2. professor: foggy like sunday morning

The professor + me + London Fogs on a Sunday morning.

Two weeks after receiving the first message from the professor on a Sunday morning I put on high-waist blue jeans, a pale pink knit sort-of cropped sweater, and maroon heeled Timberland boots arriving with enough time to grab a table and second guess (re: wipe off) my bold lipstick. I saw the professor in the parking lot adjusting the collar of his coat looking noticeably nervous but as he walked through the door he smiled brightly. I stood up and hugged him before he removed his coat revealing a buttoned shirt and fitted jeans.

We sat down across from one another at a table with two chairs in the middle of a Starbucks, my Starbucks in fact so while I felt at home, I also felt just a little on display. My baristas see me every day (sans gentleman accompaniment), recognize my daughter, and know our orders upon sight. The tables are oft filled with faces I’ve seen a hundred times one of which, a white-haired businessman, was seated beside us with a quizzical brow in piquedly eavesdropping. I consider the 12-year gap when I see the white-hair’s gaze dart away sheepishly as I catch his eye. I don’t feel the gap but for just a second, I wonder if others see it.

london fog

Context, chemistry and consideration.

Before we met, I’d told the professor I had a knack for interpersonal context, an ironclad memory, and explained to him that I use language and anecdotes to help inform the way I communicate and understand the people in my life. Thus far the professor had opted to share his experiences as a father and of travel, so I wasn’t surprised when he pulled out his cellphone to show me videos of his ski trip; as we chatted, cheek to cheek over his phone I mobile ordered two grande London Fogs. I would eventually reciprocate and scrolled through my Instagram sharing my own sort of context. We drank our teas and chatted without pause from 9:30 until about noon. It was plainly apparent that we had conversational chemistry. Agreeability aside, I wondered what minutiae might make us incompatible.

Our lifestyles are similar, but 50% custody of one child and majority custody of three makes for a very different level of “availability” for dating. I decided to ask him bluntly, “You’re very busy. Is how your schedule has been since we started talking fairly typical for you?” He seemed to know emphatically what I meant. “No not at all … I swear.” He looked me right in the eye so I believed him.

Good manners, good intentions, and goodbyes.

The Starbucks tête a tête ended as the professor smiled warmly across the table at me and lamented that he should get back; I remarked on the thoughtfulness in his coming all the way to me. He suggested he’d like to take me to “dinner soon and I agreed (for the record, he pumped his fist in a winning gesture, it was adorkable). He asked if he could call me on the phone that evening and I agreed. He walked me to my car, we hugged and he shyly kissed my cheek, insisting we’d be talking later.

And I felt really good about it … until I didn’t, like 10 hours later.

Because? He didn’t call that night. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next. What did he do? He texted without making plans, asking my schedule, or offering his availability. He texted what he was doing, where he was, who he was with. Each text a tiny little green bubble of contraction. The assurance that he was never normally that busy was demonstrably false.

I know myself better than ever before – I just hadn’t put my mouth where my mind was.

I’m learning if I want to have any sense of self, I should be able to define what “my terms of engagement” are.

  • First, without clearly expressing exclusivity and monogamy, sex a nonstarter. I told this to the professor week 1 of chatting on Match, which is to say, I give exactly zero fucks if it’s inconvenient or unrealistic of me to have such a rule.
  • Second, within reason I would need to see a person once per week and two weekend days a month to consider our investment in romantic interest (time, emotions, money) worthwhile. Basically, I have enough friends and hobbies plus I’m the proud owner of a really good vibrator, so I’m no longer entertaining friendships or text messages from failed dates.

That’s not to say my expectations or requirements aren’t malleable, they are if and that’s a big if, I’ve got a good vibe about the whole situation. And I can tell you, at 10pm, three days after an unfulfilled phone call, and about 500 texts exposing a man’s true availability and/or intent, I didn’t have a super good vibe when I received yet another non-committal suggestion at the potential of seeing each other “sometime”.

Perhaps we’d both literally and figuratively met our match.

Prof: … just hang with me sometime or let me take you for that burger.
Me: Let’s do something weirder than eat. Something bucket listy that your friends will say is totally random.
Prof: Let me consult my nonexistent bucket list … or do we work from yours?
Me: One day I’m sure you’ll hear about something and think, that’s weird, and you can tell me about it. Dinner is fun but a story is priceless.
Prof: Can I still talk to you until I find said priceless thing in my thought cave?
Me: I want you to … listen, I have my own money, I trust you, I’m trying to learn to not be so sheltered … it’s just an idea. I’m going to crash. Have a good night.

