She was too good for me. That I knew for sure. As I walked the thirty blocks down toward her apartment on east 66th St., I was remarkably nervous. This was unusual to say the least. I was never nervous on a first date. Never. I was a professional first-dater. I was the king of first dates. The way I generally felt on a first date had to resemble the way Michael Jordan felt on the court. He wasn’t the tallest guy on the court. He wasn’t the fastest guy on the court. He wasn’t the strongest guy on the court. But he was always the smartest guy on the court. He had all the right moves. He always concurrently had a game plan and, yet, was infinitely adaptable. He could anticipate what was going to happen three moves before it happened. That was what first dates were like for me. I knew, going in, pretty much exactly how I was going to go about weaving this new young sweet lass right around my finger. Based on the information I already had on her (which varied from just a little to quite a lot), I already knew which stories, which anecdotes, which one-liners, and what level of intimacy was necessary to make her mine; or just sleep with her, depending on the girl. I’m not bragging. There was nothing healthy or upright or noble or decent about this. I was something of a cad. I didn’t outright seek to harm women and I certainly never forced a woman to do anything or, heaven for bid, laid a hand on a woman. But I was a master manipulator. I knew how to draw people in. I knew how to gain their trust in a very short period of time. I knew how to make them crave me. And, the truth is, I needed for them to crave me. I needed for them to want to devour me. That was the only way in which I was able to decipher that they liked me. My shattered insides only had the ability to spot lovability through the process of desirability. It’s essentially a personality disorder most commonly known as “histrionic.” While sex was often the inevitable result, it was almost never what I was truly after. What I wanted from any given girl was evidence that she was delighted with me; that I was good enough; that she was proud to be with me; that I had worth. I was looking for someone to give me what my mother hadn’t (or couldn’t). No, I didn’t know all of this then. Denial was my gasoline and all I saw was a juiced up Camaro doing 80 on a clear, four-lane highway. But that was all about to change. Because the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, decided it was time for Michael to learn a little something about a little something that was missing.
She was different. I knew that as soon as I saw her. The very first day of that boring Anthropology class, I spotted her. Piercing blue eyes, high cheekbones, a dimple of a nose, soft lips, strong chin; all framed by her short, stylish tangerine hair. She was thin but not skinny. Alabaster skin and curves in all the right places. Red shirt, blue overalls, and white sneakers. She struck me as a farmers daughter in a porn movie. I have it on good authority that a close companion once referred to her as, “The girl next door wearing no underwear.” But more than anything, it was abundantly clear that she was innocent and good. Whatever that meant, I knew it was true. And that kept me at bay. As attracted as I was to her, she just didn’t strike me as the kind of girl who would go for me. I was most certainly not the guy who could score any girl. I did all right for myself, but mainly I had good instincts and had a knack for spotting girls who were prone to fall for my particular charms. Further, I knew when a girl was checking me out. And while she would later admit she was doing just that, she did a hell of a job of keeping on the down low. So as the weeks came and went, I would stare at her, and long for her, and do nothing about it. Until the one fateful day I strolled into the classroom to find no teacher present. The teacher had always been there before as I walked in; every single time. I would later find that this had something to do with the fact that the class started 5-10 minutes earlier than I thought it did. But, even though I arrived at my usual time, he wasn’t there. A classroom full of students (big class, lecture style classroom) but no teacher.
And there she was. And she was looking at me. At least I was pretty sure she was. As soon as my eyes caught hers, she looked away, but I was fairly certain that she had at least noticed me, if not checked me out. If there was ever going to be a shot for me with this girl, this seemed to be it. And I wasn’t going to let my fear keep me from taking a crack at it. So I walked the steps up to the row in which she sat near the middle, and made my way in her direction. I said, “excuse me,” as I squeezed between her legs and the seat in front of them and we shared what felt like another moment as I passed. I positioned my self about four seats away from her, put my stuff down and began waiting just like everyone else. After another five to seven minutes passed, about 15% of the class rose and started to file out. I couldn’t stand the class, and I most surely would have followed the pack out if not for the fact that I was close enough to smell her perfume and I was partially hypnotized. Another five minutes passed and about half of the remaining group slowly rose and headed for the door. At this point, I had come to accept that I had no design here other than sitting four seats away from her, and woefully decided that it was time to bail and hope to live to fight another day. But I had to squeeze past her yet again, and this time my “excuse me” was met with a reply. “He’s outside talking to a student,” she said with just a hint of a smile. “What?” I queried, not entirely sure that she was talking to me. “The teacher. He’s outside talking with a student. But he’s here.” So here I was, stuck between her knees and the back of a chair, staring at her, having received this seemingly cryptic message. With no time to think, I spat out, “Okay, you got five minutes,” and sat down next to her. She giggled a bit at what I guess landed as something in the realm of humor, and I introduced myself. She returned the favor and just the way she uttered her name made me feel a bit lightheaded. Nonetheless, there I was, talking to her. I couldn’t believe it and I was dead set on not blowing it.
