Save The Date - Other Side Of The Screen
Save The Date
The fierce wind howled between the tall buildings of Central Philadelphia’s lit streets. Mother Nature had trouble deciding between snow and rain the past few days, so various dark puddles and grey snow stacks lined the roads and sidewalks. The temperature had dropped to around thirty degrees after sundown and yet Terrance still feared he was sweating excessively.
He stood and waited for his blind date in front of a restaurant a few blocks away from South Street. The only information he had about her from his old roommate was her name, Caprice. He pulled his fingerless gloved hands out of his jacket pocket and brought out his smart phone. Its main function in his life remained the ever-daunting task of trying to manage his guild in Universe of ConflictCraft. For once, it had another purpose. He opened a browser and looked up her name on one of the million and one baby name sites.
“Impulsive and whimsical. Yeah, she better be drop dead gorgeous too…” He shivered when the wind blew across his face.
He regretted gloating to his friend, Barry, about how he used to get girls into bed throughout high school with ease. He even went as far as to describe himself as a “black Don Juan”. Barry didn’t believe a word of it, so he issued the challenge for Terrance to hook up with this girl for the night and he demanded to know every step of the way. Barry description of her being high class and the thought that High School was four long years ago, made him worry about being too rusty.
He groaned also at the memory of telling Barry he would “check in” when he got to the restaurant. “What was that stupid App’s name? Save something I think…” Trying to find an app that had a check-in feature didn’t help his level of annoyance.
Terrance flipped through the App store and downloaded the first one with the word “Save” in it. He touched the App to open it and nearly jumped when the image of a red bearded white guy with sunglasses and a blue bandanna took up the whole screen on his phone. It reminded him of those jokes where someone would show you a video of kittens playing, then out of nowhere, a picture of a zombie lady would come out and scream at you. Granted, the guy wasn’t some grotesque zombie, but it was unexpected. He raised an eyebrow, as the face didn’t go away for a minute. Oh, he had to touch the guy. He sighed at how horrible that statement sounded in his head, causing a puff of fog to materialize in the cold air. His finger slowly went down and pressed the grinning face and the screen went black.
“Guts McGurt and Company presents, for your convenience, your very own save point!” The text appeared in blue letters then went to a screen with a blue background and only two word buttons in white, “Save” and “Load”.
It looked like a Save screen from an old school RPG, he thought. Guts McGurt was clearly trying to capitalize the style for profit. Shrugging it off, Terrance pressed the save button and the letters were replaced by a time stamp with his location and the current time. Pressing Load seemed to be the next logical step. When his finger shadowed over the button something interrupted his train of thought.
“Terrance, right?” came a sweet voice next to him. Looking up, he saw a woman in her early twenties with darker skin tone than most white girls he knew. She must have been Italian, he figured. Raven black hair came down to the middle of her back, and though her figure hid under her burgundy jacket, he saw enough to leave a fond first impression while leaving a little something on the side for his imagination. Thankfully, she didn’t wear much in the way of makeup, because he felt she had a natural beauty to her where applying it seemed like a waste. She wore jeans tucked into black boots and a simple black shirt under her jacket. It looked great on her and Terrance made it his night’s goal to see what was under all of it. In the meantime, he thanked his friend for all of the dirty thoughts filling his mind.
“Yeah, that’s me. You must be Caprice.” He put on his best smile in hopes that his first words seemed more memorable. “I love your name. It’s like the Chevy.”
“Yup.” Her smile faded and she exhaled slowly, producing a familiar dense cloud of fog. “Just like the car.”
He noted her expression and shrugged it off with a coy smile. “Either way, the car is impressive to look at and so are you.” He tried his best to not make it sound cheesy, hoping instead, to turn it around to a compliment.
“Yeah, can we go inside please?” Her lip curled up a hint of a sneer.
He suddenly imagined his own body, so caked in rust that it was near impossible to move.
