The (Edible) Skeletons In His Closet

jennifer hulley food photographer skeleton cookie recipe

"I don’t know, I guess I like the texture and, the taste obviously. The people I worked with were weird about it. I had to find places the security cameras didn't reach which was annoying, I don’t get what the big deal was…" He scrunched up his face, pinching the skin of the bridge of his nose.  If his eyes had been open I wonder if he would have registered the look of horror spreading across my face.

"Didn't anyone have a problem with this? I mean, aside from the fact that you were eating on the job, you were also taking from internal inventory..."

"Yah, well I guess that was the actual issue and eventually I was, you know, fired."

"Hmmm. I see. Maybe this was a good thing? A unplanned intervention of some sort?"

He started at me stone faced. Was he going to cry? Scream? Frantically pull a pacifying biscuit from his pocket, stuff it into his mouth and spew crumbs of rage into my face?

It was during the summer of his university years. To help make ends meet he had taken a job working at an international pet store chain, only to have it crack open the lid on a deeply buried issue, stuffed well beneath the surface of his psyche: a voracious and insatiable appetite for milk bones. How does this information get left of an online dating profile? There is ample space to list your favourite wines, cuisines, the ways you fill your evenings and weekends, and yet there was nothing.  

I looked the biscotti he held as he dipped it into his latte, realizing I had arrived there after he had, and consequently had not been able to witness the exchange of money for goods. Was that even a legitimate biscotti baked in this café?  Or had he brought along something special from home, something to take the edge off until he was back in his own sphere of safety: an empire built of milk bones? The panic inducing possibilities swirled around my head. People bake their own dog treats at home, I had seen it on the internet. I looked back and forth between his hand and the display case. Ah ha! There wasn't even biscotti for sale! Wait…maybe that was that the last one? Please let that be the last one.

It was then I realized he had been talking for several minutes and I had absolutely no idea about what. I nodded, smiled and produced a supportive "hmmmm" which was met with a furrowed brow.  It was possible his phrasing had required me to produce something of more depth than a single syllabic utterance.

Did the milk bone addiction shock me? Yes and no. In my gut I knew something was coming. The entire date had felt off. All 15 minutes of it. The first indication that this was going to be "another one for the books" came from his eye gaze. I noticed he avoided eye contact when he was speaking, choosing  to stare off into the distance at some far corner. I chalked it up to a "to each their own," scenario, aware that not everyone is comfortable with direct eye contact and didn’t' make a big deal of it. However, when the conversation came for my turn to talk I noticed his gaze would return to mine for about a half second before his eyes would trail off again.

After a few exchanges like this I started to notice that his eyes weren't actually trailing off randomly as I originally thought. As I watched, a little bit intrigued and a whole lot of perplexed, I noticed his eyes began to travel up and down over and over in a left to right patter, a sort of rolling wave motion, faster and faster and faster.

I decided to track his eye gaze. It became hard to talk as I found myself following his gaze trying to decipher if it was ok to keep going or if I needed to grab my phone to dial an ambulance. I watched as his eyes darted around the room I  pressed on telling a story, demonstrating my expert skills in multitasking: simultaneously collecting data while still putting on an air of not noticing all while sipping a cappuccino and enjoying a scone.

Quickly they darted up, down, left, left, right, up, up, up,  and then became erratic and frantic, pupils dilating as he tried to keep up with the pace, like a dog who was visually stalking a laser pointer, moments before they pounced.  I now began to worry he was going to launch himself from the chair, clear the table and pounce on the wall behind me.

I tried to discreetly glance over my shoulder, turning towards the wall to see what was there. I noticed as I rotated so did his gaze, and it followed me back again. Eureka! My internal data collection had hit a point where it was possible to make a confident hypothesis, nay, a solid statement of observation in fact.

He was following my hands.  Over and over and over again as I waved them animatedly to punctuate my stories. Well, now this was definitely weird, this was starting to creep out of "one for the books" territory and into "THIS IS THE BOOK" land. Was he waiting for me to launch a ball from my hands? Poised, at the ready to pounce and retrieve it, expecting a ceremonial "good boy" pat on the head?

This date just elevated its ranking in terms of seriousness. In addition to being acutely aware of your choice of words as happens when you meet someone for the first time, I now also felt responsible for what was to come in terms of his physical state. I mean if motion sickness or physical launching of a body across the room resulted from my flailing limbs surely I'd have to take some responsibility. This was all too much pressure for a first non-date online date.

"Safety first" I thought to myself as I sat on my hands. Yes, on my hands like an impatient kindergartener with no self-control after being chastised by their teacher. This seemed to help. For a bit as he managed to hold eye contact during some verbal exchanges. Eventually thought, the gaze retreated back to the corner of the room. Oh well, at least there it was safe.

I attempted to pull the conversation back to some neutral territory. Asked him things about his family. Did he have siblings? Did his family live nearby. I was met with one word answers and so I stopped, leaving some quiet space between use. Eventually his eye gaze came to meet mind again and he took a deep breath.

"So tell me….do you have a dog?"

Is there anything more appropriate than some edible bone shaped cookies for this scenario? I think not. Click on the image below to be taken to my fav go to sugar cookie recipe. Cut them into bone shapes, circles, butterflies - whatever your heart desires.