“They’re too pretty?”
“Yeah,” I said carefully, continuing to eye each puzzle critically and standing behind what I’d said. “Like — they’re too PERFECT, Sean. Each of these scenes is so grandiose, so royal… they’re very unrealistic, you know?”
He thought about it. “You’re right. Let’s find an employee and ask them where their shitty, imperfect puzzles are.”
I’d been laughing at him all evening but laughed very loudly at this. “Yes! Exactly!”
So I was on my first date with Sean last night. We’d eaten noodles together already and were aimlessly walking about Target now, me holding a thick pair of what I was calling “Good luck, Colorado!” socks in my hand.
When we’d started talking on the dating app a few days ago, he quickly asked if it was too soon to ask me out. Having learned that you really can’t gauge your chemistry with a person until you’re with them IN-PERSON, I said it wasn’t.
We opted for getting noodles together, and originally, he said he wanted to make it a black tie event: him in a tux, me in an evening gown — both of us walking into your average and typical noodle place looking ridiculously overdressed. I loved the idea of it because of how awkwardly it would all pan out, but the next day, we decided to just wear jeans.
After noodles, he wanted to keep talking; I joked that we could walk to the Target down the street and he agreed.
As we perused aisles, commenting on clothes, notebooks, comforters and puzzles, Sean bent over to grab something off of the floor.
As he raised back up, his mouth opened and his eyes got REALLY big and he looked over at me strangely.
“What?!” I demanded, my voice high.
“It’s a check,” he said. “Guess how much.”
“TWENTY BUCKS!” I hollered, smiling.
He shook his head gravely and held the check out in front of me.
“One thousand? Holy shit,” I murmured. “I’m so glad you found it! This poor person’s routing and account number could have gotten compromised had an evildoer happened upon it!”
We headed for Guest Services right away, asking a Target employee to page for a gal named Isabelle, the lucky payee (aka recipient) of the check. When Isabelle’s name was called out over the intercom, we stood by a nearby register together, eyes on alert. As customers passed by us, pushing their carts and carrying their bags, Sean would whisper: “Are you Isabelle?” and then, elbowing me, say: “Ask her if she’s Isabelle.” It was creepy and ridiculous and he kept on making me laugh.
After five eager minutes of waiting, we realized that Isabelle had probably visited the store earlier on in the day and that, depending on how well off she was, she might not have even noticed the check was missing. The check was, after all, dated for early February with the memo “birthday” — and what kind of person just holds onto a big check like that for THAT long?!
“Let’s call the account holder,” I decided, grateful the person had chosen to list a phone number in the upper-left-hand corner of their check. Sean tried first and no one answered; then I tried (convinced they’d pick up this time) and no one answered. I left a very professional voicemail, stating that my BOYFRIEND (jokingly, looking at him while I said it) and I had stumbled across the check while shopping around at Target and that, not wanting the person’s information to get compromised, I was keeping it safe in my possession until I heard back from them — that I could shred the check at their request or mail it to them, whatever they wanted.
After leaving a voicemail that I believed would instill great confidence in the account holder, I ended the call and noticed Sean looking at me questioningly. “I was just trying to get a reaction out of you,” I laughed, knowing his thoughts.
“Really? I was hoping you meant it,” he said. Then I felt kinda bad.
He wanted to go perusing the store again, pretending to spend our one thousand dollars.
“Well I’ve only spent $8 on these fancy socks, so the other $992 bucks are all yours!” I said.
“Really? You don’t want anything else?” he said.
I thought about it. “A pint of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, perhaps, but that should do it… so that leaves you with about $987.”
We bought a box of chocolate mochi brownies inside the store, sat down on a bench outside, and then opened the box. It was about 9 PM now, already well-past my bedtime, and we talked in-between taking bites. A guy pulled up on a motorcycle and I surprised Sean by mentioning that I used to ride a Suzuki. The guy parked his bike right in front of us, walked inside the store, and then Sean got up suddenly, grabbing my hands and pulling me toward the bike, saying that I should sit on it while the guy was gone.
“Nooooooooo!” I cried out, trying to get back to the bench (and brownies). But he kept pulling me forward. It was hard to talk because I was laughing. “I’ll let you hold the check if you don’t make me sit on it,” I pleaded, “and if you ALSO don’t sit on it!” I knew I was a skilled motorcyclist but was afraid he’d knock the thing over. He finally relented.
Sean’s a neat guy. Smart, funny, adventurous. He spent six months working as a volcano tour guide in Guatemala, once walked (literally WALKED) all the way from Mexico to Canada, and has visited an insane number of other cool places (including Berlin — EVEN THOUGH I’M THE ONE WHO LOVES GERMAN SHEPHERDS!). He’s already offered, twice, to buy my ticket for a November trip to New Zealand if I commit to going with him now.
“You’re nuts,” I said, the first time he offered.
“You’re worth it,” he said.
When he offered again, I told him I’d be in the midst of an extremely heavy class load this fall, my final semester before graduating. “You’ll figure it out,” he said, scrolling through departures and arrivals on his phone.
