“I’m only dating you ironically.”
She stared at him. He stared back.
“Good one,” she said, and continued twirling her spaghetti around her fork. He’d always had a weird sense of humor, but it had gotten especially strange in the past few days.
She didn’t look up for what felt like a few entire minutes. He was still staring directly at her.
She put the fork down and sighed loudly. “What does that even mean?”
He took off his thick-rimmed glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I think… I think I have a problem.”
She began to think this might not be a joke after all. Pushing her plate of BBQ spaghetti out of the way, she rested both elbows on the table. “Tell me what’s going on.”
He looked at her with sad, almost gray-looking eyes and shook his head. “Everything I do and wear and say is just to be ironic. I don’t even know what that means anymore!”
This wasn’t the first time he’d had such an existential crisis. About two months ago, when they had been picking out fixie bikes made from reclaimed playground structures, he had nearly broken down in the pop-up tent. They’d had to leave the market and spend the rest of the day drinking PBR at an unmarked prohibition-themed bar before he began to calm down. It had ended up being a more expensive day than if they had actually bought the bikes.
“Listen, we all have doubts sometimes. It’s perfectly natural. What matters is that we don’t let them get the better of us and we keep doing what we want.”
He shook his head and buried his face in his hands. The tattoos on his knuckles spelled an upside-down A-G-E-V V-U-L-N. “I don’t actually like anything! I just do things that I hate because I think it makes me cool somehow.”
She leaned back on her narrow metal stool as far as she could without falling off and removed her fedora. It had never been this bad before. He scratched at his long beard, gently at first, but harder and harder, until he started grasping handfuls of it and pulling hard, shouting, “UGH ESPECIALLY THIS THING. IT’S JUST UNCOMFORTABLE AND DISGUSTING. I HATE IT SO MUCH.”
“You need to calm down. We’re getting stares.” No one was actually staring, since no one could hear any of the other people around them. Every table was sealed inside a miniature soundproof recording studio replica.
“I’m not going to calm down. I can’t do this anymore. A car drove by me the other day playing that new Justin Timberlake song, and you know what?” His eyes were locked on hers, his expression was steeled and defiant.
“You wanted to throw up?”
“No. I liked it.”
She was stunned. Her iPhone 7 Plus fell from her hand onto the floor, her last tweet left unfinished. It immediately started vibrating as her followers demanded further updates to the live-tweeted argument that had started approximately three minutes ago.
Her hands shaking, she poured one part pickle juice and one part whisky into her mason jar and drank the entire thing in one gulp. This was going to be an extremely painful brunch.