He does not kiss me hello, nor does he offer to carry my bag. By the time we reach his flat and he sits down in the chair that demarcates the bedroom from the living room (as opposed to the sofa where I could have sat beside him) I’m beginning to think I’ve made a terrible mistake.
He’s not that into me.
I should have just stayed in Philadelphia.
But then he tells me he has two surprises planned, and for the first I need to change into sneakers and shorts and something that I don’t mind getting wet.
“You mean a bathing suit?” I ask.
“No,” he replies. “We’re not going swimming. I mean unless there’s an accident.”
“So we’re not intentionally going swimming?”
I change into my bathing suit just in case and try to accept the fact that I have no idea what’s going on—with him or with his plans for the weekend. Of course, it is when I resolve to enjoy myself regardless of his regard for me (or lack thereof) that he takes my hands in his and pulls me into his arms.
Suffice it to say, we’re a bit late getting started with our first “surprise.”
(Which turns out to be kayaking.)
We drive from his apartment in the suburbs to Pittsburgh’s north side and rent a pair of single kayaks near the baseball stadium.
“Have you ever been kayaking before?” Date #7 asks.
“Yes,” I reply as nonchalantly as possible. “You?”
Upon hearing this, the woman who hands us our paddles gives him a two-second orientation speech but she leaves out all the important bits, like how you’re supposed to “punch” forward with your opposite arm while you’re pulling the blade towards yourself to avoid muscle fatigue. On our way down the dock, I try to impart my superior kayak knowledge to Date #7 as discreetly as possible; I leave out the fact that my parents bought my brother and I kayaks for our birthdays back in junior high and this is one of the few “sports” in which I actually know what I’m doing.
Unfortunately, I kayak the same way I hike: fast, with little regard for my companion(s) and I’m nothing if not goal-oriented. When Date #7 informs me there’s a gorgeous view of the city at The Point, where the Monongahela and the Allegheny flow into the Ohio, I set my sites on the opposite bank and paddle west, away from Philadelphia, the Fringe and everything that’s been stressing me out for the past two months.
In doing so, I inadvertently leave Date #7 in the dust.
(Leave it to me to ruin a perfectly romantic date with my destination-not-journey tendencies.)
When he catches up, we kiss and miraculously manage not to flip our kayaks in the process. I try to imagine how I would feel if I’d invited Date #7 to go kayaking and I’d never been before and I realize that I’d be livid if he’d gone off and left me so I try to temper my need for speed and… you know… chill the f*ck out.
We paddle off towards the bridge and I have to admit: this is the most relaxed I’ve felt all summer. I even admit this aloud, because I’m trying to be gracious and genuine and not so stuck-in-my-head this time around. When I do, Date #7 smiles, evidently quite pleased with his choice for our first “surprise” activity, and asks, “Is this as good as London?”
All I can say is thank God we’ve already perfected the art of kissing without flipping our kayaks, because there is no way I’m going to answer that question, not when he’s gone through all the trouble of pointing out all of the various skyscrapers and bridges and arranging for the best possible introduction to his city.
But it’s an interesting question nonetheless; it shows that he “gets” me and hints at all sorts of possibilities. Granted, they’re the sort of possibilities I’m determined not to dwell on this weekend, especially as this is only our third date, but when I see he’s taken hold of the side of kayak and pulled his paddle from the water, I close my eyes and lean back against my kayak’s deck.
He gets me.
And right now, he’s got me.
I don’t worry that we might be drifting into the middle of the river—the part where non-motorized crafts are not supposed to go—because I know he’s watching. I don’t worry about the time—as in the time that our kayaks are due back at the dock— because I’ve intentionally left my phone in his car (so to avoid the temptation to check my email when I’m supposed to be on vacation) and he’s the only one wearing a watch.
I feel safe and secure for the first time ages, knowing he’s beside me… which is why it’s a bit of a shock when I finally open my eyes only to realize that he’s nowhere to be seen and has left me to drift into the middle of the river.
“You let go!” I cry, plunging my paddle into the water to maneuver myself out of harm’s way.
Granted, he’s only a few dozen yards away and there’s no real danger but still: I let my guard down and he let go.
We laugh it off and I ram my kayak into his with a big splash for good measure but as I sit at my desk back in Philadelphia, trying to make sense of the three days we spent together, I’m wondering if that moment on the Ohio was just an unfortunate mistake or a metaphor for our entire relationship.