“I’m going to ask you to vote on something,” I warned Charlie. He hates when I do this, but I was too tired to make a sensible choice on my own this morning.
“So here’s what we’ve got: the fluffy poodle sweater, the prisoner sweater, or the I’m-just-a-poor-boy-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah sweater.” I paused, looking over at him after having held each of the three candidates up against me. “Which one should I wear?”
He pointed to the rusty red sweater, outlined in 70s fringe; one of my very best thrift store finds. “Fluffy poodle,” he said.
So I dressed presentably (dingy grey skate jeans, a fluffy poodle sweater, an old pair of Vans and this blue velvet scarf from CO) for my Saturday morning date and then drove downtown, ordering an Irish creme pumpkin spice latte and then sitting down with it and a book. I generally arrive early to everything everywhere so I always come prepared.
The first time I heard the cafe’s front door open, I looked up and it was him. He nodded at me and smiled. I smiled back, setting my book down onto the table and getting up to hug him. He smelled like some kind of cologne I don’t know. Gauged ears, stubbly beard, rectangle glasses, Converse: adorable.
We’ll call this one Jake.
Jake and I took our coffees outside, walking to the park across the street in a light rain. We were both wearing jackets.
I asked lots of questions, so I learned a lot about him; he’s worked 15 different jobs (from optical and plumbing gigs to security and financial ones), plays the heck out of the electric guitar (I seem to have a policy of only dating musicians), and has a seven-year-old kid he’s unable to see right now.
“She just disappeared with him three years ago — called me once, a year and a half ago, and let me have a brief phone conversation with him.” He’s pursuing legal aid through his work now. I felt for him. He seemed like a genuinely nice and – despite the 15 jobs – relatively stable guy.
Jake talked about growing up with parents who were more like friends (heard), showed me some of the tattoos he’s given himself (DAMN), and shared his hope of getting a pilot’s license someday. He pulled on his vape as he explained the business of denture-making (one of the 15 jobs) and then painfully described sticking safety pins through his forearm as a schoolboy and then connecting his forearm to his side with these same pins, just to freak people out. Freaky indeed, I thought to myself. He was a very interesting fellow.
Three of my favorite things:
- He has an uncle named Popcorn. After they both got trashed at a bar one evening, Jake was driving them home and struggling to do so, seeing double. “Try keeping just one eye open,” drunk Popcorn suggested, and this had proved helpful. Now, I don’t plan on driving drunk EVER, but I will certainly remember this.
- When Jake worked in welding (another one of the 15), he got burned — literally. Here’s what he explained to me: When liquid metal gets on you (say your hand) and it hurts like HELL, your natural inclination is to wipe the metal off RIGHT AWAY using your other hand — but doing this would be TERRIBLE. Why? If you do, it’ll just burn in two spots instead of one (this is starting to sound like a life metaphor, isn’t it?). Instead, use a rag or a bucket of water or SOMETHING external to cool/ clean/ salvage the area. Then, enjoy that beautifully badass-lookin’ scar.
- With roots tracing back to Germany, Ireland, and California, Jake still has a purely southern accent. Super cute.
There are generally two things I notice about a person first, and before anything visual, it’s the voice. After the voice, it’s the hands. Jake’s voice was cute, and his hands were very beautiful.
Despite the cute voice and lovely hands and how interesting, talented, and adorable he was, I believe we’ll be just friends. I intuitively know he’s not the one. I mean, I still seem to think that DUMB one is the one (although I’m not talking to him and he’s not talking to me and he’s basically gone forever — and in case you’re wondering, YES; I do feel very mature and sensible with the way I’m handling “this”).
But hey, bright side: Maybe one of tomorrow’s dates will be the stupid one. We shall see!
When I left cafe numero dos, I headed to my friend’s new apartment in Trussville. She showed me around the place and then thrusted a dying plant into my hands, asking me to take it home and help bring it back.
We left to visit a cafe together (my third one today! I’m really on a roll), ordering matching bourbon caramel lattes and splitting a cinnamon roll between us. She caught me up on her small bit of non-drama and then I shared all of my shit with her.
“Here’s the thing. Your craziness aside,” she began, blue eyes filled with humor and love, “any guy who spent any amount of time with you would see how special and amazing you are… so if this kangaroo character isn’t reaching out to you at all and isn’t trying to spend more time with you, then how can you POSSIBLY see him as being the one? As being worth your time and attention at all when he doesn’t seem to get or care about you?”
Holy shit, I thought, feeling bad about my unrequited feelings and myself (as in: Why WOULD I hold onto the idea of someone who didn’t care about me enough to even check-in post-break-up? Is my sense of self-worth really THAT low?).
“Well my goodness,” I exclaimed at the quarter cinnamon roll left on the plate. “Forget HIM!”
“There you go!” she said, sounding pleased.
“Although I will say,” I continued quietly, “objectively speaking? I DO come across as being a little crazy. If I were in his shoes, I’d probably run for this hills FROM me, you know?”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “I know. But the thing is, you aren’t ACTUALLY crazy. It just really seems like it. You’re very… intense,” she smiled, shaking her head. “And dating apps are just so not you,” she added, sharing a statistic from a podcast she’d listened to recently; apparently (and she told me to NOT quote her on this), using them, you have a 33% chance of meeting someone you’re compatible with.
“So basically, if you date 33 people, there’s a chance that things might work out with one of them,” she said.
Something clicked in my brain then. She’d asked, earlier, when I was going to quit “manically dating people” until I’d “found the one.”
“Oh my gosh. Maybe that’s it! I’ll just go on 22 more dates and then, if I haven’t found this one we’re speaking of come date 33, I’ll stop for a while. OR get off of dating apps altogether forever and go back to organically waiting for somebody to just fall down in front of me… show up, swoop in… whatever.”
We both agreed that I, obviously, still wasn’t feeling whole on my own, and I’m still not sure how to remedy this. She suggested god again; while the idea of there being a powerful friend slash force slash intelligence out there makes me feel all warm and hopeful, it still doesn’t check out for me. I remain agnostic as ever (unbelieving but open to the idea of there being higher entities while not pretending to know who they are and how they are and what they are slash want slash demand). I asked her about the creek before leaving.
“What creek?” she said.
“Google maps says you have one near your apartment,” I said.
“Oh — there’s something down there, yeah, but it’s not really a creek.” I let it go, hugging her goodbye and then driving down the interstate with tears in my eyes. I was coming into a foggy Birmingham now, red and green and orange and yellow, and there was this mist over everything that looked like ghosts; it overwhelmed me. I decided to visit a cafe for a fourth time instead of going home. I just wasn’t ready yet.
Creeks and rivers have brought me such comfort recently — does that make any sense at all? What strange things bring you peace, comfort, joy? For me, if I were to pick just five things, it would be these:
- Water (creeks, rivers, falls)
- Lattes (fun ones, with mixed flavors and lots of whipped cream)
- German Shepherds (especially dark, fat, broody ones — aka Tycho)
- Colors and blankets and scarves (see how I snuck seven in there instead of five? ha!)