About 24 hours later I (unexpectedly) had my first kiss with the professor.

Until next time.

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8. fish: pessimism & parking lots.

So here we were, fish had bailed on our “morning after” breakfast which had scooted my foot a little more out of the proverbial door. I’ve wondered since if fish suggested the follow-up more casual (and decidedly sober) park walk as a sort of olive branch, but I can’t be certain. At any rate – we we’re sort of flopping around our intentions and I wasn’t convinced he took me seriously, and after three months of doing whatever it was that we we’re doing – I’d lost emotional steam, so to speak, it just felt like it was falling flat with fish. And with one foot out the door, my effort and interest was taking a nosedive.

A quote about my dating life from my middle sister:

Honestly, a guy has to work so hard before you even give them a chance. You never believe anyone is interested in you. What do they have to do? – Labella

She’s not wrong. Because of the relationship with my ex, and my penchant for being most attracted to men who show the bare minimum interest in me, I take precautions to the extreme, too extreme; I pull the rip cord, hit the emergency eject button or I run away at the first sniff of apathy. I’ve concluded in these past few months that I’m still just not ready to really be dating. It’s not just meeting the wrong guys, which I think I have; but I’m also convinced I’d probably screw it up with the right one too.

Shortly after our park date, during a text conversation, the tone I was picking up was just “smh” from fish. And I get it, I feel it too from time to time, and I started to overthink it, and thus you’ll see me reaching around blindly for that aforementioned rip cord:

Me: Sometimes your aloofness reads as disinterest.
Fish: Dunno where you get that from
Me: Me neither just a vibe
Fish: Shove ur vibe up your @$$
Me: Will do! You want me to leave you alone?
Fish: No all is fine and good
Me: Dude I honestly can’t tell.
Fish: Gee what do u want me to do
Me: I got nothing
Fish: U can be worried if I stop talking to you, dunno what ur worried about now
Me: I’m not worried. I just don’t know you well enough to know your humour.
Fish: Well if i didnt like u i wouldn’t have went on a walk.

The next day he texted me again after playing volleyball, complaining of an injury and tensor bandage. As he texted me, I was busy gossiping over tea with my mother, who you may remember has known fish since he was a tween. I read these messages out to her as I sent and received them and she was beside herself in the absurdity of reality and more importantly, she was totally goading me that I had to go:

Fish: … im holding down the parents fort while theyre away tn. so if u wanna check it out come on by haha. im just eating a box of kraft dinner watching bucket list.
Me: lol are you asking me to come to your parents house?
Fish: Could haha. Just me atm but [baby brother] should be back in a hour or something.
Me: Tempting. Leave before he gets back?
Fish: U wouldnt hafta no. I was just stating hes gone.
Me: Hm. You’ve peaked my interest.
Fish: Just wondering what shell do.
Me: [Baby brother] tells [Dad] that Fish had Mimi over here while he was gone? Funny. I’d do it if you wanted me to.
Fish: I do! Could possible be weird though. I dunno. I wanna see u soon again. Maybe hafta waiter out.

Fish soon thereafter left town for a concert/festival not far out of town – it’s a big binge drinking affair so I wasn’t surprised I got a few drunk texts calling me babe. I ended up golfing over the weekend and then heading to take in the sights and a few concerts at the CNE in Toronto with my daughter and friends. But we set our next date, going to the movies to see Happytime Murders, for the week I returned from the cottage. I went out and picked up some happy sativa weed called Strawberry Cough for us and rolled a joint.

What comes to mind as I look back on this time frame is that this is when eight begins to watch my social media, and in short order, reached out to me after our “hiatus” of sorts. Sad isn’t it? That after all this time – and in the midst of reflecting on fish – there’s eight – clouding the issue. Here’s a snippet from the eight blogs from this time-frame:

[Eight] asks me what I’m up to and I tell him I’m getting ready to go to the movies. The truth was I was going to the movies with … fish that night. – from Eight #3

