I walked up to the historic Griswold Inn in Essex and saw a guy sitting right inside the door. It was him. What I remember most is that when he stood up, he went up and up! He was definitely as tall as he said he was (unlike most men I’d met via blind dates who exaggerated their height). He also had very blue eyes. But my immediate reaction? He’s not my type.
Something else I about that evening is that I felt supremely confident. I also had a bad cold. We had dinner and talked easily. After dinner we went to the Inn’s Taproom where a band was playing. We talked and joked and he put his arm around me. It was nice.
When it came time to leave, he leaned over and kissed me right on the lips. I couldn’t breathe because my nose was so stuffed up! He suggested that I come over to his place to play Scrabble, but I politely declined. And yes, in the back of my mind was a worry: “Is he like all the rest? Does he just want sex? Will he still be interested if I say no? Why do I care?”
It surprised me…as I said, I wasn’t all that attracted to him. I had a devil-may-care attitude on the outside, but on the inside I was vulnerable and wary.
We decided to have a second date. By this time it was mid-December and I needed to make a decision about New Year’s Eve. Since no one better was coming along, I decided that if he was game, so was I. And he was. Our second date ended similarly to our first.
At the time I was living in western Connecticut and commuting to New York City where I was a plastics industry trade magazine journalist. I loved NYC and decided that the ideal New Year’s Eve date would be a day in the city, dinner out, and then watching the ball drop in Time’s Square, which I had done a couple of times before.
Our plans were dashed by a forecast of “wintery mix,” so we decided to stay local, go out for dinner, and then play Scrabble at my place and watch the ball drop on TV. And yes, I had considered that he was 90 miles from home and that the weather was not conducive to a long drive late at night. I’d chose to be okay with it if he spent the night.
I was on a big sushi kick at the time and suggested a Japanese place. He admitted to being an unadventurous diner, but was willing to try it as long as there were cooked foods available. What followed is the now-famous wasabi incident: I cajoled him into trying a piece of sushi and put a big glob of wasabi on it, saying innocently, “it’s not hot!”
That he didn’t get up and walk out right then and there is saying something. In fact, once he got used to it, he liked the blast of wasabi heat.
From there, the evening progressed very much like you might it expect it to. We played Scrabble, drank (beer for him, wine for me), watched the ball drop, made out, and went to bed. I awoke in the middle of the night not feeling well (a little too much wine, perhaps?).
I came back to bed in a cold, icky sweat and instead of turning away from me or wanting to leave, he wrapped me in his arms and held me and I experienced what I now know to be real love. No, he had not declared his love for me (and wouldn’t for many months) but in that moment I felt more loved than I ever had in my entire life…and something inside me shifted. Just a tiny bit.
To be continued…
This story is taking longer to tell than I had anticipated, and so at the risk of ruining the ending, I must pause on this day, in this installment, to wish my husband a very happy birthday. Tim, a day does not go by that I am not grateful for you, that I don’t thank the moon and the stars and the whole entire universe (and your mother and father) for making you possible.