I've never thought of the first get-together with an online match as a date. To me, that is merely a chance to confirm the pictures are from the current decade, an opportunity to see if in a three-dimensional state you could kiss this person. Had you met at a friend's dinner party or flirted at a chic downtown bar, you would have already sorted that all out.
"You didn't look back," I said to E the other day. "When we parted ways after coffee, I watched you walk away and you never looked back."
"But did you really think I wasn't interested?" he asked.
"No, I suspected I'd see you again." I left out the part about spending half of my drive home wondering if I had dressed in clothing that looked too work-y.
Two days before our slated real first date-date, E asked me to meet him for ice-cream. On our second date, over brick-oven pizza and calzone, we got to know each other better. Or was that date three? To be honest it's all a little blurry. But not because they aren't memories worth keeping. Filed away in my head are slivers of time that are crisp and clear. Those are the memories that, when I revisit them, elicit the same feeling I had in the actual moment.
"Some people have said I can be too direct," E said as he sliced into his calzone. "Please let me know if it bothers you so I can be more aware of it."
"You've said this before but I don't see it," I responded as I reached for my wine. "There isn't anything you've said that has offended me. So you can pretty much stop worrying on that front."
This past weekend, we expanded our repertoire to include some daytime activities. Or to put it another way, we were going to have a non-date date-date. In the morning, he went for a long bike ride while I tidied up and got on a call with a coworker. After that, we drove over to Piedmont Park where he went for a run. I sat down on a park bench with a pile of magazines, none of which got touched thanks to being chatted up by a gay guy with a poodle. Every time E passed us, I waved and smiled.
"Girl, lock that one down," my new friend said as he eyed E's shirtless back.
"That's my goal."
We weren't supposed to spend the rest of the day together. And yet, an hour or so later, we were sitting around my coffee table eating sandwiches and cake. E put together my desk, a mess of a parts I had half-constructed but in a way that included threading the wrong screws into place. I worked on a dining room chair and side-table for the living room. Every so often, I glanced over at E and grinned.
Later that night, lying side-by-side, E said, "Today was my favorite day with you."
It was a day where I didn't care that my hair was in a ponytail and desperate for some shampoo. It didn't bother me that he might spot beads of sweat collecting on the bridge of my nose. E didn't feel a need to chastise me for failing to follow basic picture-instructions, or that he had to undo half of my work. Never once did he complain that manually manipulating twenty screws into place was hard on his hands.
I reached out and rested my open palm atop his chest. The corners of my mouth curled into a soft smile. And then I replied.