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Show Report? YES. 10-11-2020. The Forum, Los Angeles. I purposely waited a year to post this.
Diaclaimer - People who enjoy my rants might be entertained. People who don't will likely take offense. I don't care. It's more of a stream of consciousness anyway so whatever.
Im writing this at 33,000 ft. and kinda drunk.
First things first, I was fully expecting a 1 hour show. Talking with people who were expecting 90 minutes and the whole album played in its entirety I told them to expect the same show we've seen all tour and anything that happens after that is just a bonus. If anything, the show we got is exactly what I expected. The same set with 2 or 3 additions from the new album. Really surprised they cut "The One" though. Regardless, I was mostly right.
The Pre-party : I cant talk too much about this. I was on the other side of town at a show and only got to the preparty just in time to see everyone leave. By the looks of things, everyone had a real great time or were drinking to forget some sort of trauma. It led to a fun Uber ride back to the hotel without Golden Earring's "Twilight Zone" playing rather unfortunately.
Before the show:
Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles was great. I mean it's not mindblowing stuff... it's exactly what is advertised. Chicken and waffles. Those who didnt want to go, thanks for not going because getting a table for more than 4 would have been a longer wait and I was hungry. After that it was off to the Forum to pick up merch.
I am apparently absolutely terrible at handing out flyers for the afterparty. Absolutely no one wanted one from me. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Anyway, made my exit to store my merch at the hotel and take a nap.
Met a Japanese fan and some other dude from i think maybe L.A. (but i could be wrong) when I arrived at The Forum the 2nd time for the show. The Japanese fan gave me what he said was an actual Adawama candy and another fan explained to me that it's a spicy candy, which is why the song is called "Adawama Fever" because of the heat, so that song finally makes sense to me... Anyway, the Japanese fan took interest in my VIP lanyard so I just gave it to him. Felt kinda bad for the guy though since he said his favorite song is "The One" and they ended up not playing it, kinda like how my favorite song is "Syncopation" and they never play it stateside, but hey... heres Gimme Choco again because somehow they aren't sick of playing it every show yet.
I dont get the hate people are throwing at the DJ set. They should probably shut their mouths about it and keep their opinions to themselves honestly. If there was no DJ they'd find something else to whine and bitch about like the miserable little shits they are. There is an aspect of this fanbase that will never be happy with anything that happens and will go out of their way to complain about it. If theres no drama they feel the need to create it.The DJ set was fine and served its purpose of being background music while people waited for the show to start. Besides, I missed most of it because I was outside drinking anyway but what I did hear was fine and not remotely worthy of this shit people are slinging about it. It must be real interesting to go through life as an insufferable and miserable little cunt finding fault in every little thing.
Since the shows on the tour were starting off at 9:05 on the dot, I was surprised when it didnt. And I did drink a bit (only a little) before the show so, obviously, the second I decided to run to the mens room real quick... The show began. Relief would have to wait. Why am I even sharing this info? I dunno. Why the hell do I do anything really? I've embraced apathy, which means I really dont care what people think about it. But there is a different reason I mention it. It amuses me that there are japanese sites that take posts here and translate it and now my bullshit gets presented to people in 2 different languages.
Future Metal/Da Da Dance : Lore is great isn't it? Everyone loves the lore. I sure do. My sneaking suspicion that in the near future, Future Metal and Da Da Dance will be the opening 1-2 punch of the live shows, with the Future Metal video being the opening credits showing the meticulous craftsmanship Amuse went through manufacturing the girls while in outer space (according to the video atleast) and Da Da Dance just getting the crowd jumping and having fun. I'm still not too sure on the words but i swear they're telling everyone to "GET UP" and luckily my section, 111.... the best section, didnt need to be told to do that. We were up the second the lights went down. Apparently people were saying that there were other sections who stayed seated through most of the show... and all I have to say is this. Enjoy the show however you wish regardless of how other people choose to. If you want to get up and dance around and everyone else Is seated... fuck em. They didnt pay for your ticket. You did. You want to get up, fucking do it. If they dont like it, too bad. Dont let others stop you from enjoying the experience how you want, and if you're the sort of person who wants to sit there and watch the show.... fine, but dont be annoyed by people getting up and dancing at a concert though. We all are free to enjoy it in our own way and you should never feel that apprehension or anxiety about enjoying yourself because everyone around you chooses not to.
