3. fish: bourbon & a blanket.

In the many months we’ve been doing whatever we do, I’ve learned to ignore almost everything fish says except for the last thought during conversations. Why? Because that is where intent and reality lives for him. So I knew not to get my hopes up after offering up my Wednesday night to finally meet him. “I gotta run around a bit but perhaps. Weekend would be better.” He texted. I told him my weekend was tricky since my entire Saturday was booked early til late. I knew he had to be up for his flight at 3am Monday so Sunday also seemed off the table. But this time, fish was a little more persistent. After telling me he had just stuffed “three wieners down the gullet” and sent me a photo of his BBQ, he asked what I had for dinner then doubled back to the weekend with more specificity, “Ur busy friday too?” I told him I wasn’t. “Well well well” he replied. He offered up his entire weekend for me to choose from including Sunday. For the first time we actually had options and thus the first date was born:

Me: Am I keeping Friday or Sunday free? Or penpal?
Fish: Friday night or Sunday morn/aft or anytime Saturday haha
Me: Friday?
Fish: Friday
Me: Weird! Meeting the fish IRL. What do we want to do?
Fish: I’d like to get food.
Me: What kind of food?
Fish: Anything for me. Going to places I haven’t been is neat. Where you wanna go?
Me: Oh I haven’t been to (the new spot downtown for southern fare).
Fish: Neither.
Me: I’ve heard good things.

24 hours later fish texted me to tell me about his volleyball game and asked if we were still on for tomorrow. It dawned on me in this moment, that even after what felt like a lifetime of texting, guys still fear that a girl won’t show up (dudes, I’m so sorry that happens.) I confirmed we were on with a “Yep!” and the next day asked for specifics “Whats the plan penpal? Timeframe? Meet there or pick me up? Call it off and text for a few more months?” He told me he’d “be ready by 7 if that’s cool”. He then let me know he only lived 5kms from the restaurant and suggested I could stop by his place for a drink before or offered to pick me up. I told him a pre-drink was good (because nerves, duh).

At 6:30, after nailing the perfect wing of my eyeliner he texted to let me know I could come anytime, and gave me his address. Fish lives in new suburban subdivision that is pretty dense with condominiums and town-homes. “Once you find the visitor parking just call if you need help.” he said, and I did, so I called him after parking and his voice was … well … I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, it’s SO weird hearing someones voice for the first time, I’d barely heard a snippit of his voice on social media, so talking on the phone I found it was gentler and slower than I thought it would be. And the almost southern drawl I told you about – by golly gee he has it.

I had bought a 6-pack of his favourite beer meant as a friendly gesture since he’d told me his fridge was barren before his trip and in my little backpack purse I’d tossed two tallboy Radlers, just in case of adventures.  I got out of my car, beer in hand, and as we spoke on the phone I looked up the street to see him strolling towards me. I can’t remember how we hung up but I remember us sharing a bashful grin before genuinely sharing the loveliest hug. It just felt natural and emotionally safe, I think, for both of us. It was clear we were both nervous, him more-so than me, but it was also clear we knew we were in good hands with one another. I handed him the six pack and told him it was to tide him over until his trip, he thanked me looking positively giddy and started telling me about the cocktails he’d mixed up for us: pineapple juice and rum with cherries.

We got to his door, went inside and I found myself in an open-concept decidedly-bachelor condo townhouse: dark woods, marble counters, black leather seating, fireplace a beer fridge smack dab in the middle of the room, and Canadian-themed artwork on the walls. He sat on the couch while I set my bag on his table, and he told me our cocktails were in the fridge. In my head I thought this was weird, but ok, I’ll go with it. I opened the fridge door and on the top glass shelf sat two glasses, one with a paper heart stuck to it with my name written inside. I don’t know if I blushed or not but I grabbed the glasses and joined him on the couch shaking my head in disbelief. “Oh my god. As if you did this. I’m keeping it forever. That’s so sweet.” He apologized that his handwriting wasn’t the nicest and I clucked my tongue at him. We drank our drinks and chatted about how his packing for the trip was going and it honestly was so easy for me. We both text the same way we talk so it felt like we’d done this before. I think us knowing each others families just made it easy. I’m sorry to say in our rush to get to dinner (we were both starving) I completely forgot to keep my paper heart, but it remains one of the sweetest first date gestures I’ve ever experienced.

We went to the restaurant downtown and went inside. It was dimly lit with candlelight on each table; it’s trendy and hipster and all walks of life are there – the vibe of the place is just chill. The restaurant is known for crazy cocktails and they didn’t disappoint. Fish, a smoker, ordered a stiff bourbon infused with coffee vermouth and tobacco bitters and I ordered a mule made with brandy, vermouth and a flaming lime with vodka. Mine was refreshingly enjoyable; fish, however, seemed out of his depth with his gnarly bourbon, stifling a wince through every sip. I ordered a caesar salad for dinner and he asked for the chicken and waffles with a habanero cane syrup. Again, he’d overdone it. A bite of the spicy syrup, sniffle, sip his drink, throat clears; he almost looked like he was in pain. The tab would have been pretty pricey but he insisted on paying which is always a gentlemanly thing to do. The conversation throughout had flowed pretty well. There were a few times I could tell he didn’t know what to say so I gave him the crutch and steered us towards work, trips, and work-trips which opened him up. When it was time to go he flicked my backpack and said it was cute and asked if I minded if he had a cigarette. I told him I didn’t and we leaned on the trunk of his car and I pointed out some other restaurants downtown. Suddenly it started to pour rain – we dove into the car and it was coming down so hard that even the high speed wipers couldn’t keep up. We went back to his house and he offered me his coat.

fish4

At some point we’d agreed to go back to his house to watch a movie. So when we got inside we popped a Radler and beer and sat on his couch. He turned on the fireplace and looked at me sheepishly as he sat down and said “Don’t laugh, but I like to have a blanket when I watch shows, it’s just a comfort thing, my whole family does it.” And he offered me half – though we weren’t sitting too close. Then he did something bizarre. He tucked his feet up under the blanket and onto the couch, trying to interlock our legs. I’m still sort of weird about the “comfort/bonding” side of intimacy, I remember thinking why omg stop! He showed me an Apple Note where he keeps a list of things he wants to watch (yes, you read that) and we settled on a super hero movie. Luckily the movie was totally ridiculous so we were able to enjoy it and keep chatting throughout. After the movie ended I thanked him for dinner and said I better get going for my early morning; he hadn’t made any real moves all night so I wasn’t sure what to think. He said ok and smiled and the next thing I knew he had pounced on me on the couch and we just started making out. After a while I thought to myself, wow, he’s a great kisser, and immediately laughed when the followup thought to that was “I’ll have to tell my mother”. He called me a “cute little thing” and asked what was funny and I told him. After a while we chilled out and said our goodbyes.

When I got home I sent him a text “omg penpal we met.” He replied back “hiphip!”

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