It was a really good first date. The kind where you actually have fun. Where you maybe drink a little too much, but somehow don’t make a total ass of yourself. The kind where you decide early on, I’d better behave myself, and for the most part, you stick to that. She laughs at your jokes, you roll a decent bowling score, and at the end of the night, after you let her know you’re about to leave town for a week, she lets you plant a kiss, right on her… cheek. And after she drives away, and you hop in your ’02 Prius, you sit there thinking, I want more.
Then you drive home thinking, I want more.
You get in bed, and then lay awake thinking, I want more.
And then, I woke up with a crazy idea. So grabbed the phone and called her.
“Hello?” She sounds – what? Surprised? Unsure? Weirded out? Shit. NEVER call the next day, let alone the next morning, LET ALONE before 7 am on a Saturday! SHIT!
“Hey, it’s me – sorry, did I wake you?”
“It’s okay, I needed to get up.”
Liar! “Cool. Well, listen, I had a really good time last night-“
“Me too,” she chimed nonchalantly. But did I detect the whiff of excitement in her undertone?
“Good, good. Um…” I was stalling. Was I really going to go against everything I’d learned reading Neil Strauss? “So you know how I’ve got this trip up north today?”
“You might have mentioned it one or twenty times last night, yeah – how drunk were you?”
Shit. “Not very, but maybe a little… I don’t know; I was nervous.” ‘I was nervous?’ Did I seriously just tell her I WAS NERVOUS. Pack it in Rookie, you’re headed back to the locker room.
“Could have fooled me,” she proffered the words like a carrot dangling in front of a jackass.
Okay, here goes nothing: “I don’t know what you’ve got going today, but how’d you like to take a ride with me?”
There was an interminable pause.
Had T-Mobile’s spotty beachfront reception sandbagged me yet again? Or perhaps saved me from an embarrassing calamity?
She was still there. “TO SAN FRANCISCO???”
Uh oh. “Yeah. I mean, just for the night, and I’ll fly you back tomorrow, so you’ll be back in time for…”
“Work,” she finished for me. “I have work. Tomorrow’s Monday.”
I scrambled, frantically clicking through Virgin America’s website to find an acceptably priced one-way fare. Lucky for me, the early morning flights were still open and cheap. “No problem. We can be there by 4 or 5, have the evening, get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll drive you to the airport in the morning. There’s 6 am flight, you’ll be in Burbank by 7.”
Another long, breathy moment passed by. Then she asked me a question I didn’t expect: “What’s your mother’s Maiden Name?”
Now there was a question I knew better than to answer.
“Cohen.” What the fuck?!
“Social security number?”
Okay, she caught me off-guard with mom’s name, but no way I’m going to give her my— “Four-one-two-oh-seven-oh-nine-three-eight.” SHIT!! What kind of Jedi mind-shit is she pulling on me?
In 60 seconds she pumped me for enough information to take out a mortgage, enlist in the Marines, or have me declared dead. Then she told me to, “Hang on – I’ll call you back in thirty minutes.”
My plan was coming off the wheels. I had hoped for a little more time with this girl, some company for the ride up to San Fran, and maybe a little action on my friends’ couch if everything went well. Now I was sweating bullets, packing my bags and debating whether to call Equifax to put a freeze on my entire Identity. Despite my frequent check of the clock, my mind insisted that hours were flying by, yet a mere 29 minutes later, my phone buzzed. I answered before it had the opportunity to let out an audible ring.
Be COOL. “Hey!” You sound like a tool.
“I checked you out, and gave all of your information to my roommate and also to my mom. They know I’m coming back in the morning.”
“Cool.” Yeah, that sounded real cool. “I already bought your ticket.” That actually did sound pretty cool. “Get packed. I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
“Great, see you then. I’m texting you my address. Bye.”
HO-LY-SHIT. Did that actually work? Is this really happening? Am I taking a girl on a date to San Francisco and then flying her home the next day like I’m Richard Gere in ‘Pretty Woman?’
I bought the ticket. I finished packing. I showered, brushed my teeth, ate cereal, brushed again… I hit the road.
She was waiting on the front steps when I pulled up, wearing a tight t-shirt, jeans, and backpack. She looked even better in the light of day, as she bounded down the steps, her long blonde ponytail bouncing behind her. My trance broke in time for me to pop out of the car and open her door. But first, the obligatory guy-and-girl-who-aren’t-kissing-yet hug.
We hit the road.
We plowed through the small talk… quickly.
Before the Ventura County Line, we grow quiet.
We drive in silence, letting the radio do the talking for us.
What the hell have I done?? We’ve got 4 and a half more hours and nothing to say to each other? DAMMIT!
She glanced over at me, wearing a smirking smile that was impossible to read, but my frantic mind only saw the worst. She knows I am full of shit. She knows everything. And then I started talking, and no matter what I said or thought, I just couldn’t stop myself. I started telling her everything. My divorce, my parents, my past, my truths, my lies – it all just poured out of my mouth like floodwaters through a broken dam. And when the floodwaters finally ran dry, we fell into another silence. I drove on, like the survivor of some disaster, still reeling from the devastation, knowing I would have to eventually pick up the pieces and rebuild… or move on.
Then she spoke. “Are you hungry? There’s a rest stop.”
I could barely nod my agreement, so I flipped on the turn-signal to acknowledge her request, and pulled into the first open parking lot: a Wendy’s. I hate Wendy’s. But I was so desperate for the distraction, I would have eaten a Double Baconator and Fries just to plug up my blabbing mouth. Fortunately, we opted to split some chicken nuggets, and she insisted that I let her pay.
As we sat there in that roadside stomach fill-up station, taking turns dipping crispy nuggets and sipping Dr. Pepper, somehow the conversation continued.
“Why did you tell me all that stuff?” she asked me kindly, but bluntly.
I struggled to find an answer that would let me keep a shred of status, but when nothing came to mind, I resorted back to the truth. “I don’t know. I just really like you, and I wanted to start out on the right foot. I want you to know the truth about me.”
She slowly chewed her nugget and stared at me from her sea-blue eyes, sizing me up. It seemed like she was making a decision, but what? Finally she responded, “Okay.” She gathered our trash. “Should we keep going?”
We did. We kept going to San Francisco.