“Do you have condoms?” she asked with the jarringly comfortable inflection of someone asking to bum a cigarette.

Ummm… did she just ask me if I have condoms?

Did I hear her correctly? This is a first Tinder date, no way she just asked me if I have condoms… right? I mean, I’ve had a few drinks, I must have heard her wrong. Maybe she said something else?

Is it possible she actually said “do you have Common” and I misunderstood her? Maybe she’s really into Chicago-based socially conscious hip hop and was inquiring about what sort of presence MC’s who made the leap from indie-rap to mainstream celebrity while advocating for change through rhyme had in the Spotify playlist I had curated for the evening?

No… she definitely said condoms.

I can’t blame her I guess. All things considered, the date had gone pretty well on my end. My ripped skinny jeans were ripped in such a manner that one couldn’t tell whether they were purposely ripped by the woman on the assembly line in China, or ripped during the course of masculine activities so rugged that the denim had no choice but to burst open at the knees; I had timed my beard trim to produce the ideal length of somewhere between professional, edgy, and professionally edgy; I was ordering “Macallan 12 neat” and she seemed impressed by the distinguished maturity of my taste buds and unaware that Macallan 12 was the least expensive of the single-malt scotch selections; I had rolled up my sleeves and casually fixed my hair enough times with my left hand to reveal that I was wearing a Rolex (unbeknownst to her that it was a gift from my uncle and not the result of an expansive disposable income, the likes of which I could freely spend on such unnecessary luxury items as high-end Swiss-made timepieces); and I was able to act surprised when she revealed facts about herself that I already knew due to my extensive pre-date social media research. So I guess it made sense that she would ask about the status of my condom possession.

And what about the plural at the end of the question? “Condoms?” Is she expecting to have sex with me more than once tonight?

But could it be that simple? Could she be that blunt?

Maybe she was just curious about my safe sex habits before she made a decision about where the evening would take us? If that were the case though, what answer was she looking for? If I don’t have condoms, does that make me look like I don’t practice safe sex? Or worse yet, would I look like someone so inexperienced in the art of love making that I wouldn’t know to bring a condom on a date just in case things became amorous? If I do have condoms, do I come off as some sort of silk underwear-wearing womanizer, who has so much unplanned casual sex that it necessitated the pre-stocking of condoms to be ready at a moment’s notice?

And what about the plural at the end of the question? “Condoms?” Is she expecting to have sex with me more than once tonight? Who does she think I am, R&B sensation D’Angelo? (To be honest I don’t have any evidence to support the assertion that D’Angelo has above average sexual stamina, but for some reason he just seems like the kind of guy who would have no problem having sex multiple times in one evening.)

Maybe she’s just very safe and requires the wearing of two condoms? Although, I think I remember someone saying in middle school sexual education class that two condoms is actually less safe because they can rub together and rip.

Do I even want to have sex with her?

Shouldn’t I be searching for something more? Something more profound than my most repugnant carnal desires? Perhaps we should take it slow? Get to know one another deeply and intimately, grow as human beings together as we allow our interests, passions, and emotions to align. Finally be relieved of that ever-present sense of dread that I will never find true love and that my heart will remain unfulfilled, clogged with mundane experiences of forced joy and artificial physical pleasure until I depart from this earth alone. Start a family and create life together, watch our children mature, age gracefully as one, sharing a life of experiences. Sex on the first date would ruin such possibilities and morph this new relationship into one premised solely on late night philandering and cryptic text messages, preventing us from the beautiful possibility of a shared life in love.

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On the other hand, she had boobs. So yes, I do, I do want to have sex with her.

Shit… I don’t have condoms.

Do I need them? Maybe not. Didn’t Vice just tell me that HIV has been cured? At least that’s what I gathered from reading the title of that HBO special as I skipped over it on the DVR list to watch The Devil Wears Prada again (what a jerk that Christian Thompson, right? I won’t even watch The Mentalist because I dislike him so much).

No, I need condoms. Luckily, this is New York City. There is a bodega on my block.

The aforementioned bodega on my block, the Bethel Gourmet Market (for which I hilariously refer to as the Temple Beth-El Market as an homage to my Hebrew School days), is unfortunately one of those that keeps the condoms behind the register to prevent shoplifting, because one can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if the type of people who were willing to shoplift condoms out of desperation were actually practicing safe sex. Despite the fact that this condom placement is quite effective in promoting shoplifter procreation, it is not ideal for avoiding awkward exchanges with Manuel, the guy who works at the register. (Yes, I am on a first-name basis with Manuel, the guy who works at my local bodega…or is it Miguel? It might be Miguel.)

