Dater X: Easy Does It

Where to start? This week began with a wine-soaked meal with my ex, ended with another softball game with Mr. Firework, and found me spending time in a national park, another city, and yes, with The Big Easy in between.

Let’s get to it. We’ll start with what could have been a fraught meal with my ex, which turned out to be surprisingly pleasant. Said ex and I parted ways shortly after moving in together several years back, in another city – in another lifetime, if I’m being honest. And while the breakup was acrimonious as hell, on account of I caught him cheating on me in our apartment, our web of mutual friends has occasionally boomeranged us back into the same orbits, and as with all things worn smooth by time, our animosity has been sanded away, leaving two people with some shared history, a mutual fondness for good food and drink, and distinctly similar senses of humor. In other words: we’re friendly, if not friends. So when he said he’d be in town and wanted to take me out, it seemed silly to say no. Dater X does not turn down a hot meal (and good wine).

And I’m glad I didn’t. For one thing, my ex, who is nearly 10 years my senior, is no more stable in his dating life now than he was when I met him, which makes me feel a little better about not casting it in with him for the long haul. For another, he appreciates and enjoys me, and he went out of his way to make me feel special in a way that was more like an older brother than a lover. Sure, he picked up the tab – but it wasn’t just that. We gave each other career and love advice, recalled old jokes, caught up on our mutual friends. He was his unnervingly charming self, and I was surprised and satisfied to find that, several years later, I’m no longer the adoring fan listening to him hold court; I can give as good as I get. At the end of the night, he called me an Uber and sent me home with a fraternal kiss on the cheek. It was – dare I say it? – really nice.

Then I headed out of town with my family for a camping trip in a remote part of the country free from things like dress codes and cell phone service, where the bugs are more butterfly than cockroach, where instead of climbing stairs into my walk-up apartment, we climbed mountains to vistas of the ocean. And to my surprise, I found that I wanted to tell them about The Big Easy. I could imagine him enjoying them, and them him. I had a fleeting thought that this might be a nice place to take him some day. Atop one of those mountains, I took advantage of a single bar of cell service to send him a photo of the view. He said he’d been thinking about me and told me to enjoy my vacation. It felt warm. Comfortable. To coin a phrase? Easy.

When I got back, I immediately jetted off to another city for a friend’s engagement party, and then finally made my sleepy way back home, exchanging a few playful texts with The Big Easy on the train. He shyly asked if I might be interested in having him come to my softball game. I said that I was. I was.

Ready to throw this dude some brownie points? I mentioned in our hangover conversation after The Best Worst First Date Ever that Orangina is my preferred method of hydration after exercise or heavy drinking, likely because it was always my first treat after ice-skating lessons as a kid. The Big Easy showed up at my game with an Orangina for me, which he slyly busted out after my team (triumphantly! in victory!) left the field. He knew I had a doubleheader the following day, so he brought along an extra one for that game too. We hung out with my teammates in the park, then went out for dinner, taking one of my beloved long, leisurely strolls through the city as the sun set; I was delighted to find out that he’s a walker, too. We both have busy weeks coming up, but this weekend, we have our first sleepover on the books. I’m not embarrassed to say that I frankly can’t wait.

And of course, Mr. Firework showed up to our game today. Imagine my surprise when I found that I really didn’t care much at all. I sipped my Orangina and found that he felt like just another teammate, perhaps for the first time ever – and his Flavor of the Week wasn’t even there. He’s every inch as handsome as he ever was (read: disarmingly handsome), but I’m beginning to suspect that I might not be in the market for his brand of flaky anymore. For the moment, things with me are – blissfully, shockingly, unexpectedly – nice and Easy.