• Lin Morris

Anxious to the Bone

Danny is nervous before his first date in a year. But a medical mix-up traps him in a thrift store dressing room, causing even more anxiety.


Five, Four, Three, Two...

“Phyllis!”


No answer. I pull back the curtain just enough to expose my face.


“Psst!”


I’m trapped in the dressing room at Second Chances, my favorite vintage clothing store, where my BFF Phyllis and I are indulging in some good old-fashioned shopping therapy.


To say I’m nervous about my first date in eight months is a giant understatement. Not merely my first date since turning fifty (or, 127 in gay years), but with a much younger man at that.


Why would a 30-year-old ask me out?


And what was I thinking saying yes?


Of course, if I had more confidence, I wouldn’t be in this pickle in the first place.


Louder now: “Phyllis!”


She looks up from a 1993 issue of Vogue. “Oh, let’s see!”


“Don’t come in!” I pull the curtain closed. “I’m not wearing pants!”


“Danny, honey,” says Phyllis, drumming her acrylic nails against the wall, “you’ve got nothing I haven’t seen before.” She gives the curtain a hearty pull and storms in. I turn away, but there’s nowhere to hide, seeing as how all three walls are covered in mirrors.


You see, right before Phyllis picked me up, I took a pill, thinking it would calm me down. In my defense, I was stressed: my 30-year-old date is really cute.


Gentlemen, here’s some free advice: if you ever have cause to pack anti-anxiety meds and Viagra in the same messenger bag, pay really strict attention to which one you take.


Because, as is quite obvious to me—and now to Phyllis—I’ve swallowed the wrong pill.


And there in the dressing room mirrors is the result: me, clad only in a 1986 Louis Vuitton color-blocked shirt and my straining boxer briefs.


Hundreds of me.


In those endless reflections are enough tents to house a Boy Scouts Jamboree. Safari guides whose compasses all point to true North. A veritable forest consisting of only one tree.


It’s my worst adolescent nightmare come true.


Phyllis shrieks and flings the curtain closed behind her.


“Get out!” I hiss.


“Everything okay?” I hear the clerk ask. He’s a slight fellow, dressed in 70s polyester hipster chic, with an “ironic” pornstache.


“Fine, thanks,” calls Phyllis. She shields her eyes, though there’s really nowhere else to look. “Well, I thought it was nothing I hadn’t seen before.”


I have no choice but to explain.


“You packed Viagra for a first date?!” She laughs. “You slut!”


“Well, you never know,” I say by way of pitiful defense.


Hipster Clerk coughs discreetly outside the dressing room curtain.


Phyllis peeks out. “Honey,” she says, “we’ve got a little problem in here. Actually, kind of a big problem.” She hitches one eyebrow at me and whispers, “You’re welcome.”


“Phyl, don’t tell him!”


“Sweetie. I got this.”


They leave me blessedly alone to dress. Just buttoning my chinos takes a full sixty seconds. Eventually I creep out, shirt untucked and pulled low as I can get it, walking hunched over like an old man. Or, well, an older man.


When I finally emerge from the dressing room area, Hipster is behind the counter eating a foil-wrapped burrito and reading a magazine, while Phyllis studies the dusty display case of 1980s Swatches.


“I’ll take this.” I slap the Vuitton shirt on the counter, along with my credit card. “For your trouble.”


“No worries, bruh,” he says. I steadfastly don’t make that face I normally give to hipsters who say things like bruh. Not that he’d actually see it, since we’re all avoiding eye contact.


“At least my date isn’t for five more hours,” I tell Phyllis, looking at my non-retro watch.


“You’ll be okay by then,” says Phyllis. “Knock wood. Oh!”


Hipster snorts. “Knock wood!”


“I’m glad you find this funny.”


“Sorry, bruh.” He bunches my shirt into a paper bag while coughing the smile off his face. “But seriously, dude, if your erection lasts more than four hours, consult a physician.” Now I make the face. He points to the magazine. “What, it says so right in the ad.”


