“So this guy points out all our differences on the date…” Eddie wants a full rundown on my latest-and-greatest dating adventure. I’m trying to convince him that this taking-it-slow mantra is just not working for me. It’s not my style. Right?

“Wait, this is your second date?” He’s got his big brother glare up and running.

I nod. “So he calls me and leaves a message saying he wants to chat. I thought he blew me off. I’m so confused.” I hate being petulant. Dammit. “I don’t understand guys at all. I really, REALLY don’t.”

“He’s playing you like a puppet and you’re letting him.” It’s my turn to glare. “Do not give him the satisfaction.”

“Yuck!” It’s not my salted caramel and Meyer lemon ice-cream combo on a cone that I’m talking about. “So he’s NOT interested in me, huh? Is that what guys do? So what do I do? I don’t want to make the same mistakes in the future with other guys.”

Eddie finishes ordering his blood-red orange sorbet with creme-fraiche ice-cream in a cup. “I don’t know about that.” He thrusts his remaining two bucks into the tip jar. “But if you keep doing what you’re doing. Yes.”

I blink rapidly. The sunbeams are bouncing off the bright yellow interior of the creamery. I close my eyes to soak in the warmth of the rays on my cheeks. The caramel mixed with lemon tastes a tad bit saltier than I remember it being.

With any other person, this lull would usually drag discomfort along with it. Not with Eddie. I listen to him tossing names of some of the newer, more eclectic bands that are performing in town with the soda jerk behind the counter.

I feel a gentle nudge on my back. Eddie’s propping the door with one foot and studying my lack of expression. I step into the bright sunlight and squint up at him. Too damn tall, I tell you. He pushes my sunglasses down from my head to the bridge of my nose. I readjust them with my index finger. We start walking towards 826 Valencia. His niece’s pirate-themed birthday party is in a couple of hours and we’ve been assigned to pick up a few choice items for the festivities.

“This is what you do.” He’s not letting me off the hook so easy. Whoever said silence was golden wasn’t kidding. Too bad I’m partial to platinum. “Cherish yourself. Hold yourself in the highest regard. Always keep in mind that not any guy can have you because you’re very selective.”

“Jessica says I’m way overthinking things. That I’ve got impossible standards and I end up sabotaging my dates with them.”

Eddie stops short. I slow down and turn to look at him. My salty and citrus concoction drips to the pavement. “Is this what this is all about!?!? You know, I hate having to say this, but she’s the last person on Earth I’d listen to when it comes to dating.”

I grimace. He’s not a fan. I forgot about that. Jessica’s got this knack for rubbing people the wrong way. She claims she’s socially awkward, but still has an amazing ability to score a gazillion dates without blinking an eyelash. Even the fake kind. It floors me. Eddie knows this.

“I know she’s your friend,” here it comes. “But those guys she attracts in droves? Not the kind of guys you want.”

“Correction. That you think are good enough for me.”

He grins. Widely. I’m learning. He’s a proud Papa again. “All I’m saying is that you should hold onto these things and you’ll attract the kind of guys that you want.”

I playfully punch his left arm. His sorbet starts to topple, but Eddie skillfully saves it with a flick of his wrist. Whoops. Close one.

“Hey, I can tell you what to say forever in every situation.” Gotta hand it to him, he’s got tunnel vision. It’s a guy thing. Can’t shake Eddie once he’s focused. “But if you see yourself the way I just described…all of it will naturally come from you. You won’t need my help.”

“Nonsense.” My nose is doing that wrinkly thing again. “And miss out on all this fun?”

I toss out the rest of my cone. Just not in the mood, really. It’s a sad state of affairs. Ice-cream is supposed to make everything better. So I’m led to believe. Eddie hands me his. I muster up a lopsided smile.

“Hey. None of that. Okay? You’ll learn so much from every encounter. Before you know it, you’ll be giving me advice.”

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