Reaching for the door and opening it for her to pass him, his eyes followed her backside with each step she took. Even if things were starting off bad, at least he would get something out of it. In his mind, he went over the checklist of things not to talk about. The most important thing on said list was his guild and gaming in general. He got into gaming after high school when his roommate introduced him to MMOs for stress relief and got completely sucked in. Thinking about it, he realized he had worn his faction necklace from Universe of ConflictCraft and made sure to tuck it under his shirt before he took off his jacket. Though he knew plenty of female gamers, the idea of her being one wasn’t part of his old strategy from high school. It felt too risky to include since that would mean assuming she was a gamer.
Ten minutes into the date and he didn’t feel the rust chip off at all. Everything out of his mouth sounded like a terrible eighties movie jock, a Casanova wannabe, or one of those bumbling characters in a Spike Lee movie. His friend was right, she was high class, and any compliment he said immediately hit her body and bounced off with a sigh of boredom and a roll of the eyes. “It’s just like riding a bike,” he remembered telling Barry. Oh, how badly he wanted to punch himself, since that line alone should have been a major clue that he needed to brush up.
“You’ll have to excuse me. I have to use the rest room.” She forced a smile that made it evident that he wasn’t connecting with her in the slightest. Terrance watched her walk off towards the back of the restaurant, and despite his dismay, he couldn’t help but stare once more and then he went back eat his dinner. Thankfully, the meal happened to be good at least.
The thought of utter failure to get her drove him to the brink of annoyance. None of the girls he slept with in high school could compare to Caprice and the idea of screwing up as much as he did killed him. After a minute of getting annoyed at himself, he heard his phone beep and made him lose track of his long-winded thoughts.
“Dude 1st off u didn’t check in, 2nd she just txtd me. U falln off the bike mr xpert?” the text read.
He slumped back in his chair and let his head hang off the back of the chair. “Well this is a complete disaster,” he thought to himself.
Terrance brought the cell phone up and turned the app on once more. Checking in and admitting defeat seemed like the least he could do. He pressed his finger against the guy’s face again and saw the time stamp still on the save button. He shrugged and firmly pressed Load, figuring it would load to his Facebook account on his phone. When the button changed to say “Loading”, his body quivered with a horrible sensation of cold and pain. He had to close his eyes tight in reaction and thankfully, the feeling lasted only a moment, though the chill remained. Before he could open his eyes, he felt like he skipped a breath, his heart missed a beat, and his body sincerely felt wrong. A sense of déjà vu plagued his mind. He opened his eyes and looked down at the buttons again. The Save button still had the time stamp on it and the second button said “Loaded” for a moment before changing back to its normal position of Load.
He stared passed the fog coming from his mouth and focused on the button. How did it get so cold inside? Terrance’s gaze slowly traveled up and didn’t see the table he sat at anymore. Instead, he was outside the restaurant like before. He stayed motionless with a blank stare, the cogs in his mind trying to bring some rational explanation.
“Terrance, right?” he heard next to him. He turned his head slowly and saw Caprice, who wore her jacket and looked exactly like she did when he first saw her.
“How did we get out here?” he asked her while retaining his vacant expression.
“Umm you walked here right? “ She looked to him with a confused look.
“Yeah, I did like an hour ago. We were just inside eating.” He motioned inside the restaurant with a narrowed gaze. “Did I get drunk or something?”
“Ok… I take it you’re not Terrance then.” She seemed afraid of him. “Excuse me.” She tried to move past him and into the restaurant.
“No wait, yeah I’m Terrance.” His head hurt. None of it made sense.
“Yeah, you know what, I don’t believe you. What’s my name then?” She clenched her fists and he thought she seemed ready to punch him.
“Caprice. Like the car,” he blurted out in a quick reaction. He thankfully caught his words. “Anyway why are you asking me these questions, we were just inside eating like five seconds ago.”
