Carmen was playing on Boston Common.
Opera under the summer sky. I wanted to go. I invited him. We were new to each other. A few weeks of phone calls, emails, a first date that left me unsure. I liked him, but was that enough? I wasn’t prepared to release him back to the dating pool, but neither was I willing to dare myself to open up to the idea of him.
Looking back, I think my subconscious knew. Trust your gut. But at twenty-five you don’t always do that, especially where men are concerned.
I worked two blocks from the Common in those days, he lived a T stop away over the bridge. That much I knew, but we had only seen in each other in public space. Movie theatres, restaurants, bars.
He met me at work. He had a picnic and a blanket. I remained calm, but my insides swooned. Baguette, paté, cheese, but I was careful about what I ate. Later he would say that he wondered if I didn’t like the offerings. Au contraire.
We sat through the performance, we ate, we talked a little during the intermission. As we packed up to leave, I realized my cell phone was missing.
He crawled around in the grass looking for it, but it was gone. Not in my bag, not on the blanket, not in the grass. Gone.
In those days, losing my StarTac was like losing an iPhone.
I was a mess. I couldn’t afford a new one, and again, in those days, someone else having my phone meant extra minutes and charges and oh, god…
“Let me buy you a drink,” he offered. I was a mess.
We took the train back to his stop, me fretting the entire time about the damn phone. We got drinks at a bar neither of us liked because it was there.
“Let me drive you home,” he offered.
A quandary, because I wasn’t ready to say, invite him in. I didn’t want to make him go out of his way, to make him lose his parking spot–so coveted in his neighborhood of more care than parking spots. And did I mention I had friends sleeping on my air mattress in the living room?
I explained these things awkwardly.
“Let me drive you home,” he insisted.
He drove me home in his grubby pick-up truck. He stopped outside my apartment, idling in the narrow road, while I fidgeted and fussed with my bag.
I don’t even remember what I said just before he kissed me.
Which didn’t matter, since after he kissed me was the beginning of everything.
4.) A memorable date.