A few days after our first meeting over London Fogs I wasn’t sure what to think about the professor. He’d joined Instagram, presumably to get a better look at the photos I’d shown him at Starbucks. But he was seemed aloof in his suggestion that I let him take me to dinner sometime and he hadn’t actually called like he said he would. So you may remember I had thrown a variable to test his interest and intent; to paraphrase:
Me: One day I’m sure you’ll hear about something and think, that’s weird, and you can tell me about it. Something bucket listy that your friends will say is totally random. Dinner is fun but a story is priceless … it’s just an idea. I’m going to crash. Have a good night.
I woke the next day without expectation for the challenge issued and enjoyed both the sensibility and whimsy of my morning routine: coffee, vitamins, makeup, hair, and lastly, a quick shuffle of my tarot deck. I flipped the a card; hello Knight of Swords. He is handsome, fearless, motivated, and driven to action, and I wondered if his presence would guide a project at work today. I posted a photo to my Instagram and after my quick commute I rolled my office chair across the grey carpet to my desk … *ding* … a text from the professor. Or was it … the Knight?
Prof: Hey there Queen of Cups. Hope you’re kicking butt today as always. I’m cranking out work stuff at the office. I need a list of your fears and phobias etc. I want you to be comfy and enjoy stuff that we might do …
I’d never told the professor I use tarot cards so I knew he’d seen it on my Instagram Story. But his greeting gave me pause. The Queen of Cups is a beautiful, calm, and connected to her emotions. I pondered what, if anything, he knew about her meaning. Did he know the compliment he was paying? I replied, trying not to get ahead of myself.
Me: I call myself a “band-aid ripper”, even if I’m terrified, I just do it anyway … but I know your schedule is crazy so take your time.
Prof: Mother nature isn’t helping … but we will find something fun and hopefully a bit exciting. Can you get away on a weekday?
Me: Generally … yes.
And a few hours later, close to 2pm, the
professor Knight showed his gallantry.
Prof: What’s going down at work? Any plans tonight?
Me: Zero presently.
Prof: Give me a second.
Prof: Ever been to a hockey game … last minute tickets … good seats by the glass … please don’t feel obligated … [US city] a bit of a haul.
For context, the professor was proposing a 7-hour date crossing an international border.
Me: Let’s go.
Roughly 3 hours after he’d asked my plans for the night, with only a few quippy logistical texts about where to meet, what to wear, and where we’d eat, I watched the professor’s grey pickup pull up in front of my white hatchback. We greeted (though I can’t remember exactly how), we put my coat in his backseat, and as I buckled my seatbelt I watched as he poked through the audio menu on his dashboard and chose a playlist. “Mimi Stuff” showed across the screen for a moment, then he tapped back to the GPS of our route. Songs I told him I liked in the two weeks of chatting came through the speakers. I was rendered completely speechless by the gesture.
The professor flexed his teaching skills as he explained the rules of hockey and we shared our experiences with sports in general; the near 2-hour drive was filled to bursting with effortless conversation. Our undeniable connection was ironically challenged in peculiar fashion soon after. While looking at each other’s passports while waiting to cross the border the professor asked me something entirely unexpected, “Your last name is Xxxxxxx?” I laughed out loud at the absurdity of the question before the reality hit me, we actually didn’t know each others last names.
Mr. and Ms. Just-Found-Out-Each-Others-Last-Names crossed an international border and soon parked in a lot beside the arena on a cobblestone lined street. We walked shoulder to shoulder towards and through the venue to find a beer concession stand. I ordered us two citra beers and as the cashier asked to see my ID I heard the professor teasingly tut over my shoulder. Her eyebrow raised “You’re born in September?” she asked and I nodded. “VIRGO” she whooped at me, remarking to the professor “Aren’t you lucky?” He asked if she wanted to see his ID as well and she declined with as much cheek as I could’ve hoped for.
The professor leaned his right bicep into my left shoulder when we took our seats second row from the glass and elaborated on his Hockey 101 lesson. It was as close as we’d ever been physically and I took the opportunity to take him in: dewy skin, slightly gelled short shorn hair, and smelt wholesomely of laundry detergent. He asked me to cheers our beers, and as I obliged he stopped my abruptly. “It’s bad luck to look away.” He scolded me gently and I admitted that I break eye-contact frequently but never intentionally. “It’s ok. You’re shy. I’m shy too.” I managed to hold eye contact as we clinked cups again and he explained the German superstition of seven years of bad sex. During intermission a little while later as we ventured back upstairs for arena grub I felt the professor’s hand on the small of my back as we wove through the crowd of beards and jerseys. “Does this happen to you a lot?” he asked. I turned over my shoulder to ask him what he meant. “Every guy in here is looking at you.” I dismissed his observation externally while taking in its validity internally, unsure if it was me or us, but in truth, all I could think about was the warmth of his hand through my sweater. We returned to our seats with handfuls of chicken wings, fries and beer and watched through to the end of the game. We agreed to have drink nearby and the professor tugged my shoulder tight under his arm in the lobby and began scrolling through his phone to find somewhere interesting. It was another moment that just immediately stuck; being held close while we found a reason to stay together just a little longer. Just a short stroll down the road we sat together at a high-top table in a dimly lit pub and talked about our extended families a while before we made out way to his truck.
The soundtrack of that drive home included the professor’s very varied music taste as well as what seemed to be an endless list of restaurants, markets, villages and activities he wanted to take me to. I told him how good the date had been for me, “the tarot card … the playlist … I don’t think you know how special that was.” He admitted the Queen of Cups was something he researched that morning when he saw my Instagram; he’d wanted to find the card that most reflected what he thought of me.
I was completely enamored. Smitten. Stupid.
We rolled up to a lone hatchback in a parking lot by the highway and hugged across the console of his truck. “Wait, no, oh my god no, a hug?” I thought as I breathed him in. And then suddenly … you know the kind of kiss that makes you dizzy? You know the kind of kiss that comes with an existential crisis? You know the kind of kiss that makes your climb over a pickup truck console? I found myself locked in the kind of kiss that I’ve never known how to get out of either gracefully or with my clothes intact. So I did what any reasonable and socially-unawkward adult woman would do: mid-kiss I blindly reached backwards in the darkness for the truck doorknob, clicked it open and tossed my feet out to the pavement behind me. That is how I ended that kiss … ridiculously. “Goodbye” I shouted insolently, knowing full well how entirely bewildered and flushed I looked. The professor rolled down his window and teased as I fumbled my keys for longer than humanly possible. I texted the professor when I’d got home as he asked and then said goodnight.
Sometime in the week after our international first date my wish for “something bucket listy that your friends will say is totally random” came true when the professor had a “dude night” with a single-and-dating-dad friend:
Prof: I told him the whole Match story about how I met you and our journey to [US city].
Me: Did he think you were nuts for going international with a stranger?
Prof: Yah, he said that. I didn’t. It wasn’t too international and you’re not that strange.
Prof: Life is pretty damn good. Good night! You get a kissy emoji. I want to just grab you and kiss you right now.
Me: Same. A lot a lot.
Until next time.