Despite some smish-smash of textversation that resulted in confusion as to when, where, and how we’d meet up, my third date with Lux began with only one hitch: he wasn’t at the restaurant. I’d circled the place twice, brightly colored shirts every which way, but he was nowhere to be seen. As I reached to pluck my phone from my purse, someone tapped me on the shoulder.
“Oh, hi!” I said, giving him a hug. “Did I miss you?” I glanced at what he was wearing, trying to decide if I had walked right by him. To be fair, I’d seen him twice before in my life. Mistaking him – or him mistaking me – wouldn’t be out of the question. It’s online dating, after all.
“No, no,” he said. “I was early, so I was having a drink down the street.”
And so began a curious evening. For one, why not just get a drink at the bar we’d be meeting at (and hey, snag us seats so we wouldn’t have to wait)? For two…drinking before a date? I mean, not underheard of (hello, it’s probably over-heard of) but not often admitted to.
Regardless. It was a third date, and I liked Lux. It seemed he had read everything I’d written online (and he was an editor, which made it even more flattering). A drink seemed harmless.
As we settled into our bar stools, an older gent next to us gave us a hot tip: a ragtime band that plays only original music, not covers, would be starting soon. Opting to stay at the bar and not move outdoors, Lux and I ordered a round, then a second – along with a salad, and eventually, a pizza and a third round as the band crescendo’d around us.
Soon we were speaking at top volume, the words feeling like they were coming from the roof of my mouth. “I know you thought I didn’t like you after our last date,” Lux told me. “But I was having serious family drama. I think you’re an awesome lady. And I didn’t kiss you because I was still smoking.” Compliments showered from his lips, his hand clutching mine, and then he was boldly kissing me in front of the bartender before ordering another drink.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said. “We’ll take the pizza to go, find a quiet dive bar, keep talking.”
“Sounds great,” I said. And it did sound great. For one, I had been surprised to learn Lux liked me that much. For two, I was really hungry and did not want that deliciously fungused pizza to go unfinished.
Lux paid the bill, refusing to let me split it with him. He pounded his drink, snagged the boxed pizza, and grabbed my hand proudly. He lead me through the restaurant with a strut, as though he had conquered dating. And from right behind him, it felt good. I felt seen. Heard. Known.
From the sidewalk, I pointed out a dive bar across the street. Still holding my hand, we began to cross – but first he deposited a pizza box on top of a car. Right on the moon-roof.
Safely back on the sidewalk, I looked back at the pizza box. “Is that your car?” I asked Lux.
“Nah, just thought I’d leave it for a homeless person,” he responded.
“Oh,” I said, hungry.
“Do you think it’s a bad place to leave it?” he asked.
Indeed I did think private property was a poor choice; almost as poor as not letting me eat it. But he had paid for the pizza, so it was technically his to do with what wanted, so I just said, “I think on top of a garbage can might get the point across better.” Lux danced across the street, grabbed the box, and then Froggered his way back to me – which is when I began to realize he seemed intoxicated.
After deeming the first dive bar too divey, we jaywalked back across the street to a nicer dive bar, where I ordered a dirty martini, figuring I needed to catch up to Lux. We sat down on a worn crimson couch, knees touching.
“So, tell me why you’re not married yet,” he said. Was I suddenly in a romantic comedy, but with the ‘guy-who-was-clearly-not-the-guy?’
My pause spoke volumes. “I just mean, you’re an amazing woman. I don’t understand.”
“It’s not that I didn’t have the option,” I said, thinking back to an ex who had asked me to marry him. “What about you?”
“Oh yeah, there was this woman I had an intense connection with,” he said. “But I mean, her ex was the founder of [insert huge-name internet giant here] and like…how could I compete with that?”
“But she must have liked you if she was with you,” I said, thinking about how ex’s are not competition. They’re just history.
“Yeah, but she was nine years older than me. And like, what would it say about me if I married a woman that much older than me?”
Well buddy, I thought, maybe that she loved you. And you loved her. I wasn’t at a loss of thoughts, but I was at a loss of words. Still though, I liked Lux.
“You know, I was so disappointed you didn’t get dinner with me last time,” he said. “I’d made reservations for us and everything.” His drink was dangerously tilted on his thigh, ready to spill with any wrong motion on either of our parts.
“Oh, I thought I’d been pretty clear I couldn’t do dinner,” I replied.
“I even cleaned my apartment,” he said. It occurred to me later, when piecing the evening together, he’d told me earlier he hadn’t kissed me because of smoking. So why would he have invited me to his place? But at the moment, all that happened was he asked me to come over now.
