Sex in a Small Town: A Good Date

Tonight I have my first good date in New York. It’s with a guy named Patrick, one of the dozens of people who’s responded to my online profile. He writes in clear, literate, complete sentences and says his dream first date is karaoke.

“Do you want to meet for karaoke?”

“Yes, yes, yes!” I write back.

That’s my dream first date, too.

We agree to meet at a place called the Purple Rose. He texts shortly beforehand to say he has two missing front teeth and asks if I want to reschedule.

“No worries!” I write back. I don’t see how he’s going to fix his teeth in the 12 days before I leave town.

“What are you wearing?” I text him in the Lyft, realizing I’ve completely forgotten what he looks like.

“A ball cap, jeans and t-shirt,” he says.

I snorkel to myself. That describes everyone I know in Three Rivers.

I walk into the bar and tap him on the shoulder. Sure enough he has two missing front teeth. He’s drinking a beer and I order a  Merlot. We search for songs.

“What are you singing?” I ask.

“I have such a structured life, I never sing the same song twice,” he says.

“I have such an unstructured life, I always sing the same songs,” I say.

It’s loud and hard to talk. Occasionally, I twist my body away from him and belt out the lyrics to someone else’s song. I check his reaction.

“Don’t hold back,” he says.

So I don’t. I lean into him, and say, “You know what I hate? I hate when other people tell me to smile. People have been telling me to smile my entire life.”

“You do have a melancholy face,” he says.

“Well,” I say, not wanting to argue the point. “You’ve got to work with what you’ve got.”

His song comes on next—Love is a Drug.  He leaps into the air, doing the best middle-aged white man’s version of a punk rock break dance I’ve ever seen and croons his heart out. I’m delighted and sing along with him. My song comes up next, “Come as you are” by Nirvana.

I lean against the wall, close my eyes, and pretend I’m a rock star in a recording studio. No one else seems to hear me, but Patrick claps uproariously for me.

“Come on, let’s go somewhere quiet and talk,” he says.

We meander around the streets, and I feel like I’m in a Woody Allen film.

“What were you like in college?” I ask.

“I was a geek. I was too afraid to talk to the cool, pretty girls.”

I smile, and for no real reason tell him, “There was a guy who lived on my floor in college with pet rats. They seemed nice enough, but I was too afraid to pet them.”

We go into the bar, which is dark and quiet inside, and covered in medieval-style wall murals. “Wow,” I say. “This is amazing!”

“Shhhh,” I think I hear someone say. I might be imagining this, though. Patrick orders a beer and I get another wine. There are two long-haired guys next to us dressed in loud, screaming 70’s shirts. “I love your outfit!” I say to one of them.

This bartender and the rest of the patrons hush us again. I think they must be joking.  “What’s going on here?” I ask Patrick.

“This is a quiet bar,” Patrick says. “You can only speak in a whisper.”

“Really, that’s great! I’ve never heard of such a thing!”

The bartender raises his voice above a whisper, and says, “If certain people don’t stop speaking so loudly, they’re going to get kicked out.”

Patrick and I walk outside to the veranda, followed by the long-haired guys. “Did he just threaten to shut the whole bar down?” I ask.

“No, I think he was kicking you out,” Patrick says.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve been kicked out from a bar,” I say defiantly.

“Don’t worry,” one of long-haired guy says. “They’ll let you back in 15 minutes if you promise to be quiet. We get kicked out all the time.”

Patrick asks me about my family, and I tell him about my quirky, eccentric, world-famous chemical engineer dad.

“What’s your mother like?” he asks.

I sigh. It’s a long, sad story. I say the kindest thing I can think of. “My mom was beautiful. Absolutely stunning.”

My parents, both from New York, in fact, met right across the street from where we’re having a drink now. They met at a car accident—an ominous sign for thekr future. My dad thought my mom was beautiful and my mom thought my dad, a brilliant, young engineering student, was going to make a lot of money one day. They were both right and they both made each other miserable.

I change the subject and ask Patrick how he found this bar called the Burp Castle.

“A woman I was dating brought me here,” he says. “All the women I date are either crazy or boring. But you’re not crazy or boring.”

“Thanks,” I say.

Patrick asks me if I’m going to finish my wine. “I hate wasting food,” he says. “I used to be unemployed for a long time.”

I avoid pointing out that wine isn’t food and I haven’t wasted it yet. But I I don’t know this guy at all, and I figure it’s best to remain at least slightly sober. I slide  my wine over to him and he downs it like a shot.

“I’m starving. Do you want to get an eggroll or something?” I ask.

“Sure,” he says, “but I’m out of money.”

I shrug my shoulders. “I’ve got cash,” I say, feeling magnanimous and happy and hungry.

We don’t find eggrolls but end up at a Greek food stand instead. He orders lamb over rice and I get a gyros. I pay with two $10 bills, and munch on my sandwich as we head to the subway.

“You’re really brave, coming out to New York and staying so long all by yourself,” Patrick says.

“I don’t know about brave,” I say. “The older I get, the more I realize we’re all going to die. There is no such thing as safe.”

We’re taking the same subway home, two stops apart from each other.

“You really should move out here full-time,” Patrick says. “New York women have the best legs. You have really buff legs already.”

“Thanks,” I say.

“And I love your shoes,” he says.

“Thanks!” I say and we both sit there admiring my shoes.

For a moment, I wonder if he isn’t gay. Patrick suggests going out for seafood one night before I leave.

“Sure,” I say.

The train arrives at my station, and a voice overhead announces, “Beware of the closing doors.”

“Thanks for a great night!” I say to Patrick and leap out onto the platform and scurry up the steps to find my way home.

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