The Dating Thing

Let’s do the dating thing.

I’ll ask you out. You’ll respond with a surprising

“Yeah sure, why not?”

I’ll hug myself in glee.

We’ll meet for a coffee that turns into drinks instead because we both got late. A mid-distant, not too noisy, not too intimate cafe that seems perfect, right until we get there. Each of us will get there on time, then wonder if this reeks of desperation. But we’ll greet each other like it’s just another one of the many ordinary things in the day.

As we wait for our order to arrive, we’ll run through the usual list of things slight acquaintances talk about after hello – the weather, the traffic, people we know, your job, my job and again people we know. Then you or I will say or do something incredibly wrong. Can you take the saying wrong part please? I’m rather proud of my words but I have no ego vested in my physical grace. That’s settled then. You can say something slightly sexist, racist, homophobic or politically-incorrect. I’ll trip over my ballerina flats, knock over my glass and fidget on the fake leather cushion, making weird, embarrassing sounds. We’ll each realize it only after it’s been done and be embarrassed but also slightly relieved at the other one’s faux pas. You can charm me by not noticing my clumsiness and I’ll impress you with my cool intelligence as we navigate our way out of embarrassment.

We’ll both settle into the delicious comfort of ‘I-like-this-person-so-much!’ before we realize it’s only a date, not even that, it was only supposed to be coffee. We’ll focus on our drinks-not-coffee for a long minute, hoping to cover up the unmentionable, companionable silence we just shared. This time you can drop the plate while I say something incredibly stupid (“Doesn’t beer taste just like piss?” and that’s what you’re drinking). We’ll both catch each other’s eye and laugh. But it won’t be the same thing. It will be the laugh of,

“Yeah, the same thing.”

Now that we’ve read each other cues correctly, we’ll launch into our next big talkfest as we both try to make sure this isn’t a total waste of time. News, local affairs, sports, books, music and an occasional bit of word play thrown in for good measure. This is supposed to be fun after all and we’ll both be working zealously hard to make sure we’re having it, being it. That should carry us through another 45 minutes or so. We really do get along quite nicely.

When the bill arrives, the waiter will put it down in front of you (they always do in India, no matter who did the ordering). I’ll do the awkward grab and you might do a smooth slip-slide so it’s in your lap and my hand doesn’t go all there (horrors, even I couldn’t be *that* gauche). I’ll gulp and hope you don’t mistake my clumsiness for cheapness so I’ll insist, probably more forcefully than I need to, that I asked you out after all. And in the split second that follows as you hand over your credit card, you’ll look away and we’ll both know, it’s over – the date and everything that was great about it. Because someone pointed out what it was, it stopped being a fun game of emotional hide-and-seek.

When we walk out, you’ll probably not remember to (or want to) hold the door and step aside for me. I’ll frown wondering which it is and try to remember how it was when we walked in. Not that it’s supposed to matter; I’m a liberated woman after all. Still, I’ll wonder.

You’ll turn to me, a fraction too soon for it to be regular, a little too late to be chivalry. And you’ll be searching for the same thing I was, a second ago, that crucial second that we’re now off-sync. You’ll catch my frown as it goes and since it’s not as charming as my smile, you’ll turn away without speaking. As I step up next to you, we’ll look at each other, smiles in place. But no matter, I’m only charming inadvertently. And your aloofness is not looking that hot either.

We’ll say goodbye and look for transport in different directions. But just as I think I’ll never hear from you again, you’ll stick your head out. And then, despite myself, I’ll find myself telling you that I really did have a lovely time. You’ll say,


with an expression that makes me melt in the seconds you never catch because your cab zoomed away.

And that’s how it goes. Magic created and lost in moments, like the sparkles on the sea under the sun. You can’t catch it and you can’t find it, once you know you’re looking for it. But you’re briefly, tantalizingly touched with the power of what might have been, what might still be. And this was just supposed to be coffee, just a dating thing.

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...
English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto: Taso de kafo. Français : Photo d’une tasse de caffé Español: Taza de café (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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