“I just got here. What are you talking about?” Her tolerance for his questions seemed to be dwindling and put her hands in front of her to distance herself from him. “Listen, I’m not getting a good vibe from this, and I’m feeling really uncomfortable. Maybe we can do this some other time, when you aren’t crazy.”
Caprice turned to leave and if Terrance wasn’t so confused, he would have stopped her. Instead, he simply watched her walk away, leaving him with only his phone and a headache. Not only hadn’t he won the bet, but had also messed up his chance of doing what he really wanted to do to her.
“Ok… that made no sense,” he sneered at his new found headache which started to escalate for several reasons. He groaned and looked to his phone. Now seemed like a good time to text Barry his declaration of defeat, he thought. He blinked his eyes several times when he saw the time on his phone matched the time stamp on the save point, with the difference of a minute.
“Whoa!” He nearly dropped his phone when the numbers connected in his head.
Turning around quickly, he peeked his head into the restaurant and saw their clock matched. His eyes remained fixed on it for several moments while his mind pieced together what was happening. What in the hell happened when he pressed Load? Looking to his phone once more, he slowly inched his finger to the load button as an idea dawned on him. Maybe it didn’t only look like an RPG save screen, it was one, and Terrance could only think of one way to find out.
The pain washed over him like before except this time he was ready for it, though it was still powerful enough to force his eyes closed. When he opened them, he still stood outside the restaurant and faced towards the like when he pressed save the first time. A grin crept its way across his face.
“Terrance, right?” the all too familiar words and voice came from next to him.
Most people would ponder over what they could do with such power, take over the world, find ways to get money to feed the hungry, or at least work the stock market. Terrance remained focused on his nightly goal and now he had nothing in his way. All the rust chipped away to reveal a nice clean example of man that rivaled the Old Spice Guy.
“Why yes I am.” He turned to face her and his lips curled to a confidence grin. “You must be Caprice, I love your name.”
She hesitated for a moment, obviously expecting the car comment, and had a look of relief when it didn’t emerge. “Thank you.” She had the most genuine smile he had seen all night.
He opened the door for her and motioned inward. She nodded in thanks and walked past him into the restraint.
Terrance had all of the time in the world and all the chances to make a good impression. He embraced the newly found confidence like a long lost friend. The power went to his head because he didn’t realize he was being overly cocky and trying too hard to act “cool”. That attempt ended in her being put off by him in a similar fashion as the first try. That too resulted in another push of the load button. At this point, the jarring pain it brought seemed worth it.
Having trouble figuring out what she went for, he tried something different for his third attempt. He thought back to when he used to play around with the shy girls at school and went somewhat blunt and straightforward. It ended as horribly as his first two attempts and concluded when he made a comment about revving her engine. Oh, how the load button was becoming his best friend.
In situation number four, he felt he had his fun, though the lingering idea of trying to act like a black Jack Nicholson seemed far too appealing. For this try, he decided to stop the endeavor of figuring her out the hard way and thought to ask her a million questions instead, hoping to get some answers before she got too annoyed. He needed ammo for attempt number five. The conversations from the past gave him some clues, though now he could get what he really needed. He was a lot more casual and merely acted like she was more of a friend, instead of someone he was trying to get in the pants of (not that he still didn’t want to, that was the point of everything). Terrance tried his best to make his questions not too intrusive.
He found out many good tidbits about her. She worked as a file clerk for a law firm in the city until she got her degree in business, had a fondness for the color burgundy, and joked about moving to Europe one day so she could hunt down a certain actor she had the hots for. All the things she said were cute and funny with a touch of maturity he wasn’t used to. He came to realize the most important thing about her and his problem the whole night. He was dealing with a woman, not a high school girl.
The genuine smile on her face seemed to be an obvious clue to him that she was having a good time. It didn’t seem like she was excited about herself or anything of the sort, she seemed to be enticed by his desire to get to know her, rather than treating her like some sort of prey. She also turned things around on him and asked him about his views and opinions on different matters, which he answered honestly, though he still felt it would be pointless to bring how most of his free time consisted of being on an online game.
