Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 27.

Happy Sunday! Tomorrow is Monday. While I love the weekend (who doesn't?) I feel blessed to be able to say I don't dread the start of the work week. I like my day job (which I'll keep until I become a bestseller heh heh) annnnd there's only four days until my Christmas Vacation! So I'm super excited. That means plenty of time to be festive and enjoy the holiday... and write of course!

Tonight, Holli enjoys some Italian on her second date.

If this is your first time visiting, don't miss the beginning! Head here for the start of the story.

Saturday, December 27

            “Alright Pepper, how do I look?”
            Pepper was a grey and black tabby Drew had given to me for Christmas three years ago. She was just a kitten at the time, and despite how determined I’d been to throw every single item that belonged to Drew or had been given to me by Drew out into the street after he broke up with me, I couldn’t quite go through with tossing the cat. She let out a “meow” and wove between my legs.
            “Good call. I do need stockings, don’t I?”
            Courtesy of my sister’s longtime friend Kathleen and her husband, I would not be spending Saturday night with Pepper as I’d become accustomed to. It was a reoccurring date I didn’t really have a problem with though: Pepper snuggled with me. She was ok watching whatever I wanted, and she didn’t judge me if I decided to eat ice cream for dinner – in fact she’d join right in – or drink wine straight from the bottle. Not that I did that one on the regular or anything. I mean, it’s not like I was an alcoholic. Sometimes I just didn’t feel like grabbing a glass - or washing one, rather. I’d become a bit lax on dishwashing duty.
            But tonight, there’d be none of that because I was going out to dinner with Harry. Who still names their kid Harry? I’d been under the impression the name Harry died about the same time as my grandfather but apparently I was mistaken. Anyways, learning from my fiasco with Tyler, I’d asked Kathleen what Harry looked like. Brown hair, brown eyes, medium height and build she’d said, but added I wouldn’t need to search him out since he was picking me up. I tried telling her we could just meet at my trusty coffee bar but Harry insisted we go out to dinner.
            As if on cue, my phone went off and I picked it up to discover Harry had arrived.
            “Hi Holli, I’m here.” the text read.
            He couldn’t have come to the door and pushed the buzzer? I could tell I was going to start the date with a chip on my shoulder. Why was it so hard for people to actually interact? What happened to the days when a guy would come to your home, ring your doorbell and wait with a nervous smile and a bouquet of flowers that probably contained blooms you don’t even like because he doesn’t know you well enough to know you hate carnations but you don’t care because you’re so in awe of the fact he’s standing there with a smile and some flowers?
After putting on my stockings as Pepper so politely suggested, I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my coat and purse and headed out the door.
Was there something wrong with me? Was I asking too much? Was I just old fashioned? Did I need to let go of my expectations and latch on to the new norms of dating? The thought was super depressing.
Then again, it’s not like holding onto them really got me anywhere. Drew brought me flowers every now and then. Although, now that I think about it, he never quite remembered I didn’t like carnations but that’s beside the point.
Harry had pulled up to the curb out front. He drove a pretty nice car. I wasn’t an expert and couldn’t rattle off the brand or the type without being awkward and walking around back to look at the symbol so settling for “pretty nice” seemed sufficient. I knew it was a sedan - and a black one at that – and that was good enough for me. Harry pushed open the passenger side door from the inside. It wasn’t exactly the same as a guy opening the car door for you but I suppose it could count for half. Maybe this was one of the new norms I needed to adjust to.
I slid onto the seat and gave him a smile. From Kathleen’s description I had expected him to be… well… average. But after seeing him, that expectation turned out to be… absolutely correct. He wasn’t ugly, but he wasn’t Brad Pitt. On the other hand, despite my black hair I wasn’t Angelina Jolie either so I guess we were even.
“Holli – it’s nice to meet you. You look great.”
“Thank you – it’s a pleasure to meet you too.”
We shook hands, then I buckled up and we headed off.
“Do you like Italian food?”
“Is there anyone who doesn’t?”
He let out a laugh. “Good point. I was just wondering because I made a reservation at one of my favorite spots – and it happens to be Italian.”
“Well, I guess you made a good choice then!”
“Good. Confirm Bella Notte reservations.”
“Uh, what?”
As soon as I wondered aloud what he meant, his car began to talk.
“A reservation for two has been scheduled at Bella Notte for 7:30 p.m. Do you need directions?”
Ah right. He’s talking to his car, not me. Of course. I should have known...
“Ok. Getting directions to 541 Commerce Street,” came the pleasant female voice.
“She’s always so obliging.” Harry smiled at me.
The car? Really? Of course she was - she’s a computer!
“If she were a real person, she sounds like she’d be pretty good looking.”
I gave a light laugh, noticing he had one of those Blu-tooth contraptions around his ear. This guy was quickly turning out to be quite the geek.
The drive to Bella Notte didn’t take very long with his car – who he informed me he referred to as Betty which was apparently a work reference about beta something or other that went over my head – guiding us. I was surprised I’d never heard of the restaurant before. At first glance, it seemed exactly like the kind of place I’d enjoy. It had brick exterior - which was my favorite - with a warm glow coming from the windows and window boxes which I’m sure were filled with lovely flowers during the summer. It was mid-sized, cozy looking and seemed semi-casual.
Kudos, Harry – or Betty, whoever actually found it - not a bad choice.
Inside, we were seated immediately and began running through the usual first-date questions as a basket of warm bread and waters were placed in front of us.