“How about we go on an adventure NEXT March? On our 1-year anniversary?” I teased.
“I think it’s funny that you’re talking about our 1-year anniversary when you just told me you’ve got another date scheduled for tomorrow,” he said, eyebrows raised.
“I’m sorry!” I moaned. “I’m an open book…” I was drinking amaretto now, sitting across from him at a high table at this weird wing place. I couldn’t believe he’d talked me into going, but after Target, he still wasn’t ready to say goodbye, and this dumb wing joint was one of the only nearby places that was still open. He said that my drink had too many cherries in it and I said that his beer was bad.
But we added the March 2020 trip to our calendars anyways (New Zealand! NEW ZEALAND!), and he’s taking me with him to a concert in Atlanta later this month. I made him agree to taking me to two coffee shops while we’re there in Georgia (one on Saturday afternoon and another on Sunday morning), and when I estimated (out loud) getting home around 3 that afternoon, he said: “No other dates that day, okay?”
I looked up at him, smiled, understanding the feeling. “No other dates.”
When do you go exclusive? It’s funny to recall how just four months ago, I was pining after Captain Kangaroo, positively livid with him for wanting to date around. But now, I kinda get it. How do you know when you know, or when you’re going to know? Because while I’ve experienced love at first sight – once – I don’t believe it’s always like that…
I really like Sean, but I also like James, and there are hundreds of thousands of people I’ve still never met, so I kind of feel like I should just keep making friends with people and not kiss anybody at all until I’m in love with one of them, until I know they’re the one I love most…
I don’t think I’ve even told you about James!
We’ve been talking for a few weeks now and he drove down from Huntsville to visit with me last weekend. We were supposed to meet for lunch and then maybe play games at Saturn afterwards, but we ended up spending the whole day together: lunch, walking, coffee, walking, dinner, walking — walking down railroad tracks, walking in the rain…
I got home around midnight that evening. When we were saying goodbye, he looked down at me and said he wanted to kiss me, but he also mentioned wanting to take things slowly with me, slowly this time. I told him I appreciated that, raised onto my tiptoes to hug him, and then hurried back to my car, hugging my jacket closer.
But before saying goodbye, earlier on in the evening, we were sitting in comfy chairs at Red Cat, enjoying our second round of coffee and playing one of my favorite games: the “Who am I?” game.
In it, you make somebody something (like West Virginia; snow; electricity; mac and cheese) and then they have to ask yes-or-no questions to discover themselves. I love it. You learn a lot about a person by watching where their mind goes, observing their eyes and hands and feet and tone…
When it’s my turn to guess, I usually kick the game off like this:
“Am I a person?”
“Thank GOODNESS.” I hate it when I’m a person because I stink at pop culture. “Am I a place?”
“K… am I a thing?”
“AM I A RABBIT?!”
“Damn it,” I sigh. I’m never, ever a rabbit. And then I keep on guessing.
Well I let James go first at guessing, and his first four questions (and every single question afterwards, really) were SO ODD that I had to pause the game to jot them down. Here they are:
- Did I exist before recorded history?
- Am I culture-specific?
- Are the effects of entropy visible on a scale of 100 years?
- Am I carbon-based?
“What the heck even IS carbon, James?” I asked him, exasperated. “I mean, I know it’s an ELEMENT, but really?”
But I loved it, actually… how weirdly smart he was. It took him two minutes of complete silence to even ASK his first question because he kept not liking the questions that were coming to mind. I assured him that he could ask as many questions as he wanted, that I wasn’t going to keep track, but still — he was so deliberate about it. I found that really charming.
We had a nice time together. Eight hours passed and they felt like two. But I discovered, during dinner, that he was a bit more right (politically) than I’d imagined, and I started slipping my jacket on as the conversation took on a hue I didn’t vibe with. He noticed, apologizing as we walked back to my car in a light rain.
I told him not to worry about it, driving out into the country and visiting a river in McCalla the next day. After sitting by the river for a while and then getting to meet up with my truck driver dad (he happened to be in the area; we got lunch together and discussed all of this), I told James that I could only be friends with him.
He was very disappointed, saying he’d really thought I was the one he was waiting for and asking if there was anything he could do to change my mind. I told him I’d call him the following evening to explain.
When I called him, I was honest with him about my concerns, and it was very difficult to speak so plainly, but he was so open to discussing everything, so honest in his replies, that I couldn’t help but feel like I’d possibly misjudged him.
“I’d like to keep getting to know you,” I said cautiously, and I heard him sigh on the other end of the line. My room was dark now, my head on my pillow already.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear you say that,” he said quietly.
So, it’s a week later, and I’m at a coffee shop in Cullman now. Supposed to be working on Spanish but I had other things (these boys) on my mind. James and I are going hiking in just a bit here — he should be pulling up to this cafe in about ten minutes. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not kissing anybody today.
But I AM driving out to Colorado NEXT WEEK, so the next time you hear from me, I’ll be wearing those fancy “good luck” socks and eating another kind of brownie.