People tell me I have a nice smile. My parents paid enough in metal gear to straighten me out, so it’s always nice when people appreciate their investment in my choppers. But in my 31 years, no one has ever asked if my teeth are real. Good thing there is a first time for everything.
I should have known I was in for it when I impulsively decided to make a pit stop at Panda Express after work Saturday night. It was an hour until closing and that’s when things always get interesting. I knew he was trouble as soon as I spotted him. He was rocking back on his heels, yammering sweet nothings to the gal behind the counter who only wanted to know if he wanted to wait the five minutes for the fresh beef and broccoli.
He said he’d wait, and as he turned around, he noticed me, trapping me in his orbit, locked into a gravity that wouldn’t be broken easily. I approached the counter and placed my order, aware of my new friend in my peripheral giving me the once over. Fantastic. I hoped he would take in the view and get distracted by the next person who walked through the door, but not on this night.
As I went to pay at the far end of the counter, he slumped next to me, resting an elbow on the counter, a bleary look on his face. Clearly he was under the influence of something, alcohol, drugs, the late hour, hard to say.
“Are you going to pay for this one?” he asked leaning closer. “Because I could pick it up for you.”
“No, I’m good. Thanks,” I said with a curt nod and an exaggerated politeness, heavily laced with an implied “buzz off, buddy.” But I made the mistake of including a smile with my sass. Damn, that expensive smile. I have trouble keeping it under wraps, even with creeps.
“You have a lovely smile,” he said. “Real pretty. Are those your real teeth?”
This is the moment where my inner feminist typically climbs atop her soap box and roars from the rooftops about social equality and not being some piece of man meat eye candy to be ogled. But instead, I decided to cut this guy a break. Besides, I’d never been hit on in a Panda Express, so I was curious to see where this was going.
“No, they’re real,” I replied as the cashier raised an eyebrow in disbelief, apparently amused that I decided to keep the conversation going.
He continued to comment on my teeth. They were so white, so shiny, so straight.
I decided to chalk his ramblings up to flattery and let him continue to muse about my pearly whites. I possess a quiet beauty that doesn’t typically glean unsolicited comments, and he seemed harmless enough. Plus, I was getting my food to go, so I let the cascade of compliments continue knowing that the interaction would be over soon.
The cashier was attempting to ask me if I needed soy sauce, hot mustard or some other savory plastic-packaged flavor booster when my Romeo posed a follow-up question.
“How old are you?”
“You want to know how old I am?” I questioned.
The cashier blinked wide-eyed. Her reaction made me wonder if she was a mother of young girls – witnessing a nightmare scenario unfold in my reality.
“Yeah, you’re at least 20. I’m going to say 22? No, 23. Maybe 25.” he said.
Great. He was sizing up my age as if he were making a bid on “The Price Is Right,” but I decided to take it all in stride. “Sure, tonight I am 25,” I said as I grabbed my food. “Gotta leave a little mystery, right?”
He stood up as I turned to walk away and chuckled. “I feel that, girl. Put it up here.”
He held his hand up in anticipation of a high five.
Why not? I reciprocated the gesture and fives were joined in a victorious clap. Awkward conversation complete.
“Good night, sir,” I said as I walked away.
“Keep smiling, boo,” he called after me.
Thank you, mysterious Panda man. I think I will.