How long we’ve both lived in the area, where our families are from, what we do for work – Harry worked in the IT department at the same company as Kathleen’s husband, which explained his love for technology – what we like and dislike about our jobs, and of course, my usual “what’s your favorite place?” question had all been answered before our drinks arrived, which for me meant a nice glass of wine.
All first dates were the same. Two people get together and, unless one of the party of two is just looking for a hookup, run through a series of questions which determine over the span of coffee or dinner (my usual preferences) or a meal from Burger King or the few minutes before and after a movie or a couple of shots at the bar before you’re too drunk to ask a coherent question or in the amount of time it takes to get each other’s clothes off depending on your standards and first date ideals – determine whether you like each other enough to go on a second date so you can decide if you want to go on a third date all with the ultimate goal of deciding whether or not you like each other enough to go on dates for the rest of your lives.
Actually, let me rephrase that: all with the ultimate goal of deciding whether or not you like each other enough to be together long after the dates have stopped happening regularly and you spend your weekends at home instead and you live in the same place and learn about every single habit good and bad and realize they wear unmatched socks and like orange juice without pulp and you have babies and talk about bills and all kinds of other responsible topics but at least you have that to talk about because you’ve already taken care of the other questions during dates one, two and three and so forth so there’s not much you don’t know about each other but hopefully your conclusion after those dates was that you like each other enough to want to stay together when you’re old and wrinkly and can’t bend down to take each other’s pants off let alone have sex but you still don’t mind seeing that wrinkly face every day, the reruns you spend most of your time watching in the retirement home together are good, the memories are good, your kids didn’t grow up to be total assholes and your grandkids are pretty cute so life is - and was - good.
Did I just foresee my entire future? My God that wasn’t very romantic. Then again, I tried romantic before and all it left me with was a broken heart. Maybe people put to much stake in butterflies and chocolate covered strawberries and flowers and being wooed and feeling like you can’t get enough of each other and, to quote the Righteous Brothers “can’t help falling in love” with one another and having rosy dreams of a picture perfect future. Maybe all those cultures that go for arranged marriages are onto something. Perhaps it was better to gauge a partner on tangible things the same way you might a new car and forget the rest. Does he possess x, y and z? Does he come with a built in “Betty?” How far will he carry me? Is he reliable? Has he been rented out a lot (ew)? Will our lifestyles fit each other (a mini van won’t do for a street racer etc.)?
“…to order?”
“Sorry, Harry, what was that?”
“Are you ready to order?”
“Oh! Yes! I’ll have the seafood linguini, please.”
            “Good choice, it’s delicious. I’ll have the chicken Parmesan.”
            Maybe I should try looking at Harry from that perspective. Forget about whether or not there’s an instant attraction – he seemed nice, but for my part, I hadn’t felt anything earth shattering when we’d met – and just look at him as a potential lifelong partner. Maybe the attraction part can happen later and I, and most of the society I was familiar with, was doing it backwards. Or, maybe that part doesn’t happen at all but it’s better to end up with someone responsible for the rest of your life than someone totally irresponsible who you had a few fiery years with at the get-go. Or… maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about. That was also a good possibility.
            I took back a large gulp of wine. It might be a good idea if I stopped thinking so damn much too.
            “So do you see yourself staying at your current job or do you have something else planned?” I asked.
            “You know, there are a lot of opportunities there so in that sense it’s a great place to be.”
            “It sounds like there should be a ‘but’ at the end of that.”
            “Well I’m working on something else too…”
            “Really? What is it?”
            “Er, well…”
            “What’s wrong? You don’t want to tell me?”
            “It’s just… sometimes women are kind of put off by it.”
            “Hmm. Well, I can’t tell you whether I’ll be put off by it or not since I don’t know what it is,” I laughed. “Guess you’ll just have to take a chance!”
            “I’m making a game.”
            “A game? You mean, like, a new Monopoly?”
            “No an RPG.”
            “Umm… what’s that?”
            “Sorry. A role playing game… a video game.”
            So I was on a date with a geek. He definitely didn’t fit into the geek stereotypes I admit I had. He wasn’t overweight, knew how to dress himself, can hold a conversation, eats more than pizza and soda, and perhaps most importantly had a day job. I guess I can toss those stereotypes in the trash.
            “So… do you want to leave now?”
            Did he seriously just ask me that?
            “What! What kind of a witch with a capital ‘b’ do you think I am? I’m not going to leave because you’re making a video game. I don’t know much about them, but I think that’s pretty cool.”
            “Seriously?” He looked like I just offered him a new kitten. Assuming he liked kittens. Maybe a better description would be “he looked like I just offered him the latest video game.”
            “Women have actually given you a hard time about that?”
            He shrugged.
            “Yeah. I’ve been told it’s pretty childish before. Stuff like that.”
            “Well I don’t agree. I would imagine making a video game requires a lot of imagination and brains to go with it. ‘Video game creator’ certainly isn’t on my resume! Good luck with it. I hope it turns out like you expected.”