So after a week at the cottage, sometimes spent exchanging long emails with another guy I call the professor, I returned home a little freckled and in summer spirits just in time for our marijuana movie night. We left the specifics to the last minute as usual – which resulted in me ordering the tickets on my phone as I drove to meet him at the theater – my treat I guess huh fish? We parked near the back row, and smoked a joint I had rolled while sitting on the sidewalk/curb. He coughed his guts out, which I found surprising given the amount of cigarettes he smokes, then headed inside to grab our seats. Before the movie started I watched as he became agitated and visibly paranoid. He rubbed his hands together in a bewildered state, unable to sit still in his seat. The movie is perverse and hilarious – I highly recommend it (punny) and afterwards we got back to our cars and fish still looked sort of off. I didn’t want him to drive but he wouldn’t accept a ride so I told him to sit and chat with me. We sat on the curb but he didn’t have much to say – I sort of felt like I was recapping the movie unnecessarily and interviewing him. We looked at each other silently a while before he chimed in with “Do you want to make-out in the car?” Spoiler alert: I did not really want to make out, and yet it seemed as good as any way to pass the time while I made sure he was clear to drive. We climbed in the backseat of my hatchback, but make out we did not. We had sex, pretty much immediately. It was, despite not really being that thrilled by it, really fun in retrospect, and at the very least, juicy fodder for the blog. While we romped in my tinted back seat, other couples came and went to their parked vehicles nearby which caused us to laugh several times. When we were finished I climbed back out of the car, he seemed himself again. As the date came to an obvious end, I pulled one of my more awkward stunts:

I high-fived him, said “thanks for the sex”, got in my car, and then drove away.

Over the next few days fish checks in, lazily. He’s either sore from a sport, or work accident, or hungover, or doing laundry. Timeline wise for these stories/blogs were in the last week of August now – which you’ll remember means a guy I called eight and I are a few nights away from a blackout birthday boink. Let’s end on how fish, a guy I’d been talking to for three months at this point, wished me well on my 32nd year: he texted me “happy bday” a day late because he’d been so drunk on the day of.

Bless this fish – he tries – sort of.

In the next blog I’ll tell you a quick little tale that takes place in at the end of September that I call the “tuck-in” and about another faux-pas the morning after I found a fish at a beer festival downtown. Until next time dear readers – stay floppy.

charter

7. fish: a puppy & a park.

On a Saturday night in early August, I made a choice. I guy I call Gosling texted me “I need you” at the same time Fish was asking me to pick him up from a party. Sunday morning I woke up in Gosling’s bed, but that’s another story for another series for another time. But let’s rewind back to making that choice – the truth is, I was already at Goslings condo before I even bothered to reply to fish in the following exchange:

Fish: Id let u just pick me up! Its fun but I have mimi fever.
Me: Gah! I want to but I’m birthday-ing uptown. Are you having a good time?
Fish: Yup msg me after birthday then. Its early but starting to clear so Im down whenever, if not I can just sleep here. Or I can cab home.
Me: Do it and I’ll try and be by later.

*2 hours later*

Fish:
Ok. Ill go home now.
Fish: En route.
Fish: Im here! Whats your thought?
Me: Im uptown sober. But still in a line.
Fish: Ok well Im back now just to let you know. Come or not I just want you to have fun. Doors open anyways.

I didn’t reply.

9am Sunday morning came around and I was still sort of processing the night that Gosling’s friends, aka the bros, gave me the name “Drunk Fairy”. My phone dinged and it sounded like maybe a mild amount damage control was needed:

Fish: Ok
Me: Oh boy got super hammered. How was the party you were at?
Fish: Good
Me: Sorry I didn’t make it over. I was in zero condition. Just picking up my car from uptown. (Solid lie because I hadn’t actually gone home from Gosling’s uptown high-rise condo yet.)
Fish: Ya Id have to say Im pretty hung too.

I picked up my daughter Sunday afternoon and hit the road towards a rural town a few hours outside the city to pick up our new puppy. Fish told me a story about his sisters dog – I sent him a photo – and we talked throughout the day on and off.  The next night he asked me if we should have “any chills this week?” I told him my schedule and we settled on Wednesday. He told me “I like thinking of our Friday night. Naked the 1, 2, 3, or 4th time. It was fun.” Romance? When date night finally rolled around we didn’t have a firm plan – which wasn’t surprising. After work he let me know that “we didn’t really talk about it” he had “ate some leftovers for dinner” and was “hopping into the shower”. I offered up the suggestion of a movie or a park as I began to stuff my face at the fridge; he chose the park, we decided to meet there, and I packed up my puppy.

The park and puppy date was a little strange. If you remember, in the eight blogs I talked about how I like when I get to flex socially in front of guys, strangers talk to me all the time, and I like to see how guys react, and more importantly join in and keep up.

