First Date – Can I kiss You?

| July 24th, 2015 |

There were some false starts and cancelled dates and a week had gone by without any contact, so I’d given up on seeing Tina again by the end of July, but on a Friday at the end of the month I was going to Farmington to visit Donovan and I figured since I’d be in the area, I’d give her one last shot. I texted, “Hey Tina. I’m probably going to be in Farmington tonight, in case you’d like to meet up for a drink or a chat somewhere.”

I was actually surprised that she replied. Our entire, amazing and terrible history was nearly averted – if only she hadn’t answered that last text.

“I would love to” came back instantly.

I arrived early to scout the location, find a good seat and make a generally good, gentlemanly impression. The bar Tina suggested, Celts was pretty quiet when I arrived. I ordered a Guinness and took a seat on the patio where I could surveil the parking lot. At about 8:00, I got a text from Tina saying she was on her way and it wasn’t long until I saw a silver Saturn coupe with two blondes pull into the parking lot. They exchanged a parting kiss before Tina got out from the passenger seat. The other woman drove away. It had been over a month since I’d met her so I wasn’t even sure I’d recognize her, but I did, right away. She was, however, taller than I remembered. She was wearing a white dress and she looked beautiful. I greeted her at the entrance to the bar with a tentative hug and bought her a drink. It was a gorgeous summer day, so we sat on the patio and chatted. I learned that Tina’s driver was her mother and that Tina didn’t actually live in Farmington. Actually, I was a little confused by her living situation. She said she was moving and she was displaced.

Celt’s had a sleepy vibe that evening, so we decided to wander. Tina believed she remembered the location of a bowling alley in walking distance. I left my van in the big parking lot and Tina led us on a merry stroll to Farmington Lanes. We were connecting better on the move than we had been at the pub.

After we got a lane and bowling shoes, picked out and joked about some orange 8-pound balls, I got us drinks. She was indecisive about what she wanted so I ordered whiskey-sours for both of us. I brought them back to the little table at our lane, sat down and as I tried to resume conversation, I made a sweeping gesture and spilled my full drink all over the table, the floor and us. I knew I wasn’t drunk, but it probably looked like it.

How suave, I thought. She’s going to think I can’t handle my liquor.

I hopped to my feet and could feel the hot blood rushing to my face. “I am so sorry! Let me go get a towel. I’m sure they have one at the bar. So embarrassing!”

“At least it wasn’t me, this time,” Tina said.

I gave her a puzzled look.

“It’s usually me,” she said and that eased my jangled nerves a little.

I went to the bar to replace my drink and get a towel. The one bartender there was overworked and (it felt like) it took an inordinate time for me to return to my date.

By the time I got back, the towel in my hand was superfluous, but at least I’d refreshed my lost drink. Somehow Tina had managed to get the table cleaned in my absence.

I am not a good bowler. It’s not a given that the bumpers should be inflated for me, but my ball usually gets acquainted with the gutter. I advised Tina that for me to break 80 bowling would be a miracle. She claimed equal incompetence, so it was pretty amazing that in three games, we both scored well over 100. To my astonishment, I bowled a strike my first frame and so did she. Tina was on fire and won two out of three, finishing the last game with a turkey (three strikes in a row). We had a great time cheering each other on in our unlikely hot streaks.

We were bowled out, sitting at the table with fresh drinks. I was contemplating the rest of the night. Was this the end of the date? I looked into her hazel eyes, trying to gauge her attitude when she suddenly cast her gaze to the floor, cheeks turning red. She slowly shook her cocked head. It was probably the cutest thing I’d ever seen.

“What?” I kept my gaze up.

She glanced up and immediately shot her eyes back down. “Something about the way you’re looking at me,” she said coyly.

“Oh? I’m sorry.”

“No. It’s good. It’s making me feel all…” She shook her head again.

I smiled. “I was just trying to gauge your interest in staying out with me after this.”

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” she said. “You want to go somewhere else?”

“I’m easy.”

“So am….” She broke off, embarrassed. “No. I didn’t mean… I mean…”

I nodded, smiling at the gaffe. We cracked up laughing and she pushed my shoulder.

“Let’s turn these bowling shoes in,” I said. “I don’t know Farmington. Do you know how far it is to that bar we met at?”

“Not exactly, but I think I can find it. Not too far. A few blocks? I don’t know Farmington very well, either.”

We wandered around industrial and residential Farmington roads for probably an hour. We crossed railroad tracks, wandered down a lane with a high chain link fence topped with barbed wire. I was trying to get a GPS signal on my phone. We were lost, but I was enjoying every minute of our extended moonlight walk. We seemed to share a sense of humor that flowed easily between intellectual and childish. We walked arm in arm for a while, not caring that much about our destination, but we did eventually find the main drag.

