They decided to meet at the Chinese restaurant next door to the bowling alley, because the food there was great, and although the bowling alley hosted a league on Thursday nights and got super crowded, almost no one dined in at the restaurant. Most of the business came from takeout orders, so the four of them could eat and talk in peace.
Jessica and Sathvik showed up at about the same time and requested the booth in the corner by the window. “Let me get that for you,” he said, helping remove her coat. “How’ve you been, Jess?”
“Oh, not bad. I have a thousand different things to do by the end of the week, and I haven’t started on any.”
“Sounds like a typical week, then,” he smiled.
“Yep, pretty much. How are you doing, Sathvik?”
“I’ve got two thousand things to do this week, and I actually have started a few of them.”
“You overachiever,” she scowled.
“Really? You guys want to sit by the window?” A tall guy with a blonde semi-mohawk stood by the front door. “Hello, I’m with them,” he waved to the hostess.
“Stanley, what’s up, broseph?”
“Sathvik. Jessica,” he nodded, tossing his jacket on the window ledge. “Have you guys ordered yet?”
“What’s wrong with by the window?” asked Jessica.
“It just feels so… public.”
“We are in public, restaurants are public places,” said Sathvik. “No, we haven’t ordered yet.”
“Let’s get some fried wontons.”
“Ugh, no thank you. I’m fat enough as it is.”
“You’re not fat, Jess.”
“Yes, I am, Stan.”
“No, you’re not.”
“How about spring rolls? Those are pretty healthy.”
“Sounds good.” Jessica motioned for the waiter.
“Are you ready to order?”
“We’d like some apps, and drinks,” said Stanley. “Our friend is running a little late. We’ll wait till he shows up to order our entrées. Jess, what do you want to drink?”
“I’ll have wine, please. Red, merlot, or whatever is cheapest.”
“Dr. Pepper, if you have it.”
“What if they only have Pibb?”
“We have Dr. Pepper,” said the waiter. “For you, sir?”
“I’ll have a Tsingtao.”
“What if they only have Sapporo?” asked Jessica.
“Don’t speak,” said Stanley.
Jake arrived as they were arguing over who should get the last spring roll. “Sorry, guys, my mom threw a bunch of work at me, like she does every time I go over there. Hey, is anyone gonna eat that spring roll?”
As soon as they’d ordered their food they started the meeting. Sathvik suggested they each take a few minutes to present their work so far, including a brief summary of their sections, their focus, themes, what they’d written, the tone and perspective of their writing, etc., and after everyone had gotten a chance to talk they could address specific concerns and discuss the big picture of the book in light of what they’d heard.
“My section begins with the last date I had with Laura.”
“The one when—”
“Yes, when she broke up with me.”
“Good call,” said Jessica.
“I tell it like an action piece, put the reader in my shoes, my mind. It’s graduation, we’re launching out into the world, no more school, new jobs, high hopes for the future, and then, bam.”
“She drops the H-bomb.”
“What’s the H-bomb?” asked Stanley.
“You don’t know what the H-bomb is?”
“The Hydrogen bomb,” said Sathvik. “The most destructive weapon known to man. It’s a metaphor, Stan, she told me she wanted to break up.”
“She broke his heart,” said Jessica.
“She crushed my heart. And that’s how I introduce my life since then. I talk about my work, the shift from college to career, my social life, my perspective on romance and dating, and go through some of the experiences I’ve had since breaking up with Laura.”
“It sounds like a journal,” said Stanley.
“It’s more objective than that.”
“Do you mention specific people?”
“I describe a few of the dates I went on. Where we went, what we discussed, good and bad vibes, how the nights ended. I changed all the names of course.”
“How many women have you dated?”
“Since Laura? Two, one of whom is… ongoing.”
“Does she know about the book?” asked Jake.
“Of course. Alright, who’s next?” He pointed at Jessica.
“Why me?” She rolled her eyes. “Fine. I begin with my first kiss.”
“Aww, how sweet.”
“Shut up, Stan. Twelve years-old, my last year at summer camp, spin the bottle with the boys in the pavilion.”
“What was his name?”
“None of your business.”
“Dang, someone’s touchy tonight.”
“Let her talk, Stan,” Jake grumbled.
“Thank you. Start with my first kiss, jump from there to my boyfriends in high school, juxtapose that with the dreams I’d acquired from books, movies, imagination. I’ve only really outlined the piece so far. It’s good, but it’s…”
“Miserable. Quite fitting in fact, for such is my love life.”
“What about Todd?”
“I’ll reference that as a transitional period, when I realized not all men are evil. It’s a work in progress. I intend to mine a nugget of hope from the dark solitude of my existence. Okay, who’s next?”
“Fair enough,” said Sathvik. “Jake, how about you?”
“Look at that smile,” laughed Jessica.
“Y’all already know what my section’s about.”
“The coolest lady on the planet,” she and Sathvik said in unison.
“Great, so it’s a love letter,” said Stanley.
“It’s about love, it isn’t a love letter.”
“How did you start?”
“With something my dad told me when I was a kid. On the way home from junior high one day, he turned to me when we were stopped at a stoplight, and said, ‘Jacob, a man’s got two jobs to do in this world. Serve the Lord, and love his wife.’ I start with that and go on to talk about Abbie.”
“What do you focus on?” asked Stanley.
“Everything. Her eyes, her hair, her nose, her lips…”
They all laughed.
“Do you talk about race at all?” he asked.
“Here and there.”
“Why is that important?” asked Jessica.
“It’s not,” said Stanley, “but it’s interesting. He’s black, she’s white, it could provide some good material for a book about relationships.”
“I mention race in my section,” said Sathvik, “the cultural aspect, my parents’ views on dating, establish a background for where I’m at now.”
“He shouldn’t have to write about race if he doesn’t want to.”
“I’m not saying he has to, I’m just saying readers might find it interesting. The conflicts, social stigmas, prejudice, stuff like that.”
“I get it,” said Jake. “I considered going that route, but honestly I’d rather make it about Abbie and me, more than about Abbie and me and the world. We’ve been together for three and a half amazing years, and yeah, the race thing has been a factor, but it’s not what we’re about.”
The waiter set a large tray holding the group’s entrées on a foldable stand next to the table. “Moo Shu Pork? Okay. Chicken Lo Mein? Okay. General Tsao’s Chicken? Okay. Mongolian Beef? Okay. May I refill your drinks? Yes. No. Yes. Yes. Okay, thank you.”
“This looks uber-delish,” said Jessica.
“Uber-delish?” said Sathvik.
“You’re a bunch of uber-dorks,” said Stanley.
“What are you writing, Stan?” Jake asked as they dug in to their meal.
“Confessions… of the Studliest Stud in Studderton.”
“Sounds delightful,” said Jessica.
“Sounds fictional,” said Sathvik.
“Very funny, Vik. No, I’m actually doing a story about the future. I’m writing about my wife, whoever she is, and how I’d like it to be someday. We wake up in the morning, eat breakfast together, joke and laugh and kiss each other. How marriage is supposed to be, you know, through my eyes.”
“That actually does sound delightful.”
“What are you going to call it?”
“The Real Eternal Friday.”