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? – from Eight #5

Well. Fish doesn’t, can’t or won’t. The corgi puppy I’m carrying around the park only adds to the number of random people stopping to say hello on our walk, and fish says nothing … every time. He doesn’t look annoyed but he doesn’t know what to do. He’s quiet and aloof and visibly shy. We walked the entire perimeter of the park, mainly focused on the animals the mini petting zoo and talking about the carp in the small man-made lake. He told me you can bait them with corn – we see a can on the ground nearby an abandoned fishing rod. As we walked he took photos of the animals that he posted to social media. When we had finished walking and talking, rather awkwardly, we went back to the car and said goodbye rather awkwardly too. He didn’t ask to extend the date – and he didn’t try to hug or kiss me – we just stood at my trunk in a parking lot, said we’d talk later, and then he turned on his heel and got in his car. I was dumbfounded. I sat in the driver seat – mouth agape. And that weird little habit of mine, not comfortable with misunderstanding, decided to clear the air. I got out of my car and strode over to his driver window, he was sitting there looking just as bewildered as I felt, and said “Um, so do like each other or …” I KNOW – I’M THE WORST. Ha. Fish sputtered out a “Well, yeah, I -” as I wagged my finger at him in a “come here” motion. He hopped out of the car – I kissed him – said “Ok then, bye” and got back in my car and left. Fish texted later asking if he should’ve invited me over? I said no but “I’m going to say goodbye properly knowing we have tricky schedules.” We knew we were facing another span of time out of touch from our park walk and talk. I suggested to fish that “If you’re shy by nature and I’m more submissive we’re both going to have to push ourselves.” He agreed and said he was up to the challenge and gushed about how cute my dog was. He put a few photos from the park on social media, including my puppy, and made sure to mention than neither he nor I “made the cut”. (I didn’t break it to him that my reaction to my @username being posted on his social media would not have been a good one. I’m very very private about my dating life. Ironic considering the blog, I know, but anonymity is a hell of a drug.)

llama
A local alpaca photographed by a local fish.

It didn’t take long for his guy friends to start roasting him in the comments of the photo: “Tinder date?” leading me to believe that Fish catches a lot of flack for being single and on apps to the degree he is, which probably should have provided some level of foreshadowing for me. But it didn’t.

Fish is forgivable – nothing he does is malicious – and I think what I gleaned from this little awkward and quiet date is that when pressed, he generally tells the truth. Will he hide behind non-specifics? Yes. Can that be considered a lie? In the way I did it – absolutely. But him posting on social media a photo of the animals we looked at, and especially my dog is maybe an olive branch I just didn’t recognize at the time. As private as I am with my dating – fish is as well – I’ve only seen him reference me and one other girl, what he refers to as his “fling before me”.  Him inviting me to spend time with his friends – maybe also was an olive branch. It could be me missing the point, or his intent, all along, but in writing these blogs I think some of those come to view: at the heart of it – deep down, I think fish is a really good catch. Just maybe not for me.

In the next blog – I bring fish a little more into my world.
Your spoiler is: it’s weed. And another flub-bub.

 

5. fish: ps he loves beer.

After a week of getting blackout drunk poolside and landing back in Canada, fish told me that he was “going to need a few days” before he’d be “ready” to see me. All week he had texted me from the resort with a fervor I assumed the time he needed was for doing chores or errands and catching up with normal life or work responsibilities. But mid-week he dropped a bomb, so to speak when he told me “I don’t want to tell you what I’m working through – you take Imodium for it.” It’s not romantic but it’s a good a place as any to start the story of our second date; in short, it’s shit:

Fish: Whats up for the weekend? Im free fri, sat up til 4 and all sunday.
Me: Dunno. Pick your poison.
Fish: Fri would likely be ok.
Me: Just ok?
Fish: Haha well ya it will hoping my tiredness and the Imodium works again
Me: Oh you’re saying you’re hoping to be ok.
Fish: Its nice to be chatting on the regular again though pen ole buddy ole pal
Me: Yea? I was surprised you texted me from Punta Cana.
Fish: U came across my mind time to time

Another little exchange of texts I’m fond of happened when I was approached by an older gentleman while at a work event attending the Rogers Cup. He was friendly and handsome but significantly older than my dating range, he looked to be at least 20 years older than me. As he reached out to touch my arm to ask about my tattoo I looked around for reprieve in my peer group – no luck – and just then, my phone dinged loudly. I excused myself to check the message; on my screen was a notification of the fish asking how the matches had been and if I was heading home yet. As I took my seat on the shuttle bus I replied to fish scolding him for interrupting and dashing my potential love connection with a retiree.

