The Literary Girlfriend: First Date- Part 2
Conventional wisdom says that a guy has less than a minute to make a good first impression with a woman, and if he fails, he has no shot. I’m proof that conventional wisdom is a crock. I rarely make a good first impression. If I ever made a good first impression on a date, it was by accident. My dating game plan (before I got married) was to get through the early awkward moments of the first date without bungling it too badly. I wasn’t a good starter, but I was a pretty good finisher (I don’t mean that as a double entendre).
The first part of my date with Danielle had gone pretty well (for me). I had handled her sports car. I had gotten through dinner without any gaffes or food issues. The uncomfortable silences were rare. Danielle was doing her part (which was encouraging), but I knew I had to finish strong.
We were about to leave the restaurant when Danielle grabbed the checkbook and counted the bills I had put inside. I thought she was going to take some of it (I tend to over-tip), but instead she said, “Throw in another twenty.”
“I already left a good tip,” I whispered, probably too defensively. “”Another twenty is way too much.”
“I told the waiter you were a great tipper,” Danielle said.
“Oh,” I said, understanding. Now her earlier conversation with the waiter made sense. I placed another twenty inside the book and put it on the table. As we left, I said, “You should have told me earlier. I would have gone along with it.”
The waiter and hostess thanked us as we left, and we smiled, and then Danielle talked.
“I wasn’t sure. I thought you might be too cheap to tip.”
“Why would you think I’m cheap?”
“Your furniture. Your car. Some of your clothes.” Danielle lifted a finger for each reason.
“My car’s not cheap,” I replied.
“You could buy a lot nicer car than that,” she said. “And your furniture is disgusting.”
“I’m not cheap,” I said. “I just don’t care about stuff like that. I like to read.”
“You need to care about stuff like that,” Danielle said, “But at least I know you’re not cheap.”
Danielle said she wanted to take a walk, so I drove her to a giant fountain next to one of the city’s skyscrapers. It was just before 9:00, the drunks wouldn’t be out yet, and the teenage fights probably wouldn’t start for another hour or so. The October air was cool, and Danielle walked close to me. She put her arm around my waist, so I put mine over her shoulder, and it felt natural.
“What’s your favorite book?” she asked. I thought it was an odd question for a walk in a city park, but I went with it.
“A Tale of Two Cities,” I said, too quickly.
“That is such bullshit,” she said, but she said it sweetly.
“Okay,” I admitted. “Honestly, that’s a tough question. It all depends on what mood I’m in.”
“If you were stuck on an island with only one book…”
“Ugh! Not that scenario!” I said. I took an exaggerated breath. “The Godfather.”
“That’s a movie,” Danielle said, frustrated. “Quit fu…”
“It was a book before it was a movie,” I said before she could over-curse. “I promise. And it’s pretty good. Whenever I’m bored of reading, that’s what I turn to.”
“And you’ve read it,” she said.
“Several times. What’s your favorite book?” I asked.
“Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen!” she proclaimed.
“But you haven’t even…” Then I stopped. I couldn’t believe that I had walked right into that trap.
“If you can pretend that you’ve read books that you’ve never read, then so can I,” she said proudly. “I think I’m going to do that.”
“Be careful,” I warned. “I’ve gotten busted before, and it can be embarrassing.”
“None of my friends would know… or care,” Danielle said.
Then she stopped walking, faced me, and put her hands on my shoulders.
“But I bet you have friends who could figure it out,” she stated.
“I wouldn’t give you up,” I said.
Danielle’s voice got softer.
“But you’d be lying. And I hate it when guys lie,” she said, and she slid her arms around the back of my neck. The front of her body brushed up against mine. It wasn’t quite a hug, but it was close. Still, this was a first for us, and my brain got muddled.
“I wouldn’t be lying to you,” I stammered. “I… I would be lying for you.”
“You’d lie for me?” she whispered and stood on her toes so that my nose almost touched her forehead, and she looked up.
“Only if you wanted me to,” I said. “Because… you hate it when guys lie.”
“Just when they lie to me. But if you lie for me? That’s…” Her voice trailed off. We were face-to-face. Her eyelids started to close. I could feel her lips on mine even though we hadn’t touched yet.
I leaned forward, but then she swung lightly to the side and released her embrace. I almost lost my balance.
“We need to go,” she said quietly. I could barely hear her. She grinned, and I could have sworn she licked her lip a little bit. “I have to get to work.”
I couldn’t believe I’d stepped into another of her traps so quickly.
As I drove her back to my apartment, I wasn’t sure what to do. She had set me up and then withdrawn, and that confused me. Even more puzzling, she kept chatting afterward as if nothing had happened. We talked about movies and music and television, but we didn’t talk about anything substantive. I kept reminding myself it was just a first date.
When we returned to my apartment, my neighbor was outside sitting on his balcony with two friends. All three guys were kind of overweight and hairy, but they were friendly and we got along for apartment neighbors. Still, I didn’t want them watching me say goodnight to Danielle. Awkward moments are bad enough when they’re in private. I didn’t want semi-strangers watching this. If all I got was a distant handshake or a brush off, it would have been humiliating.
I felt self-conscious for the first time that night. Danielle and I were facing each other, and I wasn’t sure what to do. The handshake? The fake hug? A quick kiss? I already got burned once on the kiss. I felt I could get away with a hug but if she stepped back or rushed it in front of the neighbors, I would feel like a doof, and I would look like a doof, and I knew that I shouldn’t have cared about looking like a doof in front of people I hardly knew, but….
Danielle grabbed my tie, pulled me to her, and kissed me on the lips. It was a quick kiss, but there was a little juice behind it. Then she pushed me back and flipped my tie over my shoulder.
“I’m coming back,” she said as she got into her car. The tie had dropped from my right shoulder, and it was crooked, but I left it there. As she drove off, my heart was still beating quickly, and I thought, there’s no way I’m sleeping tonight.
I walked up the steps to my apartment, my mind in a daze. I’ve never liked uncertainty, and I had no idea when she was coming back. It could be the next day, the next week, it could be when I was at work, and I didn’t have her phone number.
My mind was sorting this out when one of the guys on the neighbor’s balcony said, “Your girlfriend’s cute.”
“She’s not my…” Then I paused and said, “Yeah. Thanks.”
Danielle wasn’t literary, and she wasn’t my girlfriend, but if she could pretend that she was literary, then I could pretend she was my girlfriend. People can rationalize anything. As far as justifying unethical actions goes, saying she was my girlfriend was kind of minor. And at that point, I was feeling optimistic.
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: Over-Cursing.
And to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning, start here.