Rarely is a first date a memorable experience for me. With the convenience of online dating and the ease of selection, most first encounters have been reduced to a quick coffee meeting at Starbuck's or an evening happy hour meetup for a drink or two. So I was completely thrown off my game when I was invited to the botanical garden for a Saturday afternoon stroll through the new orchid exhibit. As an added bonus, he suggested that dinner in the evening would be nice should there be a mutual interest.
Part 1 – Botanical Garden
The garden changed their entrance and I ended up running a little late due to the detour. In my hurried state, I made a gross navigational error while parking the car and slammed the front bumper up and over the parking curb. After cringing and uttering a worrisome, "Oh shit," I stepped out of the car, walked over to the bumper and bent down to my knees and checked it out. It had a few thick gouges, but nothing too terribly noticeable. I got up, shrugged my shoulders, flipped my hair and blew it off. What else was I supposed to do? The damage was done.
I briskly walked up to the garden entrance to meet up with my date. After sitting down on a bench at the entrance, I tried my best to look calm despite my recent parking debacle. However, deep down my stomach was doing these crazy flip flops – why was I such a nervous wreck? Was it the parking incident? Or was it the fact that I was on an honest-to-God real date instead of the usual coffee klatch interview?
And then I caught him out of the corner of my eye. At that moment it became absolutely clear to me why I was such a spastic mess. He was absolutely gorgeous! And for a moment I felt as though I stepped outside of my body and was assessing this situation from the sidelines, asking myself, "What on earth are you doing on this date? There isn't a handicap in the world that could put you on the same playing field as this guy. You are batting out of your league! Run!!!"
But I couldn't budge. I tried, but I was somehow momentarily glued to that bench – right up to the point where he was standing right in front of me. I'm sure he was wondering why I was being so rude by not getting up to greet him. I scurried up from the bench and gave him one of those awkward half hug greetings – enough for me to look over his shoulder and mouth "Oh my God," take a deep breath, and regain some kind of composure. "It's great to see you," I uttered. And into the botanical garden we went.
After about 15 minutes of strolling through the gardens, we entered the building that houses all of the tropical plants. We were chatting and strolling along when all of a sudden my heel became lodged between the cracks of a wooden bridge. I tried to just keep walking, figuring the force would just pull it out, but I was out of luck. I was stuck! And I remember feeling like such a helpless, clumsy moron as I frantically blurted out, "Um, my foot is stuck!"
Now, what happened next truly amazed me. My ever-so-dashing date leaned down, told me to put my hand on his shoulder to stabilize myself to keep from falling, and he gently dislodged my heel from the bridge.
I was in a momentary state of shock, mouth gaping wide open. Most guys would have made a comment about me being a klutz and would have watched me struggle, but not this guy. He unstuck my heel without uttering a word, and that was the end of it. And to think I'd always been told that chivalry was dead! As I stood there in wonderment, heart fluttering uncontrollably, I thought to myself, "Is this how Cinderella felt when the prince brought her back her lost shoe?" Because the moment was definitely like something out of a fairy tale. I mean, guys like this just didn't exist.
As luck would have it, there was a second bridge in the tropical garden. And, as I'm sure you've guessed, my stupid heel found its way into that crack, too. But he recognized it immediately, dutifully leaned over again and freed me from the bridge. Note to self: never wear heels to the Botanical Garden!
I decided that perhaps now was the perfect time to warn him that I'm a relatively clumsy person. Probably not the best thing to mention on a first date, but I figured by now it was abundantly clear. So I told him that I drove up over the curb when I parked the car. "I know," he said, "I was parked right next to you and saw you do it."
He saw me smack the curb. And he probably heard my, "Oh shit," since the top was down and I was kind of loud. Better yet, he saw me get out of the car, bend over and look at the bumper, get up, shrug it off, and worst of all FLIP MY HAIR and walk away. How freaking embarrassing. I'm sure I turned ten shades of red right then and there - I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.
"Your bumper is fine – I wouldn't worry about it," he said. And he left it at that. I couldn't tell if he found my clumsiness to be annoying or charming at this point – it was impossible to get a read off of him.