Fish: Im glad I take priority over a creep
Me: Should I bump you higher up? Over who? My mother?
Fish: Haha well I wanna say yea
Me: Done. She’s dead to me. What mother?
Fish: Lol you’re such a babe.
Me: A babe? Heartless you mean. I just disowned my mother.
Fish: Well u melted my heart.

We stayed in regular contact. He chided me for not liking enough of his new Instagram posts; which somehow was endearing to me, maybe because I’m a mother. He texted me a photo of his two “free tix” to the movie theatre and said “Someday … one for me one for you.” We talked about movies he liked and he said one of his favourites is PS I love you; when I admitted I’d never seen it he was horrified. We set our date for Friday and he asked me to “chillingly pick something to do” (because I’m so chill) but we knew the plan was dinner+ (find something to do on the fly).

Friday after work he texted to say a patio spot seemed smart since it was so nice out and asked if I wanted to be picked up or meet at his place and head there together? When I arrived, he was so proud to show me his outfit – coral shorts and a white linen button-up shirt and dock shoes. He kissed me hard before we left for dinner saying he wanted to greet me properly and that kiss is probably the only time I’ve felt anything close to a real connection since my ex.

The patio was just a block or two down the road and when we were seated we unwittingly (at least on my part) ordered unnecessarily over-sized beers. I watched him open his mouth and pour the entire thing down his throat, and after they took our food order he ordered another that came while we ate. His voice grew more boisterous but not unpleasant in any of the ways you might expect. But it’s worth noting, we were in a restaurant geared to an older crowd and people had started to cast a few glances our way. We mostly talked about his trip, he told me little stories and showed me a few photos. When we finished eating, I quietly asked for and settled the bill. He was reluctant but I insisted and he thanked me. As I gathered my purse he what remained in my beer, two thirds of an unreasonably large beer. I didn’t love it. We took a stroll through a sidewalk sale on the way back to his house.

When we settled onto his couch, he apologized for drinking so much and admitted he does it when he’s socially intimidated or nervous. He asked if I wanted to watch Jurassic World (finally) but finding a stream proved difficult. His followup offer was “PS I love you” and almost immediately I found I had zero interest in it, so you’ll have to forgive what comes next: We started fooling around , talking and laughing, and it was apparent we were both escalating, so I eventually sputtered out a “Ok, let’s go” and we headed off to his bedroom. After sex he apologized about the size of his dick (it’s average), lamenting he wished it was bigger for me. We went back to the living room and he put the movie back on back on. I lasted less than ten minutes before I literally just pulled his torso on top of me out of sheer boredom; this happened three more times that night. He’d put the movie on, I couldn’t stand it, we’d have sex. After the last time he looked at me “Do you want to just stay in bed and watch something in here? You can stay the night? We can go get breakfast in the morning if you don’t have anywhere to be.” And because of my own baggage and reasons, immediately, I’m on edge.

I have a weird thing about sleeping near men – I’ll say this about it in hopes you can understand me a little better: In the last few months of my relationship with my ex, he pressed my thumbprint onto my phone while I slept to gain access to the entirety of my text messages, diaries, and poetry. He admitted to doing it multiple times weeks later; I had no idea until he told me and I haven’t been the same since. When I wake up next to a man, I feel instant panic of what’s happened while I was unconscious.

So when fish asked me to stay over – a feeling of dread sunk deep in my stomach. I told him I’d stay for a while and then meet up with him in the am for breakfast.   He asked me several times over the course of the next movie, as we watched in his bed, but the final time he said defiantly “Or you know, you can just leave.” And something about the way he said that last bit – it was like the starter pistol of terror for me. I don’t blame fish at all, he could have no way of knowing. But something in his tone, I just remember thinking “he’s telling me to get the fuck out of here – he’s done with me.” I think I laughed out “yeah, I should go” gritting through what felt like being punched in the stomach. I’ve never gotten dressed that fast ever in my entire life. I was at his kitchen counter collecting my purse and car keys before he even realized what had happened – he was throwing clothes on following me scrambling for an explanation and offering retractions on whatever he said. I caught the look in his eye for just a second – he looked like he felt some combination of bewilderment and horrified. I don’t ever remember what I said, my brain was screaming “get the fuck out of there before you crack”.

I cried in my car as I drove home. It was 2am. My phone dinged as I parked:

Fish: I cant believe I scared you out of bed
Me: I like you fish. No joke no bullshit. I spook easy. Brekky/Brunch if you want.
Fish: I actually made plans. Kidding ya I’m down. That was lots of fun thanks. Im back in bed with the AC howling thinking of you.
Me: I like holding your hands a lot.

