Meredith and I finished our lunch and decided we’d walk over to Milk Bar and get dessert. I’d never had it before, so I was excited to try. They have this cereal milk ice cream that’s supposed to be amazing. (And for the record, that’s the first ice cream I’ve had since you broke up with me. I made it an entire day. That takes strength.)
As we walked across town, Meredith and I continued talking. I think we’d actually managed to find a topic not related to my break-up. And then we walked by Think Coffee, and it all came back to me.
That’s where we had our first date.
I was super nervous meeting you for the first time that day. It was actually the second time, but we had only said like two things to each other the night before at the bar when we’d actually met.
“So are you.”
“Can I have your number?”
And you’d given me your number. We’d texted back and forth at 4AM that morning and set up a date for that afternoon. I was excited. I hadn’t been on a proper date in forever it seemed. We decided to meet at Think Coffee, the one just off Union Square. I was living in Brooklyn at the time and you were in Spanish Harlem. We were kind of meeting in the middle. And I had an Oscars party to get to later that night in the area. So it worked out doubly for me.
I got there first. I’m a perpetually early person, as you know. I ordered a coffee and found a table. I hoped that you’d recognize me from the night before. It had been so dark then.
It was February 26th, 2012 that day. Cold out. I had worn a sweater that afternoon, and was beginning to regret my decision as I waited for you to get there. It was so damn cozy in that coffee shop. I was starting to overheat.
Then you arrived. And you looked even better than you had the night before. Your hair was all done up and you were wearing this super cute pair of khaki pants that you’d cuffed at the bottom. They made your ass look really good, too. And you had on these super cute brown boots. Like the casual kind, not too bulky and not too dressy. You looked comfortable and warm, like the kind of guy I’d want to know. And you sat down across from me and I just knew there was going to be something between us.
My biggest fear was that you were going to say you were an actor. That seems to be my type. Poor, out-of-work actors, struggling to get by, waiting for that big break that never comes. I think it’s because I like pretty boys. They all think they can be actors.
But refreshingly, you weren’t. You worked in advertising. (Praise the Lord!) A man with a real job. A professional who I could count on to pay for dinner and drinks every now and then. You have no idea what a relief that was for me. Not that I don’t like struggling actors or wouldn’t have dated you if you had been one. It’s just not who I prefer to date. They’re good for a drink or two, a blow job or a couple of rounds of sex. But that’s about it in my experience.
So our first date started out well. The conversation was flowing; we were laughing and really enjoying ourselves. You were a swimmer just like me, though you were definitely faster. I had qualified for State a few times in high school, but you had swum in the finals. Way better than my twentieth-place finishes.
I love first dates. I love knowing absolutely nothing about a person and then slowly finding everything out. I always liken it to collecting stories, only I like to collect people and their experiences. That day, you were my latest find.
We talked for what had to be hours. Long enough that our coffee cups had been empty for quite some time, long enough for the sun to start its descent back to the horizon. It was time to go. The date was over. But it wasn’t. We walked out of Think Coffee and decided to grab a quick bite to eat.
We wandered up to Union Square. I used to work in that area, so I hoped that I could find us a restaurant. But I couldn’t. At least not anything that wasn’t chain-y. We ended up going to a little vegan place. It was Sunday so I guess a lot of things were closed because both of us love eating meat. I don’t even remember what we ordered. Something with beans. Maybe it was some kind of lentil soup? The food was all kind of blah and overcooked. Mushy. It’s what I associate vegan food with now. (Like that horrible place Tina Fey goes to in Baby Mama, a movie we watched together.)
That didn’t matter, though. At least not to me. I only cared about spending more time with you. Clearly we were hitting it off. If we hadn’t been, we wouldn’t be sitting together managing to stomach vegan food four hours after our coffee date started.
You excited me. You were a real quality guy. Attractive, confident, polite, professional, funny, kind, warm. There are so many wonderful adjectives to describe you with. And you were on a date with me…I felt so lucky.
I had to head out when we finished the vegan food. I was already half an hour late for my Oscars party. I’d felt my pocket vibrating a few times during our impromptu dinner. My friends wondering where I was. Wondering how my date had gone. “Wonderful!” I wanted to tell them. “This guy’s a keeper.” (And you were. Apparently it was me who wasn’t worth keeping.)
We walked back towards the subway together. And there in Union Square, on that cold February evening, we had our first kiss.
I can only describe it as magical. Everything you can possibly want in a first kiss. We didn’t discuss it happening. (Before the date even started I had planned not to kiss you. I didn’t want to seem too forward.) It just happened. Intuitively, we knew what the other wanted. Standing outside the Northwest subway entrance in Union Square we both leaned in and kissed. I put my hand firmly on the small of your back and held you there, you put your hand on my arm and squeezed affectionately.
Later you’d tell me that my hand on your back had sealed the deal for you. Maybe you thought it spoke to my confidence, my manliness, that I could hold you firmly and still kiss you so tenderly. I’m not really sure why my hand went there. I wasn’t thinking, not in that moment. I was acting, letting my subconscious lead me. I guess it knew exactly what you wanted. And I’m glad it did. Or maybe we wouldn’t have had our year-and-a-half together. Maybe our first kiss wouldn’t have been so spectacular. When our lips touched I felt immediate sparks. It was romantic and beautiful. Electrifying and crisp. What potential we had.
But then I guess every relationship starts with potential. What I wouldn’t give to go back and relive that day now. We had so many firsts that night. Our first date, our first coffee, our first dinner, our first kiss, our first goodbye. And isn’t there something magnificent about firsts? Something you only get to experience once. Because the next time becomes your second and then your third and fourth and eventually it loses all of its power and wonder.
Firsts and, I guess, lasts. Those are the important ones to hold on to.
What’s sad is I remember our first kiss so poignantly, but I can’t remember our last. Did we kiss before we ate dinner the night you broke up with me? After? I don’t know.
Meredith and I finally got to Milk Bar and I had my ice cream. It was as delicious as I’d heard. Then we found a bench on 7th Street or somewhere near there and we sat and talked some more.
I was supposed to meet Scott that night. We had plans to go out. I’d brought along that bottle of Irish whiskey you’d given me to pre-game with. Meredith and I decided to break it open early, though. We sat there on 7th Street and took turns taking swigs. Meredith even asked the random guy next to us (he was dressed like a hipster straight out of Williamsburg) if he was an undercover cop. Just to be sure. He wasn’t.