We continued our stroll through the outdoor gardens, but the temperature was dropping and it was getting late. And we'd pretty much scoured every corner of the place. The thing is, I didn't want that date to end, but I didn't know if he felt the same way. I mean, I'd sort of made an idiot out of myself between the bridges and the whole parking incident.
He walked me to my car and we just stood there making small talk. The entire time I kept asking myself, "Is there going to be a Part 2 to this date, or does the buck stop here?" And after about 10 minutes of chit chatting, I couldn't wait anymore and I blurted out, "So, are you going to ask me to join you for dinner or not?" STUPID! STUPID! STUPID!!! What on earth was I doing? Why did I always have to cut to the chase? Give a guy a chance, crazy girl!
Honestly, he seemed a bit relieved. The thing is, I'd apparently psyched myself out so much that I'd been giving him the 'I'm not that interested" vibe, when the reality was that I could have stood there all afternoon and into the night gazing into his big blue eyes. And after we solidified our dinner plans, he leaned in and gave me the sweetest kiss. And I was hooked!
Part 2: Dinner
He called me as I was walking toward the restaurant. "Oh, I see you walking this way," he said. And as I looked up, there he was. 20 feet in front of me. Dressed head to toe in black (my favorite) and wearing a beautiful new Missoni coat that he'd just picked up on his trip back home. He looked completely stunning. I remember stopping for a second, jaw dropping slightly (God, I can make an idiot out of myself sometimes), and just looking at him from afar. Then, as though a brick had been chucked at the side of my head to bring me back to reality, I snapped back to it and continued walking toward him.
I greeted him with a kiss on the cheek and a hug. God, did he smell good! And the butterflies started coming back to my stomach. "Oh, God, control yourself!" I told myself, thinking back to the number of times that a bad bout of verbal diarrhea had interfered with the success of a date. But the "dating gods" were on my side on this particular evening, and I was able to control myself and maintain my composure.
Our table wasn't ready, so we took a walk through the Highlands and spent a little time browsing through the little boutiques. That took some of the pressure off being seated immediately, and gave me a wonderful diversion – SHOPPING!!! I still had that nervous energy, but it was starting to subside and I could feel myself finally calming down a little. Thank God.
After about thirty minutes, we headed to the restaurant and were promptly seated in our booth. And there he was – right in front of me. And suddenly, I didn't feel as nervous anymore. His eyes sparkled in the dim lights of the restaurant as he told me about his recent visit home. He was interesting, intelligent, funny, and confident, and he had an incredible sense of style, was extremely attractive and sophisticated. I wanted to know anything and everything about this man – I was completely intrigued. And somehow I felt completely intoxicated even though I'd not yet ordered a drink.
Time flew by, and before I knew it we'd finished dessert and it was time to go. And while I wasn't really ready to bid him goodnight, I knew it had been a long day for him having just returned from Europe the day before. Fortunately, I'd parked on one of the neighborhood streets a few blocks away from the restaurant, which gave him the opportunity to walk me to my car.
After a few minutes of small talk came that moment of truth – the goodnight kiss - the moment that you both anticipate and fear at the same time. Would there be any chemistry? Or would it just be another disappointing kiss?
He leaned in toward me, and as our lips met I felt the most amazing sensation – I was enveloped by this incredible wave of euphoria. It was as though we were standing still and the earth was spinning wildly out of control around us. And that moment was absolutely amazing! And despite the passing cars and pedestrians, we stood outside that car on that dimly lit street for a good thirty minutes. And every kiss was more magical and ethereal than the first. And it became clear to me that this wasn't a dream. It wasn't a fairy tale, either. It was a reality. My reality.
But the true reality was that it was getting very late and like all good things, the date had to come to an end. I drove him back to the corner where his car was parked and he gave me one last kiss goodbye before stepping out of the car. God, it was so hard to let him go. I remember blowing him a kiss – he blew one right back to me – and I drove home.
On the drive home that night the air seemed fresher, the sky appeared to be clearer, and the stars shone brighter than they had in a long time. And I realized I was completely smitten.