“No, I have to wake up early,” I said. Our conversation went elsewhere, then came back around to the going-back-to-his-place topic. Then it left again.
Then, Lux was staring at me with glazed eyes.
“I don’t remember what you were saying,” he said.
“Well, you were talking,” I said.
He was forgetting how he was starting sentences. It was time to leave. Except, Lux had taken public transit to get to my neck of the woods – and I wasn’t sure about sending him back to the station in his condition. He was stumbling, almost tumbling.
“Why don’t you come back to my place,” I said.
“Yeah?” he perked up.
“We will not be having sex,” I told him. “We can have some water and hang out and go from there.”
Linking arms, I guided us half a mile back to my apartment, the entire time his trying to get us a cab. Once upstairs, I settled him on the couch with a glass of water (in a mug I wouldn’t be heartbroken to see break) and then went to the bathroom.
While I peed, I wondered what to do with Lux. I wanted to be asleep in fifteen minutes, and up in eight hours. Letting him walk to transit just felt a little unsafe. I stood, flushed…and the toilet began back up. The water filled right to the brim and then stopped.
I ran to my phone and started texting neighbors to get a plunger.
“What’s wrong?” Lux slurred.
“Toilet is backed up.”
“Lemme look at it.” I looked up from my phone, and he was already on his feet. “Seriously,” he said. “Let’s not be those people who are embarrassed about human things. I don’t know where this is going. You don’t know. But let’s be real people.”
My heart melted a little. It was as though he had just pushed the drunkenness aside and seemed like someone I wanted to know. Someone you can have by your side in moments of weirdness. At the same time, as he tottered off to the bathroom, I knew he was still hammered.
“It’s okay,” I said pathetically, following him.
He lifted the lid to the tank. He reached his hand in. He jiggled.
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH. The toilet bowl overflowed like a cauldron over too much fire. Water was everywhere almost instantly. The bathroom floor. The closet floor. The foray.
“Oh my God.” I ran to my linen chest and grabbed every towel I owned, ran back to the bathroom and began throwing towels down.
A minute later, the flooding stopped.
“That’s taken care of,” Lux said. “Let’s leave the rest of this til morning.”
“God no,” I said. “We need more towels.”
“No way,” he said, laughing. “This can wait! Let’s go to bed!”
I pulled open the front door. “Hey, where are you going?” he called after me, laughing like we were playing tag or hide and seek.
“Towels,” I called back, sprinting down the stairs to my best neighbor.
Nate answered the door almost immediately as I began banging.
“Naiomi is –“ he began.
“-towels.” This was no time to talk about his roommate. “Toilet is flooding.”
“Where are we going?” Lux was coming down the stairs, gripping the banister with both hands.
“Nate, your cats are escaping!” I said, trying to herd the felines back toward their home.
“It’s okay,” Nate said, coming back to the doorway. “Just leave them.” His eyes traveled from me to Lux as he handed me a stack of thin towels. “You have company,” he said.
“Yeah, meet Lux.”
“Hey man,” Nate said, raising a hand in a half wave.
“CATS!” Lux squealed, lunging down the stairs. He purposefully took to the floor and began playing with Nate’s pets.
“Do you need…sober help?” Nate whispered. I looked at Lux, who was childlike in his feline enthusiasm.
“I’ll…call.” I said. “I’m going back upstairs.”
“CATS!” Lux said again.
I ran upstairs, leaving my front door open in case Lux decided to leave his new furry friends behind. Dropping towels across half my apartment, I began mopping up the mess.
“You know, if we just had a calico cat, none of this would be a problem.” Lux had returned, and was laughing. He continued to speak only of calico cats as I cleaned around him. “Just do this tomorrow. Do you have weed?”
I told Lux to go sit down from my position on all fours, reaching the towels into nooks and crannies, moving my shoes around and praying pee-filled water wasn’t soaking into my guitar.
Thankfully, he did.
Emerging a bit later, I found Lux sitting on my couch. “I have to go to bed,” I said. “Do you prefer one pillow or two?”
Lux stood and started kissing me, pulling away to slur, “It’s not that I don’t like you, but I called a cab.”
“Oh?” I said.
“Yeah, see, I haven’t slept well in years. I need a ton of melatonin and a certain strain of pot to fall asleep. But you are an amazing lady.”
And with that, he was gone. I sat on my bed, alone, dazed and confused. What the hell had just happened?
The next morning at work, I got a text from him: Hey Alicia. Want to get dinner on Wednesday night?