If he had left the conversation there I’d have been OK … I think. But he didn’t:

Fish: Can we do that position b4 brekky?
Fish: Shoulda slept over u b
Me: Shhh. Goodnight you b.

All the softness the night could have rendered between us hardened as I slept that night. Those last few texts are what gave me pause, and in the next blog, I’ll tell you two truths and a lie: broken breakfast, inarticulate intentions, and a choice made between two second-night-stands.

peaceball
“Ay you sexy thing.” – fish, when I sent him this before a game.

4. fish: check-ins & chatter.

The aftermath of that fateful Friday, the first official o-fish-al date with my little tuna was interesting in that he was leaving almost immediately for a week in the Dominican Republic which was going to force a nice little chunk of time out of touch, allowing us to reflect on our own, or so I thought. The format for this part of the tale is best told with the days of the week in mind – bearing in mind I was working a full week plus overtime while fish got blubbered poolside at a resort in the Dominican Republic.

Saturday, the day after our first date, I was out of town on a day trip to visit a girlfriend in the city a few hours away, something I had told fish several ties. I came home after dinner to join a pub crawl with friends. Fish texted me sporadically throughout the day, ending with “if ur ever bored the doors open”. This happens semi-frequently – fish will know I have plans and he will suggest I rearrange them to see him – and yet he hasn’t offered up the same kind of commitment to wanting to see me.

Sunday fish was in his packing mode and getting ready to tuck into bed early for his flight. I had been out shopping and made a gentle suggestion we could meet up for coffee at Starbucks – but the timing didn’t really work out – plus he didn’t want to have any caffeine (weak excuse or weak man?) We texted about his trip to Punta Cana and he said to me that he would “miss ya a tad though!!” Unintentionally (but maybe sub-consciously) I responded like a meme of a girl who’s shlubbing him off: “Aw … thats niceeeeee (6 e’s oof). When you’re back we’ll get togeth. Brew up some good stories to tell me!” He assured me he planned on forgetting most of what he did for the week by way of getting blackout drunk.

Monday morning, from the airport, he sent me a photo of the Starbucks sign (my favourite, he’s a Tim Hortons loyalist) asking what to order. By the time I saw it he had boarded his flight and I assumed, was out of touch, until …

Wednesday morning as I sat at my desk my phone dinged and I was surprised to see fish’s name. He was texting to let me know he was “2/2 for blackouts and had lost a pair of Oakleys”. I asked if he was having fun and suggested the silver lining was getting to shop for new sunglasses when he came home. “Lets make it a date. ;)” he said. “Obviously.” I agreed.

Friday morning I woke up to a drunk text from the wee hours of the morning. When I replied a conversation occurred that I think succinctly summarizes how fish and I are. You’ll see him say anything and me ignore everything. When I said in the first fish post, I’ve been flopping on his fish deck forever – this is his flip and my flop. Please enjoy:

Fish: Prettty babe.
Me: 😘 when are you back?
Fish: Monday
Me: 🙂
Fish: I wish we were cuddling right now.
Me: Same. … Just grabbed my coffee and heading to work. I work all weekend too.”
Fish: Horrible! And im just super horny. I wish I had a pic at least
Me: Haaaaaaaaaaa
… nonsense texting about my weekend at work …
Fish: I woulda delivered food and kisses for sure
Me: We get double time in lieu. I need to book more holidays. You hate it there right? You’re coming back early?
Fish: Yes you should. Book us a retreat to New York or Niagara. But u do make me miss home a little. not home but u. u made me crush on you. 😊
Me: Oh pffffffffff
Fish: We shoulda hung out aftttter my trip. damn mimi keeps popping in my head.
Me: You said before.
Fish: Mistake by me I guess.
… nonsense texting about how much sunscreen he was using and beach day plans …
Fish: When do you wanna spare some time with me next week. Or we booking that weekend gettaway
Me: Any day. Whatever you wanna do. Things and stuff.
Fish: I just wanna spend time with u
Me: Whenever you want I’m avail.
Fish: Okay great! :):):) Fishing was sweet yesterday Got a barracuda mahi mahi and tuna

