Dater X: A Tale Of Two Cities

 

Despite taking a few weeks off, I still can’t quite muster any enthusiasm for the endless swiping of Tinder or the dead-end, one-way conversations of OKStupid, so this week, I resolved to be open to meeting someone in real life. That looked a little daunting, scheduled as I was to spend the first half of my week on the road for work and the second half catching up on freelance projects back in my home city, but I managed to meet someone in both places.

Following last week’s friends-only Friendsgiving weekend, when I confirmed that The Quiet One was just not that into me, I was slated to spend two days in the office with him and only him, since our boss was out of town. In the happiest of coincidences, however, our first colleague returned from leave on Monday, sparing me (us?) two days of pretending to ignore the elephant in the room wearing the “No More Sleepovers” blanket. Post-work, the three of us attended an event together, which turned into dinner, and when our colleague headed home, The Quiet One and I went out for a nightcap – I think, more than anything else, to prove that we still could and that it wouldn’t be weird. At least that’s what I had in mind. And it wasn’t. We played the juke box, chatted about this and that, then shared a cab downtown and parted ways.

Thus concludes, for the second time, perhaps the least dramatic workplace hookup of all time.

The following evening, after a full day in the office, I found myself fresh out of people to entertain me before my train home. My best friend was having a summit with The One, who behaved like his girlfriend all Friendsgiving long only to waffle again (for the record, they’ve settled on “just friends,” though I’m not sure how long either of them will be able to keep that in mind). Another friend, who planned to meet me for dinner, had a last-minute moving-related emergency and begged off with a raincheck. The Quiet One had plans to watch the game with his boys. And our boss was still out of town. With a few hours to kill, I headed out for dinner at a cozy Irish bar.

Enter The Bartender.

Having spent years working in the hospitality industry, I’m maybe more open than most to a relationship with a bartender that lasts more than one night, and having been one myself for quite some time, I’d like to think that I know better than most what that entails and how to tell when it’s on the table. Maybe it was several days on the road; maybe it was lingering feelings of rejection from The Quiet One, but I honestly assumed this particular bartender was just being nice – or at best flirting for a tip – when we started chatting. He made immediate eye contact and set me up with a beverage and a menu, and there were few other people at the bar, so it didn’t strike me as anything other than friendly when he posted up and asked what brought me into town. We chatted easily and discovered a few common interests, not least among them that we both lived in (and loathed) another city a few years back. The bar started to get busier, and I tucked into my dinner. After some more banter and a lot more eye contact, he asked if I was ready for my check, explaining that his shift was ending.

I figured he was eager to get the hell out of there after a long day, and paid immediately. Imagine my surprise when he poured himself a beer, filled up my wine glass, and sat down on the stool beside me. The baby butterflies that I’d mostly ignored when we locked eyes swarmed up towards my throat like the monarchs migrating to Mexico. We chatted some more over a drink, and when it was time to catch my train, he offered to walk me to a cab, giving me his phone number first so that I could text him when I made it safely to the train station.

Outside the bar, I hailed a cab and said that I would be in touch when I got back into town two weeks later. And, as promised, I texted him from the train station to let him know that I got there okay. He replied that he didn’t know why he hadn’t tried to kiss me, but that he definitely would the next time he saw me. I told him that he should.

And there it was: something exciting, something promising, distance be damned.

He texted me during the week, a photo of himself on his way to work that put a big dumb smile on my face in the middle of deadline hell, and we decided on a proper date next week. I’m trying to manage my expectations, but it’s hard not to feel a little giddy, logistical challenges and all. What I mean is: I think I like this one.

Meanwhile, back in my own city, I went out to an alumni mixer Saturday afternoon. It seemed like a low-pressure way to put some new faces into my social circles, and at the very least, maybe it would be an opportunity to do some networking. I ended up chatting for most of the time with a nice guy who graduated a few years ahead of me. He was incredibly sweet, and although I didn’t find myself feeling attracted to him, when he asked if he could take me out some time, I said yes. There’s not a lot more to report; we’re probably going to meet up some time this week, though as always during the holidays, it’s hard to know when we’ll both find time. I don’t feel as excited about this guy as I do about The Bartender (as I’m sure you can tell), but what the heck – we have at least our college in common, and if I’m ever going to meet someone, it’s looking more and more like stepping outside of my comfort zone and reserving judgement on people I don’t know is the way to do it. But it’s a relief, after what has felt like weeks of slogging through my boredom, to feel even a little bit hopeful. And I do.

Until next week,

Dater X 3.0