I've gone out on dates before. Not really between my high school girlfriends and the man I met at church this summer (before Krystle blew that up), though I guess you could count the time I got knocked up and the time I met Joseph on the day he got out of jail, but to say that one of us wasn't really into it both times is selling those days short. But last Tuesday felt different. It was the first time in three years I've gone out with someone just because I liked them and wanted to get closer without some sort of ulterior motive. I mean, yeah, I'm kind of looking to see if Calvin is husband material, probably more than most girls would be, but I guess it's less of an immediate priority. Ashlyn and Moira have convinced me (for now) that is okay to just have a boyfriend. Or, I guess, find one.
But, anyway, all those other times going out as Krystle never really felt like they were about me really enjoying myself. They were about trying to make someone else happy - even the one Krystle crashed was kind of about making a sales pitch, like we could get along and be useful to each other, and my daughter needs a stepfather. They were about being good instead of being happy, and though I think it's really important to be good, more so than being happy, I know you can be both. Heck, I know I can be happy like this, if only because of Little Moira.
I'm still a little uncertain an hour before, standing in front of my bedroom mirror in my bra and panties, asking my 21-month-old daughter what I should put on. She has no idea.
It probably doesn't help that I've shed a lot of Krystle's "date" outfits over the past couple years, either not seeing them as essential in a move or giving them away to Jordan as costumes because I'm not ever going to need them. Or maybe it does; I'm not trying to make a night out a night in. So I decide on sneakers right away, after I've squeezed myself into a pair of jeans. They're pretty tight on my butt, but don't split when I lift a knee to my chest (don't ask how I learned to do that!), so I figure I'm probably okay.
Then I look at my chest in the mirror and say "what am I going to do with you?" A couple years ago the answer was always "put on something baggy and hope people think I'm fat", but I'm kind of looking at my breasts different these days. I used to think of them just in terms of how Krystle used to show them for money and how showing them off reflected on a girl in general, and I did try and change the way I was dressing back when I stopped nursing Moira, but it felt kind of silly - like, the instant they weren't useful, they're something to be ashamed of again? Like, I know God doesn't want us to be prideful or lustful, but sometimes it's nice to wear something where raising your arm doesn't tug at your chest. Which is something like half of what I was thinking when I put on a camisole that showed off a fair amount of cleavage; with a fair chunk of "guys like boobs" taking up the rest. I also threw on a zip-up hoodie, unzipped to start the night, but ready for when the temperature dropped.
Then I headed to the North End; it's where he works and there's a lot of good food there. We found a place that still had some tables outside and got a fancy-ish pizza. He did a pretty good job of keeping eye contact, and an even better job of acting like my stories about waiting tables and how Moira has started copying my tendency to do free-throws into the garbage can are as interesting as Bobby Orr visiting the office.
Afterward, I kind of worked out part off why that paying attention meant so much to me. It's not that I've had a lifetime of guys not listening because I'm a girl (although waiting tables does let me get caught up), but because he's a cool older guy who thinks I'm worth listening to. Sure, I've had some life experiences since I was last in high school, but in some ways I kind of still think of myself as being a teenager because my family wouldn't let me forget it and a lot of people treat me like a screw-up, making me feel immature. Anyway, I often still feel like a kid, and when an adult like Calvin feels like you've got something to offer, it doesn't matter if he thinks you're the same age, it makes you feel good (not that he's really robbing the cradle where 19-year-old me is concerned).
Still, he was generally cool, noticing that I kept glancing at the TV in a nearby bar every once in a while to see how the Celtics' season opener was going, and we eventually scrapped the plan to see a movie and just hung out watching the game with a couple of beers.
Which maybe made me a little chattier than might be wise about certain parts of my life story on the way back to the subway as he made a comment about my really liking basketball.
"Yeah, I used to play, back in high school. Wasn't bad, but then all this happened..." I had my arms crossed and used them to push my boobs up just a bit. "...and suddenly running wasn't so much fun anymore."
"Well, you're still in pretty great shape anyway."
"My friend Jordan got me into yoga while I was pregnant, cause she was never into running. It's worked out okay for us, but it's not the same."
A quick smile fled across his face. "What?"
"Sorry, I just thought of a really fun idea for a second date."
"A second..." I stopped in the middle of the road, not realizing there was a guy on a bike coming straight at me. Calvin grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the way, and for a moment I looked down at my hand in his, kind of shocked... and then squeezed. We continued walking that way, not really talking any more, until we got to the station.
"I know I'm picking up on this late, but I find it hard to believe you're surprised by a second date."
"Even before Moira, it had been a while, and it was different. I've, well, I've never really gone out with anyone like you. This is, like, a really new experience for me. But a good one! I--"
We were waiting for the Green Line by then, and a bunch of people getting out of a bar or something started crowding us, and though I wouldn't have fallen into the tracks, he caught me as I was shoved, the hand that wasn't holding mine resting on my butt and pulling me in closer. We laughed, embarrassed, and he let go, but then when we got on the car, we were pushed together again. I looked up at his face, he down at mine, our lips touched...
... and then the conductor hit the brakes and our heads named together. He made a joke about maybe saving that for solid ground, and I agreed, although inside I kind of wished that we didn't need actual brakes being put on.
It was only a couple stops to Park Street where I changed to the Red Line and he didn't, so I stepped off, said goodbye, and walked off not quite in a daze. I zipped up my sweatshirt as soon as I saw someone looking at me too hard, and gave the night some thought as I rode to the end of the line, then let myself into the apartment. I wasn't sure, but I think that was the first time I really enjoyed being a woman, and as I got undressed I gave myself a good look in the mirror. It still didn't seem right for me to see Krystle there, it felt a little less wrong.