“I bet I can kiss you without touching your lips,” he told me.
“What?” my logical side was almost rolling her eyes. Was something like that even possible? I didn’t believe that to be true.
This is what it was like to be dating again. The emails, the arrangements, the drinks, the walks, the first dates, the one-liners, the parade of pictures online as you squint at the profiles to try to pick out someone you wouldn’t mind getting to know better. Looking for the moments and the signs that make you feel less like someone amongst the pile and more like someone special. Although, if you want to feel like you are someone special, I can’t say I would recommend online dating.
If it’s possible to have PTSD from a past relationship, I’d say I have it. Jumping every time I think I see the grill of his car or the back of his head, waiting for the irrational anger to explode at me. I imagine him seeing me out on a date with someone else and I can almost hear him screaming that I’m a whore. It’s true that I now avoid certain areas of town. But I have to constantly remind myself that there really is nothing wrong with me going on dates. That one date doesn’t mean I owe anyone anything and at best, I’m just there to enjoy myself and that sex doesn’t have anything to do with why I’m there. Not that it’s anyone else’s business anyway.
Each time there’s something that I take away, and something that I let go. There was the man I met in West Seattle that told me to “look for the goofball with the balloons.” The balloons were redder than his hair and we tied notes to their ribbons and let them go. “They’re dancing,” he said as they drifted away circling in spirals on the wind. I wrote, “I am letting go of the fear of forgetting.” When I asked what he wrote on his, he only smiled and said he couldn’t say. Eventually like the balloons, he drifted away.
Or the quiet man who met me for a drink and I felt I had to keep pulling conversation out of him. We spoke about birds, school teachers, PostgreSQL, and wood mills.
“Is this your normal state,” I asked him. “Are you always this quiet?”
“Sometimes I go for days without talking to people,” he replied and we lapsed into silence.
Even within an hour of meeting we had an inside joke and I remember feeling melancholy as we parted ways. If only due to knowing we wouldn’t share that joke again because I was certain he wouldn’t call.
“You’re… real. You’re not pretending and you’re just here to have fun,” was another comment I got from a first date. The concept seemed like a strange one for him. We were sizing each other up before going to a show together just to see if we could stand each other’s company. I could tell he was nervous as he explained why he chose where he did to meet up, almost apologetically. Nervousness had all but left me. I was just… tired. And if I hadn’t already committed to him and to my friend, who was playing the show, I might have gone home then. The thing to remember is that a cancelled date may be nothing personal…
I’ll also tell the story of falling on the sidewalk in downtown Seattle five minutes before I was due to meet up for coffee. A block away from REI, I staggered in with blood dripping down my left leg asking if there was a bathroom, or better yet, a first aid kit. The shocked looks of the staff followed me to the rock climbing wall where there were supplies to get me cleaned up. Amazingly, I didn’t get any of the blood on my white skirt although my date pointed out that I managed to smear some on my white headband. I looked sheepish and told him that he could just tell everyone the story of the woman that fell for him on their first date.
He was also the one that bet me he could kiss me without touching my lips. Not only was I curious how that was possible, but I also like someone who just lays things out in the open. So I told him the bet was on.
My eyes flew open as soon as his lips met mine and I saw the impish look on his face.
“I lost,” he grinned.
I suppose that sometimes it’s worthwhile to understand when to lose a bet.
In the game of dating I don’t know if it’s possible to be the winner. Like the balloons twirling around each other in the atmosphere you do the dance. You rise, you fall, you clean yourself up, be real, make your jokes, and understand that not everyone is going to call.
You learn when to lose.
And you do it all over again.