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New Life : Erica - kale & cigarettes
New Life : Erica

New Life : Erica

We spent four hours together. I’ve been using the time as a way to measure the experience. My thinking is that if you aren’t into each other you will find a way to end it between an hour and an hour and a half. 

First it was coffee at Stumptown. Then an art show in Chelsea. A good place for a break. But we carried on. 

I found Erica on Hinge and liked her vibe. Scrolling through so many accounts makes it hard to care about any of them. She felt familiar.

She had dark hair – almost black, a lean body, big eyes, and an artistic edge. I was further drawn in by her answers to the prompts. She posted that she was into sustainable design, photography, good lighting, ayurveda, piano, and one day building her own house. There was a video of her playing the piano which I listened to about twelve times in a row. It put a feeling in my stomach. Music can carry us. 

I simply wrote, “yes.” in response to her video. 

She replied a day later with a bashful smiley face and a comment about boxing.

“That’s cool you box. I do as well. What gym do you go to?” She asked.

I said it’s cool she boxes. Asked how long she’s been doing it for. And told her I used to compete but I’ve since decided I wanted to keep my brain. 

Then I jumped into it, not having much of an appetite for small talk.

“Also – for the record – you seem really cool and I’d like to meet up if you’re into it.” 

Some hours later she responded.

“Oh nice! I picked it up about a year ago. That’s cool you used to compete, but ya probably good for your brain cells as well 😉

How long are you in NY for?”

I told her I was leaving today for Portland and San Diego for some shoots but I’d be back next weekend. “We can meet for coffee/tea or anything less awkward than a dimly lit dinner.” 

She says Okay. Good luck with your shoots. And gives me her cell. 

In the two weeks between our first message and our first date we exchange a few texts. I send her one basically saying hey it’s me and here is my cell. I attach a pic of the sunrise coming through the windows at the loft. She is from LA and certainly misses the burst of pink and orange that paints the day. 

A few days later, she follows me on Instagram. I think of the investigative work this must require because I don’t provide my last name on Hinge. Then I remember the new ios update makes a suggestion on the first and last name of the contact you are texting with. I was surprised at the follow. One other girl has done that as well. I can’t imagine putting myself out there like that before meeting someone. Still, I spent the next twenty minutes going through her catalogue of posts and reading captions to get a better understanding of who she is. I liked everything and felt a pull towards her. Maybe that’s why she did it. To make it more personal. 

My flight back to New York is finally booked and I reach back out to make a firm plan. We decide on Sunday early afternoon. Coffee and a walk to keep up with protocol. She mentions some new exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum. I very much like that idea. Then my friend Rachel tells me about a really good show in Manhattan that is ending soon. I look it up and send the link to Erica. She likes that idea as well and is down to go. I buy two tickets and tell her it’s at 2pm. 

Then some days pass. I have to get through the work week in San Diego and prepare for the trip to New York, where I will sign the lease to my new apartment in East Village. 

Although I am very excited about Erica, I still spend time on Hinge each day. Mostly, I am waiting for my Most Compatible suggestion that they send every 24 hours because they are usually pretty and interesting. I am also protecting myself from my own tendencies. I can get very into someone very quickly. For a number of reasons – being romantic, being insecure, wanting to be seen, and having a deep need for connection. Hinge helps to remind me that no one person will be the last and that I should take my time and, essentially, chill the fuck out. 

Saturday night I am messaging with Anna, a girl I was supposed to meet on my last trip out but she cancelled last minute (which gave me time to tour the apartment I am now going to live in). We decided to do a quick meetup Sunday morning. I am mostly focused on Erica. I think I like her before I have even met her. But I can warm up my dating muscle and get through some of my nerves with this early walk and talk with Anna.

Anna was a whirlwind. From the time she walked into the coffee shop and knocked over someone’s backpack while asking how many shots of espresso were in an extra large latte I knew it was going to be interesting. 

I wrapped with her around 12:40 and started walking towards Stumptown. I was early. And hungry. But so very nervous. I went into Chipotle for a quick and reliably underwhelming chicken and rice bowl. I had a few bites. Erica texted. She had arrived early. My stomach tightened. 

Deep breaths. A few kiais. You are the flow. I am the flow. I tried to remember to be myself. Alyssa told me I was charming and funny and to just be me. I would’ve felt more comfortable in that moment having someone else tell me how to act. 

She looked just like her pictures. I liked her immediately. She was wearing a black turtleneck under a black bomber jacket with a parka hood. Light blue jeans and black leather boots. Her hair was back and her makeup was simple. Her face clear and her skin smooth. 

My heart was doing a bit of an improv dance and I couldn’t register my thoughts easily enough to know what I wanted to say. So I just stood there for a second. 

After realizing we were just standing in front of the coffee shop for a good 30 seconds I remembered to talk. I didn’t remember to talk well, unfortunately. 

“Should we…go here first?” I said, pointing to the inside of the coffee shop.

She looked at me with eyes that asked, What other possible scenario is there?