We chatted a bit. I don’t recall about what, but I do recall that it was easy and comfortable. She shared that she wasn’t wild about the class either, which I used to my advantage once the teacher arrived and. after a quick apology, started the day’s lesson. Over the course of the next forty-five minutes, I drew silly pictures of the teacher and passed her a few ribald notes, all of which made her laugh heartily. I was enthralled with this girl. My attraction to her was nearly overwhelming but it wasn’t inherently sexual. Don’t get me wrong. She was sexy as all get out, and the idea of her body sans clothes occurred to me at least a few times. But that wasn’t the crux of it. She was just… amazing. It almost felt like she was glowing; like some humming aura of all that was right with the world surrounded her entire being, and just sitting next to it was somehow making me better.
The class concluded and we stood and gathered our things. There was never going to be a more opportune time to do this, but I was hesitant nonetheless. What were the chances that a girl like this wasn’t already with someone? And even if she wasn’t, despite all the seeming flirtatiousness, why would she want me? “So, um, would you be interested in going out to dinner with me sometime?” It took every ounce of will not to follow that up with, “Just kidding.” “I’d love to,” she answered and proceeded to write down her phone number. We walked out of class together and I am quite sure that my converse high tops were not touching the tiled classroom floor as we did. We continued effortlessly chatting as we made our way to the ground level and out onto the streets of New York City. We reached a stop light at which I would be turning right as she carried on forward. I knew I shouldn’t ask. It was too desperate, too needy. “I know it’s short notice, but I am not doing anything tomorrow, are you?” She looked at me curiously. Crap, I had blown it. “Tomorrow is good,” she answered. We set a time for me to pick her up and off I went skipping down the sidewalk. I didn’t actually skip. I look awful skipping. But I really wanted to.
So there I was, slowly making my way down York Avenue, headed for a date that felt somewhere between exhilarating and foreboding. I knew where I was going to take her. But I had no game plan. I didn’t want to “work” this girl. I wanted to join with her. I wanted to blend with her. I wanted to be authentic and transparent. And it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure that I really knew how to do that. My usual level of first date confidence was nowhere to be found. This girl was better than me and she was sure to figure that out in short order. And it felt like I had only two regrettable choices. Be real and let her figure out that she was better than me, or attempt to sell myself as better than I was which would require dishonesty. I had half a mind to go home. Not because I didn’t want to go, but because there was no way this was going to work out and I was already enamored enough by this girl that it was bound to crush me. But I kept walking, and as each block passed inevitably by, it became clearer and clearer that I was going to go through with it.
I took the rickety elevator up to the fifth floor and knocked. As I did, I was wondering if she was actually as beautiful as my memory was telling me she was based on our experience the day before. My memory was wrong. She was even better. Dressed in a cream color two piece top and skirt, she was utterly stunning. And yet, it became clear that the ease with which we communicated the previous day had gone completely out the window. In retrospect, I now know that this was because she was nervous as all get out. This was to be her first date after coming out of a seven-year relationship. But I read her nervousness as her having come to her senses, realizing that I was worthless and that she was crazy to have said yes and frantically looking for a way out. She was frittering around the apartment somewhat haphazardly, closing things and moving things and doing things that did not seem to have much of a point other than to stall. Seemingly having found no way to bail, eventually we were off, walking down second avenue, unable to generate a conversation including anything other than sentences with less than three words. Finally, I offered that we might hail a cab, as were heading down to the village. In the cab, we both admitted that we were coming out of long term relationships (mine had been about a year and a half), which helped to ease the tension, and by the time we arrived at The Anjelica Film Center, the previous day’s repartee had returned. I was relieved and monumentally joyful that there was still a chance for us. We were early for the movie (Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies), so we sat in the cafe, sipping cappuccinos and conversing merrily.
The movie was about a third over and I was downright percolating with the desire to touch her. I just couldn’t make a move. I couldn’t make my body do anything. This had never been a problem for me either. I knew how to make a move. I knew when it was time to make a move. And my moves were generally successful. But I wanted to go slow with this girl. One, because she didn’t strike me as a girl who moved fast. Two, because I really liked her and wanted to do things right and not let the physical trump the emotional. And three, because I was terrified. My mojo had gone missing and was nowhere to be found. I thought about putting my arm around her, but it felt terribly unnatural and my arm appeared unwilling to move in that direction.
