it at the TV, and nothing happened. “That’s strange,” said Eric, staring at it. “Give me a minute.”
Eric tried different remotes in different combinations while Julia realized she needed some utensil to put her burrito together. She went to the drawer she thought she had seen utensils in before, and saw a brochure.
“Temporary Apartment Service,” it said. “Don’t want to bring a date or host a party in your place? Is it falling apart or too small to turn around in? Host in our temporary, fully furnished apartments! Meals also catered and pre-cooked on request.”
Julia blinked. She didn’t quite realize what it meant at first, until she heard Eric saying, “Ah, I figured out the TV! Come on!”
“How long have you lived here?” Julia asked.
“About a year! What a great building, right?” responded Eric.
Julia remembered that he had described it as brand-new on her second date with him, and as he again turned towards the TV and began to fiddle with yet another setting, she picked her bag back up, went out the door, and closed it behind her. When he got downstairs, the doorman smiled at her and shook his head. “Eric went all out for the nicest unit this time,” he said. “I always figure, you can’t fake your way through life. But then again, I suppose everyone always is trying.”