Megitsune : it's a staple for a reason.
Elevator Girl : The English version is garbage. I hate everything about the English version. I could have done without this song being played. Probably should have used this opportunity to go piss but it's just an hour long show and my bladder is strong.
Shanti Shanti Shanti : The video backdrop makes me want to macrodose LSD. That's right, macrodose. Microdosing is passe.
Kami Solo / Kagerou : I'm really looking forward to seeing what the Kamis do with this in Japan but the US Kamis did extremely well with the showcase of their abilities.... except the bass.player. He's good.... but he's using a pick and that's just one of those things that I just personally dont like. I'm sure 99% of the people watching didnt notice or really just don't care about it. It's just my own little pet peeve about bass playing in general. A nit pick about picking. Seems fitting. Regardless, the Kami solos were great and the Kamis all did a fantastic job and honestly, I kinda want to the the US drummer with the Japanese Kamis because that drummer is really the highlight of the whole US Kami band. Kagerou was great, just like how it was great every other time they've played it. Really, when you think about it.... these long and rambling show reports really serve no purpose since the level of professionalism and presentation they put into each show, along with the extremely high quality level of musicianship, make these sort of posts to be completely redundant. Kagerou was great? Well, no fucking shit? It's always great. Let me know when they perform it and screw it all up, or screw up any other song. That would be more surprising to me than a show report saying the song was great. Am I ranting about how pointless show reports are in a show report? Yes. Maybe I'm trying to make a point in a clandestine manner. Maybe I'm bored out of my skull at 33,000 ft. and for whatever reason it amuses me to rant about show reports in a show report Either way, Kagerou sounded great man. Su sounded fantastic on it. Surprising, right?
Starlight: Really great how everyone lit up the place with their phones for this one and really happy that dickhead with the 1000 lumen flashlight put it on a lower setting for this one. (2020 UPDATE: Yes, I was that dick) Before the show started and people had their phone lights out, it looked like they were lighting up half the floor with it. Anyway, Starlight being one of those songs with one of my favorite breakdowns in it, needless to say I was looking forward to it and the crowd participation with illumination definitely added to it. Yet another song that should look great on the Bluray.
Gimme Chocolate!! : Yes, its a fun song. Yes, it's their most popular song. Yes, I'd rather hear "Syncopation" or another song from the new album instead. Yes, in 10 years if Babymetal still exists they will still be playing this song. No, people wont ever get sick of it when it's being played. No, in 10 years they still wont have "Syncopation", and by that point "BxMxC", in the U.S. setlist because Gimme Choco must be played at every show every time all the time until the end of time.... but yeah it was fun. I'd be fine with them retiring it or bringing it out only every once in a while. Let it rest. They've got 3 albums worth of songs now that they can pull from or just substitute "Syncopation" in its place or anything else really.... but their absolutely best song, which is "Syncopation", should be played instead of Gimme Choco.
PA PA YA!! : What an awesome song made even better by an awesome fan! u/MikeTheJake singlehandedly made this performance amazing by hooking people up with the PA PA YA towels he made. How amazing? I was so into it waving my towel and watching the crowd and their towels that I didnt even notice the fucking pyro. I sure as fuck felt the heat from it though This is gonna look great on the inevitable Bluray/WoWoW broadcast. I had hoped that if any of the featured artists on the Album showed up, it would have been F.Hero but it just wasn't meant to be for this show. That's alright though since it was still great and, again, if it wasnt for 1 man and his idea of giving out towels, this performance would not have looked like what it looked like and he deserves a ton of recognition for it.... from Amuse. Anyway, The song is absolute pure fun. Probably their most fun song. I'll never get sick of the crowd energy during it.
Distortion : I like this song better live. Like, a whole lot better.
KARATE : Great as always and looked like they did a whole new digital effect on the screens for this.
Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!! : my 3rd time seeing this song in a matter of weeks after it being at the top of my list of songs I wanted to see live. Gives me hope that I'll see Syncopation live eventually.
Road of Resistance : There's not much to say that hasn't been said about this song countless amounts of times... But between you and me, I wanted them to pull IDZ out... Especially since then I could draw a parallel between the message of the song and what everyone was saying about the DJ set I missed because I was outside drinking.
