I stood in the midst of the chaos, at the eye of the storm. “Sorry, can you repeat the question?” I asked the reporter standing next to me.
She didn’t seem to mind, and both of us paused for a second as a very toned and muscled man passed by, dressed in little more than a white loincloth and with a spray-painted gold bow and arrow set slung over his shoulder.
“Er, right,” the reporter said after another minute. “So, how did you decide on launching this whole, er…”
“Convention,” I filled in. “The first romance convention! It’s going to be really something-”
“Excuse me?” A woman, short and squat and smelling like pollen, came bustling up to me. “Where are the florists setting up?”
I glanced down at my schedule. “Er, Aisle 5, over in that direction. There’s a faucet over there, too. You’re welcome!” I called after her as she hurried off, not even giving me a single word of thanks.
After shaking off my glare, I turned back to the reporter. “Anyway, the whole thing started just as a drunken complaint with my buddy Jimmy…”
“…and the problem is, half the time the date ends up being shit, and it’s not even my fault!” Jimmy swung his beer around, narrowly avoiding sloshing suds on me. “Isn’t that crazy?”
“Yeah, it’s crazy that it isn’t your fault half the time,” I countered. “Come on, Jimmy, give me some context. What are you talking about?”
He sighed. “Look, I met this girl. I pretty much thought that she was the one, right? Gazongas like bam, BAM!” He held out his hands like he was cupping a pair of melons, once again nearly knocking over his beer. “So I was gonna take her out somewhere nice, right? Club, all the things. Show her a good time.”
“Where’d you choose?”
“Ocean, in downtown.”
I grimaced. “Not a smart move. That place is filled to the rafters with douche-bros. They’ll steal your girl as soon as she walks in.”
“All those oiled pecs,” Jimmy moaned. “I didn’t stand a chance.”
I nodded, taking another pull on my own beer before Jimmy ended up knocking it over. “What we need,” I declared, “is a place to figure out what spots are good for dates! A trial run!”
“Yeah, and not just for first dates, either!” Jimmy jumped in, nodding enthusiastically. “How about for flowers and gifts and shit? I hate when I call to get, like, a couple of roses and the guy on the phone insists on upselling me into this giant bouquet with chocolates and stuff. It was just one date, I don’t need to send her a giant teddy bear or anything!”
The guy next to us at the bar suddenly spun around, nearly falling off his stool. “Hell, how about finding us places that work for date nights after you’re married?” he jumped in, slurring his words but gesturing emphatically. “When it’s date night, it’s either a movie, or nothing! I’ve got no options, and no wonder she won’t put out!”
I leaned back, put off by his ninety proof breath, but Jimmy nodded, pointing a wobbling finger at the man. “Yes!” he crowed. “You know what we should have? One of those conventions! Everyone could come show off their stuff, compete for our service!”
“…and, well, we somehow didn’t give up on that crazy idea,” I finished, watching as the reporter furiously scribbled notes. “So now, here we are. The city’s first Romance Convention! We’re calling it Romanti-Con, and although I’m a bit nervous to admit it, it’s going to be a success!”
“Really?” She looked around at the chaos as a hundred vendors bustled to set up their booths, sexy models lounging and waiting for their chance to seduce the imminent crowds.
I nodded. “Fully sold out for all three days. I’ve already got people on a waiting list for next year. And all the other events that we’ve spun off – speed dating, catered dinners, excursions for the weekend – are getting tons of interest. Jimmy might be a loud drunk, but he’s great at planning.”
The reporter nodded, tucked away her notebook. “You know, I guess that I can see the appeal,” she admitted. “I’ve been on some pretty awful first dates, and it would be nice to know what sort of place I’m going to.”
“See?” I nodded, beaming at her. “Romanti-Con! It’s gonna be a great thing!”
The reporter’s smile grew a little more alluring. “Any discount on admission for members of the press?” she asked, leaning in a bit closer.
“In exchange for a great review?” I sized her up. Pretty cute, I had to admit. “I’m sure we can agree on something.”