Here’s this week’s episode of The Port City Chronicle, the continuing serial novel of Gretchen, a 46-year-old criminal defense lawyer, and her family and friends, seeking love and happiness in Portland the hard way:
‘“Supermodel, high IQ, rich, witty and fun.’” Tim was trolling on match.com. “What do you think?”
“Not a good fit for you,” Ethan said.
They were at the kitchen table relaxing before dinner. But Angela didn’t view it that way.
“I see you wasted no time doing the dishes,” she said, coming in from straightening the boys’ rooms. “What are you doing instead?”
“Looking for a woman,” Ethan said.
Angela banged open the pantry door. Apparently someone was supposed to have started the pasta sauce instead of seeking romance.
“I don’t even know how to make it,” Ethan said, looking accusingly at Tim. But Tim claimed he didn’t either.
“I’ve taught you everything I know,” he said defensively. “Take the plastic off before you cook the food.”
Then he tried a different tack.
“Look, it’s an emergency. I need to find somebody quick,” he said. “You can’t understand because you have Angela and the boys.”
Ethan shrugged. “That’s all an illusion.”
“And yet I feel so real,” Angela said, turning around from the stove with the spatula in her hand.
“I know what you mean,” Ethan said. “But it’s almost like you’re too real.”
Fortunately Angela was distracted by one of the boys needing help with his homework. As real as Angela is, the boys are even realer.
“I was okay being single for a long time,” Tim said, “but once I got used to having somebody, I can’t go back, I’ve got to have somebody else.”
He hesitated. “Actually that made no sense. Please ignore everything I’ve said to date.”
“You mean for the past 20 years?” Ethan asked, still scanning the profiles on match.com.
But Nicole sympathized with Tim. She’d had the same experience of withdrawal and panic when she’d been dumped, and had only recently gotten a temporary fix by finding that special somebody else.
“Where’d you find him?” Tim asked.
“Same place you’re looking,” she said. “I bought him on the internet.”
But it didn’t seem to have made her less panicky or lonely.
“I like your boots,” Tim said, as she put her feet up on the chair next to him, trying to relax while anxiously shaking her foot.
“They look stupid, huh?” she said.
Part of the problem was she always worried about her weight and the new guy didn’t make it any easier. “My weight fluctuates all the time,” she said. “I’m constantly waxing and waning.”
And he wasn’t a good listener either. “Which is fine,” she said, “because I don’t really want to talk.”
It didn’t sound like that great a fit to me, but at least Nicole was attracted to the guy, as Tim and Ethan pointed out. Attractiveness was the main thing they were looking for too as they skimmed through profiles.
“You don’t think I should try the model?” Tim asked, along that same line.
Ethan still conveniently had her profile open. “You’ll never get her. Women like that go for guys like Trump.”
Meaning no matter how good-looking Tim was, without money he couldn’t get somebody hot.
“What if she doesn’t want a guy who’s rude and obnoxious?” Tim asked. “Plus I have more hair.”
“It’s not happening,” Ethan said. I felt like he was getting a little overly invested, but nobody else seemed to notice.
“What do you have to lose?” Nicole said to Tim. “You’re cute. And you’re different. She might think you’re sort of cool.”
He made a face. “I used to think I was kind of cool in a way but I don’t anymore.”
“Yeah, that was definitely a false positive,” Ethan said.
But Angela was more interested in Nicole’s situation. “You shouldn’t date a guy you can’t talk to. I talk to Ethan about everything and he always listens.”
“What?” he said. She was getting too real for him again while he was trying to look at models.
Meanwhile Tim was trying to get back to reality. In case Milagros wanted him back before he did something she’d regret, he sent her a picture of the two of them at Christmas in paper popper crowns in happier days. But she wasn’t impressed.
“We look like old people,” she wrote back.
He should have stopped there but he was desperate not to have to date the supermodel.
“Did you go out last night?” he asked.
“Uh huh,” she said, annoyed. “And I had a great time.”
He took a deep breath. “Why, because people said you were sexy and fun?”
Then he tried to apologize. “I’m not doing too well at the moment.”
“I can tell,” she said. “You have no muffler and no shock absorbers. Or bumpers.”
There was a pause. “Though you do have some chrome.”
“Steering wheel?” he asked.
“Do I have wheels?”
But she had hung up.
“It’ll get better soon,” Nicole said, as Tim sank down in his chair. “This is how break-ups work. You have to give it a little time and then dive back in. There was an article about it today in the Sunday Review.”
“In the newspaper? People should get their own life and stop living mine.”
It was good advice for Ethan, who was reading the fine print in the model’s profile when Angela finally seemed to notice.
“You forgot to take the garbage out again,” she said.
He rolled his eyes. “I didn’t forget. I did it on purpose. I don’t want to take the garbage out anymore.”
So Angela stomped out of the room and Ethan and Tim had to give up on the model and finish making dinner instead.
It wasn’t a big success.
“You put too much ricotta in this,” Angela said, when we were all finally sitting down to dinner. “How much did you put in?”
“It only said half a cup.”
“I always figure more is better,” Ethan said.
It’s not how you’re supposed to do things but it hadn’t turned out that bad. From Angela’s perspective, she finally got to relax in the living room while somebody else made dinner. The phones were off and we were all together around the table.
It wasn’t perfect but at least it was real.