Well, this is different.
My heart thumped with anticipation, not anxiety. I was unusually calm, yet energized. He asked me out, and I said yes without hesitation. It was never a chore. It was never a favor. I wasn’t dreading the moment when my doorbell would chime: Diiiiiing Dong. This normally daunting combination of notes sounded friendly this time. I couldn’t wait to be near him. What would he smell like? What would he wear? I may have even skipped to the door to greet him. (Okay, I definitely did.) I didn’t consider how I would eventually break it off with him before we even hugged hello or what excuse I was going to use to avoid a second date. I didn’t arrange how I would dodge an attempted first-date kiss. I wore a ponytail and jeans. I was relaxed. I was excited.
I laughed. It was the kind of laugh that made my teeth look like a hungry horse and my eyelashes turn soggy with mascara-streaked tears, but it didn’t matter, because I was really laughing. When silence ensued, it was welcomed. I didn’t need to fill the space with some desultory comment about trees or gas prices or Jessica Simpson’s five-year pregnancy/giant baby. Though if I did, I sense he would have entertained my random musings. He wouldn’t have condescendingly asked what in the world provoked me to say that. When I wandered off track while telling a story, he patiently waited for me to find my place amidst my mess of unnecessary details and continue. And then he laughed at the punch line.
He opened every door. Car doors, restaurant doors, restroom doors. Okay, not that last one, but I’m preeeeetty sure he would have had I asked. I felt a flicker as I accidentally brushed up against him… or maybe it was on purpose. I imagine this is what Taylor Swift and her sprightly followers call sparks. Carrie Bradshaw referred to it as zsa zsa zou when she met Jack Berger (let’s just hope my story doesn’t end with a broken vase of pink carnations and a Post-It).
Call it what you want, but this just doesn’t happen to me. My journal tells of fireworks that zip in only one direction. Now they are reciprocated. Mutual sparks…hmm…how fascinating! Electricity bounced back and forth between us that night like the scene in Forrest Gump when he discovers an aptitude for table tennis in the hospital. We swatted our imaginary ping-pong ball at one another in the form of held eye contact, shoulder shrugs, and soft smiles.
He said I had beautiful eyes, and I didn’t recoil. I cheesed.
He kissed me on the cheek as he said goodnight, and it lit on fire.
When I receive his text messages, I am free to write back immediately. I don’t have to calculate the appropriate read-to-respond delay ratio. (That’s a thing, right?) I don’t dig for a witty retort; I don’t second-guess. Does this sound clingy? Am I too giddy? Should I abbreviate or not? Are capital letters too intense? I’d better go all-lowercase. I just respond.
Oh, I am not used to this.
I am used to being set up. Feeling forced. Feeling clobbered. I am used to proposing standard, stale questions about siblings and hometowns, only to mentally nod off as the answer arrives. I am used to concealing my hands into coat pockets to inhibit any form of physical contact. I am used to cringing at corny, post-date confessions.
I am used to vanishing acts. I am used to fretting over even the slightest faux pas. My best friend knows the routine well: impromptu theories beginning with “If only I hadn’t…” and “Do you think I should have…” pour out of me by the gallon. Together, we conjure phrases to “nonchalantly” forward to Mr. Aloof and wait for a response that never arrives. For days, I am left dissecting my behavior with the gusto of Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, sans mustache, wondering where I went wrong and finally feeling stark relief at a belated acronym-of-a-text.
“He wrote me back!” I’d celebrate, as if I had just received a hand-written letter from Noah Calhoun himself. “He said, ‘LOL!’ Oh, glory! He thinks I’m funny! Okay, so what should I write back?” My state of euphoria a temporary tease, my hopes would soar and then tumble. Hot and cold, up and down.
I am used to leaving chipper “Happy Birthday” voicemails, because I just so happen to notice it was his birthday on Facebook, and, you know, I’m thoughtful like that. No biggie. I am used to being reminded of him by something — anything — and sending an impulsive text message before my brain tells my heart to PLEASE, STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING! Consequently, I am used to deleting phone numbers from my saved contacts to prevent such mishaps in the future.
Either way, I am used to disappointment.
But this guy, this chemistry, this thing, whatever it is… this is easy. This, I can do. I am smiling. I actually want to see him again, and he wants to see me. Are we a perfect match? Nope. Have I asked myself how nicely his last name replaces mine? Surprisingly, no. But maybe dating doesn’t always suck. Maybe it doesn’t have to be tiresome. In fact, this might just be fun. Imagine that.