Fifteen

Rare book dealer, 52

It’s spring.

In the last six months I’ve taken my profile down, put it back up, taken it down, put it back up. Every time it was as it had been, all bad, though it has become easier to filter out anti-science weirdos or guys who won’t respect your boundaries.

I told one guy — who’d asked me to meet before we exchanged even the most basic of pleasantries — I would like to chat online for a bit first.

His response?

“Srsly? I don’t want a pen pal for a month.”

Bye, boy.

***

15 was practicing good Corona protocol, doing all the difficult things. He told me about his social pod, how his days unfolded, he seemed sensible and safe. We’d been chatting for about two weeks when I asked him to meet for coffee — outside, of course. He said no, the timing didn’t work.

I have some new rules for myself. Give everyone a chance, but if they blow it, move on. I will ask once, only, to indicate clear interest, and that’s it, I won’t ask twice. I won’t rush into anything, and I won’t rush out if there’s no good reason to do so. I won’t make assumptions before we’ve met in person. I won’t assume that a guy who’s good at text will be good in person, nor will I assume the inverse. Any dates have to be outdoors, this is non-negotiable.

15 has this, let’s call it a practice. He started not long after Corona landed and fucked up our lives. Let me rephrase that. Not long after it was clear we were going to be assholes and let Corona fuck up our lives. Ahem.

He walks to the water almost every day at sunset. He’s done it for a year. It’s just short of five miles round trip. He takes pictures of the sky and sends them to a handful of friends, and he started sending them to me, too.

One evening, in addition to sending me the sky, he asked me to join him for his walk. “I’ll buy you a really good Caribbean dinner, too,” he said. “It’s a drive for you, so let me buy dinner?”

“I don’t do indoors.”

“Oh, god no. This place doesn’t have indoors anyway, so it will be a picnic.”

We met at his shop, which is a bit more ramshackle than you are imagining, though probably just as quirky. He was behind a computer, surrounded by piles of books, exactly as you are imagining. I don’t need to paint this picture for you.

While we waited for our takeout, he bought a newspaper. “For the quiz,” he said. “We can take the quiz.”

It was a gorgeous evening, the air had a warm edge until the sun was gone and there was no wind. It was more formal, longer than I like a first date to be, but I wasn’t dying for it to end. We took the quiz. It was geography. I got more right than I expected to; I am bad at trivia.

It was a nearly perfect evening and I was so glad to be doing something different. To be out with a stranger. I have missed strangers in this stupid era.

It was a very nice date.

***

I think men use old photos because they think they still look like that. It’s not intent to decieve others. They’ve decieved themselves. I took a picture of myself all cleaned up for this date and it’s good, but I can’t look at it without seeing the lines in my face and the shadows under my eyes.

I think most men don’t see themselves with the clarity or self-criticism with which women see themselves.

His photos were at least five years old. Maybe more.

***

He is a interesting guy, thoughtful, a good conversationalist. He has good manners, was a total gentleman, and wore his mask more than I wore mine — and we were outside nearly the entire time. He was not your typical rules-the-world white guy. He’s a rare book dealer, so of course he’s odd. I find odd people compelling. I think odd people are attracted to me because it’s clear I’m interested in them, though my curiousity is often mistaken for flirtatiousness.

It was a very nice date.

***

I called my BFF when I headed home.

“I guess I would go on a second date? It was a really nice date, but I didn’t want to make out with him.”

“If you don’t want to make out with him, what’s the point?”

“If they don’t fuck up the first date, I think I’m supposed to give things a chance? Maybe he’ll grow on me?”

“Mmmmmmaybe.”

I’m a disappointed I didn’t get that feeling from his company. I’m thinking about how he was dressed in black but was wearing brown shoes, and asking myself why I’m even thinking about that.

***

I went on a date.

It was a very nice date.

I did not want to make out with him.