And then I had an inspiration. I could hold her hand. That felt right. It felt intimate but chaste. It actually felt like what I most wanted to do. But still, I was afraid. What if even that felt like too much to her this early on? What if she rejected the advance? The rest of the movie would be terribly awkward and we might not recover. I danced through multiple scenarios for what seemed like forever, but, finally, I inched my right hand over toward her left and lightly touched my palm to hers. The next thing I felt were her fingers finding mine and tangling them into a splendid co-habitation. As we sat there, watching the film (which was very good) holding hands, I was about as happy as I’d ever been. And then, and I am truly not sure who initiated it or if we just sort of organically began together, we began moving our hands in and out of each other’s, sliding our fingers up and down; it was almost as if our hands were dancing together. I had had a fair amount of sex at that point, and I can honestly say it was the most intimate thing I had ever experienced with a woman. I felt like I was high. My head was spinning and my stomach was doing flips. Our hand serenade continued through the rest of the movie and as the credits rolled and the lights came up, we slowly unlocked our fingers and looked into each others eyes. I did not plan to do it. I had not thought about doing it. In fact, I was pretty committed to not doing it. But our eyes were locked and all of a sudden I couldn’t keep from doing it. I leaned in and softly kissed her lips. It was, and still is, the best kiss of my life. It was perfect. She tasted like strawberries and oleander and rain drops and fresh morning dew and delirium and bliss. I knew, just then, at that very moment, without question, that I was head over heels in love with this woman.
We drifted down the block, hand in hand, as I led her over to Temple Bar, one of those cool late-night places without a sign that you only know about because some Big Apple insider told you about it. I slipped the manager a twenty to give us a booth in the back, which seemed to impress her. I ordered her a glass of wine and myself a martini, along with a table full of small appetizers. For the next three hours, we sat in the dimly lit restaurant, alternately talking about our pasts, tenderly kissing, and feeding each other. It was rapturous. As I sat there, I was aware that I was having trouble remembering what my life was like before she came along. It felt like I had known her forever. Things like “soul mate” and “meant to be” never held much water for me until that night. But everything had changed. I wanted to spend every day of the rest of my life with this woman and I was ready to move heaven and earth to make that happen.
Finally, at nearly two in the morning, I paid the bill and we hailed a cab uptown. We were snuggling and kissing in the back of the cab all the way back to 66th st. When we arrived, I got out of the cab to bid her farewell. Instead, she nervously said, “Would you like to come upstairs and see some pictures?” Now, this was a conundrum. I was wholeheartedly flummoxed by this question. I was thinking to myself, “Okay, up until now, a girl asking if you wanted to come up and see pictures at two in the morning undoubtedly meant sex. Now I do not want to have sex with this girl tonight. I mean, I totally want to have sex with this girl but there is no way that I am going to. And she could not possibly want to have sex with me. Could she actually want to show me pictures? Should I decline? What is happening right now?!”
The next thing I knew, I paid the cabbie and sent him along, she unlocked the front building door, and we stepped into the elevator to go look at “pictures.” Lo and behold, we walked inside and she pulled out a bunch of picture albums. Well, what do you know? This girl actually wanted to show me pictures at two in the morning. Well, that was only half true. She was actually desirous and willing to do some other stuff. Not because this was her way; because it wasn’t. Not at all. You see, what I did not know was that she was as confused by my asking her out as I was by her saying yes. She had never been out with someone like me. She sort of fancied me a “bad boy” of sorts and deduced that a night of passion was probably all I was available for. She was as deeply enamored with me as I was with her at this point, but she did not believe that I was up for anything more than a one night stand. And she had never had a one night stand. And she had pretty much decided that she should have at least one in her life, and that I was going to be it.
We did not make love that night. We did some other stuff. Quite a bit of stuff actually, but it was all sweet and wonderful and slow and interlaced with talking and laughing and looking at more pictures. I stayed the night. Waking up next to her the next morning was sheer nirvana. I asked her if I could take her out to breakfast and she agreed. As I paid the check and we were getting up to leave, she was quite sure that this was the last time she was ever going to see me. That is until I asked her, “Is there any way that I can see you again tonight?” We’ve been together every day since then. This October will make twenty years. And I am just as wild about her today as I was on that fateful night. I still don’t deserve her. I am still not good enough for her. But, for some reason, she has yet to figure that out. And I have every intention of sticking around hoping against hope that she never does.