I parked my car at her house, turned it off, and turned to look at her.
She was gorgeous.
In this brief moment at the end of the evening, no one wanted to move. I couldn’t not touch her, so I reached out my hand and ran it through her hair. It was darker and longer than I’d ever seen it before, reaching all the way down to her shoulders before it bent slightly in directions, just barely hiding the curve of her neck. My hand ended on her cheek, and, looking at her eyes, I did what I usually do in this situation.
Seriously, a car? I’ve never had a first kiss in a car, and I don’t intend to start now, I thought. But then again, this is the most perfect situation ever. There’s electricity, chemistry, sparks, magnetism, and, hell, Van Der Waals’ forces in her eyes. She’s practically made of charm quarks.
No, something doesn’t feel right. It’s the car. Maybe when I kiss a girl she needs an airbag for her heart, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to have a first kiss with someone while she’s wearing a seat belt.
With that awful joke, the moment ended. I put my hand back by my side, she shifted in her seat, and it was over. And if I’ve learned about first kisses, it is this: when the first-kiss moment is over, you can’t force it back. It’s done. You just have to wait until it comes again, if it ever does, and that time, you can’t hesitate.
She had been so excited for me to visit her when she was home in Cleveland from grad school in California. She came up with a whole list of things to do. And then, something occurred to me.
“Are you asking me on a date?” I asked. It’s worth checking, once in a while, just to see.
“Yes. Actually, I think I am.”
I didn’t even blink.
“Well, lets make it a third date, then. First dates are awkward and uncomfortable, and all the fun happens on the third date.”
“Okay! Third date it is!”
Well, now. So much for me being awkward and uncomfortable. Every once in a while I pull off this kind of smooth, unruffled, totally confident flirting-type shit, and it’s like Luke Skywalker getting a glimpse of the force. Watch out, Darth Awkward. I will vanquish you yet.
We’d been friends for years, and I’d had a crush on her for a little while, but there were always timing issues, as though Cupid couldn’t quite get the hang of Microsoft Outlook.
When we met in college, I paid her no attention because she was my friend’s girlfriend, and that’s definitely not how I roll. Even when they broke up after he left for grad school, and he convinced us to hang out, it was strictly platonic. We spent time together, we’d knit together and watch movies, but our hearts were each set on someone else.
Even so, there was a moment near the end of that year when, despite myself, I started to feel for her. Aside from writing about it briefly at the time, I ignored it. She didn’t want a relationship, and, like I said, most of my romantic daydreams were directed elsewhere.
After college we went separate ways to separate coasts. We dated other people. But recently, as the frequency and duration of our phone conversations increased, I started to realize one thing:
She’s exactly the type of girl I need in my life.
“Oh my goodness, she’s exactly the type of girl I need in my life.”
That’s what I was thinking to myself on that day in Cleveland, as we breezed through our “third date.” There was lunch, some shops, a scenic cemetery, more shops, dinner, and a sports bar for football and beer. And, slowly, piece by piece, she was melting my heart away with sweet romantic nothings. Like for example:
“I’ve been reading this book about physicists lately, and it’s terribly interesting.”
This one was followed, several hours later, by this gem:
“Oh sure, I like football. I used to watch it all day on Sunday. Can you explain to me what linebackers do?”
And, last but not least:
“Let me buy you a Dortmunder Gold.”
Now look. Like I’ve said before, there are no hard and fast rules to making me have a crush on you. Nobody’s perfect, and I don’t expect you to be. But if I already know that a girl is spectacularly fun to spend time with, and she’s definitely the cutest girl ever, plus she’s mind bogglingly smart, the battle is half won.
But then when you start being interested in physics, football, and quality beer, I’m lost. It’s over, there’s nothing more I can do to keep myself from being utterly twitterpated. And it wasn’t long before what I was thinking to myself had changed a bit:
“Oh my goodness, she’s exactly the girl I need in my life.”
While I walked her to the house, I was thinking about how much I wished I had just kissed her. When she opened the door and we tumbled inside, I was just thinking about how much I wished she was my girl.
And when she turned and looked up at me, dark eyes sparkling the same way Pop Rocks feel in your mouth when you put in, like, way too many, I didn’t think about anything.
I just kissed her.