The day before my birthday, a Friday, I had fallen asleep around 3am, after a freezing cold 2am doobie cruise with a guy named eight who I had been texting all summer. I was bright eyed and bushy tailed by 7am – I’m that kind of monster. Throughout the day eight texted asking questions about what I was shopping for and making jokes about the little photos of things I was buying. I find a cute American Eagle top with little ties that sit on top of your shoulders. American Eagle was the quintessential status symbol in our high school and it reminds me of 2002. Clothing brands were the types of things eight’s clique would absolutely judge your worth/value based on – they weren’t the nicest people from what I remember. Talking to a him now, felt like more equal footing than back then; as single adults, finding commonalities, who met on the same app. At about 3:30pm he asks where I am now and I realize it’s about that time so I reply with my location and then tap in a “Drinks?” Super casual, so cool, I know. I get in my car and hop on the highway to head home.
As I drive, his reply lights up on my dash: “Right meow?” I absolutely LOVE when you’ve been texting someone long enough that they mirror your speech patterns. Ten minutes pass, I can’t reply while driving and another message comes through “Or when were you thinking?” He was eager, right? I didn’t imagine that? I don’t know now.
“Sorry just got home, I need to get gas, then yes, right meow works.” He tells me he needs to drop some things off at home and asks where I want to go. I reply, “indecisive.” He suggests the patio at a pub, actually, the pub: the one he frequents with his team and texts me from, a lot. “Yep.” I say, cool as a cucumber. He tells me he’s leaving his place, to walk over, he’ll be there in 10 minutes. There is no time for extra primping, but I’m past that point in my life, he gets what he gets. “Balls. Ok – I’m driving over” I text as I jump back in my car. He asks why I said balls and I clarify “I hadn’t left yet, I’m on my way.” He tells me not to worry about it and to take my time. As I pull in he texts that he’s just sat down. I park my car in the extremely small uptown parking lot and head through the front door, I make my way to the back of the bar where the patio entrance is. He says my name – I realize I’ve been standing next to him this whole time scanning around looking for him.
He’s wearing a t-shirt, athletic shorts and sneakers. I like his ball-cap, beard, but most of all, how dark brown his eyes are. I can see him a lot better now that we’re not in a car at 2am. He’s cute. He keeps adjusting his ballcap, revealing what he calls a fivehead, aka a receded hairline. He’s leaning heavily onto the tabletop towards me, someone takes our drink order immediately, for him a Guinness and a cider for me.
A waitress is scolding a party-of-10 that are trying to get three tables beside us. “You didn’t call for a reservation?” she asks, and a long awkward scolding starts to unfold between the young waitress and the matriarch of the group. I work in advertising, so a large part of my life is about studying and perfecting the consumer experience. Don’t scold them. It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon at the end of the summer and there’s more than enough tables. Eight looks over at me and I open my eyes a little wider to express my disapproval “Hard to get a table in here huh?” in a whisper with a smirk. He didn’t even miss a beat, he says to the waitress “If it’s the tables you’re worried about we can move to the bar, it’s no problem.” I nod in approval. The husband and another man from the group come over to our table, while the women discuss reservation rules of the restaurant ad nauseum. The four of us strike up a conversation: they have extended family in town, trying to give them a proper city tour. I ask if they’ve gone to the uptown park yet, suburbanites forget that its there. The husband shakes his head, the younger man wants to know more. I tell them there’s alpacas and peacocks but that the real draw is the people watching, little festivals and huge games of pickup Frisbee. The waitress relents to our left, pushing the tables together, our chatters take their seats. I glance over at eight for the first time in a while and he’s staring, with the off-kilter smile I first swiped on; the sun feels warm. I like meeting new people – I like having little conversations with strangers – its happening semi-frequently on my dates lately – some guys jump right in, others sit back and watch me do my thing. I like that the other people I end up talking to don’t realize I’m on a first date – can you imagine if they did?
One thing was blatantly obvious, he was absolutely a regular in this pub. All the staff knew him. People dining nearby knew him. And as we drank, I caught a few quizzical sideways glances. I felt a little on display.
We talked about his solo Euro-trip the previous summer. He went to every beach he could find. I tell him I prefer swimming off docks, I like to dive in head first. I meant it literally and figuratively but he missed the point entirely. “You’d hate my cottage then” he says. He spent quite a while talking about how he hated swimming.
Eight’s disappointment in the minutiae of our differences shone through in a lot of our conversations. He says things with such finality it feels defeatist. He’s always so focused on how things don’t align, it’s those high standards I guess. One of the things I always say when I’m talking about my dating issues, I will squint at mens’ red flags until they look like a strawberry, or something cute. But Eight’s penchant to brood is a red flag I never did squint at, I knew how red the flag was and I let it wave, slapping me in the face every single time.
We talked about the people we know in common from high school, and there’s a lot of cross-over from my group of guy friends and his – I tell him a few bar night anecdotes and we uncover that both of our moms were the “drunk taxis” for our respective friend groups. My mind wanders back to the cliques and American Eagle. Would he have even given me the time of day back then? We were hanging out with the exact same people, on different nights, all throughout high school. But I know the answer is no, he wouldn’t have, they absolutely thought they were better than my friends and I.
At some point the party beside us finishes their meal, and the husband and wife came over. The wife thanked eight for offering up our table to them and the husband tells me they were going to take up my suggestion of heading to the park for a quick walk along the boardwalk. They asked where we’d suggest dinner for their group the next day. I’m pretty sure they think we’re a couple, ha. I tell them about a newer spot further downtown, “the drinks are pricier, but you will not have had anything like it in your life”. The truth is, I’m telling them to go to the spot where fish and I had our first date: its delicious southern fare, with eclectic live entertainment, with $40 cocktails that will knock. your. socks. off.
We finish our second drinks, he asks for the tab on one bill, which I offer to pay, and he says the obligatory first date: “you can get them next time.” When we get to my car I said “this is me” and he jumps forward and hugs me – it’s abrupt and sort of weird and he leaves without much else said.
The advice and rules for after-date-texting vary from site to site, but in general: blah blah blah, feminine energy, let men text you first. If they say they had fun it’s an ok sign, if they say they had fun and that they want to do it again, better. How long it takes for them to text you also apparently matters, the sooner the better. Two hours after the date eight texted me to let me know he “had fun chilling with me today”. Two hours, good. Chilling, not great. No suggestion of future date – uh oh. I text back “Ditto. I’m less weird when I’m not totally baked.” And he quips a “If you say so. ;)”
When I wake up the next morning I had two texts from eight that he had sent just after midnight. “How’s your night going?” and “Happy Birthday!” I’m always so interested to see who does the midnight birthday texts. I love those people. I’m one of those people. And evidently, eight is one of those people too.