Museum and zoo dates are daunting; there’s too much to judge. At the museum, if he’s too slow, or wants headphones, or even worse, wants to visit the ancient musical instrument room, I’m going to be annoyed before the date even begins. The affected furled brow and nod, the sawhorse analysis stance: all signs point to no.
But I like you, so now there’s pressure to be interesting. I’ll put on my glasses. I don’t care how it was made or its political implications, its breakthrough in a movement. I just want to look at it and see if there’s a story, or better yet, maybe I just want to ignore it. I can’t stand people who can’t ignore art. They use maps and make double knots. Relax.
My favorite painting in the MET is by Joan Mitchell; see, even the art I like sounds like chick rock. Too many judgments. I told you.
Then there’s the pressure of the zoo because if you like the reptiles or birds and I like the monkeys and sea lions, I’m already thinking about destiny and how, sorry, bird man, you can’t be mine.
Good dates involve fondue or an acoustic guitar. I might just fall in love. It’s my weakness, like cleavage and thigh highs do it for men.
Afternoon dates rival evenings. They consist of walks. In the fall, you’re outside the MET; the slanted glass wall is your backdrop. It smells wet and of roasted nuts and hope; you hear things in the leaves. You see leashes and couples and it has just rained so the bark is darker, and the leaves are glowing orange. You’re in a movie outside yourself, and it’s hard to forget these moments—even how the sidewalk was that day—but you do.
Evenings should be jeans intimate. Our conversation feels like we’re kids looking for insects under rocks, grass stained, then building a fort from sheets and blankets, using lamps as anchors. Our conversations would feel like we’ve known each other since then.
Definitely fondue, a fireplace, and jeans. Mittens when we arrive, holding hands when we leave. But in the summer, white wine or red sangria somewhere sandy, where we can wear flip-flops and be exhausted and laugh and tell funny stories. Then just stare.
Raw bar. Oysters and Riesling. Piano music. I wish Manhattan had real piano bars where people sing along and crumple dollar bills into cokctail napkins then throw them at the pianist, the song request scribbled on the napkin.
Moroccan food, sitting Indian style on square pillows, in a private room incase we get sloppy and need to make out.
A boat ride.
A double-decker. We’d be tourists in Manhattan, and take pictures and begin to speak with European accents because everyone on the bus does. I would get an I LOVE NYC postcard and mail it to you. We’d eat steak and drink wine, and I’d eat too much creamed spinach, but we’d listen to Sinatra, and then we’d dance, right there on the sidewalk, drunk with possibilities, and you’d lead, and dip me, and I’d remember our night as a standard.
We’d have one appetizer between the two of us at several restaurants we always wanted to try. We’d restaurant hop our way through Manhattan, and I’d take matches from each place when you weren’t looking, and I’d remember everything. You’d feed me French fries, and we’d eat mussels and drink too much wine, we’d have chocolate soufflé, and you’d let me eat the strawberry garnish.
We’d walk to Brooklyn, and then eat pizza, maybe the ice cream.
You’d take me to see a band, and then we’d eat ribs and lick and smell our fingers all night.
You’d get me drunk and blast Karma Police, on repeat, until I came.
I’d be in charge of always buying our ice cream, so if we broke up, Mr. Softee would make you cry, and the pangs of the song would kill your cravings.
You’d invite me to be your date for a work function. And you’d be proud and suddenly a little more brilliant and quick. Everyone would laugh a little more and pat your shoulder. And when no one was looking, I’d wipe something from the corner of your mouth, staring up at you. Then I’d mouth, “I love you sloppy.” but no sound would come out, just a smile.
We’d hold hands.
You’d teach me something new, and I’d think you’re brilliant. You’d become the seexy teacher who knows everything, as if he’s speaking with a British accent, and who is as captivating as a story. And then we’d have seex, and I’d be powerful again. You’d be back in a small wooden chair with a small desk, looking up at me now, in the same way, the way you look at me after reading my story, or my poem, or my mind.
We’d meet again, and this time you’d talk too much. You’d say all the things you thought the first time we met, but you wouldn’t care because now you felt driven and passionate and more alive by saying the things you had meant to, or the things that were too forward or too scary or outrageous to say to a stranger, and when you’d leave, you’d hold my hand longer than you should, and I’d let you.
You’d know to help me with my coat, to stand when I excuse myself from the table, to walk near the curb, to go down the stairs first, to open doors… and I’d feel safe and climb on top of you and whisper in your ear, “thank you.” And you’d think for dinner, and I’d think—for everything.
We’d order in and wear socks and watch movies, and you’d let me lay on you, and we’d eat grilled cheese, lots of triangles, and it would be rainy and gray, and you’d make old fashioned chocolate milk, with a thick layer in the bottom of your glass, and you’d hit me with a pillow when I’d silently fart. And I’d bury my head into you, red and smiling.
You’d look at me and tell me I am beautiful as if it were the first time you’d ever said it. You’d say it too often, though, because you’d be drunk. You would tell me you want to rescue me, that what Gabe did to me was horrible and wrong, and that you’re not all like that. But your girlfriend would be in your bed asleep as you said it to me. And then I’d furl my eyebrows and survey the bar for Gabe. You’re a stranger; you can’t mean my Gabe. You’d say his name like you knew him, so now things become surreal, like seeing your doorman in a different neighborhood. Then you’d throw in an “I know you’re sad” for good measure. " I want to make you smile, the way Linus makes you smile, that one’s my favorite," you’d say. "I want to make you waffles with powdered sugar, then take you to the zoo." But you don’t know how I worry about the zoo.