August 14, 2003
“Do you remember what we used to call you back in high school?”
Lando hated that Jen asked him this, on tonight of all nights. He hated the memories it brought back even more. He poked the broccoli on his plate around for a few moments before sheepishly answering, “Rolly Polly.”
Jen giggled. “You were so cute then! Such a little ball of a boy!” She puffed her cheeks and wiggled an imaginary ball in her hands.
“It’s Lando now,” he remarked, quietly shoving a piece of beef down his mouth.
His date for the evening suddenly fell silent, realization dawning on her face. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she sympathized, “Did I say something wrong?”
“It’s fine. We were all stupid kids then,” Lando assured her before adding, “And I was pretty heavy back in the day.”
“But look at you now! You’re so lean and muscle-y!” Jen wanted to add “sexy”, but couldn’t bring up the nerve. She took another sip of her wine.
Lando, on the other hand, just felt awkward. He was never good at dealing with emotions, and was worse at dealing with awkwardness. He shifted his attention to the meal before him: beef with broccoli, steamed garlic fish, honey-lemon chicken, fried rice, and a steaming bowl of eight treasures soup, courtesy of the city’s finest Chinese restaurant. He cleaned off the last of the beef on his plate, filled the dish back up with rice, and put an assortment of meat on top. He grabbed another bowl of soup. Jen quietly ate along with him.
She broke the silence a couple of minutes later. “Where does it all go?”
Lando paused. “What does what go?”
Jen pointed at his plate. “The food. You eat so much, but you don’t seem to be gaining any weight.”
Lando shrugged. “I dunno. I guess my metabolism must’ve caught up with me?” He took another bite of the chicken.
“I envy you,” she said, looking at him straight in the eyes. “You get to eat anything you want, and you never get any fatter.”
Lando gulped down rather hard. He hesitated for a second, then decided it was time to say what he’d been holding back since the evening started. “To be honest, I really only eat like this when I’m nervous.”
Jen was a little confused. “Nervous?”
“Well, remember when I asked you here?”
“You called me last night.”
“Yeah, well, I called you ‘cause I liked you. I’ve liked you since high school. You were – what’s the word – radiant back then, and you haven’t changed a bit. I always wanted to talk to you but, well, you were too busy calling me ‘Rolly’… ‘Rolly Polly’.” He face sank, a mixture of shame and anxiety clear in his expression. He was disgusted at himself for eating like a pig.
Jen put her hand over his, “You know, I think ‘Lando’ suits you better. It’s a handsome name.”
Lando looked up. She was smiling. He smiled back.
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