Someone once asked me to tell them about the best date I’d ever been on. (That’s a lie, by the way — no one’s ever asked me. Or maybe they did, but that’s not the reason I’m writing this — I’m merely using it as a rhetorical device because I’m not creative enough to come up with a better intro for this piece.)
I told them this:
It was summer. We met at a bar. I was ready to leave the house at least a half hour before I needed to be, and I chain-smoked and paced as a result. Tried to find little things I should do. I didn’t want to get there first. I had to wait. When I finally left I drove as slowly as I could, my left leg bouncing my knee against the door, slowly creating a bruise I’d not be able to place the next day.
I got there, walked in scanning, and instantly saw him, sitting at the bar, on the corner, nursing a beer. I wanted time to stop. I wanted to stand at that door for just a few minutes and drink it all in, to just live in that moment where he looked up and our eyes met for the first time. But that would be weird — me just standing there, that is. All I could do was walk over to him, aim for the stool next to his, and try not to trip on the way there. Walk. Stool. Sit. Don’t trip. I repeated this like a mantra as I walked across the room.
I made it. Sat down, ordered a beer of my own, tried to be cool. Be cool became my new mantra. “Hey you,” is what I settled on saying. I sat my phone down on the bar next to the beer I’d just been brought and then we just started talking, like we’d never not known each other. We talked about everything. About the Beatles vs. the Stones and whiskey vs. bourbon and my disagreement regarding the casting decisions in The Great Gatsby and my promise to never see it, followed quickly by my confession that I’m terrible at keeping such promises. Jokes flowed as easy as the beer and we laughed. I thought perhaps I’d never felt more at ease with another human being. I felt open; I felt free.
I kept glancing at my phone until I realized I was anxious for a text from the man sitting right next to me. I flicked my phone on silent and slipped it in my bag and we kept talking. At some point we decided a walk would be a good idea, so we went to the park. As we walked, I felt my fingers brush his. I didn’t know if it was intentional; I just let it be. We eventually happened upon a playground. The sun had already set and it was deserted, but it was only a matter of moments before we populated it with laughter, chasing each other through the wooden castle and over the swinging bridge and down the slide to the swings. I kept pushing mine sideways to try to tangle chains and bump into him, and we laughed. I could never resist the gravitational pull of his smile.
We went to a liquor store, laughing and falling into each other as we bought a bottle. We ended up on the floor of his room, passing the bottle back and forth and listening to records. He put on the Stones. Some Girls. I laid back on the floor, smiling. When side one finished he flipped it and when the needle found Beast of Burden his hand found mine. When the album finished we both just laid there, not wanting to move.
But I lied to that non-existent someone who asked me to tell them the story of the best date I’ve ever been on. ‘Cause that one hasn’t happened yet. But since they’re non-existent I s’pose they’ll not mind too much.