Dater X: Death On A Dinner Date

Unfortunately, I’m becoming a professional at going on great dates that have awful endings. There was my first date with Scar Twin, which went off without a hitch until I fell down a flight of stairs; my first (and last) date with Jack, who wrapped up our evening by insinuating that I’m a slut; and most recently, my great — and also tragic — date with my old college friend Baby Face. Confirmed: Tears do not taste good in dirty martinis.

When Baby Face and I agreed to meet up for dinner last week, I told myself to go into the evening with no romantic expectations. Despite the fact that I acknowledged the possibility that sparks might fly, Baby Face was an old friend who was looking forward to catching up, and I was too. When he showed up at the restaurant for our reservation after work one night, I got a quick look at him before he hugged me tight and locked me in his arms for a solid 20 seconds. His Facebook pictures didn’t do his new physique justice: he lost his freshman twenty-five (we went hard in my neck of the woods), toned up, grew a beard and wore stylish, tailored business clothes — a far cry from his college uniform of a baggy hoodie and jeans. This was the new, more mature Baby Face, and the look was definitely working for him.

“You’re all grown up!” he greeted me, flashing a genuine it’s-great-to-see-you smile and giving me a long, hard look of his own.

I made a solid effort not to let him see that I was undressing him with my eyes. “Look who’s talkin’. Shall we?”

We headed inside, and once we were seated, neglected to look at the menu in favor of making small talk. Lost in conversation, our waitress came over twice to ask us our drink orders, each time leaving with our apologies and a “we haven’t even looked at the cocktail list yet!” We finally decided to put a hold on our reminiscing and figure out what we wanted before our agitated server came back for a third time. When she finally did, we ordered our drinks, apps and dinner all at once to save her the trips (and interruptions) back to our table. We talked about our days of heavy drinking, mutual friends and what they’ve been up to, classmates who made it big and those who weren’t so lucky.

The conversation never faltered, the memories didn’t stop coming and, just as I’d hoped, my evening with Baby Face was the perfect distraction from my currently chaotic life. When given the opportunity, he ordered another drink, even though it was obvious that the refill would last longer than the remainder of our meals. I saw that as good sign and followed suit. By the time dinner was over, we milked our drinks and continued to talk, but I remained unsure as to whether or not we were on a date. Whatever it was, I was enjoying myself.

Just as I was about to head to the restroom, the check came. I dropped my credit card on the table, told him to please use it, and I went to freshen up. When I came back, I was kind of surprised to see two checks on the table — one for him and one for me. I’d seen him sneaking glances at me while I was eating and he held his gaze longer than usual when we made eye contact, but accepting my offer to split the bill made we wonder if he saw this as an evening with a friend. I felt a twinge of disappointment since we seemed to be hitting it off, but then he suggested we grab another round of drinks at the bar if I was interested. “I’m not ready to leave yet,” he said flashing a smile and making more of that intense eye contact. I wasn’t ready either.

At the bar, he ordered us another round and left his tab open. Our conversation got deeper and more touchy-feely, and, suddenly, our dinner table wasn’t there to keep us two feet apart. If things didn’t feel like a date earlier in the night, they certainly did now. Before finishing up my martini, I excused myself again to go to the restroom, where I had a chance to check my cell phone. I had 11 missed calls and several text messages from family members insisting I “call back ASAP.” From the stall, I rung my sister.

“I’ve been trying to reach you,” she said urgently. “Grandmom passed away tonight.”

I sat down on the toilet seat and started crying. As much as I prepared myself for her passing, it hit me like a ton of bricks. There I was, in the middle of my date, losing it in a dimly-lit bathroom stall that smelled like incense. After five minutes of sobbing, I pulled myself together, headed back to Baby Face, took a big swig of my drink and told him what had happened. He took the martini out of my hand and placed it on the bar, grabbed me for a hug and let me cry on him for a few minutes. I watched my mascara seep into the shoulder of his baby blue dress shirt, slowly but surely staining the cotton. When I released myself from his arms, he cradled my face in his hands and said, “Let’s get you home to your family.” He paid the bill, and we left. After multiple offers to escort me home, I insisted on being alone and told him I’d be fine. After all, he was heading in the opposite direction and needed to catch a train. I’d been hoping for a kiss goodnight, but with tears running down my face and (probably) a substantial amount of snot accompanying them, he offered me his condolences, gave me one last hug and a kiss on the cheek, which I then returned. Even if he wanted to, I couldn’t blame him for not making a move.

He checked in on me later again that night, then again the next morning, and has every day since. He’s making me smile, keeping me occupied and even told me he didn’t mind missing Jeter’s last baseball game to see me, because the person he was looking at was “far more beautiful.” I’m supposed to be seeing him again this week, maybe as a friend and maybe as more than that, but whatever it may be, hopefully it has a happier ending. At this point, it doesn’t take much.