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Gummy Bears

I'd waited sixteen weeks for a date with Jess. And I ruined it in sixteen seconds. #MyWorstDate

By James TiltonPublished 5 years ago 11 min read

I’d been planning the date for weeks. Sixteen weeks, to be exact. I knew the train schedule, the cost of a ticket, the exact table I’d wanted to reserve at the candlelit restaurant by the coast. There was just one issue. I hadn’t asked Jess yet.

And now I wouldn’t be able to.

The desk beside me was empty. The desk where Jess had sat the entire semester.

We shook hands the first week, introduced ourselves. She probably forgot my name immediately, but I couldn’t forget hers. She was unforgettable. Not just her name either. Her eyes, her smile, her easy laugh.

I’d shown up to class with a pack of gummy worms the next week. The gummy worms had been part of a care package my mom had sent me. She sent me monthly guilt trips disguised as big boxes of food, part of her ongoing struggle to accept the fact that her oldest son had gone to college on the other side of the country.

“Want some?” I asked, holding the gummy worms out toward Jess.

She smiled and dropped a couple into her mouth. “Gummy bears are better,” she said.

And so it started. Every week, we’d share a box of candy. Sour Patch Kids. Swedish Fish. Nerds. Reese’s Pieces. Skittles—both sour and original.

And now it was finals week, and I’d shown up to class with another bag of gummy worms. The candy that had started it all. I’d promised myself that I’d offer her a gummy worm and see if she remembered that first conversation, that joke about bears being better.

If she remembered, it would be a sign. A sign that the hours we’d spent together during these late night classes had meant as much to her as they did to me. And maybe then I’d finally find the courage to ask her out.

Only Jess hadn’t shown up.

Even as the professor began passing out the exam, Jess’ chair remained empty. I sighed, stuffed the gummy worms back into my messenger bag, and wrote my name on my exam booklet. I should have studied more, instead of wasting all my time daydreaming about a girl I’d never seen again.

I’d wanted a sign, hadn’t I? This was it. Jess wasn’t coming.

I’d just finished resigning myself to that fact when the door creaked open, and Jess slid into the classroom. She grabbed an exam from the professor’s desk, whispered an apology, and darted back toward me. In her hand was a bag of gummy bears.

“I had to go to three different gas station before I found these,” she said quietly, holding the bag out for me. “Remember? From the beginning of the semester?”

“Want to go out sometime?”

The words just slipped out of me. Because of course I remembered. How could I forget? Like I said. Jess was unforgettable.

She took a gummy bear from the bag and tossed it gently against my chest.

“Was wondering when you’d ask,” she said.

We met at the train station that Friday. There were faster ways to get to the restaurant, I knew that, but the train was the most scenic. The tracks snaked their way down the California coastline, allowing us to watch the sunset over the distant horizon. Not that Jess and I spent much time looking out the window. We were too busy talking, laughing. I’d never been on a date that had felt so natural.

Our table was ready for us when we arrived. A snug roundtop, empty except for a flickering candle and a lone white rose. We could see the ocean through the window and watched as the sky turned pink, then purple, then black.

“You take every girl here?” she asked, her eyes still glued to the window and the starlit sky beyond.

“You’re the first,” I said. And I knew it was too early, I knew it was only our first date, but I couldn’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, she’d be the last girl I took here. The only girl.

And then I farted.

No warning. No early detection systems.

Just a completely unexpected fart. Silent, thank God. But still.

A fart.

And that wasn’t even the worst of it.

Because it wasn’t just air that had escaped. There had been… something else.

At first, I froze. There was poop in my pants, and that wasn’t exactly something I was used to. I didn’t know what to do. I mean, I’d been in preschool the last time something like this happened.

Jess must have noticed the blank look on my face.

“Everything alright?” she asked.

I don’t know what I said, not even really sure I said anything. Everything was a blur at that point. Everything except the poop in my pants.

I ran to the restroom and locked the door behind me. I pulled off my pants, then tossed my boxers into the trash can. I’d have thrown the pants away too, but that wasn’t exactly an option. I cleaned myself, pulled the pants back on, and scrubbed my hands thoroughly under the hottest water I could stand. I’d never gone commando on a date before, but it seemed like the right move.

Boy, was I wrong. As soon as I returned to the table, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that my bare butt was rubbing against the inside of my jeans. Literally. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t follow Jess’ conversation, couldn’t bring myself to eat. All I could do was obsess over all the germs that must have seeped into the dark blue denim of my jeans.

Jess, of course, had no idea what was going on. All she knew was that we’d been having a great conversation, and now I could barely form full sentences.

For the rest of our meal, we alternated between awkward silences and forced conversation. When the waitress brought the bill, I pulled some cash from my wallet and left it on the table. I didn’t even bother to wait for change.

We walked toward the train station in silence, passing a handful of stores on the way. It wasn’t until we came to the Old Navy that I had an idea. A last-ditch effort that might just let me salvage what was left of our date.

“Let’s go in here,” I said, gesturing to the storefront.

“Old Navy?” She didn’t sound impressed. “We have one of these right near campus.”