            “Thanks for that. I really appreciate it. And I hope so too. Making a successful game would be a dream come true. So… to really answer your question, yes, I guess I see myself staying at my current job at least until my passion can make me a livable income.”
            “Good answer. So I’m assuming you like playing them too?”
            “I do, when I have the time.”
            The waitress returned with our fare and we paused for a moment to comment on how delicious the meal looked and smelled. I took a bite of my pasta – divine! And he followed suit.
            “Is it good?” he asked.
            “Delicious! I can’t believe I’ve never been here before.”
            “Yeah I think it’s one of the city’s best kept secrets.”
            “If it’s a secret, how did you find it?”
            “Ah well I guess that’s a perk of knowing your way around a computer. I did some stealthy C.I.A-esque recon work on Italian restaurants since I love the food so much and my research came up with this place. It was for a date actually. The date didn’t go so well, but dinner was great! So I’ve kept coming back. Just… without the date.”
            He had a sense of humor. That was always a plus.
            “Nice job. So about that game playing... Are you the kind of guy who can play a game for like, over 48 hours and subsist on Doritos and Mountain Dew and hardly leave your seat unless you have to use the bathroom?”
            “Like I said, it depends on time. I definitely don’t have the time for that these days… but I used to!”
            “Wait… really? I was kind of joking!”
            He laughed.
            “I know you were. But I wasn’t. I used to do that. I used to do practically only that. And in my mom’s basement, too.”
            Maybe I should dig those stereotypes out from the trash…
            “What changed?”       
            “I just snapped out of it one day I guess. I took a look in the mirror during one of my trips to the bathroom – you know, since, like you figured, that was one of the only ways I’d take a break” he winked at me. “And well I just didn’t like what I saw. Unmotivated. Fat. Dirty, honestly. Heading absolutely nowhere except toward higher scores in the games I played. I decided then I’d better do something – anything – or there was a chance I’d end up like that forever. So I turned off the console and headed back to school. I still game, but in moderation now and most of my time is spent in other, more productive ways.”
            “Like working and making a game instead of just playing one!”
            I guess I’d hold onto some of my gamer stereotypes but keep in mind they can always be broken. It meant a lot Harry had offered up all that information. What a nice guy he was turning out to be.
            “Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you were able to make a change for the better.”
            “Yeah. Wow. I don’t even really know where that came from. I don’t usually just share with people like that. Most of my coworkers don’t even know about that side of me.”
            “Well I’m glad you decided to tell me!”
            “Me too.”
            We continued to eat and continued to exchange questions. I kept them pretty practical, sticking to my new method for gauging my date, and as the meal came to an end I was - surprisingly - certain I’d be willing to go on a second date with him.
            He had an interest in and knowledge of technology that I’d probably never understand. He kept his Blu-tooth device around his ear, which made him look like some kind of Star Trek character (a reference I only knew because of my brother); he talked to his car and called her “Betty” and at some point, fell into every gamer stereotype I knew of. But… he had also changed. He saw where he needed to make improvements and then, more importantly, he made them. He was now successful, responsible, ambitious and he was nice and funny, too.
            At the end of dinner, he paid for the bill despite my insisting he didn’t need to. Of course, I secretly appreciated the fact that he did so because even though I was trying to look at this particular date from an altered, more practical viewpoint and I was also trying to wrestle with the fact that some of my dating expectations may need changing, I was, and probably always would be a bit old fashioned underneath. So paying for the first date definitely got Harry a few bonus points to put toward making it to the next level in this dating game. How’s that for a situation appropriate reference?
            As we left the restaurant and headed toward my home, I knew he was hoping the evening would end with a kiss. He was leaning into the arm he’d placed on the rest between us so that we were closer to one another. When we arrived, he turned toward me and thanked me for a great night and for not bailing when I found out how much of a dork he was, which made me silently curse the women who had shut him down for his favorite pastimes – and career choice actually.
            Girls could sure be snotty bitches.
            He moved ever so slightly closer then, but I could tell he was nervous. I thought about all the time he racked up in his mother’s basement. During that time his dating life probably wasn’t the greatest, and I wondered how many successful dates he’d been on since. From our discussion I knew there had been a few unsuccessful attempts, and I wondered if that had been enough to make him wary of the idea. Unfortunately, it seemed to be a part of human nature for the insults to affect us more than the compliments. Perhaps that was why Kathleen and her husband thought he’d be a good candidate for a blind date. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t going to let him add this particular date to his list of failures.
            I bridged the gap between us and pressed my lips to his. It was brief, and it didn’t ignite any fireworks, but it wasn’t bad either. And when I pulled back and saw his grin, I forgave the fact he texted me instead of knocking on my door earlier, and I forgave some of the awkward statements he’d made about his car and the fact that he didn’t look like Brad Pitt.
            And then, we scheduled a second date.

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