Dater X: Raising The Bar

Hold on to your hats, kids: The Bartender is the real deal.

Since I left town almost two weeks ago, he has texted occasionally – in other words, often enough to seem sweet, but not so frequently as to be annoying. Our iBanter has been as strong as it was in person, though having only met him once and spent a few hours with him, it was hard to know whether our lingering eye contact was a product of right-place, right-time convenience or something more significant.

We arranged to meet up when I got out of work on Monday night; I had a hotel room – a birthday gift / “thank you for couch-surfing for me” gift from my boss – so for the first time since I started all this work-related traveling, I was free from having to coordinate my comings and goings with friends’ schedules.  The Bartender suggested that we meet up somewhere with a pool tables or darts or the like, which I think is a pretty perfect first date set-up anyway, and since he’s relatively new in town, he asked me to pick the place. I settled on a fun bar not far from his neighborhood with both pool tables and skeeball, and we engaged in some playful smack-text-talk about our relative skills. My assertion that I could out-roll him was met with an adorable pic of him, one eyebrow raised, captioned “Game on!”

And when I got there, it was “game on,” indeed.  He was every inch as cute as I remembered, all big eyes and neatly trimmed beard, and it turned out that he, too, fondly remembered locking eyes with me as soon as I walked into his bar two weeks ago. We talked easily and warmly about books and music, got hustled on and off the pool table by the local sharks, rolled skeeball (and if he were reading this, he would insist that I tell you skeeball yielded a 250 for me and a 260 for him, something I suspect I’ll be reminded of frequently in the future).

Talk turned to movies, which turned to unmitigated horror when I revealed that I had never seen his favorite Bill Murray flick, which turned to an invitation to his place to watch it. I cautioned him that I was loathe to leave my fancy hotel room unspoiled for the night, and he replied that he was happy to send me home when the time came.

We wandered through the misty rain towards his apartment, still chatting, occasionally turning to each other to blurt out, “I like you!”  It was hazy and blissful, not unlike another first date that I still, somehow, recall fondly, though – spoiler alert – this one ended with significantly less vomit, which is to say: none at all.

His apartment was cozy and inviting, nicely decorated but also nicely personal, with photographs of places he’s lived and hand-knitted blankets and a matching bedframe and futon set that he made himself from reclaimed wood. We gawked at the city skyline through the mist on his rooftop, then tucked into his bedroom to watch the movie.  And then we made out like teenagers (read: enough to know that when the clothes do come off, we’re going to have a hell of a lot of fun).

After the movie ended, we snuggled a bit, and then I reluctantly told him I had to leave; in addition to not wanting to waste my hotel room, it was significantly closer to my office and made my morning commute a lot less lengthy. He called me an Uber and walked me downstairs and waited at the door until I was safely in the car and on my way, which I know because I couldn’t stop looking at him through the rear window.  I texted him when I got back to my hotel, and he suggested that I stop by the bar on my way home the next day for a drink and a kiss. I said that sounded lovely.

Despite the obvious challenge of distance, I confess to an abundance of optimism about this guy. He’s a little younger than me but seems mature and confident, and his current post behind the bar is a lot less distasteful knowing that he spent several years prior in the non-profit sector and that he has no aspirations of staying behind the stick forever. His lifestyle is surprisingly un-bartender-y: he runs regularly, takes good care of himself, spends his money responsibly. His home, only a few months into his tenure in this city, is remarkably cozy, the kind of place where it’s clear he enjoys spending time. And we’ve already decided that on my next trip into town, I’ll be staying there; a week or two after that, he’s going to hop a bus and come visit me.  So while the distance certainly isn’t ideal, it doesn’t really seem to be an insurmountable obstacle for him, and so far, it’s not for me, either.

And for now, that’s all there is to tell.  But it seems pretty clear that there will be more.  And for the first time in a long time, I’m really excited to see what happens next.

Until next week,

Dater X 3.0