Shine : This song is pretty damn good.
Arkadia : This song fucking rips on the album and live it's even better. Even though its basically Road of Resistance 2.0 musically, it didnt suffer from being so close to it during the setlist. Actually, overall, the pacing of the setlist was pretty good.
After the show:
I rushed the find the relief I was getting ready to seek out right when the lights went out and.... well.... you ever take a piss so good that you can feel it in your kidneys? It was one of those. The euphoria brought on by the show may have magnified the experience but it was just a really, really good piss. You might be asking yourself why you're reading about some random dude on reddit taking a piss after the show, and well... that's your own fault. No one is forcing you. You have no one to blame but yourself. You probably completely forgot that I started the show needing to take a piss, didn't you? Someone on that japanese babymetalize site has it worse because they have to translate this inane bullshit (2020 UPDATE: between this and my London review, I fear what malady will befall me at the next show)
The post show Uber situation was chaos. Uber after Uber kept canceling the trip. The hassle of getting around the Forum traffic for a $6 fare to the afterparty wasnt worth it for the drivers I guess.... so, of course, a large group of us end up walking which led to the 2nd performance of PA PA YA, on whatever street that was, of the evening led by the soberest drunk aussie known to man.
Getting a drink or food at the afterparty was a pain. Luckily there was a bar on the other side. The place was definitely expecting a smaller turnout for sure. I was amused when I went to the bar on the other side and they ran out of a bunch of different beers. I almost shed a tear except for that whole incapable of showing emotion thing.
In General: I was enjoying whenever someone mentioned my username and I'd play off like it wasnt me and say that if i saw TerriblePigs i was gonna punch him (which led to Kmudametal telling me at the hotel bar that I should look out because I was a bouncer in NYC). I enjoyed people telling me how someone talked about wanting to meet me and being told that they already did. Mainly, I wanted to avoid discussing reddit because if that's all we're gonna sit around and talk about, I'm gonna get bored extremely quickly which is why most of every conversation steered in that direction was that none of that matters... because it doesn't. Especially if we all just saw an amazing live show and are all sitting around shooting the breeze and enjoying some drinks and some laughs while I tell the extremely cute and extremely ditzy waitress how she should move to NYC so we could get married for about 6 weeks while she realizes the multitudes of ways in which I would be disappointing her. I'm kidding that didnt actually happen. Nobody would be dumb enough to say such a thing. I said 3 weeks, not 6. That is closer to reality... Then again I was drinking so who the fuck really knows.
Anyway, those of you who I've met were cool. I'm terrible with names so I've forgotten most of them. L.A. sucks with the whole no alcohol after 2am thing and was a further reminder of why I want to leave NYC but wont be able to do what I want when I want anywhere else so I'm stuck here.
Anyway, that's my show report posted a year later... But hey, considering there aren't any shows going on now, it's a nice little nostalgia trip to a time when we had shows. I'll be at work watching The Forum on the spreadsheet. I suggest everyone else does so too if the opportunity presents itself since it is literally exactly a year ago tonight... Almost down to the hour.
The freeze in the TikTok feed jarred by the incoming call slowly registers through my numbed retinas. I don't remember where or when the feed began -- honestly, I don't remember lying down in bed. For a split second between transitioning screens, before the incoming Constellation ringtone breaks the hard-earned stillness of my room, I wonder what force could possess the strength to shatter my box of mirrors. Box of mirrors feels inadequate, though, as I see nothing resembling my form between scrolls. Well, I don't think I have.
The evidence I'm on Tik Tok and wasn't pushing hours ten, eleven, and twelve of sleep is found in a mosaic of videos I drop in various group chats when I don't want to contribute words but desire to make my presence known. Mostly recipes I'll never make and compilations of dogs before and after they're called a "good boy," with the occasional dancing influencer jock in a Netflix YA dramedy, who I later find out moonlights as an actual high school sophomore.
Without the saved collection, I'm incapable of recalling much of anything I consume during these scrolls-to-oblivion. At least these lapses breathe some honesty into the daily call-and-receive ritual I conduct with the parents, where they eagerly ask, "Any plans for the rest of summer break?" and I reply, eyes dilating in sync with the gaping breadth of the void, "Not really."
