By Evelyn Lauer
Before Oyster Guy arrived, you asked the bartender about the best oysters on the menu.
“East coast,” she said.
“Always,” you replied and sent your date the text: I’m at the bar. Hot pink skirt 🙂
Hot! Sorry traffic is miserable. Three min out per Uber.
You sneered at his use of an exclamation point then looked down at your skirt and realized it was really more magenta and wondered if you should correct yourself but settled on close enough. This would be your fourth date since joining the app, and you, a divorced, middle-aged mother of two, still questioned your every action and reaction.
You discovered you matched when he walked in wearing pink pants and a Polo shirt, and you wondered if he lost his way to the country club. You hugged him hello anyway and thought he was cute but shorter than you hoped. You couldn’t remember, but think he claimed he was six foot on the app, which you realize was a lie.
Before even asking what you’d like, he ordered a dozen Kumamoto oysters. “The secret to oysters is in how you garnish them,” he said.
Oyster Guy knew more about oysters than you ever cared to know, but that didn’t matter; he educated you anyway. “It’s a combination of fire and ice.” He held up a small spoon of red cocktail sauce. “Fire. Round One.” He used mignonette sauce and followed up his act with Tabasco. “Five-alarm fire.”
“I’m not sure I can handle that heat.”
“Just try it.” He squeezed a lemon wedge over the top of the meaty pearl on a half shell.
You were, surprisingly, turned on. You wondered what kind of heat the two of you could create in a bathroom stall.
“Now, we’re going to say cheers in different languages before we consume each oyster,” he said, providing further instructions.
You are not good at foreign languages because you took four years of Latin in high school. You froze, as if Oyster Guy was administering an exam you were sure to fail.
“Santé!” he said. “France.” He clinked his shell to your shell as if it was a champagne glass, and the briny ball slid down your throat.
While you watched, Oyster Guy searched up an article about French women who ate nothing but oysters and are thinner and more beautiful than other women in the world.
“They also smoke cigarettes,” you said, which didn’t seem to amuse him.
“Do you know New Zealand’s number-one sport?” he asked.
“Close. Rugby.” He then explained haka, a traditional war dance performed by the players before a game to intimidate the opposing team. And, as your eyes glazed over, and the oysters churned in your belly, he moved on to the next salutation.
“Kanpai!” he said. “Japan.” You sensed he had given up on you and entertained himself with his own charm. If he asked you a question about your life, he certainly wasn’t interested in your answer.
Oyster Guy isn’t from here. In fact, he isn’t from anywhere. He’s transient because he owns four properties in three states. He told you all about those places and all the incredible restaurants he frequents.
It was only logical that Oyster Guy tried teaching you about wine. He didn’t know you were once toasted in this town as She Sips, the famous wine blogger. But you played along when he asked, “Do you get a hint of gooseberry on the nose?”
“Cat pee on a gooseberry bush.” Clearly, your insight fell flat.
In a surprising twist of events, Oyster Guy started quoting, lyric for lyric, every Hall & Oates song ever written.
“I love Hall & Oates,” you said. “Have you ever seen them in concert?”
He looked at you with serious eyes. “I don’t do concerts.”
“I have better things to do with my time.”
You wanted to say, like what, but didn’t because you knew he wouldn’t bite. There was nothing flirtatious about this exchange, nothing like eating oysters on a Saturday afternoon in the summer in the city. Your heart ached for the aphrodisiac effect oysters were said to have, for Oyster Guy to lean in for a briny kiss between slurps.
Instead of potential thrills, all you got was Oyster Guy’s routine, his go-to move. You weren’t special. You were one of a dozen he had taken out for oysters this month in one of the many cities he frequents.
“I’m not sure when I’ll be in town again,” he said, motioning for the check.
Then, Oyster Guy walked you out and pretended like he was going to call you again. He said You like oysters and 80s music. That’s a great start. Part of you hoped you’d never see him again because you already knew you would write this piece before the date was over, and part of you hoped you did see him again because you wanted an invite to his beach house in Malibu. Plus, he knew how to make a reservation at the best oyster place in town.
After he left, you walked back to the bar and ordered a half dozen of the East coast oysters that were recommended earlier. And this time, you ate them just the way you wanted: No fire. No ice. Just plain pearls sliding down your throat.