mighta been a date, i’m not sure

Back in March I met a very cool woman named Mary on Hinge, a dating app, and we had a bunch of long intimate video conversations during the first two months of quarantine until she decided she wasn’t ready to pursue anything romantic. And conversation kinda tapered off.

It was a bummer.

             A couple of weeks passed before she reached out again, texting me at night just to say hi.

The text would spark a conversation, and conversation would last a couple hours.

Mary texted me again this past Tuesday, bored at home with the day to herself.

            She asked what I was up to, I told her I wasn’t up to very much, and then she asked me about the book I was editing. I ended up talking for too long. She said that she had to run an errand at the hardware store and so I told her that I had some whisky here at my apartment (we both like whisky) and that she was welcome to come by for a drink if she was gonna be in the area.

            The first part of that was a lie. I didn’t have any whisky. But when I sent that text I thought, It would be nice to have some whisky anyway. So I took a stroll down the block to the liquor store and got a bottle of Knob Creek and came back to my apartment, opened my phone, and saw a text from Mary.

            She said in a friendly way that she was very much in the mood for whisky but would prefer someplace public.

            Batch Gastropub on Brickell had just recently re-opened from its quarantine closure, so I suggested we go there. She said sure, enthusiastic, and that she’d be there soon. I told her that I’d see her there in a half hour or so and then I put my phone down and went promptly about panicking, changing clothes, trying to primp myself as best as I could. I noticed that none of my clothes are really appropriate for dating. They’re rumpled and old. They have holes in the joints and fewer buttons than they started with. I need to change this.

            Anyway. I hop in an Uber and I get to the restaurant and it’s overcast outside, drizzling. The restaurant is open but the bar is closed, the lights above it are dimmed, and all of the servers are milling about with black cotton facemasks. Only three other tables are occupied and the music is lower than usual. A wood-themed bar on a rainy afternoon with amber lamplight and a sleepy vibe.

A Woman and Her Whisky, Joseph Lorusso

I take a corner high-top and order a pint of Veza Sur and eventually Mary walks in and for all of the many many hours we’ve spent looking at each other up-close through video chat, from our respective rooms across the river, it was still neat and stomach-jumping to see her in-person for the first time. Tallish at 5’8” with darker skin than I’d realized and frecklesome cheeks and eyes the color of like a jungle-themed perfume bottle. If you watch her walk you’ll see that her ankles bounce with every few steps and if you’re looking at her head-on you’ll see that her eyebrows do the same. She sports a kind of delighted surprise that keeps renewing itself. Like when those kids are first walking through Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and keep realizing that this is edible, and this is edible…

Mary joins me at the hightop and she orders Bullit on the rocks and the server disappears to get it and returns after a long time to say that they don’t have it. So she looks at the list of whiskies and ends up getting Knob Creek (the fuckin verysame sort I’d just bought with the intention of hosting her at my apartment!).

            It’s taking a long time for her drink to arrive and my beer is right there on the table sitting sweaty and untouched, cuz I was thinking of maybe doing a toast when she finally got her drink, but I’m also very drymouthed and nervous because I don’t know if this is a date or not and so I think, fuck it, and I take a big sip, and then she gets her whisky immediately afterward and I was like, Should we click glasses?, but she has a sip before I can suggest it and I think, Did I just fuck this whole thing up?

            We talk for two hours. I get four pints and she drinks three whiskies on the rocks and one of the things we commiserate about is that, although we’re both pretty bookish and curious, we tend to read novels. Memoirs. Human-interest stuff. Neither of us feels like we know things. Neither of us is checking out heavy-duty educational books. She sports a bit of remorse when she talks about how she used to sit on a balcony for six straight hours and hoover up 300 pages.

            We nod about neither one of us being the person we oughta be, and we drink.

            Eventually I make for the bathroom but I stop with our server first and hand her my debit card. On my way out of the bathroom she hands me the bill and I sign for it.

            Mary runs to the bathroom once I get back and afterward she offers to drive me home. So we walk to her car at a nearby curb and I don’t know if this was a date and I’m just buzzed enough to think, Does this end with a kiss? Do I make a move for a kiss when she drops me off?

            I’m talking in a nervous way. Chatter chatter. Something about dogs.

            My apartment is only four turns from here, barely a mile, so the drive is quick and when I’m getting outta the car I think, Nah, let me not, so I give her a kiss on the cheek and thank her for the ride, and for the company, and then I go upstairs and make an 8:30 call I had to make. Family. I had a cuppa whisky during that phonecall and then, later in the evening, sent Mary a text about something, four beers and a whisky into the evening, but it wasn’t bad.

In the morning I think back on how it went and what we discussed and what a nice time it was. I’m not sure what it was, labelwise.

But it sure was nice.

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