The involuntary transformation, mid-scroll, from the white family of four humble-flexing their McMansion on top of a Jersey-club beat to the anonymous yet affronting call screen upsets my scroll-induced serotonin drip. No name, just a number calmly presenting itself at the top of the screen. I sigh through my teeth and move towards pressing red, but something about the area code makes me pause, even as the pull of the TikTok feed screams at me for attention.
For the first time since waking up, I roll onto my back and disrupt my eternal content-consuming position. I press the green dot and pull the phone to my ear as I stare beyond the ceiling fan. From my starchy mouth and dry tongue stumbles out: "mmph hello?"
"Hey Katie! It's Gabe, just calling to see if we're still good to meet up at the botanic garden at four".
Oh, shit. Gabe, botanic garden, 4:00 PM, vaguely familiar number… the swipe right, and the harmlessly seductive late-night messages -- then texts -- from forty-eight hours ago that set this all up. Fuck it, I'm on the spot now. I clear my throat and commit:
"Hey! Gabe! Yeah! Of course I'm still down. Meet you at the entrance pavilion near the map stand?" Jesus, I sound stupid.
"Alright, sounds good. See you in an hour."
"Yeah, see you soon."
The call disconnects and I exhale. "Fuck," I mutter under my breath.
I tap my phone's screen, and the time 3:05 PM glows down at me. Best case scenario, I'm only ten minutes late.
I slowly roll over onto my right side when FaceID unlocks the phone. A video begins of some teens calling an obese bike cop dummy thicc, and it pushes me across the event horizon and once more into the scroll's black hole. Each video's auto-start drags me further into the abyss: I am no longer conscious of the consumed content as the sounds and images change with each flick of the thumb. I don't feel the box of mirrors constrict, but my user-behavior will direct the algorithm to only feed me clips with the same slowed + reverb music, docile suburban setting, and white teens with golden retrievers.
Through the assault of content, I'm unable to shake the imminence of Gabe's phone call. The vibe is ruined. Ten minutes after our call and for the first time today, my legs slide out from under the comforter and hang over the bed.
Phone in hand, I beeline for the bathroom and start to assess my image rehabilitation. There's no time for a shower and its hair-induced labor, so I select the Deluxe Edition of "Running Late for 8:00 AM Sociology of Religion" Morning Routine. I brush my teeth, spray on dry shampoo then perfume, and throw on a sundress. I apply tinted sunscreen and mascara, coronating myself with aesthetic plausible deniability.
The bathroom door trails shut behind me as I grab my bag and head for the stairs, catching myself smoothing out the wrinkles in the dress. As I descend, two steps at a time, the resentment held to the interrupting phone call slowly becomes reluctant. This date, this guy, could break a month's worth of boredom.
As I turn the corner, the phrase "increasing deductible" burrows into my ear. I spy my parents' sanity under siege in the dining room from tri-folded bills and coffee-stained printer paper. Not even the summertime weekend wear can hold together their composed impression, for the cemented strained expressions, laptop chargers, and my Dad's pitted undershirt betray the length at which they've been reconciling finances. As I move along the table and towards the door, they look up from their screens, which are oriented at just the right angle for one to correct the other's QuickBooks input. We lock eyes, and I expect to fall victim to the usual inquisition, but it's just a passing moment. Mom and Dad blink and go back to Aetna as I open the door. I call out to the void for them to lock it as I step out into the sun, a little disappointed that they didn't show any interest in where I was off to.
The early afternoon's dead summer heat has yet to subside. My makeup's protective barrier slips away with each step closer to the garden, as realized by a sweat-check dab to my upper lip. I minimize all facial movements to disrupt my aesthetic as little as possible, but it's an exercise in futility. Heraclitus got it wrong: the only constant in life is decay.
I reach a stride and feel the selective sense of tranquility that arises when thinking about nothing: when the mind's sole purpose returns to processing the photos captured through your retinas. I think I see a dahlia in the parkway when -- DING -- a notification alert slices through the humming Midwest suburb. Thinking that it's Gabe telling me he's canceling, I draw the phone from my bag quicker than I unholster my tactical repression while flirting at a party. It takes a moment for the screen's auto-brightness to catch up with the sun's glare, but the grease and sweat covered glass slowly gets bright enough to reveal the availability of my weekly Screen Time Report. A loud exhale flares out of my nostrils as I silently curse Apple for inducing hyperhidrosis. I tap again to check the figures: "Your screen time was down 2% last week, for an average of 11 hours, 46 minutes a day." Jesus. Well, might as well make it even. I swipe the notification away and open Tinder to review the matches that came in last night. The desperate, dirty midnight dregs.
