Grace opens the door and is pleased to see Tom looks like his eHarmony picture. Is normal tall, not pushing seven feet like the last guy she went out with. Tom is fair, a bit on the tan side and nothing like the guy she went out with three dates before Tom, whose skin was angry red and pitted and he explained he had a rare dermatologic condition, but not to worry it wasn't contagious (probably, ha ha), but at the movie when he brushed his arm against hers, huge flakes of dry, inflamed skin dropped on her lap and she almost threw up into her popcorn tub.
Tom opens the car door, asks if she has a favorite radio station and isn't SiriusXM the best and Grace says whatever he likes to listen to is fine and he's listening to Lithium and “Rooster” comes on and Tom says he thinks Alice in Chains is awesome and isn't it too bad Layne Staley died so young.
They know him at the restaurant and the menu is good with a lot of choices, but not too many and when Grace asks Tom what he would recommend, he asks her what she likes instead of just picking his favorite thing. The dish she selects is excellent and Tom says he will get her the recipe from the chef.
At dinner he is funny and self-deprecating, tells stories about his family, his sometimes crazy job as a second grade teacher. He asks about her life, her family, her roommates. He tells her she is prettier than her photo on eHarmony, no offense. She tells him she feels the same way – although he's not prettier, he's more handsome. He laughs and his laugh is deep, with a light tinkle, and when he smiles, dimples appear on either side of his mouth.
After dinner (he left a very generous tip), they walk down the street and look in store windows. He asks if she wants to stop in a bar for a drink, but she tells him she's having such a nice time, could they keep walking and he says he was hoping that would be her answer.
A little later he takes her hand and it feels right.
When they get back to her apartment, she invites him in for coffee and he says he has to get up early in the morning and he isn't just saying that because he would like nothing better in the world than to have a cup of coffee with her and he doesn't mean to sound like a stalker, but he's hoping they can see each other again soon.
They go out two days later. And then two days after that. They become a couple, everyone tells them they are perfect for each other. They get married on the beach because they think it would be fun to be barefoot.
They have a pair of children, a boy and a girl. They name their daughter Layne for Layne Staley and they vow to never go to bed angry and they keep that vow.
Grace opens the door and is surprised to see Tom doesn't look anything like his eHarmony picture. eHarmony Tom is slim, athletic in a plays-softball-on-the-weekends kind of way. Tom in her doorway has a belly that flops over his belt – if he were wearing a belt, but he isn't. Could that possibly be a piece of rope holding up his Clorox-blotchy cargo jean shorts?
“Are you Melanie?” he says, stifling (almost in time) a burp.
She has a moment where she could lie and say she isn't Melanie (after all, she isn't Melanie) or he has the wrong apartment, but she is honest, admits she is Grace and he must be Tom, her date.
“Sweet,” he says and he bends over to kiss her cheek and before she can take a step back she realizes his breath smells like old socks and his left hand has brushed against her breast. On purpose.
His car has an odor of tacos and French fries mixed with the coconut Car-Freshner Little Tree that dangles from the rear view mirror.
“The radio's broken,” he tells her. “And the CD player won't eject the only CD I have, but everybody likes One Direction, right?”
He can't remember the exact address of the restaurant and when she suggests she could look it up on her phone, he tells her he has a sixth sense to finding places. A half hour later, they walk into the restaurant (not using the valet because it's a “big rip-off” and he's found the perfect parking space even after she pointed out the sign that says one hour only and he tells her they only put those signs there to scare people). She pretends an empty restaurant on a Saturday night is not a big deal and he picks up on what she's thinking and says, “The scene doesn't really start until after eleven. But you'll see.” After eleven she hopes she'll be back in her bed at home. Alone.
He orders for them both, big platters of shawarma and shish kabobs and greasy eggplant. She said on eHarmony she was practically a vegetarian and she points that out, very nicely, and he spears a giant hunk of shawarma and holds it up to her mouth.
“No, thank you,” she says and looks at the eggplant that appears to be floating in an Exxon Valdez oil slick.
After dinner they take a cab to the tow yard and he is pissed at how much he has to pay and she doesn't mention the one hour parking sign.
He asks if there's a bar close to her apartment and she says yes, reluctantly because she is tired of him, sick of him, but his sixth sense might be able to detect a bar and then he would know she is lying.
“So I won't have to drive home later,” he tells her ominously as they walk into the bar.
She doesn't drink much, but orders a Manhattan because that's what her parents like to drink and she knows it's strong. He orders a boilermaker, then winks at the bartender like they're old friends and says, “Make that two boilermakers,” and when they arrive, Tom picks up one, downs it, and then immediately finishes the second one.
“Goes down smooth,” he says and Grace turns to watch the bartender cutting up limes and their eyes meet and she knows they're thinking the same thing – what it would be like to plunge the knife into Tom's throat.
Back at the apartment, Tom is wobbly and when Grace opens the door he takes a step forward, as if he's coming inside.
“Sorry,” Grace says.
Tom looks surprised. “But I'm too drunk to drive. And aren't we going to have sex?”
“Let me see your car keys,” Grace says and when Tom manages to pull them out of his pocket, Grace takes the keys and throws them into the yard next door, the yard with two pit bulls. Tom watches, then turns back to Grace.
“But we're still going to have sex, right?”
Grace closes the door.
Tom sleeps on a bus stop bench and doesn't notice when someone takes his wallet. He tells everyone eHarmony is a big joke and it's easier to find girls the old-fashioned way.
Two years later he meets a girl on ChristianMingle, but she turns out to be recently released from rehab and after a night of too many boilermakers, she and Tom are killed when a pilot light failure causes a gas explosion.
Grace meets a man in line at CVS buying Tampax for his girlfriend, they end up talking in the parking lot, he breaks up with the girlfriend (who was cheating on him anyway), they never marry, but adopt four German shepherds from a rescue organization and help run their Neighborhood Watch.
It's funny, because his name is Tom, too.
Ann Lewis Hamilton is a writer living in California.
Ann Lewis Hamilton