fish
Over the remaining time of his trip we texted randomly, usually in the morning after he’d had breakfast before he went to the pool. He was alaways nursing an upset stomach or hangover – and he’d occasionally talk about how he wanted to “touch himself”. He’d suggest next trip he wanted me there with him so he wasn’t rooming with his brothers – which made being horny difficult. He’d also text me after dinner shows and before he went to the nightclubs or to bed. One night he decided to tell me about how his really good friend is a girl, and I told him, unwitting of the implication, that a lot of my friends are dudes. He sent me a photo of him and his best girl friend, he suggested I should come with him to her birthday party the following weekend, and that I should be his wedding date for her wedding in 2020. I ignored all of that and I told fish I don’t typically take photos with my dude friends. He said he liked photos of just me better anyway. Well yea, duh, sometimes the internet gifts us with irrefutable truths. And this next thing is something I’ve come to learn is irrefutable. Ladies – guys you’re “talking to” will assume you’re banging your guy friends, so just keep that shit under wraps especially if, like me, you are in fact banging your guy friends. (I can’t wait to write the blogs about one of my best friends – a guy who nicknamed himself LB – its short for little bitch. We lowkey ruin each others lives – it’s a good time.

Saturday and Sunday came around – I was working. Fish and I continued to text throughout the remainder of his vacation. I told him to write my name in a heart in the sand. He asked me if it would “get me under the sheets quicker.” I said “Ha. I guess you’ll find out.” I didn’t love this text – I thought it was a little disrespectful. But also – I remind myself that not every guy I meet, talk to or sleep with is going to be a romantic interest and I would be annoyed if a dude held it against me if I wasn’t wanting to commit – but liked them enough to carry on casually. So I resolved myself to be ok with the direction it felt like fish and I were going. From the mall, later Sunday afternoon I texted him a photo of luggage and said “You can buy me these for our trip.” He suggested New York again – I suggested Ireland – he told me to start smaller – I said why even leave town then – and he said “you won’t be needing that suitcase then.” That made me laugh – I told him regardless of that – he got brownie points for not tossing out the idea altogether. He was finally coming home after a week of drunk check-ins and chatting. Late Sunday night fish sent me one last slightly-sloppy sweet nothing:

Fish: The staff here say “U had very many beer” to me
Me: You’re an impressive drinker
Fish: We can become drink friends/lovers
Me: Mmhmm?
Fish: Fine we wont, just lovers
Me: We’re friends already I think. And I don’t need to be drunk to chill with you?
Fish: U sure don’t. I like the way you operate
Me: Mmhmm?
Fish: U talk walk and perform well

I didn’t reply to that last message because – well I don’t know why for sure, other than I had instincts, rightly or wrongly, that fish did not want to be caught, at least not right now, but more specifically not by me. And because of that I was only going in with one foot – I decidedly didn’t care what he meant by my talking, walking, and performing well. But luckily for the sake of the story, fish is persistent in his efforts to reel me in, so in the next blog those “free tix” for the movies will make a reappearance, he says “ps I love you” and we’ll go on a second date.

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.

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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!”

2. fish: tix & texts.

I matched with fish on Bumble not long after my separation (ironically, I had just got off Plenty of Fish since it was, well, a swamp). My first message to fish was uninspired, something along the lines of “Hey we’ve never officially met but I’m Xxxxx Xxxxxxx’s daughter.” He replied quickly, “No way … you are?” Since Bumble day 1 fish and I have never been out of touch for more than a day or two. In relatively short order, he sent me his phone number and told me “it was easier to text” (inaccurate flex but ok – I’ll bite). I shot him an SMS letting him know mine in return.

Now, if I’m going to do this verbatim thing with some of fish’s standout texts, be forewarned: he loves abbreviations and taking phonetic liberties in his spelling and grammar. Also if you’re like me and appreciate the smaller details to help round out your understanding of a person’s unique features, know this: the small adjacent rural town that fish grew up in is known for having a slightly affected southern-esque drawl to their speech, which adds a certain flavour to fish’s first SMS text: 

Fish: Gonna take ur mini me to Jurassic Park or is that outta the age range? Thatd be a good theatre movie for my free tix.

While I did appreciate that he took my daughter into consideration in that small way, I remember being very fixated on the “free tix” aspect of the invitation. On one hand, does broadcasting free tix in the invitation seem cheap? On the other hand, I really appreciated the chillness of it all, somehow almost takes the pressure off of the date, like “it’s not big deal, it’s just free tickets”. Two other thoughts on the above: A) Fish has met my daughter in passing, with my mother, around age 4. This notion still sort of weirds me out. And B) Fish’s entire family is OBSESSED with movies and television. The longest and most in depth conversation my mother ever had with fish was on a two hour drive together to a work event was entirely about TV shows. Both of them have since told me about that conversation; apparently Shameless is a really good show and they both think I’m an idiot for not watching it but I digress.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how I responded to that Jurassic Park movie date thing request? Well I dodged it, duh. Why? Because I was too busy waffling over whether or not I thought the “free tix” statement was awkward or not. Over-analyzing and coffee are my main vices in life. One make me mentally vibrate into nigh catatonia and the other costs $3 at Starbucks. But at any rate, rest assured dear readers, there’s lots of callbacks in the comedy-of-errors that is fish and I. 