I'm wearily putting my phone away as I notice the humble opening to the botanic garden's entrance pathway: a gap in a hedge-wall with two stone engravings on either side, one of which reads "Welcome to the Lake County Botanic Garden," and the other, "A Generous Gift of ExxonMobil and the Tillerson Foundation." The hypocrisy makes me cringe harder than Snapchat HBO Max ads, the ones that ruin banger songs by association and blast taglines like "We're feeling all the vibes." Forming that realization prompts me to open Snapchat, and give myself one last lookover before the pathway's hedges swallow me whole. There's a sliding bead of sweat on my temple, but I look fresher than I feel. I check the time, and it reads 4:03. Ah, nice. Feeling good, I plunge into the garden.
From the pathway, I emerge onto the Sackler Family Entrance Pavilion and cast my eyes over the few bodies that hold water bottles and lean up against strollers, chatting away. On the other side of the rubber-tiled pavilion, leaning up against the map stand with his hands behind his back, I spy the person I hope to be Gabe.
We meet each other's eyes with the acknowledgment of a read receipt. As I walk towards him and he straightens up to receive me, I silently pride myself in choosing a date who is both above-average in looks and below the standard deviation of online profile deception. Average enough in height, dress, and build to be non-threatening, but with an air about him that reassured me this date would not be a waste of time. A theater kid who works out.
He gracefully pushes himself off the map stand while I exhale and let out a sharp "Hey."
"Hey, Katie. Sunflowers for the occasion I see." He's staring at my dress, grinning.
What? Feeling all sorts of annoyed, I look down and scowl. I am on a date, at a botanical garden, wearing a sunflower sundress. I recover.
"Haha, oh yeah."
"You look very nice."
"Thanks." I smile.
He has a smoothness to his voice that makes me feel at ease but is also lacking in the usual emotions of the first encounter on a first date-- nervousness, excitement, sexual tension.
"Do you come here often?"
"No," he replies, "But Google suggests that this is the nicest walk for us to go on within a 30 minute and 10-mile radius."
I pause, waiting for him to ask if I'd been here before or if I lived close by. Instead, Gabe blinks twice before smiling and asks, "Are you in school?"
"Yea. I head back in three weeks. My Dad is driving me and we're stopping on the way to visit my aunt. We've been doing this for the past three years."
I haven't even finished the word "years" when he cuts in -- more forcedly than graceful -- with, "How do you feel about going back?"
We're still standing at the entrance to the gardens, our immobility awkward next to the rest of the visitors walking by us, setting off for the trails. Hoping to set us on our way, I opt for an obfuscated response that conceals my annoyance at being completely jarred for the second time today.
"Fine. I feel alright, though I need to start thinking about grad-school programs. How about you? I saw you listed Macalester on your profile. What do you study?"
"Sociology," Gabe replies, with a pride betrayed by the curl of his lips.
Red flag, equivalent to saying that he sees Patrick Bateman as a role model. I have yet to meet a white, male sociology major who doesn't conceal unnecessary oppositional behavior and an unearned sense of superiority under a self-serving gild of socialism.
There's an urge to ask Gabe more about his interests within the field to save some time, but before I can, he touches my elbow and steps towards the entrance to a trail. "C'mon, I want to experience this with you." Hmm. Odd, but it works. The effortless-sounding invitation, combined with his arching eyebrows and anything-but-inauthentic smile, begrudgingly encourages me to suspend my burgeoning annoyance for a minute.
Gabe's discovered "nicest walk" covers part of the garden that I'm unfamiliar with -- a pleasant surprise -- but his source must've been trending or something. A convoy of athletic-wear families is also marching into the heart of darkness, forcing us to recalibrate our stride every few paces to avoid crowding. Gabe moves with the ease and confidence of someone who never feels threatened by their environment, just like the guys in this TikTok describe how they masturbate before going on dates so they can bring "post-nut clarity." That's the vibe Gabe emits as we enter the Mark "Puck" Salling Memorial Landscape Garden. He kneels a moment to look down at a meadow sage called "Violet Profusion," then immediately stands back up and fires away:
"Do you like tattoos?"
