New Life : Erica 3rd Date

New Life : Erica 3rd Date

“Waittt, how long are you gone for? You leave Sunday?” Erica texts me after driving away in her Uber.

“I need a redo on that goodbye,” I respond. I didn’t get to kiss her. It was rushed and not how I wanted it. 

“When can you say goodbye again?” 

“I leave Sunday morning.”

Thumbs down. “Le sigh.” 

“You like me,” I say.

“Like I said, top 5.” 

“All I need.” 

We met for early dinner at Olea in Brooklyn. I found it by doing what I usually do – texting Jenny and asking her where a cute place is in a specific neighborhood. She did not disappoint.

We split arugula salad, steak tapas, and a roasted garlic chicken and mashed potatoes entree. When it came time to order a drink she paused briefly and decided to stick with water. I would ask her about this later. 

She asked me about my last trip to San Diego. I told her I had a new buyer interested in Hale. And that I couldn’t decide if I was going to sell or not. 

“What is your first reaction when you think about it?”

“That I want to be here full time.” 

It’s true. I want to be in New York. And yet, I don’t. Trading status for being a nobody. Comfort for the chance of feeling something new. Just when I start to find my groove I always find a way to introduce new challenges into my life. As life itself seems too dull to endure otherwise. 

The vibe is different tonight. We are more familiar. We both showed up wearing matching turtlenecks. I bought one from Uniqlo for the show we were going to see specifically. She was now three for three on wearing turtlenecks on our dates. Tonight, she wore a black turtleneck with a pumpkin colored suede skirt over black tights and black boots. Everything about her physical appearance was sleek. Hair pulled back. Skin smooth. Arms tone. I wonder what it will be like after we kiss. After there was no more risk associated with making the first move. When things like her smile and her lips were a given. Her hands on my body were no longer discovering. I wanted to make this beginning part last longer. 

The food was delicious. We split every plate, just like last time. I liked eating with her. When the check came she reached for her wallet and I told her not to worry about it.

“Are you sure? You got the tickets.”

“Yeah but that was over a week ago so this is like a new billing cycle.”

“Ok,” she says, smiling. “Thank you,” as she buttons up her wallet and puts it back in her bag. 

We walk nine minutes to the Brooklyn Academy of Music where we are seeing The Great Tamer, a show by Dimitris Papaioannou. It is experimental. The stage is built on an angle, consisting of dozens of sheets of monochromatic thin, grey plywood. A man takes off all his clothes and lies down naked within the first thirty seconds. Another man covers his body with a plastic tarp before someone else lifts up one of the plywood sheets and drops it next to him, blowing the tarp off his body. It goes back and forth like this for the first few minutes and I think about all the abuses the creator must’ve suffered in his early days.

The theater is hot. Turtlenecks are not known for their breathability. I am enjoying the show but also wondering if Dimitris intended for the audience to end up naked as well. I’m using Tai Chi meditation to prevent sweat from pooling on my lower back and soaking through my shirt. 

In the end, we clap. Some people stand. I bend my eyeball to the periphery to see if Erica will stand. She does not so I do not.

It’s 9pm and we started this adventure at 6. I ask if she wants to find a place for drinks or tea. We pull out our phones to see what is around.

Eventually, we end up in what I believe is a German bar. The hostess is 6’2’’ with a chiseled jaw. She asked us if there are ‘twov’ of us. 

We’re standing at a high top near the bar debating what we will order. I tell her it seems an odd place to order an herbal tea.

“You don’t really drink though do you?” She asks. 

“Not really. Although I will have some sips if you want to get something.” 

We decide to split a beer. I head to the bar and she stops me. She says she wants to get it. Then she takes out a $20, folds it up, and slides it across the table to me with a smile. I like this and don’t try to fight it.

I place the beer between us and we talk. She is sitting on a stool and I am standing so the other stool can be used to hold our coats. I also want to be close enough to her so she feels me and I feel her. 

We talk about my divorce again. She asks where I’m at with it and what I want moving forward. A great question.

I tell her about my relationship with Alexis. How it started, what happened, and how it ended. Then I let her know I’d be interested in getting to know someone well – to build trust and have fun together. Taking trips to Europe or road trips up the coast of California. Someone who is okay with not being together every second and has a lot of their own stuff going on.

“And I probably will always want to keep my own apartment. Even if I’m madly in love. Because I need to go back to a place where I am just me and I am responsible for my own space and my own decisions. Without that forced break and reconnection to what it feels like to be alone I can get very anxious in a relationship.” 

She says she is probably looking for something more serious than what she’s traditionally had. She has usually been one foot in, one foot out. She gets distracted. Caught up in her own pursuits. And loses track of the relationship. It takes her a little longer to build trust with someone. I ask if something happened. She says just that she pays attention when her guy friends talk about dating. Fair enough. 

I am looking for a read but her layers are thick. She is composed. Patient in her delivery. She seems as though she could walk away at any second. And yet she doesn’t. She leans in, places her hands on my forearm, and smiles. I wonder who she has been in the past. What roles she has played and what she regrets. 

“So it doesn’t bother you that I travel back and forth a lot?” I ask her.

“No! I can just forget about you when you’re gone and play piano and work on projects.” 

She asks me if I ever do anything that isn’t planned. “What do you do that is just completely for fun?” 

Well, fun is different for me. I like to feel things. Going to the ocean at night is fun. Having dinner with my best friends at one of our apartments. Taking a drive to the mountains. 

I can’t tell if she is angling that I am up tight. She makes a comment after we order the beer that maybe it’ll help me open up a bit. I don’t think the turtleneck is helping my case. 

And we do open up.

Our arms are on each other. We press shoulders together while laughing. I should’ve kissed her when she asked if I could be spontaneous. Leaned in and dropped one on her. And then pulled back and said, “That.” But I didn’t. Because I’m not spontaneous. Because it would’ve been unbearably corny. And because Helga at the bar kept peering over at us wondering what the fuck we were doing there. 

Erica and I did a dangerous thing. We talked about the future and our lives and we placed each other in them. Not overtly. Not too seriously. But we did. 

She wants a beach house. I want a ranch. 

“We could have both,” she says. 

“And one in the city,” I reply. 

She is unsure on kids. Not something that sounds appealing to her right now. This is music to my ears because nothing scares me more than someone who is dead set on being a parent. Someone who willingly signs up to be tired as fuck for the rest of his/her life. 

She does want a dog though.

“Do you like dogs?” She asks.

I think of Woody and his scruffy face. I probably lifted my bottom lip to cover the top one just thinking about him.

“I love dogs.” 

Whether either of us really wanted a future together was irrelevant. Being in a warm room with her and hearing her talk about me in her life was enough to grow my heart a few centimeters.  

Her car pulled up quickly and she went in for the hug. I pulled back to catch her face but she had turned her body away to get into the car. I should’ve told her to come back. 

“It’s going to be a little while before I see you again,” I said as she was reaching for the door handle.

“How long?” she asks quickly. 

“A couple weeks.” 

She pauses. Tilts her head to the side to process the unhappy news. I am less concerned that I didn’t kiss her now because I see my absence affects her and that is a bigger thing. 

She looks back and we both smile as she closes the door. 

I pull up my map and look for the subway. I’m supposed to take the A to the F. It says the A is right where I’m standing but all I see is the C train. I wonder if they are the same thing. I walk to three other stairways and they all say C. They are also very dark and there are no people coming up and down the stairs. I call a Lyft. The driver and I listen to Nelly on the ride home while I watch the lights from the buildings stream by. 

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