For some reason, as I approached the counter with Rachel next to me, the idea popped into my head that just buying condoms and nothing else would seem weird, so the only reasonable option was to purchase other items as well in an attempt to make it seem to any potential bystanders that this bodega transaction was not completely driven by two people wanting to express their newly formed sexual attraction in a responsible manner, but for other purposes as well. Unfortunately, I did not consider this concept prior to approaching the counter when I could have grabbed useful items such as lemon-lime Gatorade and a family-size spicy hummus, so instead I was confined to the items available at the register.

Without skipping a beat, I casually grabbed one Virgin Mary candle, one novelty Dale Earnhardt #5 lighter, placed them on the counter, and confidently proclaimed to Manuel that I would like to purchase these items and would also like a pack of Trojans as I pointed generally in the direction of the wall of condoms behind Manuel. (Movie idea: a dystopian future where traditional weapons have been eradicated and rival nations wage war by hurling highly concentrated airborne sexually transmitted diseases across the border with the hopes of infecting the population. The only defense? A Wall of Condoms.)

Making sure he heard me right, Manuel responded in his thick Spanish accent, “Condoms?”

“Si, por favor,” I replied.

Fuck!

What the shit was that? Si por favor!? What is wrong with me? What kind of pretentious asshole speaks in broken Spanish to his bodega guy? What kind of ass-clown risks offending Manuel during a moment as crucial and delicate as a condom/Virgin Mary Candle/Dale Earnhardt Lighter purchase? How could I be so stupid?

What was I even trying to do, show Rachel how cultured I am by saying the most commonly used phrase in all of the romance languages? Was I trying to relate to Manuel on a more profound level in hopes that a mutually beneficial relationship would somehow blossom from this encounter in which discounts on Gatorade and hummus would be freely given in exchange for casual conversations consisting of the seven Spanish phrases I retained from high school?

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Was Manuel offended? Is his name Miguel? Maybe he was flattered by my efforts to speak in his native tongue and make him feel at home in this big lonely city? Nope.

Manuel got his revenge.

With Rachel standing next to me, Manuel smugly grabbed a box of condoms and strategically placed them on the counter in front of us where our view was not obstructed by the height of the Virgin Mary Candle.

Magnums…

Fucking Magnums. That son of a bitch Manuel placed a box Magnum condoms on the counter right in front of us.

That’s right, Magnums, the extra-large condoms so big that I could wear one as a hat if the need arose. So big that you would need a considerably smaller quantity of them compared to normal-size condoms in the event you were building some sort of Wall of Condoms to protect you from a rival nation hurling airborne STD’s across the border.

What do I do now?

The Magnums obviously won’t fit and Rachel has clearly seen them resting on the counter. Do I nonchalantly purchase them, give her a wink and try to secure one with a rubber band during intercourse? Would that even work? That guy in middle school sex-ed never mentioned anything about extra-large condoms and rubber bands. I don’t even have rubber bands at my apartment. And where would I even get rubber bands? Do they sell them by the single band or would I need to buy a whole bag? Is there some rogue convenience store guy somewhere who sells loosie rubber bands? What am I even talking about? There’s no way a rubber band would even work. Certainly it wouldn’t be tight enough on its own and I would have to do that wrap around thing to make it tighter and tighter, and I won’t even get into the logistical issues of trying to pull that off without Rachel noticing. Nope. Rubber band idea is a no-go.

I suppose I could buy the Magnums, fake an illness tonight to get out of sex, keep the Magnum box in my medicine cabinet with the door slightly ajar, and give suspicious girls false sexual hopes as punishment for snooping.

No. I have to face this like a man. Mano y Manuel.

I re-gained composure, casually told Manuel that I didn’t want those and pointed very clearly to the only other Trojan option, “ribbed for her pleasure.” I purchased them, Manuel put them in a bag with the candle and lighter and I left the Bodega a defeated man. What a disaster. At that point, I might as well have said “no thank you, Manuel, but my penis is average size at best and doesn’t require the use of extra-large condoms, perhaps if you have something smaller, maybe in a ‘ribbed for her pleasure’ to compensate for my now public inadequacies, that would be fantastic”.

It was terribly awkward when we finally got back to my apartment. Turns out my Common playlist wasn’t much of a mood enhancer, but Rachel was a good sport and had sex with me anyways. The sex was uninspired, and to be honest, I’m not convinced the ribbing did anything for her pleasure. I never returned to Temple Beth-El Market and I never saw Rachel again. We never experienced growth or love or passion. We didn’t grow old together or create life or even experience true love. Instead, we had one night of brief intercourse, illuminated by the flickering light of the Mother of Jesus and ignited by the Godfather of NASCAR.

No bueno, Manuel. No bueno. Or is it Miguel? Damnit, it’s definitely Miguel.

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