She excused herself to the restroom, though this time it seemed for natural reasons rather than to get away from him. He felt overly pleased with how things were going. Maybe a fifth attempt wasn’t needed after all. They were bonding and he didn’t have to do anything tricky or act any differently than he normally would on a day to day basis. No games, no pretending to be someone else, just being himself. This was a lot different from high school by leaps and bounds.
Pulling out his cell phone and pressing Save once more, Terrance figured that it might be nice to have a backup since things were going well. When he removed his finger from the screen, he saw the time stamp changed to his current time and location.
Caprice returned to table and stated, “So I noticed your necklace.”
He felt the chill similar to the biting cold outside. A sharp headache struck him as he realized he forgot to put away his Faction emblem after his last load. Also, the recent memory of how he save his spot a few seconds before made his mind pound in panic.
He remembered his roommate Derrick complaining while playing Epic Journey 9 about how he saved before a boss he couldn’t beat. The game had his roommate in a spot where he couldn’t turn around to level up to beat the boss, making him stuck between a wall and his death. Derrick ultimately had to revert to a save point that was twenty hours behind that spot and redo everything from there. Terrance didn’t know whether to be annoyed that he knew what all that meant, or that he now completely understood the feeling, minus the earlier save point.
“Yeah… it’s just something I wear,” he muttered in an attempt to pass it off as nothing.
“It’s from Universe of ConflictCraft,” she noted with a coy smirk. Terrance tried his best not to groan in defeat. “My brother actually plays all the same.”
“Oh that’s cool.” She didn’t seem bothered by the game, though he felt an odd geeky desire to ask her what server he was on. A thought he rapidly suppressed and tried to think of a way to divert the topic.
“Yeah he’s trying really hard to catch up to me.” Her smile went from coy to just down right teasing, obviously stringing him along. “I piss him off when he sees my max level Trapper soloing elites his level.”
He found himself laughing hard because he couldn’t believe he panicked over something as stupid as a necklace.
They spent the last few minutes of their dinner swapping general contact information and server info for the game. They were on different servers but they said they would make new characters on a server to party together. The check came and he offered to pay for it only to have her insist on splitting the bill.
She examined the clock on the wall and explained to him that she wanted to hail a cab since it was getting late. Terrance’s mind went to the save point in his pocket and the idea that maybe if he went back the few minutes before he could somehow convince her to head home with him and win the bet. Terrance smirked and shrugged. He didn’t really care about losing at this point.
Walking outside, Terrance made sure to let her go first for a reason other than to check out her ass. He sported a plotting grin, pulled out his phone, and pressed Save. He couldn’t help it, he wanted to kiss her at least once tonight, and the idea of having a contingency plan in case she pushed him away gave him some extra confidence. As he stepped out to the chilly air once more, she already had turned towards him.
“Listen Terrance, I had a good time tonight. A really good time actually.” Caprice’s eyes drifted down to the ground and he could see her blushing.
“Me too,” he whispered and wasted no time stepping close to her. He brought his hand up to cup her cheek and kissed her before she could react. The kiss lasted only a few moments and the soft texture of her lips felt better then he imagined. As they pulled away, he was glad to notice her hand on his shoulders.
“I was about to say we should go slow with this.” Her forehead leaned against his. “But that was enough to definitely earn you a second date.”
Terrance seemed all right with that, and longed more for the promise of another date than the idea of prospect of sleeping with her. He didn’t respond to her at first, and just enjoyed the feeling of closeness that his arm wrapped around her waist brought. Hearing an odd hollow noise that sounded like a series of quick taps, he chuckled as she looked into his eyes and shrugged with a grin, showing her chattering teeth.
He laughed, “Ok, let’s get ya that cab. I don’t want ya freezin out here.” He found the idea of letting her go to be one of the hardest things he had to do that night.