“I think I’ve seen more of Farmington tonight than I have in my whole life,” Tina commented.

Gossips, Farmington, MNGossips was the first bar we came upon. We’d first met at Pizza Man, but neither of us was exactly sure where that was from there.

“Wanna try here?” Tina suggested.

“Sure. You know me. I’m easy.”

She laughed and gave me a gentle push. I opened the door for her.

Gossips was a completely different atmosphere than the sleepy pub we’d started our date at. It was a boisterous, if not numerous bunch.

I remembered that Pizza Man had a nice patio out back and it was a beautiful summer night, so I was keen to be outside. Tina and I got drinks and found a bench to sit on out front. We were in and out of the bar, but mostly out.

“Can I kiss you?” she said. It didn’t sound like a question.

“Of course.”

I felt something stir. For a first kiss, there was nothing at all awkward. It was so natural, like we’d been kissing each other for years and before we drew apart, she left an impression by gently biting my lower lip, drawing it out between her teeth. I could feel her kiss for a long time after and it’s all I could think about. We kissed quite a lot at that bar, that night.

I felt like I could do no wrong on that date. Tina laughed at my jokes, responded favorably to my respectful advances. She kept touching my hands and arms, occasionally cozying comfortably against me. We seemed to have a lot in common and never ran out of things to talk about. It felt completely natural, but looking back through the prism of narcissistic abuse, mirroring and love bombing had probably already begun.

Later, we met a pretty intoxicated man and learned that he was living off of some kind of trust fund. He seemed to be a druggie and dilettante. At first, I thought he was hitting on Tina, offering to buy her a drink, but actually, he was offering to buy us both a drink, if we’d come inside and sit at the bar with him. He wanted us to try his favorite, expensive bourbon. We didn’t turn him down.

While we were waiting for the bartender, he started talking about his stash of drugs back at home and how crazy his life was. Then he had a notion that he wanted someone to write “because drugs” on his forehead. He started asking staff and patrons for an ink pen.

Tina fished a sharpie out of her purse and held it up with a flourish.

His eyes lit up. “Yeah. Perfect!” He closed his eyes and Tina held back his bangs while she scrawled “Becuz Drugz” in black indelible ink on his brow.

“How does it look?”

We regarded him thoughtfully and gave our approval. We drank bourbon with him and he soon departed, I’m guessing to get back to his stash.

We sat inside at an out of the way corner table for a while and got to discussing movies. We decided we each had a film we absolutely had to share with the other. A double feature of Idiocracy and Requiem for a Dream was settled on for a future date.

Tina and I went back outside to have a cigarette. I had to slip in another kiss before I lit mine. We sat close on that bench enjoying the evening and each other’s touch. A small elfin-looking woman approached from the sidewalk. It was Shayna, the girl Tina had been pushing around in a wheelchair the night we met.

“Is this your date?” Shayna asked her.

“Yes. This is Dan.”

“Hello, again, Shayna,” I said. I don’t think she remembered me, even though I had signed her cast.

Shayna lurched towards me and Tina reacted swiftly, swinging her legs over my lap. “No, Shayna! Mine!” She chastised.

It made me feel warm inside. She was already being possessive. I liked it.

Almost right after Shayna crashed our date, I spied my friend Donovan coming down the sidewalk towards us. Since I’d put off hanging out with him to take Tina out, he’d gotten bored waiting on me at home and decided to go out for a drink, not expecting to find us there. It was like a Dew Days reunion.

When it was just about last call, Tina pointed out Shayna who was across the bar in the company of an older couple. “Do you think you could give her a ride home when we leave?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said. “She lives around here, I take it?”

“Yeah. I think those two are trying to take her home with them and I’m getting a bad vibe from them,” Tina explained.

“Well, she’s an adult…”

“I know but I’m going to talk to her. You’ll give her a ride?”


“Thank you, Dan. Can you go and get your van while I talk to her?”

I agreed. I had my bearings, now and it was just a couple blocks to the pub I’d left my van at.

“Have van. Coming back for you, now,” I texted. I drove back to Gossips and found a parking spot right in front of the door.

It didn’t seem like Tina was having much luck convincing Shayna to come with us. “We’ll give her a ride,” the older man said.

“We’ll take care of her,” his female companion said.

Tina wasn’t having it. She kept urging Shayna to get into the van. Donovan had also asked for a ride back and was waiting with me outside the van.

Eventually, Donovan just picked Shayna up and threw her into the back seat of my van. It could have looked like a kidnapping to outside observers.

Tina and Shayna sat in the back and Donovan rode shotgun. I pulled away from the bar and onto the main road through town. I opened Google Maps on my phone and asked Shayna for her address.

She didn’t know it. She said she’d just moved and couldn’t remember the address. She said she’d give me directions.

