Folks, for Part 1 of the epic Virginia date, check out a few posts back. Otherwise, we’re jumping right in as though you know what’s up.
The adrenaline surging through my veins didn’t slow even once the guns were put away in their safe boxes and I was assured there was no ammunition in them. I felt high on life. The world was brand new. Yes, cliches abound. Everywhere I looked gleamed. Conversations happened around me and I was part of them, but very little sank in until we were wrapping up to leave. A nice man behind the counter asked me where I was from, and I replied, “California.” Without missing a beat, he said, “Welcome to the United States.”
I could feel Richard, my date, tense slightly to this statement, though I wasn’t sure why. At first I thought this man hadn’t heard me correctly. I tilted my head to the side, tried to suppress my desire to turn cartwheels because of the adrenaline zipping through me, but before I could query the man further, he said, “Any state with those gun control laws isn’t part of any country I want to be in.”
Ohhhhhhh. Sort of. To be fair, I haven’t thought much about California’s firearms laws. I don’t think much about anyone’s. There’s a right to bear arms, some people choose to do such, and when I hear the term I mostly imagine a bear with human arms, or imagine bare arms sans skin because yes, I have a weird sense of word-play and imagery in my head. So my ohhhh was more of getting he didn’t like some sense of legislation, but what he opposed I wasn’t actually clear.
So I told the man I wasn’t sure what he meant, that I wasn’t much aware of the laws but that I was a reasonably nice person who felt like maybe he might want to see me as an American citizen as the choices of our lawmakers doesn’t necessarily dictate our status. Richard jumped in then, and the two of them started very politely talking gun control, in a spirit of debate sort of way not a I’m-a-gonna-get-you, and I returned to la-la land and actually skipped out the door when Megs told us to.*
Off we went to the Crazy Greek, the only restaurant who had agreed to take us in and let us film. Richard and I were busy being awkwardly first datey while Megs waved her magic wand and made getting a table set up and ready to film happen. I was still giggly and giddy as we sat and got situated.
But what goes up must come down.
After we ordered, and conversation began to flow, I realized I strangely really liked Richard. He was purposeful in a way I wasn’t used to from other people. Thoughtful, too. And he had plans and games (admittedly, which I adore). He had a theory that the first date was the baking date, the second date the shiny date, and the third date, the game date. Since we were compressing all those dates into one, he had baked the aforementioned cookies to which I am now betrothed. Besides that, he’d brought a mildly radioactive crystal he had grown (in a protective case) that was sparkly and definitely dazzled me a little bit. And finally, he brought out the game he had designed and had produced, SceneCycle. Glee filled the air, and I made him pull out the cards and let us play.
A brief note on SceneCycle: it is rad. It’s a storytelling game, where you and the other players tell a story together. The structure is set in place, but the possibilities are endless. I fully anticipate playing this over glasses of wine with friends. More so, it’s been developed for educational purposes, assisting kids with storytelling (sans wine for those under twenty-one though!).
Dinner arrived and we lingered over our meals. We each had varied pasts, him everywhere from teaching to engineering, me being well…me. Relationships at some point were discussed, ex-loves, friends…and somewhere along the way Richard asked how it was going being on the road all the time.
I looked at him, thinking about the answers I could give. The usual “it’s great!” didn’t seem to pop into mind. Instead, I was thinking about how my best friend just had her birthday and I wasn’t there to celebrate. And more than that, I was thinking about how every second of every day I was inundated with strangers, people on whom I was going to make a first impression one way or another. My car was outfitted in sponsor stickers that really held weight for me not letting them down and equally held weight in how I should present myself. Never was there a moment where someone who really knew me was at my side, reminding me of who I was and simply reacting to me in a way I was used to be reacted to, or would be okay with me simply being grumblecakes or quiet or ridiculous.
Which led to me crying. Megan had stepped out on a phone call, and Richard was looking at me puzzled, and I started apologizing and trying to pull myself together. He asked if we should end the date and I said no, I was having fun. I had no answer for him or myself other than “I just haven’t been alone in a long time.” Then I muted my microphone and excused myself to the bathroom, giving myself a minute to cry and then another minute to act like the Alicia I’m supposed to be and want to be.
Upon returning to the table, Richard smiled at me and we kept chatting lightly, and a few minutes later Megan returned and said we should probably wrap up. When I said goodbye to Richard, I hugged him tightly and hopefully conveyed I appreciated his ability to take emotions in stride.
Why the break down? It didn’t take but a few minutes in the bathroom to figure it out. Dating is exhausting. Being “on” and putting your best foot forward takes energy. But it’s more than that. The energy, I have. It’s more just never actually building a trusting friendship with anyone. It’s stranger after stranger. The whole goal of dating is usually to either 1) sleep with someone (definitely not happening) or 2) build a relationship with them by going out on subsequent dates…and that’s not happening either.
*More on the mindset of what makes us American later. Promise.