Ten First Impressions by Kip Knott

Ten First Impressions

We decided to meet because we both listed “they” and “them” as our pronouns in our profiles. The first thing they ask when we meet is if “they” really is my preferred pronoun. They hold their keys in their hand until I say, “Yes. They.” I think the little metal spray bottle on the keyring is mace.

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They open the restaurant door for me and insist I go in first. They ask me if I mind. I tell them I think it’s a nice gesture.

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They order a single malt and laugh at my Ron Swanson joke. They don’t say anything when I order a club soda with a twist.

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There’s something wrong with the pinky on their left hand. It sticks out from the rest of the fingers.

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They talk about the rally that was downtown today, how happy they were that more counter-protesters showed than Proud Boys. I say I can’t believe how openly racist people have become. They nod their head vigorously. “It’s always been out there. Now we just have a bunch of faces to go with it,” they say as our meals arrive.

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They say they like how I eat with gusto. I feel my face flush as I take a smaller than usual bite. Their pinky stands at attention every time they lift the fork to their mouth.

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They excuse themselves just after ordering coffee with cream and a crème brûlée. I watch them walk away, some part of me wondering if they will come back. I replay our conversation in my mind: pronoun preferences; Parks and Rec allusions; Black Lives Matter. All simpatico. Then I re-examine our orders: scotch vs. fizzy water; steak frites vs. salmon; fancy French dessert vs. bread pudding. Very different. But could they be considered complementary?

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By the time they get back, the desserts have arrived, but I haven’t worked it all out yet. When they say that they love it that their food is there when they come back from the bathroom, I wonder if they are really talking about me.

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They use the tiny coffee spoon to eat the crème brûlée, that pinky making little circles in the air with every bite.

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When the check arrives, they place their elbows on the table, clasp their hands together, and rest their chin on nine folded fingers.

“Well?” they ask.

“Well what?” I ask back.

“This. Tonight. What do you think?”

As they lean forward to emphasize the question, the sleeves of their shirt slide down just enough for me to catch a glimpse of two pink scars running vertically down their right wrist and three on their left before they pull back as if aware of what they’ve just revealed.

“Good. Really nice,” I say with a smile. What I think is, Only one more scar than me.

Kip Knott’s most recent full-length book of poetry, Clean Coal Burn, is available from Kelsay Books. His first collection of short stories, Some Birds Nest in Broken Branches, is due out later this year from Alien Buddha Press. You can follow him on Twitter at @kip_knott and read more of his work at kipknott.com. Currently, he lives in Delaware, Ohio, with his wife and son.

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Art (cropped) Berg & Høeg Marie Høeg og Bolette Berg i båten. CC2.0 Two smokers in a boat. The smoker on the left wears a Sherlock Holmes hat and the smoker on the right wears a boater type of thing with a very wide brim and a dress. There’s a pug also in the boat. The boat appears to be on land.

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