The way she looked at it, the piece of stewed… Was it goat or beef? The way she looked at it; I could see that she wanted to eat it but it was too big. We had spent the afternoon shaking hands and touching surfaces and, in our typical poor planning, none of us had remembered to bring hand sanitizer or wet wipes. Using our hands was out of the question and the plastic forks that were provided could not fork the meat, so they had to be used as spoons. But, that piece was still too big.
And then the wild thought hit me. I picked up the piece between my thumb and index finger and tossed my head back, opening my mouth and lowering it dramatically into the gaping maw. I knew it was a bad idea the moment I closed my mouth around it. It was too late to turn back now. Her eyes were on me, and even as I looked triumphantly in her direction, I did not so much as see her amusement but feel it; the playful glint in her eyes and the makings of that sunrise of a smile at the corners of her luscious mouth.
I chewed slowly, idiotically hoping the meat would somehow melt because my jaws were tiring. I bit off and swallowed tiny bits, all the while feeling her glowing warmly in my direction. I could tell her friend was looking at me too, but I barely noticed her. I hardly notice anything else when I am in her orbit. I came to a piece of gristle that I thought I could swallow whole. I felt myself choking as the gag reflex became increasingly stronger and my breathing become shallower. My vision blurred and the panic rose as the gristle slid down my wind pipe. So, this is how I was going out, choking while trying to impress a girl.
Leaning down, partly to clear my airway and mostly to hide my embarrassment, I bit off the troublesome bit with my front teeth and pulled it away. Looking up, I found tears almost streaming down her face as the laughter threatened to suffocate her. I could not help but join her, even with the partial mouthful. As my eyes cleared, I saw her silhouetted against the darkened early evening by the scattered spotlights. She was still one of the most beautiful people I had ever seen.
“Putting large pieces of meat in my mouth is not one of my talents.”
“It’s the chewing that makes the difference. You’re not supposed to chew.”
“Well, I’ve clearly been going about it the wrong way.”
We smiled at each other. For once I did something stupid that made her happy, a far cry from my norm. It was as good an end to the day as I could have hoped for.