“Write about an interesting date you have been on, good or bad.”
We walked through West Philly, hand in hand, a little forward for a first date, but it wasn’t our first time being together so it was okay. Or at least that’s what we told ourselves. You see, we both worked at the campus library (it was in different departments) and we had done this dance for a few months before I blinked first and finally asked her out. I’ll call her Jill.
Jill wasn’t classically beautiful, but neither am I, and I saw something in her from the start that sparkled. It was a sweetness that I haven’t seen in many people before or since, and I was drawn in straightaway. So it was a bit of a surprise that I took so long to ask her out, although it really wasn’t. Because back then I was pretty shallow, judging based on looks first and substance after. Most times, though, if I couldn’t get past others’ perceptions I wasn’t going to ever see past surface.
That was my problem with Jill. For 4 months I listened to other student workers talk negatively about her looks, about her sense of style, and about the way she talked. I had no problem with any of that, as I said before, but I allowed their dim view of her to affect me, because I wanted to be popular. I wanted others to like me so much that I put on hold a chance to be happy, and it was a regret I lived with daily until I finally snapped.
I asked her out across the Reference Desk one evening, while I was on break and she was re-shelving. She seemed surprised, but demurely said yes, and I began doing a jig in my mind, finally numb to all of the haters who had finally turned on me because of my own lame sense of style. I figured, “who needs them?” and went for it. Then the real questions started.
Dates are hard for fellas, ladies, not just the asking out portion, but the planning part as well. That early in my dating life I didn’t have some set first date series of moves. It was all about getting some cheap food, and follow it with some other cheap activity. I worked at the campus library, remember? I wasn’t making the big bucks, but I was going to treat come hell or high water. So we ended up at Abner’s, sharing a huge basket of crisscut fries slathered in nacho cheese. It was perfect.
Jill was the easygoing type, and it was the first time I had seen her (literally) let her hair down. Because her face was angular, and because she always wore her hair up in a bun, it was all I could focus on, but putting her hair down softened her looks considerably and I was able to focus on her beautiful gray eyes. I hadn’t seen many people with gray eyes at that point in my life, so I was mesmerized. She caught me staring at her eyes several times that night, and blushed each and every time. I apologized. Profusely.
But I wasn’t sorry.
Then, after, we took one of those walks that girls say they enjoy so much but that guys usually find insufferably boring. Except that I don’t find those walks boring, not when I’m in the company of someone who has sparkling conversation topics. Jill and I talked about matching colors, old architecture, ice cream flavors, and how all fathers are inherently more alike than different. The time flew by as we meandered the streets on that Friday night, soaking up the noises of city life and enjoying each others’ company, even smiling shyly at each other from time to time.
I don’t even recall when our hands connected, or who initiated it, but at some point it was just fact, and we didn’t let go. It was such a perfect date, I thought, as I dropped her off at her doorstep like a real gentleman. And when I leaned in to kiss her goodnight, she closed her eyes like I knew she would. Her lips tasted like cinnamon and a hint of something else that I never could place either then or since.
Which was okay, and I’m glad I did kiss her then, because it turned out to be the only date we would ever have.