Early Monday evening, Kevin popped by a friend’s house to get some outside perspective on his phone conversation with Esther.
“You’ve come to the right guy,” said Andy Button, slouched across his couch in a t-shirt and sweatpants while he played Call of Duty. “Girl problems are just one of my many areas of expertise.”
Andy was one of Kevin’s oldest friends, another special with a stupid ability, someone Kevin could sympathize with. Well, most of the time. When it didn’t involve being a total nerd.
The two friends moonlighted together as under-the-table odd-job men for a local entrepreneur named Ian Innis. They’d seen some pretty weird stuff together. Heck, they were some pretty weird stuff.
Andy’s ability involved attaching and detaching his arms at will. It was something that seemed like it should come in handy really often, but it really didn’t.
Kevin summarized the date on Saturday. “Then I called her this afternoon, and she pretty obviously couldn’t wait to hang up.”
“Okay, sooo,” said Andy, rolling the word around on his tongue. “When you called her today, what did she say, exactly?”
Kevin said, “She told me she was trying to get hold of her ‘brother,’ and she was disappointed that I wasn’t him.”
“Did she actually say that, or is that how you interpreted it? That’s a very important distinction when you’re talking to women,” said Andy. “Boom, headshot!” he added as he scored a kill in the game.
“I guess that’s just how I interpreted it,” admitted Kevin. “But it really seemed like she didn’t want to talk to me.”
“Maybe she didn’t. That doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not into you.”
“Nope,” Andy declared. “You might’ve just caught her at a bad time. When you’re interacting with women, the first thing you have to do is figure out what mood they’re in. Then, react accordingly. Double ‘nade kill, noobs! So, what kind of mood was she in?”
Kevin thought for a minute. “She seemed… a little stressed,” he said. “There was definitely something else on her mind.”
“Then there you go,” said Andy. “She was stressed. So maybe there’s just something else going on in her life that’s complicating things.”
Kevin was caught a bit off guard. This advice seemed far too reasonable to be coming from Andy. “I guess it might be something like that,” he said. “I mean, that is the first thing I thought after she ran out on our date on Saturday,” said Kevin. “But she said on the phone that she left because she was feeling sick.”
“And you don’t think she was actually sick?”
“I don’t know. She didn’t seem sick. She seemed like… Like all of a sudden she had something more important to do.”
“Throwing up can be pretty important.”
“That’s not what I mean.”
Andy shrugged a little too dramatically, and his detachable arms popped out onto the couch on either side of him. “Blurgh!” he said, his fingers still vigorously working the controller. “Help me out! I’ve got a kill streak going.”
Kevin stood with a sigh and guided Andy’s shoulders into their sockets until they reattached. He was glad he didn’t have Andy’s “ability,” if it could even be called that.
“Thanks, bro,” said Andy. “Gah, sniped. Snipers are so overpowered in this patch, seriously.”
Kevin rolled his eyes.
“So, back to your problem,” said Andy. “You obviously think there’s something more going on, right? If the girl was just acting a little squirrelly, hey, that’s women for you. I hope you wouldn’t be wasting my impressive analytical talents on just that. So what is it? You think there’s another guy in the picture?”
“Maybe. It’s just… The comments about her ‘brother’ make me wonder, that’s all.”
“You don’t think she has any brothers?”
“I think she has a brother. I’m not so sure she has two.”
“You think the second ‘brother’ is the other guy.”
“I guess,” said Kevin. “Sounds kind of stupid when you say it out loud.”
“Hey, we’re talking about a woman,” said Andy. “Everything about women sounds stupid when you say it out loud. Anyways, there’s an easy way to confirm your suspicion. Ask her to introduce you.”
“I haven’t even asked her out for a second date yet, and you think I should try to meet her family?”
“You give me a problem, I give you a solution. Take it or leave it.”
“There’s got to be a better way,” protested Kevin. “Besides, what if she actually does have two brothers, and she figures out I’m trying to call her bluff? That would pretty much destroy any chance I had, right there.”
“Round over,” said Andy, finally looking up from his game. “Hmm,” he said. “Just a three-to-one k/d ratio. Not my best.” He held out his hand towards Kevin. “Bacon me, bro.”
Kevin conjured up a half-dozen slices of bacon for his friend and dropped them into the waiting hand.
Andy chewed thoughtfully for several seconds. “Mmm, good stuff. Okay, maybe we’re coming at this whole thing from the wrong angle.”
“It doesn’t really matter whether there’s another guy out there or not, does it?”
“Of course it does!” said Kevin. “If there’s another guy, it means she doesn’t really like me, because if she liked me, then there wouldn’t be another guy!”
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” said Andy. “See, the real question isn’t whether there’s another guy or not. The real question is whether she likes you.”
Kevin thought about this. “I guess,” he said.
“Look at it this way,” Andy continued. “She did go out with you on Saturday, right? And she hasn’t told you to get lost, has she?”
“True,” said Kevin. “I guess she did ask me to call back another day.”
“So she hasn’t completely shut you down yet,” said Andy. “Think about this: maybe you are the ‘other guy.’ Or maybe she’s got two of you on the hook, and she’s having a hard time deciding.” Andy eagerly leaned forward on the couch and steepled his fingers. “That means it’s your job to convince her you’re the better option. You’ve got to do something big. Best case scenario, there isn’t another guy, and you’ve done something special to impress her. Worst case scenario, there is another guy, but at least now you’ve officially thrown your hat in the ring.”
“I’m not sure that’s the ‘worst’ case scenario,” said Kevin, “but point taken. Did you have something particular in mind?”
“I think so,” said Andy, his eyes sparkling as he chewed his bacon. “Yeah, you’re gonna love it. Here’s what we’re gonna do…”