Monday, July 10, 2006

Exactly Like I Pictured It

Lunch is not a great time for dates. Usually you get an hour, if you're lucky; and if the weather is nice, everyone else in Midtown New York is also spilled out on to the sidewalk, draped over every available, warm, even slightly clean seating area, picking at sandwiches (men) or salads (women) the size of their heads. There are tourists, traffic and construction workers. And cellphones. And noise.

Central Park may be the only exception. The one great lunchdate I ever had was with a venture capitalist who swooped by the massive black building where I do my dayjob, hauled me on to the back of his Beemer motorcycle (in a skirt and heels, no less [...me, not him]), and drove me through Central Park to a Little Italian Place on the Upper East Side, far from the generic eateries and office drones. Suddenly I was in a Fellini film, though unfortunately my date bore no resemblance to Marcello Mastroianni. We drove back through the park as well, and I could feel the sun on my face as well as the wind streaming over our bodies and through the trees. I didn't care about the helmet hair - when I got off his motorcycle in front of my officemates, I felt like The Shit.

Little could top that date until now.

I met him on Friendster. I know! He looked at my profile, I saw his picture, we had a mutual friend, we exchanged emails. We met for brunch. He walked me to my next destination, way out of his way. Then, we met the mutual friend at the Bohemian Beer Hall in Queens. Talked for hours. Knees were squeezed, backs were rubbed, hugs were exchanged, but no kisses. He was tall, Nordic and gorgeous, funny, and in a few key ways, a great big geek - my favorite kind of guy. Despite the fact that I prowled the internet obsessively checking for emails from him, when we were together I felt totally comfortable. We had no trouble talking; we had no trouble NOT talking. Things were looking good.

Except. We hadn't had a proper date yet. He had arranged brunch, and a friend had invited us both to the beer hall, but... not quite what I was hoping for. I knew he was leaving town soon for a gig. I wasn't sure if he was actually romantically interested - I hoped he was... I wanted to be coy and cautious, but I couldn't. I asked him out. He said yes - but then I had to change plans, and then he had to change plans, and suddenly, a few days before his departure, we were out of evenings.

"That's too bad," I told him candidly over the phone, "I was looking forward to seeing you."

"How about lunch?"

Yes - lunch! Lovely, lovely lunch! Hope rose in my chest, and started picking out some cute clothes. I searched for an appropriate quiet, cozy place where we could spend our last few hours together. It was not to be had. That morning when I called him, I told him to meet me at my scary office building. Sandwiches from Pret a Manger and Central Park, I thought. That might be ok. Hopefully there will be no bugs.

I tried to tell myself that it was just lunch, that nothing much could come out of it. Best case scenario, I might get a kiss and a promise to stay in touch. Or it might just be a friendly lunch between two friends. I tried to prep myself for the latter to avoid disappointment.

I watched him cross the street toward me later that afternoon. Loping along he looked like an impossibly tall teenager, and I couldn't help smiling. We got our sandwiches - I paid 'cause I asked, and he looped a possessive arm around my waist and hip for a quick thank-you squeeze. Hope pulled out a mirror and checked her lipstick.

We strolled along - it was a gorgeous, gorgeous day - things were blooming, a breeze was blowing, and - were those baby ducks in the pond? Seeing them, I let out in mid-sentence the kind of noise I never make, a squealy, piercing, girly kind of noise. Inwardly I cringed, but he didn't seem to noise, or mind.

We stopped to watch them. They were still turning from chick-yellow to duck-dark, fuzzy, and they peeped instead of quacking; they didn't quite have the hang of queuing up behind their mother, either.

Later, on a bench under an impossibly green tree, with no bugs and no noise but wind whispering through leaves, we ate and talked. We shared a little carrot cake, and he crumpled up the paper bag between us on the bench, and put it on his other side. Suddenly, a white puppy came wiggling up to the bench, shoving his nose against our hands and smiling to beat the band. I noticed his harness had incongruous Harley-Davidson logos on it.

"Are you a bad-ass? Hmm? Are you?" I asked him in that voice everyone reserves solely for talking to puppies. He wriggled joyfully. I checked over my shoulder to see if there were Disney animators at work here.

"His name's Harley!" his owner told us as she came along the path. We complimented her baby excessively, and she collected him and moved along. I turned to smile at him and realized that for some reason, his hip was now right up against mine on the bench. Hope did a little joyful wriggle of her own.

We continued to talk, as was our wont, of fairly serious things, life plans and hopes and fears and exes... all the stuff you aren't supposed to talk about yet. At one point, I reached over to squeeze his right arm with my right hand. He took it. And held it. And we both got very quiet. I just watched him, smiling slightly. Hope, however, was doing a Snoopy dance and flinging confetti. He hemmed, and hawed, and laughed at himself.

And then he kissed me.

It was perfect.

Several lost minutes later, he said, "What I was trying to say before, is that I'm leaving town. But you know that..."

I said, "Look. I was hoping you would kiss me. I'm glad you did. Really glad. A lot can happen in three months, or nothing can happen. So let's just stay in touch and see what comes."

I was proud. It sounded so rational, particularly for a woman whose knees were currently Jell-o.

He walked me back to my office. There may have been some more very good kissing, tucked into an alcove created by the construction site around my building...

After months of missteps, misunderstandings and miscommunications, it was amazing to have one day turn out exactly like I pictured it. Thanks, Viking. Come home soon.

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posted by Addy @ 7/10/2006 04:19:00 PM |

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