Love and Other (Near) Disasters

All the things that happen when your date feels like a movie

Fox

If this were a movie it wouldn’t even bother me that there were no booths left in the bar. Honestly though. A moderate wait for a wooden table in back? NBD. In this movie, there’d be no social anxiety. No itching discomfort at a packed, sportsball-themed scene. I’d painlessly make the mental shift from assuming anything jersey-cloaked was a complete waste of time, to a genuine curiosity; a judgment-free assessment, no—appreciation—for field goals and fans and the like.

If this were a movie, a 30-minute lag time for a table would simply allot us ample opportunity for wordless foreplay; the kind of subtle flirtation that transcends verbal communication, and certainly surpasses any more aggressive means of flirtation. Like when you’re standing in a crowded, dark concert venue and the music’s too loud and the line for drinks is too long so you hover pressed together, heart rate slow and knowing.

Maybe you lean into them. Maybe their hand rests casually on the small of your back. You’re hopeful but within reason. Navigating this place of heightened awareness and anticipation is both thrilling and exhausting. You both wait, sometimes aware of it, sometimes not, but it builds regardless. There’s no rush. You have all the time in the world for each other. Your table is ready.

If this were a movie, we’d slide onto our bench sans splinters. We’d grin over our beer lists, and chuckle at how the menu had changed since we’d each been here last — way before our worlds had collided — and oh how funny and charming and not upsetting at all that their renowned fish and chips had long-since rotated off the menu. In our movie, we’re as flexible and unassuming as the rotating taps on the adjacent side of the room. Easy-going. Adaptable.

We cling to nothing, take nothing for granted, acknowledge the ever-changing nature of our oh-so-short existence, and hey! How about that beet burger? I mean, if we’re honest, the best part of breaded, fried fish is the dill-riddled tartar next to it. Surely those sweet potato fries would pair just as nicely with a vat of that forever-loved condiment. Surely, in our movie, this is fate.

You compulsively flip your coaster after the server takes your order. I study the exposed brick wall beside me. But like, in a really intriguing way. In this movie, I’m mostly not into sports because I’m super interested in other things like rustic interior design and early 20th-century architecture. Also, I’m 94 percent sure this wall examination exposes the good side of my face. Not the one with the scar from that time I drank my bodyweight in expensive Pinot Noir and passed out on the bathroom floor of the hotel room that I wound up in with my former boss. This side has that larger freckle that could probably be mistaken for a beauty mark, and the eyebrow with a naturally more elegant arch. In this movie, my jawline is pretty much breathtaking.

Our server is beautiful, but in this movie it doesn’t even faze me. You and I can converse with an objective optimism about how old she might be, and which of her tattoos we can appreciate for their aesthetic appeal. In our movie, you assume she’s younger than I do, because of the way she carries herself and the sailor jerry ink across her tanned, toned shoulder blade. But again it’s totally fine. I’m fine. Have you seen my jawline?

Another round. More coaster flips. You get up to use the bathroom, and in this movie I calmly watch you walk away. I don’t on impulse reach for my iPhone to direct any mounting, momentary discomfort toward scrolling through Instagram. In this movie I’m wholly complete. I ooze self-assuredness — sans social media. I’m beyond Facebook. Twitter can’t touch this. When you return, I’m at total ease within my present surroundings, eavesdropping on neighboring tables, admiring the server’s wrist tat. Of course it’s a swallow. Wings angled at a mid-dive. I’m comfortably holding the space that your absence has stirred up. I twirl my turquoise ring around my index finger, a relaxed smile across my face.

In this movie, we meld sheepish first date jitters with an endearing undercurrent of neuroticism. You over-share about a topic that’s both un-relatable and uninteresting, then frantically reel it back and crack a joke across the top of it. I laugh too hard, accidentally favoring my not-as-good side. You maybe notice my scar, but in the split millisecond it catches your eye, you probably pass it off as a ‘real character builder.’

During a too-eager animation of my own clever anecdote, I spill ketchup on my blouse — in this movie it’s called a blouse, all airy and feminine. But the whole shebang is most likely the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. My tableside mishap treads that adorable, socially acceptable line of caring too much and not caring at all. Equal parts clumsiness and spontaneity. I don’t comb my hair because I choose not to. I wear condiments because I’m quirky. How fun! Also, the blouse is secondhand, because I’m thrifty like that.

In this movie, there are close-up shots of our building chemistry. Your dimple when you shyly smile at my stories. (You only have one, but that makes your facial expressions that much more irresistible.) A perpetual blusher, my pinkish cheeks would nab an abstract camera angle or three. I swipe my shiny, perfect bangs behind my ear. My freckle-turned-beauty-mark is seriously on point. Your pupils dilate — not as a natural reaction to the quickly dimming lighting of the place mind you, but in anticipation of the rest of our evening. The rest of our eloping. The rest of our coexisting.

If this were a movie, our surroundings would slowly start to fade away. Disintegrate. Lessen. Edges would blur. Background noise would murmur and fall.

Our burgers arrive. They’re out of tartar. But in our movie, it no longer matters.

Erica Karnes freelances by day, and writes about grief, sex, family, and feminism by night. So far her work can be found with BuzzFeed, The Establishment, STIR Journal, and The Manifest-Station. She lives in Seattle. Sometimes she tweets.