In all of the back and form messages, Fish and I came to realize as time wore on that our calendars were perfectly at odds with one another, and as it usually goes, the longer you text, the more unsettling the idea of actually meeting in person becomes. Weekends would come and go and we’d rattle off our respective social commitments, and setting a date never worked out. We resigned ourselves to a nickname for one another “penpal” and even now, we still use it. We both play more than one team sport, have active social/travel calendars, and put a priority on seeing family and getting sufficient me-time to recharge from our jobs that we both take seriously. I do however suspect that fish has, at best, a tepid attraction to me – much the same as I feel about him, which could also be in play for why we’re often unable to nail down dates with finality, examples to follow. 

One text exchange during this pre-first-date period that I was particularly fond of came when fish told me he had a friends wedding to attend out of town:

Fish: I’ll be up by Casinoland.
Me: Dancing!
Fish: Never know what the night brings.
Me: Bridesmaids 😉
Fish: is pretty funny ya
Me: Lol
Fish: Would you be jelly or something
Me: Of what?
Fish: Ahh nothing
Me: Bridesmaids spend so much money on the hair and makeup and nails. It’d be a shame if it went unnoticed. Toss em a wink for the good of humanity.

This won’t be the last time fish brings up the concept of jealousy with me. And this won’t be the last time I demonstrate an unwillingness or inability to emotionally invest in him. Maybe all for the best though, because what I didn’t know at the time was that fish was attending this wedding as a +1 with a girl he would later refer to as “his last fling”, and who will make an unexpected appearance later in our story. If I’m correct in my understanding of their timeline, they had already decided to call it off between them and attended the wedding as friends.

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I was always pleasantly surprised by the types of texts fish would send me on weekend mornings. The Sunday routines for fish generally involve being hungover, chores and what I refer to as “domestexts” aka the shmoopy texts he sends me when he’s doing laundry or making dinner. He’d tell me what new recipe he was cooking for dinner, what sports he was watching and then seemingly out of nowhere the conversation shifts abruptly and I’d receive messages like “I’m crushing hard on you Xxxxxxx” (my last name) or “your personality is prime”.

When I took inventory overall of the type of texts he sends me in order to write this blog, I came to realize he is not often crass or overtly sexty, but there have been a few select times he’s been very tongue in cheeky about masturbation which I found genuinely funny (knuckle children was a new one for me). He does drunk text me things like “U sweet little babe” and“Hheeeyy babbay!” Verbatim innocuous nonsense he stumbly-thumbs into his phone screen before passing out iPhone-in-hand.

To get the story back on track: after he had attended the wedding and after I had received a proper scolding from my mother for leaving fish hanging on the movie date, I texted him with two emojis: TRex & Film Reel. My attempt to get us to Jurassic Park fell flat because he was too hungover. Then I left for a week of family cottaging, he checked in. Then he got sick for two weeks, but still checked in.  All of the aforementioned texting habits formed and one day he saw on social media that I had gone to a drive-in movie, checked in AND offered up Jurassic Park again, but alas, the calendars just would not jive at all.

Fish was about to leave for a week-long trip to the Dominican Republic for a family wedding. We joked about how I was coming with on the trip and what sort of dress I would wear to match him. The next exchange offers a bit of foreshadowing:

Fish: Sorry if I dont penpal u down south
Me: Oh don’t be sorry. Enjoy your damn vacay like a champ.
Fish: Haha maybe if we chilled once b4 u could be on my mind though
Me: The goal of Dominican should be zero on your mind, plastered af poolside.
Fish: Its nice to have a girl to think of
Me: I mean, I’d vote for Sandra Bullock but I’m cool too I guess.
Fish: Yaa I’m building a little crush

We’d been texting almost every day for weeks; some of which included jokes and references to being together in the future, none of which seemed like it would actually come to fruition. And yet, we are at the point in the fish tail tale where in the next blog I’ll tell you about how, rather unexpectedly and about 28hrs before he got on a plane, fish and I have our first kiss. Until next time dear readers. Glub glub.