The Red Tie

The six month statute of limitations having passed, this is a story I wrote about a really great first date.  I’m changing the names, of course, so as not to be gauche.  The relationship didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons- I think we made it to date #4 before things petered out.  But the story remains, and was written at a time when I was twitterpated and happy, seeing everything through the lens of NRE.  It is also not a piece I wrote intending to publicly share, so it lays bare a lot of insecurity and awkwardness.  

The movie, in case you wonder, was La La Land.   Anyway, here’s the story: 

Somewhere on the bus between Main Street, Flushing and the corner of Bell and Northern, my tie snagged on the seat in front of me and ripped.  Not just any tie: a red and white tie with blue accents, these little diamond-patterned splashes of color that bent from light to dark, matching any shirt my colorblind eyes chose to pair with it on any given morning.  My favorite tie.

On any other day, that would have been cause for a momentary frown, and a mental note to buy a replacement favorite tie.  I would consider promoting from within, of course, but knowing the past performance of the various leading candidates, a Macy’s trip seemed likely.  

That day, though, that day it seemed more like an omen than a minor misfortune.  My favorite tie wasn’t supposed to be around my neck that day; that wasn’t its place in the rotation.  It had been pulled off the bench, substituted in for the heavy woolen plaid tie on deck, because that day was an occasion.  

I had a date.

As a poly guy active in the community, this shouldn’t have been a big deal.  I had, after all, one primary partner, and incidental relationships with at least a half dozen other girls in the past year.  Those interactions, mostly at parties, were light and fun.  Some were great.  Others, less so.  

Those interactions were like sips of champagne, all bubbles and sweetness.  By contrast, Kayla was like a top shelf whiskey, more substance and umami, seizing my attention and enveloping my palate.  

We met at a cocktail party, appropriately enough.  She came with one of my closest male friends, and he introduced us.  Within minutes, we began talking, pinching a conversation away from the circle of friends, like a cell dividing.  

Within an hour we were seated on adjacent couches, knees inches apart, talking about music and movies and god-knows-what.  Just making conversation.  She had a quick wit, and we fenced for awhile, each trying to make the other laugh with a clever retort or timely call-back.  She gave as good as she got.  

That conversation could have lasted for hours, but for my partner’s need to depart, desperate to escape a creepy man who was attempting to lure her into his tractor beam.  We exchanged information just as we parted.

We started chatting the next day on social media.  Within a dozen or so volleys, I managed to clumsily ask her to the movies.  Perhaps unsure if I intended it as a date, she offered to buy tickets, cleverly inquiring whether I would prefer one large pod for two, or individual seats.  

Over the next few days, we exchanged hundreds of messages.  It was interesting, getting to know a person in that level of detail even before we had properly met for a date.  She told me about her life, her career aspirations, her frustrations with living in the city.  Past relationships, favorite bands, travel goals: we talked about everything.  The conversations were easy and open.  We held up our shared anxieties and laughed about them, set them aside, pretended that they didn’t matter.  

Then, finally, the day of the date arrived.  A recent movie, well-reviewed, chosen in part for its soundtrack, and in part because it seemed like a good date movie, based on nothing more than the trailer.  I picked out my sharpest looking suit, and paired it with my favorite tie.  The tie that now had a fatal rip, and was on its last day of service.  

I left work early and caught a train.  I arrived at the bar she had chosen about twenty minutes ahead of her.  I put music on the jukebox.  Hand-picked tunes to lull the butterflies to sleep.  The bartender asked for my order.  I told her I was waiting.  I got chatty.  I talk when I’m nervous.  I told her it was a date.  She wondered aloud, every two minutes from that point, if I was being stood up.  I was pretty sure I wasn’t, but the commentary didn’t help.

Kayla arrived fashionable, and late.  I greeted her with a hug.  We nursed a couple of drinks over an hour and a half, just chatting.  I was glad to be with her.  She didn’t make eye contact when she was speaking, looking behind me and to her left.  Her eyes only connected with mine in little moments, bouncing on the recognition, flitting away.  

We walked to the theater, getting lost on the way.  We were the first ones in the auditorium.  Our seat was right in the front.  The seat had us fully recline, a table support between our knees.  I angled my upper body towards her, and then thought better of it; it was a first date, after all, no need to act desperate.  

We talked during the previews, judging each coming attraction, joking about the trailers.  The movie started.  Our commentary became less frequent, but more intimate, little whispered snippets of conversation into each other’s ears.  

I glanced at her periodically through the first half of the film.  The movie had her full attention.  Her arms were bare, but clothed in tattoos.  Joan Jett, the lyrics to a Smith Street Band song, a veritable playlist on her skin.  

I visualized leaning towards her, saying softly “May I kiss you?”  Once, I even mouthed the words to myself, waited for the right moment.  Right moments are elusive.  Compromising with my anxiety, I asked if we could scoot closer together, as I was feeling a chill in the theater, and she was closer than my jacket.  She obliged, taking my hand in hers.  We held hands for the rest of the movie. Her skin was soft.  Mine felt electric against it.  

It finished near midnight.  We both had to work the next morning, and set off for the train.  Along the way we passed a small park, then another.  I thought I saw a cat, pointed it out, knowing she loves animals.  It was a rat.  Not the mood I was intending.  I took her hand in mine again, we walked through the empty streets that way.  

There was a moment, just as we started to descend into the subway, where the perfect line came to me, but it was literally l’esprit de l’escalier, as she descended ahead of me.  “Hey, subway stations are so not romantic, so can I kiss you here before we go down?” a bolder me would have said.  

We parted with a quick, chaste peck that she initiated, texting minutes later an apology for the awkward kiss.  I was glad for that text; the closed-mouth, rushed kiss emboldened my insecurity to internally opine that perhaps she felt a lack of chemistry, and that was a literal kiss-off.  

There will be a second date, and perhaps more.  Perhaps I’ll even get a chance to see her other tattoos up close, test whether they shudder to life under the gentle glide of a fingertip.  

Next time, I will kiss her, probably the very moment we meet up.  Having tested my ability to overcome anxiety and found it wanting, I will prepare.  I might even get pre-clearance consent, if the moment presents itself.  

But that tie, man, that tie is just shot to hell.  It can’t be replaced, I checked, the line was discontinued.  A moment of silence, then, for a good tie that served me well, and gave its life in the pursuit of a romance that was, to be fair, very much worth pursuing.  

-AG

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Published in: on August 28, 2017 at 2:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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