Heart

First Date.

About this time last year, I was busy grinding on a frat boy, barefoot, in a $400 ball gown. If you were looking for me, I apologize—I lost track of my phone, my shoes, and my gin and tonics. It was a productive night.

A family friend was set to say “I do,” and a wedding was exactly what I needed. Eight weeks prior I’d professed my love to my best male friend, and as gently as one could, he rejected me. A big, fat no. So you can imagine that, after months of heartache and self-pity, I needed to witness a genuine act of love and get drunk with a capital ‘d.’ I succeeded.

Draped in tiers of lace and a can-do attitude, I approached the bartender to introduce myself and negotiate my terms for the evening; gin, a lot of gin. Fast-forward to last-call, and I was thoroughly lit, shoeless, and limb-locked with my sweating dance partner moving to whatever DJs play following the retreat of the 60+ crowd. You know what I’m talking about—the kind of music at a high school prom that leaves no space for Jesus.

With each body roll I could feel the sting of “I don’t love you that way” cooling, and I dropped my resentment, blissfully unaware that two days later, I’d meet my (soon-to-be) husband.

Jordan and I met at the gym one year prior exchanging no more than a post-workout high five on the infrequent Saturday. His friendliness was memorable, but I often confused him with another bearded fella, and so I addressed him with generic terms like “man” and “dude”—an effective tactic I employ to avoid embarrassing myself 10 seconds after an introduction. I left the gym that summer, and no connection was made. After all, I was preoccupied with wooing best male friend. And I did.

We dated for a piping hot second, and although our inevitable split was mostly mutual, I lost it when he pulled the trigger first. In the months that followed, I spiraled into a deep depression, unaware of the psychological beating I’d taken from an oppressive work environment, a job change, a move, a new routine, this failed fling, and a deep-rooted, poorly managed feeling of rejection. I was too preoccupied adjusting to the “new” to fully realize my own brokenness.

During a time when the last of my closest female friends were committing to a lifetime with their partners, I was plagued with a loneliness that far surpassed the need for a mate. I was losing hope that the world was capable of empathy, and kindness, and justice, and unconvinced that love and a like-minded man existed for me.

I was severely mistaken.

Following our hard stop, the intimacy of our boundary-less friendship deepened, and so too did its shade of gray. A love letter, appropriately named Probably a Mistake.docx, was the catalyst for the aforementioned rejection. I requested eight weeks of silence to heal.

Meanwhile, Jordan was quietly positioning himself in my path; dropping into my gym, engaging through blog posts, delivering carrots, hummus, and Fiji water following my public call for snacks during a 6-hour tattoo appointment. The frequency of his presence caught my attention. So did the Fiji water.

No one buys that shit.

I did what most chicks do and asked my girlfriend, having dated him once before, for some intel. He passed, so I flipped the script, dropping into one of his first classes as a newly minted CrossFit coach, and left with his phone number and a date.

Our first date, what we refer to as the “pre-screening,” was a lovely three hours of unbroken conversation sipping cold brews at our favorite coffee shop. I could write novels about his sweetness and the impact of his first impression, but our first dinner together is far more story worthy. Hang in there.

Five days later, we met for sushi. I arrived at the restaurant before him to lock down a table and settle into some tea, if only to stifle my nerves and delay the inevitable pit-sweat rebellion assembling in my blouse. After a successful first date and a week of charming texts, I was excited to spend more time together. He was proving to be a rare breed of gentleman.

When I caught sight of him in the parking lot, my heart leapt. He wore a new white linen button-down with tiny polka dots and black thick-rimmed glasses I hadn’t seen before. His smile, though, said he was as delighted to see me as I was him, and that made me beam.

We enthusiastically squeezed each other, and plunked down at our two-top to get to business. Would this self-proclaimed fussy eater embrace adventure and share some sushi or would he opt for solo Hibachi? Would he go for chopsticks or employ the fork? He set the tone by agreeing to double-team three giant rolls and some edamame, despite his profound distaste for beans.

We were knee-deep in pre-sushi pleasantries when the front door swung open, and in strolled best male friend with a brunette in tow.

I repeat: best male friend. With a brunette in tow.

We hadn’t spoken to, or seen each other, since the night he told me “no,” and of all the opportunities we had to cross paths in those eight weeks of silence, the universe chose that exact date, time, and location to connect us. That was some Class A Jersey Shore fuckery. He, at least, had a moment to compose himself when he spied my car in the parking lot. I did not.

I looked at him, I looked at her, and I looked at the waitress motioning to the empty table directly to my right. If they took it, I’d be sitting hip-to-hip with his date. Absofuckinglutely not.

I sprung up from our two-top to run interference. We exchanged an awkward hug and a “Heh, what are you doing here?” before cutting the shit and agreeing (very quickly) that they would claim a table in the back of the restaurant. I resumed my date, focusing as best I could on the sweet face in front of me, but I was clearly shaken, and Jordan knew it. He asked, so I told him.

As an avid reader of So Vicarious, he already knew the story, so it wasn’t difficult to understand my reaction when I identified the strange male I’d awkwardly hugged moments ago. We dove back into our plate of sushi, and continued our (now slightly uncomfortable) courtship.

He sympathized, I’d imagine, and he needed to. Unbeknownst to him, his moment to squirm awaited the end of our meal.

We’d just returned the bill when Jordan spied his aunt and uncle leaving the restaurant—they’d somehow managed to quietly secure two spots at the bar behind us—and I encouraged him to go say hi. Two minutes later, his aunt, who’d hit the bottle pretty hard, barreled back into the restaurant heading straight for me. She proposed drinks, which I happily accepted, and shamelessly crashed our date. I was beyond thrilled.

For the next 60 minutes, I had the privilege of listening to his aunt spill tales of his childhood, his siblings, and their family, and cry explaining her love for his mom. Jordan blushed while he nursed a beer next to his uncle. We joke that she sealed the deal. It was the most honest (and frankly, very charming) introduction to a potential partner that, had our date not unfolded the way it did, would’ve taken months to get to. I couldn’t have asked for a better first date.

Now, one year later, we’re celebrating our first anniversary, engaged to be married next April.

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