I went to open the door but it was a pull and not a push and she ended up having to open it for me. I paused for a second, not sure if I should try to overcome her position and let her go first or just curtsy through the door like the incompetent person I was. Just be yourself! Yes, a disaster. 

“The first five minutes are the worst. It will get better,” I managed to say. 

She smiled and stayed calm. She was very even in her demeanor and smooth in her movements. Her presence was quiet. 

All the seats inside were taken [read : New York City] so we sat outside. I am always hot. A/C in the winter hot. Sleep naked with my leg outside the comforter hot. But on this particular day my body decided to stop circulating blood and I began shivering after five minutes. Not only could I not open doors for her but I also couldn’t keep her warm on a camping trip or a late night walk. 

“I’m cold. Want to start walking?” I asked her.

“Sure,” she said.

We had been talking mostly about work. She was from LA and had been living in New York for nine years. She was a freelance photographer and videographer. She did not get excited when she talked about it. It seemed more like she was ready to be onto something new. 

We walked to Chelsea and she said she liked the High Line, which was a relief because I assumed all people who lived here hated it. 

The show was in a retrofitted basement warehouse. They checked us into a small room where they intro’d a video talking about the work. She looked behind her at a bench and then looked back. I watched her and decided to sit down. She sat down next to me. We leaned back and looked at each other and smiled. The show looked like it was going to be good. I felt excited. Remember what it feels like to be excited. 

Inside, we walked across the floor where millions of photographs of NYC were being projected through a machine learning algorithm to create visual effects. The show was called Machine Hallucination and it was accurately named. We wandered. The movement made me dizzy. I focused hard on people’s fingers sitting on the floor. I pictured their crunch under my boot and walked as straight as I could. Erica trailed behind, stopping to take photos. 

“Do you want me to take your picture?” She asked. 

The beauty of hanging out with another photographer is that they want to document everything. I went to my pocket for my phone but she already had the camera dialed up on hers. She snapped a few. I couldn’t help but smile. I had entered her most cherished personal device. 

I returned the favor. And then we sat down against a pillar. That was her move. She took off her jacket. I took off mine. Her turtleneck hugged tightly to her slender arms and flat stomach. I saw the muscles of her neck disappear into the black collar. We tried to talk but it wasn’t the time. So, we watched.

Eventually, we were lying on the ground with our jackets as pillows looking up. That was my move. I wanted to introduce some form of physical touch. Something easy and safe. I almost put my hand on her back earlier when she walked past me through the door but it felt too planned. 

Our arms grazed each other and she didn’t move away. I turned my head to her as she was taking a picture of herself with all the images projected on the floor underneath her. I took out my camera and took a picture of her like this. I sat up and looked around. “Stay there,” she said. Another series of pictures. 

Thirty minutes later we were walking out. 

“I have to use the bathroom,” I said.

“Me too.” 

After attempting a series of the wrong exit doors first, we finally made it outside where all the buildings were fuzzy and the wind was coming from everywhere. 

“How are you doing on time?” I asked her.

It had been two hours and a more than satisfactory first encounter. 

“I don’t have any other plans. You have a thing later though don’t you?” She asked, thoughtfully. 

I had dinner with Jenny later but she would be wanting a detailed play-by-play so I figured adding more to the story would be good. 

“It’s not until later. We could keep hanging.”

“Yeah, let’s do it,” she said with a smile.

“How are your hunger and thirst levels?” I asked.

“I could have a snack.”

“Okay, let’s walk and find something to eat.” 

We ended up a small and popular French cafe in West Village. It was crowded – as it always is – but they had a table for us in the corner crammed against a dark brick wall. She scooted between tables and took the tiny booth seat. My guess is she thought she had to because she’s smaller. I’m glad because I can’t control my thighs in tight situations. 

We talked more. About travel. About what we should eat – eggs, prosciutto, chicken salad, and a Belgian waffle. I then tried to tell her I eat healthy. She eats freely as long as she works out three times a week. Wait until your thirties. She is boxing right now but wants to switch it up. Maybe dance or rock climbing. I told her I took a few semesters of dance and I loved it. She smiled at that. I talked to her about my writing. She seemed only mildly interested. She is studying sustainable biodesign at Parsons and wants to build her own house one day. I told her I’d like to live in a glass castle on the cliffs in Big Sur. She said she’d like that too. “But what happens if the cliffs are all eroded because of the changing climate?” Then a ranch in Montana, I said. 

Neither of us could finish all the food. She ordered camomile tea, which I really liked. It was a professional move. We drank it all. Which meant I had to pee again. And so did she. 

“Are you heading back to Brooklyn now?” I asked her.

“Yeah. Are you?”

“Yeah. What station are you going to?”

We walked together to 14th and 6th. I started following her down the steps when she stopped me, “Are you going uptown or downtown?”

“Downtown,” I said.

“You’re across the street, then,” she said pointing at the set of stairs opposite us.

I stood one step above her and smiled. She smiled back.

“Well I guess this is our subway goodbye,” I said. “I had fun with you.”

“I had fun too.”

We hugged goodbye and I walked across the street and got hit by a car. 

Just kidding.

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