"Depends, but I'm usually here for it."
"Are you vegan?"
"Uh, no, but I feel like I should be."
"Do you like brunch?"
"What about art?"
"I'm an art history major."
"How about wine?"
"Yes. Of course."
"I mean, it's fun, sometimes."
"How about environmentalism?"
"Yea, I'm for environmentalism. What are you getting at?"
"And Mental Health Awareness?"
What the fuck.
"Do I like Mental Health Awareness? What kind of question is that?"
"What about vlogging?"
He hasn't blinked or looked away this whole time. I feel the urge to push him into something thorny.
"Do you like Netflix?"
"Gabe, what is this?"
He smiles and brushes his hair to the side as if that's enough of an answer. We're still walking. The crunching gravel masks my nervously grinding teeth. I snap: "No, seriously, what was that all about?"
A moment crawls by before his facial expression changes. In that instant, the smile disappears, and his shoulders hunch. Gabe's now grabbing his upper left bicep with his right hand.
"I… I'm just trying to get to know your passions."
"That is not how you get to know somebody. Do other people you meet up with respond well to being interrogated?" I can't tell if I meant that as a rhetorical question.
I release an exasperated sigh and look around to see if anybody heard me raise my voice. We're in the water gardens, and the Lululemon caravan has been thinning. Stragglers probably see us and wonder why I'm so difficult with this attractive man (boy?) asking me questions. Am I just hungry? Taking a mental step back, I see that my embarrassment over Gabe's questioning stems from how awkward it must have looked, and felt, from a stranger's perspective. Even so, why do I care? I fantasized that I would be intrigued by getting to know Gabe instead of finding him grating. That "He's the one!" feeling starts to slip away.
Tiredness slowly fills my thoughts, and I begin to feel the urge to check the time. He looks as confused as I am but lacks the frustration. Have I been asking him enough questions? Comparatively, no, but I mistake a lack of quantity for an absence of effort. I inhale and think a moment for a question that would get him talking.
I smile as I remember an international relations seminar prompt. "Hmm… Should I care how many medals my country wins at the Olympics?"
Gabe's eyes widen, and he looks at me excitedly, with a trace of nervousness: "Ah, good question! Yeah wow. How many medals… Hmm… Yeah, that's a good question because my response needs to reflect my thoughts on if I place value on whether my country has good hand-eye coordination. Yeah, like, do medals matter? Do the feelings I have towards whether my country wins or loses compared to other countries of greater and lesser size? Wow. Like, obviously, I would need to say whether I think the Olympics are a good idea in the first place or whether it's just another type of oppression where strong states shore up soft power against the less developed. But wow, that's an excellent question! Thank you for asking it, Katie."
I squint at him and clench my teeth, frustrated that he thought his deconstruction would mask that he said nothing.
"You didn't answer my question."
Gabe slides his hands out from his back pockets and raises them as he shrugs his shoulders, all the while giving a stupid grin.
"Ha no, I -- I did! It was a really good question-- feels like something my professor would ask me."
His empty flattery lights a deep burn in me that's been melting participation trophies since childhood. I push onwards.
"Alright, fine. Let’s try this: do you think caricature is an act of aggression?" I steal this one from a New Yorker article. Gabe should be able to relate this to his sociology lectures or something. Can he even think for himself?
"Wow! Two for two! Heating up! Ha um… Well, what is a caricature? What is the intent behind a caricature? Yeah, dang, I really don't know what to say. I guess I would need to start out by thinking about my experiences…" He starts to rapidly tap his index finger against his thumb and looks to become more disoriented with each step forward. "… and man, then I would need to contextualize aggression here too, but that would first require me to determine whether I want to approach this question objectively or subjectively, and the value of either approach…"
We're now in the Lunar Evaluation Garden, whatever that means. The sun has almost reached the top of the tree line, which cast seductive shadows over the quiet, Eden-like meadow. The trail looks empty in both directions. Where did everyone go? My heart races but becomes quickly subdued by Gabe's continued waste of air.
"So yeah, but even with that logic -- you ask outstanding questions by the way -- it would necessitate that --"
"Okay. Enough." His still-tapping fingers could be mistaken for cicadas. Watching him squirm prompts a feeling of entertainment that quickly slips into boredom, if not for my power to further make Gabe cringe. "Do you think reparations are a form of punishment?"
