You don't think you're handsome?" she asked.

"Please," I said. "I'm older than dirt, I'm in terrible physical condition, and I'm not getting any better."

She smiled. "Are you really older than dirt?"

"Not really," I confessed. "But we were classmates."

That infectious laugh of hers again. "Did I mention you're hilarious?"

"That and five ninety-nine will get you a combo meal at participating locations for a limited time only, tax not included, limit one per household per visit."

"How is that not hilarious?"

"You've only heard it once," I said. "About the ninety-fifth iteration, it goes stale. Or worse."

"Promise me you won't tell me that one again. I want to remember it from when it was fresh and new."

"As you wish," I replied, immediately regretting that I'd fallen back on yet another trope from The Princess Bride. By now I must owe Inigo Montoya a trunkful of jewels in back royalties.

She tossed her head; her hair barely budged. "So. Still not buying 'handsome'?"

I shrugged. "I probably look better than I did at forty-five, when I had marginally more hair and a hundred extra pounds." I stopped, recalculated, decided to let it stand. "Which should tell you I was pretty pathetic at forty-five."

"It's the baby face," she said. "One would ... expect more wrinkles."

I allowed that maybe I was a few percentage points jowl-deficient. "And at least I'm not getting any balder."

"How does that make you feel?" she asked.

"Like I'm overtipping the guy who does my hair."

For a fraction of a second, I thought I'd detected a faint hint of actual giggle. "You can't tell me you've told that one before."

"I rehearse everything," I insisted. "Two hours before a first date, I've already played halfway through the breakup."

"Do the words 'self-fulfilling prophecy' mean anything to you?"

"Do I look like I'm turning a prophet?" I shot back.

She turned and glanced at a blank space on the wall, a place where a clock might once have hung. "We should do this again sometime."

Note: At least some of this is fiction.

The Vent

  7 November 2017

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