I smooth my hair and pull my shawl closer making it the equivalent of a straitjacket. I have never been so nervous in my life. I have a blind date and it could be the best or the worst thing that has happened to me. And it’s the first time I’ve ever gone on a date.
It was Will’s idea. He was my partner in Art class. He suggested I go on a blind date with someone. I didn’t know how serious he was until he actually called my dad, the Sheriff of the town for permission. And surprisingly my Dad said yes. His reason was that he didn’t want me to be cooped inside for the entire summer before I left for college. So here I am, having given Will a note to give to my date whose name is Mike, saying that I will be wearing a shawl for recognition and to meet me at 6:30 at Enzo’s.
So now having reached at 6:10, I nervously sip water and tap my shoes to the beat of the music being played behind me by the live ensemble. I guess Dad was right. Enzo’s is a great setting for a first date. I look at my watch. Okay its 6-1-5. 15 mins before 6-3-0. Okay, be cool. It’s fine, you’re early, El. That’s what I tell myself.
To pass the time, I casually look behind to see the ensemble, a quartet really, playing ‘Them There Eyes’. It was my mother’s favorite so, especially the Kay Starr version.
5 mins later I hear my name, “El Hopper?” I turn around and immediately get lost in a pair of eyes. They were a dark brown, with a small fleck of black. So beautiful, my brain whispers. I trail over other visible features. “Those are a lot of freckles but lips look so succulent.” my traitorous brain snickers. I immediately see the owner and I muse as to how tall he was, given that I have to crane my neck to take a good look at him. He has floppy black hair and is dressed in a clean shirt and a pair of clean formal jeans.
Too long. I’ve been staring at him for too long. I shake my head clear to recover and I stand up and extend my right hand towards him. “Hi, I’m El. Nice to meet you.” he smiles as he shakes my hand. “Michael Wheeler, you can call me Mike.” We both sit down and I proceed to apologize. “Sorry about staring at you. I was”
“Enjoying the view?” he offers teasingly. I roll my eyes but I’m still smiling. Either way, he was not wrong. Doesn’t mean he was right.
Soon, we engage in flirtatious banter even when ordering our food and commenting on the ambience of Enzo’s. Through further conversation, it turns out he too is heading to New York like me for college.
“So…” I ask attempting to bring out a meaningful conversation, while spooning my lasagna. “How do you know Will?” he looks at me with a mouthful of spaghetti. He swallows and replies, “We’ve been friends since we were 5. And how do you know him?” I shrug. “Art class.” I simply reply.
“Oh wow, really? What kind of art are you into?” I shrug. “Well, my heart’s more into fashion designing. I really hope after college, I can get a job in Paris”, and I sigh heavily, “that is if I’m lucky to get one.” I reply wistfully. He considers my stance for a while.
“Hey do you need to be home by an appropriate time? Cause I’d like to show you something after dinner and it’s a little long drive.” He asks tentatively. “If you would like to.” he adds reassuringly.
I look at him. Well, I only have known him for a few hours, but he didn’t seem the kind of guy who would do something bad. After all, he was a true gentleman this entire time.
I shake my head. “No not really, and yes, I’d love too” I reply with a smile.
20 minutes later, we are walking down past Lover’s Lake, to a trail of woods behind. “Where are we going?” I ask inquisitively. He smiles. “You’ll see.” he replies. I roll my eyes but I don’t say anything. After sometime, I feel something warm enveloping my hand. I look down and see that Mike has lightly grasped his hand with mine. I revel in the warmth of his touch. I take the opportunity to squeeze it lightly.
After a while, we come to a small brook and see a stone bridge. “Welcome to ‘Lover’s Bridge’” Mike announces. For a while, I’m astounded by the view. The bridge was a white color which complemented the dark hues of the water below. I gasp in awe and run to the bridge, with Mike in tow.
I look down from the middle of the bridge. I see the moon’s reflection bouncing off the water. It looks so immaculate. I turn to see Mike taking off his shoes. “Hey what’re you doing?” I ask alarmed. He shrugs, “When you want to wish on something, you have to sit on the fence of the bridge. Are you coming?”
I look hesitantly at the water below and then at Mike. He wordlessly offers his hand. I sigh, and then shed my shawl and take off my flats. I take Mike’s hand and he carefully leads me to the edge of the bridge. We sit swinging our legs sand staring at the moon. I look at Mike after a while. He looks dazed with his eyes closed.
“You made a wish?”I ask shyly. He opens his eyes and looks at me. “It’s right next to me.” he answers.
I don’t feel it coming but a blush creeps over my cheek. “I’m your wish?” I ask incredulously. He nods.
“I wished that the prettiest girl next to me would not run away and she’s still here.” “You think I’m pretty?” I whisper with hope quivering through me. “Yeah. Really pretty.” Mike says adamantly.
And in that moment, everything was suspended. I didn’t know where I was, and why I was there. All I knew was that my lips betrayed me and I’m kissing Mike. He tastes like cinnamon and heaven. I lean further. And that becomes a great mistake.
“Whoa!” Mike yells as he clutches my elbows for balance, and I feel myself falling in the brook below. And my first thought is, the water’s so cold. I cough and look around for Mike and see him coming up for air. I don’t know why but I just start laughing hysterically at the turn of events. Mike scowls at me but gives in and starts laughing.
When I stop to catch my breath, he swims over to me and I feel his arms encircling around my waist. I in turn, wrap my arms around his neck. We stare at each other. I once again get lost in the eyes that caught me by surprise the same night. They sparkled with such a rare energy, and bubbled with an emotion I couldn’t place. I remember my Mama singing ‘Them There Eyes’ to me but there’s this one line always sticks in my head: they sparkle, they bubble, they’re gonna getcha in a whole lot of trouble.
But I don’t want to let go of the feeling creeping all over me. He whispers to me, “There’s only one heart in this body, only one soul. Have mercy on me, lover.” Warmth and something electric charges me at his words.
I don’t know who leans in first but I find myself surrendering to Mike’s lips all over again. And for some reason, I never want to stop.
3 years later
I turn the key in the lock and open the door to find the whole apartment dark. Mike must have gone to sleep. I leave my shoes by the door and deposit my things on the couch. I go to the bedroom and see Mike curled up on his side of the bed.
I sigh as I grab some clean clothes for the night and go to the bathroom. I brush my teeth and change. I return to the bedroom and slide under the covers of the bed. I stare at Mike’s sleeping cover, keeping a safe distance all the same. I ignore the lump in my throat and the stinging feel in my eyes that indicates the threat of tears. Just about a month ago, we were in love. But now as I stare at Mike with his back to me, I’m not so sure.
Because just about a month ago, we were parents. And now, we were not.