This is my first time seeing the inside of someone’s house. On our fourth outing, my date invited me to meet her at her place, warning me an extra table was causing her trouble. She needed to put it out on the street, but wasn’t sure when big object trash days were. These are the petty concerns that few people share with their dates until things start to get comfortable, so I was hopeful that tonight we would break through the strange barrier of politeness that has made every single one of our dates end in a fairly chaste fashion.
I don’t think anyone should ever, ever have sex or kiss or even hug someone they don’t want to. But it is also true that my intention for dating is the pursuit of romance and also sex. This is our fourth date and I am going to her house. I have hopes.
Her home is beautiful, designed with comfort in mind, full of carefully selected objects displayed for both practical reasons and for the pleasure of looking. Jewelry neatly hung on cork boards, small carved figures, jars full of origami stars. This is someone who plans and has a life that ticks by in a fairly regulated fashion. It feels so alien. In comparison, my home is the dustiest bachelor’s pad.
Can I just say how sane and nice and planned all our dates have been? Dinner, the park, the museum and now, on our fourth date we decide to go to a restaurant that makes wood oven pizza. As we leave, we meet her neighbors who have just dragged out an old mattress onto the street. Delighted, she realizes she can deposit her old table next to it, creating a mismatched set. It’s hard to explain, but I want to do it for her. In a dominating fashion, I guide the table that caused her trouble out the door, then carry it alone through the hallway. It feels like something a couple would do? Move furniture, then go to dinner.
But as I’m sitting there in front of my delicious pizza, I realize I’m repeating myself. I’m boring. The anecdotes you share in early dates have been used up, but there’s no next stepping stone in place to traverse the waters of intimacy. We don’t really know each other, so we keep stepping back and forth to the same well trod subjects. In desperation, I ask if she’s going to see her mother this summer, with whom she’s mentioned a strained relationship. She says no and gets quiet. I ask if she’s in touch with her exes. She says no and returns the question.
I don’t talk to most of my exes, but it’s more that we have nothing in common that would make hanging out enticing, not because we hate each other. If you no longer have sex with someone and your lives don’t overlap, what’s the point? But that could also describe this date. Someone with whom I am not having sex and also do not have anything in common with, not really. For all our fancy plans, the time we spend together feels more and more like the simulacrum of a date than the real thing.
My hopes are quickly vanishing, because somehow I can’t seem to break past her veneer and ask the simple question—what do you want from this?
Instead, I ask if she’d like to see a movie and we go on a walking quest from theater to theater, hoping to stumble into a showing starting right that moment. Finally, we buy tickets to see Atomic Blonde, entering as the trailers start to roll. There are two empty seats, separated by an aisle. They’re the ones with spaces beside them for wheelchairs, but both the seats and spaces are unclaimed.
We grab them and I settle in happily, realizing this is what I want—to be in my own isolated island of entertainment. Before the lights go down, we reach across to each other, not quite touching fingers, stretching and laughing and still not connecting.
After the movie, we pass by those 50 cent toy machines in the lobby. My date very much wants a souvenir and we find two quarters so she can purchase a tiny hamburger-shaped eraser. She offers to split it with me, bun and lettuce, but I defer. I imagine her putting it amongst her collectibles, a little trophy.
If you haven’t seen Atomic Blonde, let me spoil that it features a sex scene between two women, and a part of me hoped that it would give my date ideas. Unfortunately, one of those women ends up getting murdered in a lace bodysuit, as tends to happen to queer female characters. Whatever erotic fires it may have stoked were likely extinguished in that moment, but her departure was still abrupt.
About ten steps out of the door, my date announces that she is tired. I admit I am too, give her a friendly hug, and get on the train. What closes that final distance between two people who are reaching and reaching towards one another, but not quite making it? How far do you stretch just to touch?