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Some men know how to cook. Those who don’t, marinate. By the same token, some men know how to woo a woman and establish a firm foundation for a loving relationship. Those who don’t, date women on the rebound.
Marinade Man had been a casual acquaintance for a couple of years, some guy I occasionally ran into at the local sushi restaurant. Our friendship was based on a few sake bombers and the exchange of joke e-mails, nothing more. However, when I e-mailed him regarding the demise of my relationship with Gay Tim, he immediately suggested that we get together.
The question arises: Why would I even tell Marinade Man about Gay Tim? The fact was that I told anyone who would listen about Gay Tim, because it helped to talk. It also helped to drink, which Marinade Man also liked to do, so I began meeting him at the sushi bar on purpose, where he would buy me enormous beers and listen intently as I combed through every minute detail of my relationship with Gay Tim, and why it didn’t work.
One night at the sushi bar, Marinade Man asked if I would like to have dinner at his house sometime. I asked him if he was asking me for a date—a real date—and he said, why not? I told him plainly and simply that my heart was still broken and I was in no shape to enter into any kind of romance.
I told him that I was the absolute worst dating option for him at that point, because though I might show some signs of warmth, I was still cold and angry on the inside, and probably capable of doing mean things, like using him for company when my real friends were unavailable. None of this mattered to Marinade Man. He’d had a crush on me for a long time, and he was hell-bent on pursuing it.
Since I hated to be alone and had nothing better to do with my time, I finally took Marinade Man up on his offer. On the evening of our “date,” I sported a baseball cap because I hadn’t washed my hair that day, and threw on my regular t-shirt and shorts. When he opened his apartment door and stood there grinning at me, I was more turned off than I had ever been in my life.
Marinade Man was not a handsome man to begin with. He was large, the kind of large that you get from working out with weights for a long time and then stopping for a long time. He also shaved his big knobby head—a poor choice—and his teeth were the size, shape and color of a horse’s. To top it off, he was a self-admitted “toe-walker,” which meant that when Marinade Man walked around, he looked like he was prancing.
All of these physical attributes taken together were more than enough to alert my senses that we would never, ever sleep with Marinade Man. I already knew that before showing up on his doorstep, but his silk shirt, neatly pressed khaki shorts and leather loafers worked to cement my resolution. That he had taken the extra time to dress well for me was the ultimate turn-off. I couldn’t stand his desire.
He invited me in and made me a drink, and upon perusing his CD collection, I was reminded of why I liked Marinade Man in the first place. We shared similar tastes in music, humor, and were both honest and upfront, not to mention the fact that we both loved raw fish and the party atmosphere of sushi bars. I decided that I was glad to have a friend in Marinade Man, despite his flaws and ulterior motives.
When it was time for dinner, I sat down at the table and waited for Marinade Man to bring me my plate. When he set it down in front of me, everything looked normal and good: a steak, some asparagus, half a baked potato with some brown sauce on it, and a small portion of salad. We began to eat.
I cut into my steak, which was oozing brown fluid, and put a piece into my mouth. It had a tangy flavor, not unlike barbeque sauce, though I had not seen Marinade Man using any sauce as he grilled the steaks. I chewed and swallowed, and moved on to the asparagus. Upon closer inspection I found that the asparagus, too, was tinged with a brownish fluid, and it too tasted quite tangy. In fact, there was no distinction in flavor between any of the foods on my plate: they were all tangy. Even my salad.
Marinade Man asked me, “So, how do you like everything?”
I said, “It’s all really good. I’m tasting something though, that I’ve never tasted before--something tangy. What is that?”
“Marinade,” said Marinade Man. “I marinate everything. Just throw the food in a zip-lock freezer bag, pour on the marinade, and let her sit all day. You can marinade vegetables in the same bag as the meat. Works good as a sauce, too. This one’s ginger soy.”
I now understood why Marinade Man’s teeth were so stained: he only ate marinated foods. Somewhere along the line, in the midst of his many years of bachelorhood, he had discovered the marinade section of his grocery store, and had taken marinating to grand new levels. No wonder he always ordered eel at the sushi restaurant; it came slicked over with brown, greasy teriyaki sauce, a.k.a. marinade.
Marinade Man lasted in my life for about four months, long enough for many more dinners at his house. I learned that anything that’s marinated long enough will eventually taste like something it’s not. Marinade Man could make beef taste like salmon, salmon taste like a citrus grove, and his chicken always tasted like a campfire. I don’t know why or how he ever started tossing the vegetables in there too, but I ate plenty of raspberry-flavored carrots and wine-soaked green beans. Nothing was right in Marinade Man’s kitchen.
Marinade Man cried when I told him over the phone one night that I couldn’t take advantage of him anymore. He said that it was just his luck, that he always dated girls who ended up breaking up with him because he was “too nice.” I reminded him that we were never really dating, that we hadn’t consummated our relationship, and that in fact we hadn’t even kissed. He responded by saying that this was as close to dating as he’d ever gotten.
I felt sorry for Marinade Man, but not sorry enough to keep seeing him. Unlike his meats and vegetables, I knew exactly who I was, and I couldn’t keep allowing Marinade Man to make our relationship into something it was not. I don’t feel bad about abandoning him when my broken heart had mended.
I had warned him, after all, that I was capable of being cruel.