By Seth Kushner

Saturday night and the guy in the bathroom mirror looks presentable enough and relatively happy.  I was getting ready for my third date with Jen, who was the fourth girl I’d dated with that name.  “Jen” must be the “Michael” of the names of twenty-something ladies in NYC.

As I carefully applied product to my hair, attempting to make it look as though I did it willy-nilly, I thought about Jen #4 and how we really seemed to connect on our previous date.  She worked in publishing, was from somewhere in Massachusetts, and seemed to favor tops that allowed for just a hint of cleavage.  Being this was the all-important third date I was prepping for, I was hoping for more than a hint.  Maybe at the very least, a full clue.

BZZZZ, BZZZZ. It was a text on my cell.  From Jen #4.

“Sorry for the last minute notice, but I got back with my boyfriend.  I wish you the best.”

I looked back up into the mirror and that presentable and happy guy now looked sullen and depressed.

I wish I could say I was surprised.  I’d been through this before.  In the competitive NYC dating scene, it’s every schmuck for himself.  Sure, I hated Jen #4 for her callous and impersonal treatment of me, and I’d probably hate the inevitable rejection from Jen #5 too, but thems the breaks, I told myself as I walked down the street to Win Ning, my local Chinese take-out joint.  I felt miserable and I needed some goddamned General Tso Chicken to drown my sorrows.

I entered realizing I went from reservations at a “hot” Tribeca eatery to greasy take-out.  I walked up to the counter and looked at the display of back-lit photos of their various signature dishes.  I pointed to the photo of the General Tso’s Chicken and told the middle-aged Asian women behind the counter that I’d take “Number 32 to go.”

“OK.  Gonna be five-ten minute,” she said.

I sat down and slumped over a table and chuckled to myself because no one sat across from me.  The place was completely empty except for a little Asian boy (around 7) playing with a plastic toy robot at another table.

Time to face facts, Kessler, you’re just not a lucky guy, I told myself. I was born on February 29th.  I only have a birthday every four years.  Why would I ever expect a happy life?  On the bright side, it will be Leap Year again in two years.  Something to look forward to.

Five minutes passed and I sat forward in the chair, impatiently.  The little boy was now running flying his robot around in circles.  I turned in my chair and looked up noticing a calendar hanging on the wall.  It was typical of what you’d find at a Chinese take out joint, with every month corresponding to a beautiful Asian model, always posed innocently, yet slightly seductively.  I found myself staring at it and wondering who she was.  She had silky, jet black hair and dark almond eyes.  She was posed in some sort of garden and she wore a dress, cut just above the knee, subtly revealing long and taut legs.  Man, did I have a thing for Asian girls.

“Hi.”

I turned from the calendar and the little boy with the robot stood in front of me.  He was small and had dark bangs, nearly covering his eyes.

“Hi” I said back.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Adam.  What’s your name?”

“Ken.”

“Hi Ken.”

The boy stood starring at me, expressionless and not saying a word.  I stared back perplexed.  I waited for him to speak and seconds passed until he finally did.

“How old are you?” he asked.

“I’m 28.  How old are you?”

“Are you married?” he asked oddly, ignoring my question.

“Uh no, I’m not.”

Again, he stared, not speaking for what felt like forever. Then he slowly opened his mouth.

“Don’t worry; you’ll be married by the time you’re 32.”

His statement was delivered simply and matter-of-factly.

What?  What do you mean?”

He did not respond.

“How could you know that?” I asked.

He continued to look me in the eye but he said nothing more.

“I don’t even have a girlfriend!” I told him.

Then the woman from behind the counter said, “Number 32 ready.”

I stood up and looked away from the boy to the woman who was holding up my bag of food.  I walked over to the counter, paid her, and looked back at the boy.  He was playing with his robot and I walked out the front door.

“Don’t worry; you’ll be married by the time you’re 32.”

The boy’s words echoed in my head as I sat on my couch eating my greasy, MSG filled dinner from the white cardboard take-out container. After downing the chicken I broke open the fortune cookie that always comes in the bag and munched on half of it while I unrolled the small paper fortune.  It read:

“No one can walk backwards into the future.”

Four years later, I showed that fortune to my new bride.

–Seth Kushner

Read past installments of SCHMUCK and THE SCHMUCK DIARIES

SCHMUCK 1: Beer, Babes and Bowel Movements

THE SCHMUCK DIARIES: MEIN ROOMMATE

SCHMUCK 2: The Burning

THE SCHMUCK DIARIES: The Lap-Date

SCHMUCK: The Hook-UP

The SCHMUCK DIARIES: WRITING (NO)CLASS

Whenever Seth Kushner did anything foolish growing up, his mother would call him a “Schmuck,” that beloved Yiddish term of not-so-endearment. So, of course, it’s the title of his new comix semi-autobio on TRIP CITY, an online multimedia arts salon. Renowned for his The Brooklynites book and CulturePOP Photocomix, photographer and author Seth Kushner now throws his hat into the comics arena. SCHMUCK chronicles the period after his being dumped by a girlfriend, and the ensuing cascade of blind dates, Internet hook-ups, and comically tragic situations he endured with the hopes of finding “true love.”

SCHMUCK sheds a brutally honest light on 20-something relationships. Adam Kessler, our “hero,” is based on Kushner, ten years ago – a pop-culture-obsessed photographer torn between pleasing Mom by finding a “nice Jewish girl,” and figuring out what he really wants. His internal monologue is filled with the standard inane, perverted and self-deprecating thoughts we all have but are ashamed to admit. Meanwhile, his shit-talking, sex-obsessed Brooklyn boys stand by with their own, often wacky, advice.

Chapter One “Beer, Babes and Bowel Movements,” illustrated by Kevin Colden, (with “Photocomix” by Seth) debuted on Monday, January 9. From there, a new chapter will appear on TripCity.net every second Monday for one year. Every fourth Monday will see the release of a prose piece, “THE SCHMUCK DIARIES,” which will act as supplements to the comics. 2012 will see the release of 12 SCHMUCK comix and 12 SCHMUCK DIARIES.

SCHMUCK is an anthology series with different artists illustrating short “schmucky stories,” which can be read individually, or together to tell the complete narrative. Some upcoming SCHMUCK artists include; Sean Pryor (Pekar Project), Bobby Timony (Night Owls), Omar Angulo (Hurricane Wilma), Shamus Beyale (The Grimm Fairy Tales), Ryan Alexander-Tanner (To Teach), George Schall, (Dark Horse Presents) Nathan Schreiber (Power-Out), and more TBA.

What to expect: heartbreak, diarrhea, painful STD removal, rejection, Kung-Fu, Natalie Portman, vomit, boobs, self-loathing, unkempt genital regions, sex with an ex, drunkenness, sexual dysfunction, depression, misogyny, and somehow, hope.

Influences on SCHMUCK include; Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, Alex Robinson’s Box Office Poison, Bob Fingerman’s Beg The Question, Dean Haspiel’s Street Code, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Curb Your Enthusiasm, works by Nick Hornby, Jonathan Ames, Woody Allen, Adrian Tomine, Jeffrey Brown, Chester Brown and Joe Matt.