What looks to be a spark shoots out of his ear. Gabe stiffens his posture as he starts to blink rapidly: a nervous statue.
"Oof wow uh, well, hmm uh, uh, let's see. Reparations, um, relative term? Aha ah um, war reparations? Article 231 -- Treaty of Versailles. But. Reparations are not a punishment? Dang, uh, ah, I can't, can't find any empirical data that lets me make that arg-"
I cut him off by delivering the coup de grâce: an admissions question from the All Souls Fellowship that I've been eyeing all year.
"Gabe, do you think that the moral character of an orgy changes if its participants are wearing Nazi uniforms?"
His hair bursts into flames. I take a step back to avoid the heat. The blinking turns into fluttering, and what looks like windshield wiper fluid starts to trickle from his nose and mouth. A slack look of incredulity calcifies over Gabe's now fallen angelic face. One of his shirt sleeves becomes lit from the stream of sparks shooting from his ears, and the stench reminds me of hands that had to grip a sweaty, stainless steel doorknob.
Gabe's head straightens and his jaw unhinges. Slowly, his face tilts upwards. His eyes dart open and out pour crackling beams of turquoise light to the sky.
I slip off my shoe and tap out some gravel. Through the buzzing energy, I make out what sounds like another human voice coming from inside Gabe's throat. The transmission gets louder with each passing moment.
"…this complete asshole is co-opting our vertical. She's on the special promotion path and thinks she can speak directly for the client. What a bitch."
"Dude, what? That blows. Is she going to be your new career manager?"
"Yeah, there goes my promotion for the winter cycle. That's not gonna look good in the HBS alumni mag."
The voices are uncomfortably loud. They are anonymous and threatening enough to conjure the image of two tall, generic white males at a bar who convince you that no, you haven't had enough to drink; have one more shot and we'll drive you home.
"If I don’t get promoted, I'm going to let AWS poach me."
They both laugh. The first voice speaks, suddenly serious-- the fear for the future of his resume resonates in his tone. "But for real, I appreciate you coming over. We gotta troubleshoot this instance where both audio and visual sensors are down."
"I bet it's the Curiosity API."
"That's what I'm thinking: it looks like all systems were running smoothly until the GABRIEL UNIT v.1.7 executed passions_exfil.py."
"Let's see what went down."
Silence. I suppress the desire to put my hand in Gabe's energy beams.
"Ah yeah. Classic. Starting at this node, we can see that she didn't let the Unit finish aggregating her passions, either because she wasn't responsive or because her passions weren't catalogable. Extending from this node and along this edge here--" I hear a finger aggressively tapping a screen "--we see that the Unit's recovery becomes less than two percent once the curiosity API got wrecked by her questions."
"Damn. A whole Unit out of commission after only being engaged for half of a two-hour instance."
"Yeah dude. Can you imagine the kind of girl that could do this? Especially after the tests we ran?"
They both laugh with a shared fondness and misogyny present only in mutually insidious male memories.
"No kidding. Like why go on a date in the first place if…"
I turn away, not caring to hear the rest of this conversation. There's a waterfall garden on the other side of a Japanese wooden bridge and loons floating along with some koi. For a moment, it's beautiful, but the tech-bro laughter triggers another head and stomach ache.
I just want to lie down and scroll.
The periwinkle sky entertains me throughout my walk home. There’s a nagging sense as I approach the front door that I wasted another day looking for external validation instead of doing something constructive, like journaling or grad-school research. I'm annoyed that my indifference isn't strong enough to repress that feeling of inadequacy. I jump up the porch steps and fling open the front door, unsurprised that it remained unlocked. Mom and Dad stayed in the same position as when I left, but the coffee has been replaced by Heineken. They look up at me over their reading glasses when the door slams into the stopper.
"Hey sweetie, how was the date?"
“Yeah!” My Dad cuts in, grinning. “Do we get to meet the lucky guy?”
I try to conceal the surprise I feel at receiving their attention, but a soft smile escapes. The image of Gabe’s gaping mouth shooting energy beams flashes before my mind. Beyond the dining room table, I glimpse the stairs to my bedroom.
"Oh, probably not. He was left troubleshooting in the garden."