Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Flash of Fiction: Fandom (Part 1)

It was a mild summer Saturday night in the bustling Canadian city, just about the time of night when the babyboomers finished up their evening meals on patios and the University kids were still pre-drinking and preparing for what lay ahead.

It was perfectly fitting, she thought, that she was out and about in this in-between time of day, this no-man's land of Saturday nights. She was oddly comfortable in that middle ground in most aspects of her life.

Beatrice stood on the sidewalk, nervously surveying the building and trying to see past the late setting sun's glare in the windows into the pub beyond. She was playing it cool, having arrived twenty minutes early and not wanting to be the first desperate woman inside.

She circled the block and made it back with another ten minutes to spare. Damn her nervous energy for having pushed her out of her apartment too soon. After taking out her phone and pretending to check non-existent messages for the third time, she cursed herself and went back to the double-door entrance of the pub. Get this over with.

"Tonight at 9:30. Lightspeed Dating," she mumble-sighed to herself, reading the banner above the door, written in what she knew instinctually to be the Star Wars font. "Real clever."

She had opened the forwarded email on the Monday, only deciding not to immediately junk it because the sender had been her best friend.

See below. Sounds right up your alley, you nerd.
Lots of love,
Nina

"Geek," she had corrected with a throaty harumph as she adjusted her thick-framed glasses and scrolled past the snarky intro. She read on with heavy skepticism on her brain, learning all about the city's newest themed mini-community of singletons.

Attendees were encouraged to wear costumes to the upcoming event, and Beatrice pondered the Hobbit costume tucked away in the back of her closet. She would have loved to let the beautiful hand-crafted corset adorned in shining gold and green embroidery see the light again, it had been so long since its last outing, but she cringed to think of herself walking the city streets in her big-feet-shoes on a regular non-ComicCon day. She could geek out with the best of them, but she tried to pick her moments to maintain some semblance of a sense of social awareness.

She had replied tersely to Nina.

You must think I'm pretty desperate.
-B

The reply came dinging into her mailbox faster than she'd expected.

Nuh uh. You just need to be out of your apartment for him to find you.
-Nina

Nina, bless her, had a way of talking about her single friend's future partner as if he was someone they already knew. A vague, nameless figure, out there in the world biding his time until he somehow stumbled into Beatrice's life. He was a specific stranger. Nina would often tease Beatrice, mostly in the sporadic instances when she complained about the single life, by randomly blurting out her musings on what HE was doing right this instant. She would be met with rolling eyes and a playful punch to the shoulder, but Nina loved doing it anyway and watching her friend scoff while suppressing a secret smile.

Beatrice breathed out heavily, her cheeks puffing out as she did so. She hiked up her jeans, smoothed down the front of her Battlestar Gallactica t-shirt, and forced a smile, desperately trying to reassure herself that she was cute in that I didn't try too hard, sorta way. Anyone could put on a cute dress to impress guys, but she was Beatrice, dammit, and even if she couldn't bring herself to cosplay she was damn well going to at least dress for the theme somehow. Speed dating for geeks. Oy.

She double-checked that her Keep Calm, I'm the Doctor button was still in place on her purse, quickly tilted it so the TARDIS was upright again, and she was ready.

"Beatrice Hart," she announced to the bartender standing beside a registration sign, this time in the delightfully sixties Trek font. With a name like that, her hippie parents had tried to bestow upon her their same love of all things vintage, their appreciation for the past, and all the good old days she kept hearing about. Instead she had embraced the future, science fiction, space ships and time travel, aliens and new worlds.

Her mom would flip through her record collection hoping to spark an interest in her daughter, but Beatrice's reply was always a show and tell of her iPod and the five hundred songs within it.

The bartender handed over her name badge with a wink and took her drink ticket, exchanging it for a bottle of beer. Beatrice marveled at his chiseled jaw and tousled roguish hair, sighing to herself in defeat upon realizing the bar staff was probably much more appealing than the slew of five-minute dates she was about to endure.

"Do you want to leave your sweater with coat check?" he asked with a crooked smile.

Beatrice's tongue swelled and stumbled around her mouth as she struggled to form words fit for a GQ model's ears. She handed over her cardigan and her eyes flitted around nervously, landing on the registration sign again. Lightspeed Dating. She went with what she knew.

"Make it so."

His arm hovered over the bar as the blue fabric hung between them. "Umm," he stammered, "I am."

Bombed.

Beatrice tried to recover. "Oh I know," she giggled, "it's a Star Trek reference, in the Next Generation..."

