Zoe was feeling weirdly invigorated by her impending blind date. Those she told looked at her strangely, like the top of her head had popped off and her brain was exposed, all mouldy, squishy and nakey.
‘Fuck ’em’ she thought.
Zoe hadn’t been on a proper date date in some time. She had only dumped her ex a few months back and was now ready to, as they somewhat garishly say, mingle.
She had met Joseph on the Facebooks. He was pretty funny, he did interesting stuff and she had it on good authority that he wasn’t a dolphin serial killer. He wasn’t too hard on the old peepers either. So she was pretty happy when he dropped her a PM asking her out on a date.
‘What do you have in mind?’ Zoe asked.
‘Let me surprise you, I like to make a great first impression’. Yeah OK, so that was a little wanky but Zoe thought ‘what the heck’, he seemed pretty rad otherwise.
Numbers were exchanged, a meeting place decided upon. They’d both seen each other’s images on Facebook but decided, rather cheesily many thought, to identify each other with a red carnation attached to their persons.
They met at a riverside bar and spent an hour bonding over their love of cats and Japanese beers. He smelt like fresh apples. They were both cycling nerds too; it was all a bit pathetically sweet.
Zoe felt safe and a little floaty. Joseph (‘call me Jo’) said that they would walk to a location where she would then be blindfolded. The safe, floaty feeling dissipated. ‘I know how that sounds, really do. Please trust me, I swear you’ll be safe, everyone knows we’re out together but there is a cool surprise coming up and it won’t be the same if you walk into it eyes open’.
‘Well I’d feel more comfortable if I could just cover my eyes with my hands’.
‘You promise not to peek?’.
‘You’ll just have to trust me on that one’ she replied.
That settled, they headed away from the city centre. ‘Call me Jo’ led her down flights of stairs, through creaky gates and into somewhere cold and damp. All the while he reassured Zoe that she was safe and was going to really love the surprise, which only made her more nervous.
Zoe wasn’t sure whether to feel safer or more scared when she heard other voices. Many were laughing but it was kinda freaky to hear that and not see why.
Finally Jo said ‘We’re here Zoe. Shields down’.
As Zoe lifted her hands from her eyes she realised that her feeling of doom was pertinent. They were in a tunnel. Possibly an abandoned railway one. On the wall was a makeshift screen. Everyone in the room, except Zoe and Jo, were dressed as clowns. The vomit started to rise in Zoe’s throat as she recognised her worst-case scenario.
‘We’re here to see IT, isn’t it a hoot?’ ‘Call me Jo said.
‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ Zoe replied.
‘Why, what’s wrong?’.
Zoe’s voice had risen along with a feeling of being trapped and about to die.
‘I FUCKING HATE CLOWNS’ she said.
The room fell silent. A clown who had been setting up the projector approached Zoe and Jo.
‘Look, we understand that not all people are OK with our lifestyle’ it said softly, sounding a little hurt. ‘We just want to bring some joy into peoples’ lives’.
Zoe looked at it in the eye. She could feel fear and disgust rising in her throat. She knew she couldn’t hold it back any more. The vomit came rising up through her esophagus, in a ferocious arc out of her mouth. It hit the clown on the face. But she wasn’t done. She turned to Call Me Jo and, aiming at his feet, destroyed the limited edition Converse that he had told her were his pride and joy.
By this time everyone was staring.
Zoe wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and said in a steady voice ‘I’m going home. People know who I’m with so if any of you try anything you’ll regret the shit out of it. Now how do I get out of this shithole?’.
The projector clown, now dripping in bile and carrots pointed to the stairs they had just come down.
Zoe walked, head held high, up each one, as fast as she could go without letting her fear make her look like a coward. Once she was out she got her bearings, ordered an Uber and ran toward St Kilda Road. The driver gave a bit of a sniff as she got in. No five star rating for Zoe tonight.
On the ride back she went on Facebook to delete Jo and was confronted by images of a girl vomiting all over a cowering clown.
‘I guess that’s one way to confront your fears’ she said to herself.