went on a date and we sat six feet apart

Conventional dating is obviously out of the question right now, as the coronavirus swells and social distancing becomes the prerequisite of everything, but somebody I’ve been talking to on Hinge this past week and who lives directly across the river, a mile away, messaged me on Friday to ask if I’d like to sit on the edge of the river and share a bottle of wine at sunset, adding as a caveat that we can sit six feet apart.

I said sure.

So I walked there and we sat and drank the wine and it hit me harder tahn usual, as it was my first drink in about a week, and so I got a little drunk and we talked about work and school stuff at first (she’s studying medical engineering) and then we talked about dating, and past relationships, and where we are in our lives and what we’re looking for.

Party boats kept cruising by, this way and that, the people aboard them standing shirtless and drunk and intimate and neverminding of sickness. The sun took a long time to set and at one point my date said, “Let’s switch places,” and so we swapped positions on the seawall (is that what you call it on a river?) and when I asked why she’d wanted to do that she said that she wanted me to have a turn at appreciating her view of the northwestern horizon, purpleblue and waning toward dark, the sun doffing its cap and moseying toward the ‘glades.

We parted ways at 9 p.m. because I had plans to skype with a group of college friends at 10 p.m.

I never understood what the literary critic Harold Bloom was talking about when he’d say that Hamlet, throughout his play, is overhearing his own thoughts, and that this phenomenon of overhearing himself is part of what shapes him. I thought he might be describing that experience of discovering your own opinions about something only by discussing the thing and piecing it together as you go.

But dating seems to have clarified what he’s talking about, because every time I go on a date I have the visceral experience of overhearing myself riff about random shit in this breathless agitated way and it just about kills me. To my own ears, I sound awful, and obviously there are some people who’ve liked it just fine and I have, at various points in my life, been on second and fourth dates.

But good lord.

Imagine six of these diary entries being read aloud to you very quickly and then concluding abruptly with my taking a swig of my drink and asking whose expectations your most afraid of letting down.

If I’m drinking I let myself complete whole thoughts, if I’m sober I just cut myself off halfway through a thought, assure the person it wasn’t going anywhere, and then drag the conversation suddenly to a new topic.

The analogy that seems to fit nicely is to say that my thoughts are all scattered and stacked on loose sheets of paper upon a small table in my head. I have tos huffle through whole stacks of different topics and half-finished thoughts in order to find my point.

I get so bothered by the sound of my voice and my tired old thoughts being spewed, spewed.

But what’s the alternative?

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