The bartender nodded his head with raised eyebrow and a polite smile, much less flirtatious than before, and turned his back to place her sweater on a hanger off to the side behind him.

She swiveled around, taking a long pull from her beer, hoping to swallow her cringing as much as the alcohol. Should have known, she thought. A hockey joke would have gone over better.

"Kirk or Picard?" came a nasally voice to her right. She lowered her beer quickly to see a portly man about her age with slicked black hair standing at her side. He wore a name tag. Matt. Another lightspeed dater.

"Well," she indulged his question, grateful that someone else spoke her language, "I'm of the opinion that they were both excellent leaders in different ways."

Matt's eyes lit up. "No, no, no," he shook his head enthusiastically and waggled a scolding finger. "That's a cop-out right there. You gotta pick one!"

A moment of silence stretched between them. Beatrice thought for a moment, pushing her brown hair behind her ears with her beerless hand. "I refuse to take sides," she smiled.

Matt huffed loudly, clearly unimpressed. "Wars or Trek?" 

Again Beatrice knew her answer would be disappointing. "Both?" she ventured.

Suddenly his arms were thrown up in the air in frustration, and he began a seemingly rehearsed monologue about the superiority of Star Trek, its utopian values and racial diversity, acting, writing, and on and on. Beatrice looked on with wide eyes, surprised to have set off such a volatile reaction. She too was passionate about the things she loved, but not to the degree of lecturing a complete stranger.

A speaker crackled to life and she was glad for the interruption, quickly looking away from the ranting fanboy at her side.

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Lightspeed dating! Ladies take your seats, and the men will rotate every five minutes when you hear the blaster!" A loud, laser-like pew pew echoed across the room, followed by a chorus of laughter. Beatrice loved a well executed theme and couldn't help but grin. Without a word, she hustled away from Matt who had now engaged some other poor sap in an argument about Luke Skywalker's merit as a Jedi Knight.


Round one.

"I could never date someone who thought Greedo shot first," stated suitor number one with the conviction normally reserved for heated political conversations. Now there was a dealbreaker she'd never heard before.

Pew pew!

"Word of Warcraft takes up a lot of my time, but if you play then yes - we could spend lots of time together in Azeroth."

Pew pew!

Beatrice retained nothing of what her next mini-date said over the stench of weed permeating from his every pore.

Pew pew!

"I'm into ultimate frisby in summer and snowboarding in the winter."

"Do you like Doctor Who?"

"Who?"

"No, the TV show. Doctor Who."

"Never heard of it."

"Wow," she replied with a chuckle. "Then what are you doing at a geek dating event?"

"What?" he exclaimed, his head suddenly swiveling around the room. "It's for geeks?"

Pew pew!

Beatrice spent the next five minutes desperately trying to keep the small talk going while the next guy downed two beers in quick succession, asking her nothing about herself.

"Well, nice talking to you," she offered.

"Yep," he stood and left without even making eye contact.

Pew pew!

She was starting to fantasize about the blaster pew pewing her right in the temple.

***

An hour later, she dropped her purse on the floor and shuffled into her bedroom with all the zeal of an old timey zombie. She threw herself on the bed face first and landed with a soft thud. Well that was a wash.

Beatrice contemplated texting Nina to thank her for the wonderful suggestion that she get out of her comfort zone, but decided against it. Her friend's intentions were good, and she couldn't have known it would be the wasted effort it turned out to be.

She grabbed for the laptop on her bedside table and decided to indulge in her little ego-boosting ritual, checking her blog's daily traffic and comment section. She logged in, her mood finally lightening again as her adrenaline began to spike. She knew it was silly to be so excited over something so small, but the feedback from her loyal readers never failed to bring her joy. Even the trolls made her laugh.

A quick scroll through the new comments waiting for approval lifted her spirits, but as she reached the end of the list, she couldn't help but feel a small wave of disappointment. Nothing from Gallifreyan82. Her favourite reader must not have paid her blog a visit today.

He could always be counted on to provide insightful thoughts on her writing. He always picked up on her most subtle uses of subtext, grasped her underlying themes, and appreciated her wit. Not to mention he was the best and least judgmental proofreader she'd ever had. Gallifreyan82 had the most charming, delicate way of pointing out typos she'd ever seen. He was complimentary and helpful. A writer's dream reader.

Strange that he hadn't made an appearance in the comments of her recent update, given that he knew what a big day tomorrow would be for her.

Beatrice kicked off her shoes and jeans and pulled the sheets up to her chin. She fell asleep to swirling thoughts of shirtless Kirk and Picard duking it out in a Gladiatorial arena

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