I followed her directions until we were driving past miles of corn fields and she seemed lost. She was also out of control. She was thrashing into my seat while I was driving, trying to climb over my center console into the front of the van, trying to kiss Donovan, trying to open the sliding back door while the van was moving and generally being intolerable. I desperately wanted her out of the van. It was two in the morning on a Friday night and I didn’t want to attract any police attention. I just wanted to drop Tina off, get a goodnight kiss, a commitment for another date and be on my way.

Eventually, Shayna’s directions led us down a dead end street in farm country. She and Donovan went into the fields to relieve their bladders while Tina was trying to formulate another plan. She apologized repeatedly for all the trouble and insisted that Shayna wasn’t really her “friend,” more of an acquaintance and she desperately hoped Shayna’s behavior wouldn’t reflect on her.

Tina was calling and texting contacts, ostensibly to try to find someone who knew where Shayna lived. Eventually she reached someone named Keith who said he’d put Shayna up at his place for the night, since we couldn’t find her home.

I was willing to drop Shayna off anywhere. I just wanted the squirming, shouting, thrashing, drunk little imp out of my van and I was getting the impression I was being jerked around.

Tina gave me Keith’s address and we got there pretty quickly. Everyone got out and Tina went up to knock on the door. Keith came out and lit a cigarette while Tina coaxed Shayna into his house.

Keith was older than Tina but younger than me, I estimated. He approached Donovan and I. “You got any weed?” was his greeting.

Now, I was getting some bad vibes, myself.

“Sorry. No.”

Tina and Shayna were in the house for quite some time and when Tina did finally appear at the door, she called out to say she’d be staying there tonight, too, “to look after Shayna”.

My unease was rising.

I’d just wanted to drop her off at “home,” get that kiss goodnight and confirm our second date, like a successful first date should end. After a really wonderful time, I was dismayed by this very disturbing ending.

Like she read my mind, Tina decided to come out from the doorway. She came out barefoot, gave me a quick kiss and said, “Thank you for everything” before dashing back into Keith’s house.

Donovan and I got back into my van and drove back to his place. I was perplexed.

It was about 3 AM and I shot Tina a text. “Sketchy ending, but a great night, overall. Sweet dreams… Looking forward to that second date!”

I spent the night at Donovan’s. When I woke up the next morning, finding out what had happened with Tina and Shayna was my first thought. Tina still hadn’t replied to my last text. I sent another. “I’m hoping the rest of the night went better for you and you have a wonderful Sunday. I spent the night at Donovan’s and I’m still in Farmington in case you could use a ride home or anything.”

After noon, she still hadn’t replied and I was concerned. I hadn’t delivered Tina safely home and I felt my responsibility to her was incomplete. Shayna, less so. “Please call or text when you get a chance. I’d just like to know you guys are safe and sound,” I texted.

This time she replied right away.

“I am safe, so is she. I was able to make it back ‘home’ and sleep in my own bed; Shayna finally got to her place as well. I had a really great time with you. Sorry for the way the night ended – THANK YOU and Donovan!!! I’ve never seen her that messed up… Scary. She took me down twice after you left. Gonna have some new bruises.”

After that first date, we began a flurry of text messages that became quickly familiar. It was like we were in a relationship already, after one date that very nearly didn’t happen. Her messages were peppered with flattery and affection.

We told each other about our days and whatever reservations I had after the way our first date ended were washed away by a steady stream of warm fuzzies and reports of Tina’s wholesome-sounding activities. I felt like I’d known her a long time, even though I’d only seen her twice!

Some time after, I jotted this formless prose:

“Can I kiss you?” she said.
Of course.
A meeting at a sleepy pub with an Irish name.
Her mom kissed her goodbye as she got out of the car, nervous anticipation visible and felt from a distance.
A kiss for luck as well, perhaps?
A shared smoke and whiskey on the warm and vacant patio. There was a bowling alley nearby.
Let’s blow this sleepy joint.
Orange Eight-pound balls.
An old phone prank comes to mind.
Nerves. A spilled drink, a too-long wait to get a towel.
She’s going to think I can’t handle my liquor. This is off to a good start.
“I’m just glad it wasn’t me.”
A gaze into her hazel eyes sent them floor-ward, cheeks pinkening, head cocked and slowly, subtly turning.
That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
A verbal slip and another. We laughed at ourselves and together.
A turkey and two victories for her, followed by a 4-block wander to a bar that took a map, satellites orbiting the Earth and a compass to find… “Gossips.”
“Becauze Drugz,” she wrote on his forehead in indelible ink.
Sense of humor, adventurous, outgoing. Amazing.
“Can I kiss you?” she stated.
Of course.

It was some time later that I learned Keith was a meth dealer. A married meth dealer. His wife and kids were away that weekend. A lovely end to a first date and no red flags at all!

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