She stepped back and patted his cheek with a smile, while she turned around enough to see the cars go by. It only took a moment for a taxi to pass and pull up to the curb in response to her raised hand.
“Figures they pull up for a beautiful woman. Just be careful. Ya know the taxi drivers around here are worse than New York’s” he jested, opened the car door, and motioned for her to enter. He watched her climb inside the back of the cab and tried his best not to lose eye contact with her beautiful brown eyes. “Hey bud,” he stated to the taxi driver, “Here’s a twenty, get her where she needs to go safe alright?”
“Will do,” the driver replied then drove away with Caprice in the car, and with her went the warm feeling she brought him, but he had a way to fix that.
Terrance pulled out his phone once more and stared at it with a blank stare, finally realizing what he had in his hand. A thousand ideas started to tear through his mind at all of the things he could do with this. Forget the bet. He would never have to worry about money or anything else ever again. It would be so easy to take. Even the thought of all the women he could easily hook up with was more than enough to make him completely forget about his date with Caprice. The urge to use the save point to get in Caprice’s pants and achieve his old nightly goal seemed like less than a simple task thanks to his gift. One touch of a button and he can try to find the right words to tear down any stupid emotional and moral walls she had up and get to what he wanted from the start. He grinned and lifted his thumb up to press the button, but the abrupt sound of steel hitting steel made him drop his phone.
On instinct, he quickly scooped it up and looked up at what made the god-awful noise. Caprice’s cab laid in middle of an intersection and turned upside down, another car sitting next to it with major damage done to the front. Terrance’s heart stopped.
His body went into auto drive as he ran to the cab with as much speed as his legs could muster, chanting, “Please be ok,” with each stride. Getting closer, it looked like the cab’s roof almost meet the bottom of the windows on the door’s frame, his mind pushed him faster and his tears to well up under his eyes. Ignoring the people taking photos of the accident, Terrance quickly slid along the street and knelt down along the passenger side door.
“Caprice!” He shouted several times. “Caprice, freak’n talk to me!”
When he glared at into the window, he couldn’t see anything but the cushions of the car seat and the twisted steel of the frame.
“Oh please no… Caprice!” he yelled once more. His mind drowned out all the sounds around him, and focused solely on her and the feeling he had when he left the restaurant. That warm feeling of happiness was now replaced with the regret of how the moment she left he was scheming to use his phone to sleep with her, and also the over whelming fear that he will never be able to be near her again.
He bent down lower and tried to reach in to the closest passenger window, his hand meet resistance only a few short inches deep. When he brought it out, he stared at it, watching the crimson red of blood dripping from his shaking dark brown hand. The red puddle forming under the car and along the pavement seemed to be the only thing he could see past the tears that clouded his vision. He clenched all the muscles in his body until every fiber in his being felt as though it would snap from the tension. He had gone from heaven and went directly to hell.
Something hit his mind like a ton of bricks: his phone! His eyes went wide and he grinned in a way that was bordering on insane.
“I can save her!” He stood up, pulled out his cell phone with his bloody digits, and turned around to show everyone the device. “It’s ok, I can save her!” A look of maddening relief draped his face, causing the people around him to stare and be more concerned at him than the hopeless accident.
While holding the phone, his hands never stopped shaking. He pressed the app leaving a bloody fingerprint, and then Guts McGurt’s grinning face appeared. “Yeah I’m smiling along with ya.” Terrance thought the crazy white guy’s face felt like peering at the face of god. Directing his finger towards the Load button, he pressed it and welcomed the pain it would bring. It was nothing compared to how he felt at that moment. His eyes widened as it never came, and he looked down at the message his phone gave him, forcing him to press the load button frantically several more times only to get the same message.
“Save data corrupt?” his deep voice roared at his phone in utter despair and maddening rage. He had the power to do whatever he wished, but now could do nothing.