“Think of baseball!” says Phyllis brightly.


What?!”


“Just trying to help. Think igloos!”


Hipster pipes up. “Think of guys!” He nods excitedly.


“Honey, no,” Phyllis says, “that would have the opposite effect.”


“Oh? Ohhhhhh! Dude.”


I position the bag in front of me as camouflage, ignoring that it sticks out at a 45-degree angle. “Maybe we should hang out here awhile. It’s a long walk to your car.”


Hipster takes a bite of his lunch, then looks up at us. Back down at his food. Up. He unwraps the burrito from the two layers of aluminum foil and smiles. “Dude, I’ve got a great idea.”


* * *


Twenty minutes later, Phyllis takes my arm and we hobble out the door. I’ve encased my, uh, problem in foil, then strapped the “dong burrito” (as Hipster insisted on calling it) to my leg like some kind of inner-thigh holster with a ton of masking tape—not the sturdiest adhesive, but it’s all Hipster could find.


To complete my humiliation, I couldn’t get my trousers pulled back up over the whole contraption. Hipster insisted on giving me a pair of silver MC Hammer harem pants free of charge—as long as I promised not to return them. “They’re roomier, bruh.”


So, yeah, I look hot as a…whatever level of comparative hotness the young folks use these days.


We hobble out of the store, me walking as gingerly as if I really am 127 years old. With each step, I swear I can feel the tape pulling loose. It’s a slow fifteen minutes to Phyllis’s car, especially as I have to put up with her commentary on the way.


“My, that was straight-up embarrassing.”


“Stop it, Phyl.”


“Poor baby.” Phyllis pats my hand. “Having a hard day?”


“I’m warning you!” But my death threats are no match for Phyllis’s quite vocal appreciation of her own wit.


“Danny, your tone is very, shall we say, pointed?”


And just as she’s about to unlock my door, I hear a voice behind me.


“Danny! What are the odds?”


I spin around—too quickly, as it turns out.


It’s Edmund. My 30-year-old date.


If he says anything else, it’s lost in the obscenely loud rrrrrip of the masking tape. Suddenly I’m left looking like a Pointer on a duck hunt.


I instinctively turn to Phyllis for help, but she just screams and drops to the ground, laughing. I’m glued to the concrete, staring at Edmund, who’s staring at, well, part of me.


I finally have to snap my fingers to pull his attention away from the car wreck happening below my waist.


“Hello—eyes up here!”


“I’m sorry,” he says, blinking, a little dazed. “I literally couldn’t look away.”


“About all this,” I say. “Funny story.”


Edmund makes a concerted effort to look me in the eye. “And I’d love to hear it.” His voice quavers and he takes a deep breath. “But not now: tell me tonight. Pick you up at seven.” He starts hurrying away. Fast.


From her place on the sidewalk, Phyllis tugs at my pantleg. “Did you see his face? He was impressed, I could tell.”


“Edmond, are you sure?” I holler. He stops. “We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”


“Sure I’m sure,” he says. “Sounds like we’ve got a lot to talk about.” He can’t resist one last, not-so-subtle glance down south. “Apparently, quite a lot.”


And then he does the best thing ever. He winks.


I don’t know where tonight will lead, if anywhere, but I do know this: we’re going to have the best first-date story our friends have ever heard.


Susan Cornford

By Lin Morris

Twitter: @LinWroteThis


Lin Morris lives and writes in his hometown of Portland, OR. His work has appeared in Unlikely Stories; Trembling with Fear; Flumes Literary Journal; Little Old Lady Comedy; and in the anthologies Flash of Brilliance and Coffin Blossoms. His short novel The Marriage Wars is available on amazon.com. His story The Newfound Wealth of Miss Millicent Bowers won the 2020 YeahWrite Micro Fiction Competition. Despite the strenuous efforts of his parents, he remains irrevocably left-handed.

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