“Yeah,” I said, realizing even then how pathetic I must have sounded. “But there’s this, uh, this shirt I’ve been wanting to buy, and they don’t have it at ours. I want to, you know, check if they, uh, got it.”

It was a total lie. Not even a good one, if I’m honest. But Jess bought it. We went inside the Old Navy, and I made a beeline for the men’s section, where I promptly picked up a shirt I’d never seen before.

“They have it,” I said, just in case she cared.

She didn’t. She was still at the front of the store, running her fingers over some clearance items on display. I folded the shirt and walked toward the table of jeans that separated me from the cashier. Then, when I was sure Jess wasn’t looking, I snagged a pair of dark blue jeans in my size and tucked them under the shirt I was holding. I walked up to the cashier and set both items on the counter.

“Find everything alright?” he asked.

“Fine,” I said, turning around to make sure Jess was still looking at the display. “But I just want the jeans. No shirt.”

He looked confused. “You sure?”

“Life of a college student,” I said, and it wasn’t a total lie. “Got to buy my outfits piece by piece.”

He chuckled and started to ring me up. I turned back to Jess, who had left the display behind and was walking toward me.

“Train’s going to leave in a few,” she said. “We should probably get going.”

I nodded my agreement and turned back to the cashier. He handed me the plastic bag, and I handed him my credit card. By the time he’d finished ringing me up, Jess was right beside me.

“You about ready?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said, tucking the credit card in my wallet and grabbing the plastic bag from the counter. “Just let me run to the bathroom first.”

“Use the one on the train,” she said, checking the time on her phone. “Thing’s gonna leave without us if we don’t hurry.”

She turned out to be right, of course. We hadn’t even sat down before the doors whooshed closed and the train lurched forward.

I didn’t waste a second.

“I’ll be back,” I told her, heading for the bathroom at the back of the train. I took the Old Navy bag with me, but Jess didn’t say anything. She was probably just thankful the date was almost over.

Almost over. But not completely. Not yet.

At least that’s what I told myself. All I had to do was change into a clean pair of pants. Then I could stop obsessing over my nasty ass jeans and focus on the girl in front of me. I’d waited sixteen weeks for a date with Jess, and I’d be damned if I was going to give up this easy. A new pair of pants, and I’d be back to my old self.

I turned the plastic lock behind me and pulled off my pants, careful not to touch anything else in the cramped bathroom quarters. I thought about putting my jeans into the trash can but decided against it when I realized that Jess might need to use this same bathroom later in the trip. I’d be absolutely mortified if she spotted the jeans and pieced together what had happened, so I looked around for a better place to put the jeans.

And that’s when I saw the open window. Just a small slit, six feet from the floor. Without hesitation, I reached up and stuffed the jeans through the window. I felt the wind rip them from my hands, imagined someone’s surprise the next day when they discovered a pair of jeans by the side of the tracks.

But those jeans weren’t my problem. Not anymore. I had a girl waiting for me.

The girl.

I picked up the plastic Old Navy bag and opened it. Inside, there was a shirt.

A shirt.

Not pants.

A shirt.

The shirt. The one I’d pretended I was interested in buying.

But the pants? They were nowhere to be found.

I stood there for a moment, naked from the waist down, and stared at the bag in disbelief. I was on a date, in a bathroom, on a train, with two shirts, no underwear, and zero pairs of pants. I don’t know how long I stayed there like that, holding the bag, wishing it contained something different, but at some point, I was startled back to the present by a loud pounding on the door.

“You almost done in there?” someone asked.

I didn’t answer, just stared at the shirt and weighed my options. There were no good ones. Unable to see any better alternative, I stretched the neck of the shirt and stepped inside it, pulled it up around my waist like a makeshift dress. It was embarrassing, humiliating even. But I didn’t know what else to do.

I opened the door, and the man on the other side took a step back in surprise. He looked me up and down, then broke into a smile.

“You ever heard of pants?” he asked.

I ignored him and walked back to Jess.

She was staring at me in total bewilderment.

“You’re wearing a shirt,” she said.

I looked down at my makeshift dress, then back up at her. “Two of them, actually.”

She didn’t laugh. Not even a chuckle. Instead, she demanded to know what had happened to my pants. Not knowing what else to do, I told her. The whole vile story. And she listened, a disgusted look plastered on her face.

When we got back to our station and the doors finally opened, we were greeted by a vending machine on the far wall.

“Give me a second,” I told her. I pulled a dollar from my wallet and slid it into the machine. I punched in the code and watched as a bag of gummy bears tumbled to the dispenser below.

“You’re right,” I said, grabbing the bag from the vending machine and pulling it open. “You’ve been right the whole time. Gummy bears are better.”

I spun around and held out the bag, hoping she’d take one and we could laugh away the awkwardness of the night.

But she was gone. Nowhere to be seen. Probably already outside, waving down a taxi.

It was just me. Alone in the train station. Completely pantsless. Wearing two shirts and holding a bag of stale gummy bears.



About the Creator

James Tilton

Teacher, author, and creator of PickMyYA. Find me on Twitter: @jamesmtilton

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insight

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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