THE LAST FIVE ...
Closing up shop
It may be time for a change
Entry in the air
Music of the moment
Or ... BE RANDOM!
2001-07-23 - 4:06 p.m.
First date explosion
Not even sure how to do this ... But why the hesitation? She knows it all already ...
"I'm yours if you want me," she says and I do and I don't know if she knows how unexpected – yet welcome – it is to hear. I fall asleep for a moment that first night, Friday, and awake to her heavy breathing in my ear, asleep in my arms and comforting ... It feels so good, completely right, wonderfully perfect — Over and over in my head, Howie Day repeats, You're so beautiful you'll just have to do ...
I knew somehow, standing there by the newsstand at Newark Airport, the swarm of people filing out of the gate area, knowing she'll be turning the corner at any moment, I knew that the smile that came from the pretty stranger's face was meant for me. I went on blind faith, knowing somehow from sixth months of IM conversations (she was right – February, not January it started) and two months of late-night phone calls that I didn't need a photograph to round out the mental image. As it turned out, the picture of her in my head, the one developed in that first random, unexplainable dream, was not that far off. She walked over to me and hugged me, and I found myself a little surprised that she knew me at first sight. "How'd you know it was me?" I asked. — "I know things," she said, but later admitted, "I got my hands on a Notre Dame yearbook a while ago." I, on the other hand, had failed to root around on a particular web site, a class project that included staff photos under the "About" link. But it didn't matter.
Walking through the terminal to the bus to take us to the train, hustling up the escalator in Newark Penn Station to Track 2, settling into the seats for the ride back to Little Silver, I was in awe of her, traveling from Chicago to meet me – and my family – all at once for a weekend. I listened to her voice and liked the familiarity of it, how after two months it had become a stimulus that brings a smile to my face.
After a stop at home, we drive off to dinner at a local microbrewery and I find myself wanting to stare at her but unable to control the goofy grin that forces its way to my face. I'll look when she looks away, then avert my gaze to scan the room, my eyes bouncing as if watching a ping-pong match across from me. After dinner, Dave and Rudy come by and we're off to Pt. Pleasant, down to Jenkinson's on the boardwalk and the beach for drinks and Brian Kirk and the Jirks, a Jersey Shore summer bar staple. It's there that my questions begin to be answered – when she takes my hand to go out to the dance floor, when we dance to covers of "American Girl," "The Impression That I Get" and so many others I forget. When she pulls me over to dance to "Follow Me."
Drunk and hot, the four of us leave at 1:30, walking along the boardwalk back to the car. The ride home takes longer because we first go to drop Rudy off and there, in the back of Dave's BMW, my one main lingering question about Casey, about this visit, about the whole weekend and the extent of our relationship is answered when some joke or comment from one of us or one of the guys in the front seat starts us laughing, and she puts one hand on the side of my face and leans over and kisses my cheek. And I'll be the one to tuck her in that night.
Back at my house, we walk in and I lead her to the downstairs guest room, where she'd left her things earlier. The lights are on as we walk in and as we enter the room, I'm struck again by a slight feeling of doubt and fear – Did I read her right? I walk over to the couch which will pull out into her bed, and I remove one of the throw pillows, tossing it to a chair, and turn back to smile at her in the middle of the room. She reaches out, takes my hand, and pulls me over to kiss me in earnest this time, and we fit perfectly, a match made somehow so well across 1,000 miles of fiber optics through the good fortune of AOL and Diaryland.
I stay with her for a while and we talk long into the morning. Both overwhelmed with emotion our faces are locked in perpetual smiles. So much is said that I want to write down to remember forever, but there are some things that are better left as secrets between two people. That's what journals and offline diaries are for. She asks if I'll stay with her until she falls asleep and I do, falling asleep myself and waking up confused at first, but then suddenly overwhelmed again at where I am, who I'm with. I say goodnight and creep upstairs and feel so young and lame, walking softly past my parents' and sister's rooms because, well, when you're 24 and living at home, there's something so high school about everything.
I wake up at 7 a.m. and know that's too early and try to get myself back to sleep quickly, before my imagination kicks in and my heart races. I do so and awake again at 9 a.m., hearing my father in the kitchen below me talking with her, so I bolt from bed to start the morning. After breakfast and showers we hit the road, embarking on the day's planned outing – the "Ed" tour. We head north to the New Jersey towns of Westfield, Montclair, Hillsdale, Northvale and across into New York to Nyack. We visit Stuckeyville, seeing scenes from the opening sequence (Westfield), the high school (Montclair), have lunch at The Smiling Goat (Bourbon St. bar in Hillsdale), the actual Stuckey Bowl (Northvale) and finishing with dessert at the Pie Shop (The Runcible Spoon in Nyack).
Back home Casey meets Mom to complete the set and I have to write a quick minor league notebook for work. Casey comes up to my room as I work asking to see an episode of "Ed" on tape, and she settles into my bed to watch as I write. My work done, we head out again for the Highlands ferry docks for an evening cruise up across Sandy Hook Bay into New York Harbor and up to Manhattan. I ask how we classify this – "It seems like one hell of a first date," I say. — "I think it's more like an explosion," she offered. A first date consisting of dinner, a dancing, breakfast, a day-long drive, a cruise, dinner, drinking, breakfast, a ballgame, a barbecue, and a quiet night at home.
As the day draws to a close, the weather cools and we move from the open, windy top deck to the buffered middle deck, watching Manhattan pass on the left. We enjoy the adventures of Bill the Ferry Cop – really just an employee, but one who takes defending the passengers seriously. Earlier, he said not a word as he approached four young women dressed for a night in the City and plucked their bottles of Sminoff Ice from their hands, contraband on this boat with its cash bar. And now, down on the second deck, he's intent on removing the loud drunks who've spent the day in the sun at the racetrack down the Shore, the guys who are yelling at the top of their lungs and cursing, as drunkards are wont to do. Later, when we reach the dock near NYU Medical Center and the United Nations, the last stop northbound, some of the more sober friends with the two drunk guys apologize to us, the only ones in this section of the boat remaining for the return trip. One of them – this one a little drunk but not nearly as loud – calls over to me, "Have you found your soul mate?" At first I don't realize he's talking to me, my arm around Casey. Then I don't understand him over the noise of the engines. And then, when I do hear him, I freeze up and can only stammer, "Perhaps." But he sees something, I think, this drunk guy on the boat, because he adds something like, "Good luck to the both of you." And she turns to kiss me and says, "We'll see."
Back on shore, after a Mexican dinner, we head home to meet up again with Dave and my sister for a quiet night of drinking at Val's. We're tired from the long, active day, but once at Val's, I down the pints of Harp easily and do manage to wake up some. When David Gray's "Please Forgive Me" comes on the radio, I pull Casey's camera from her purse and have Dave take our picture, the second (one earlier on the "Ed" tour) of likely many.
Back home that night, drunk and laughing in the guest room where the computer is, I log on and we purchase tickets for my August visit for the Barenaked Ladies concert.
Sunday we eat breakfast on the patio with my family on Mom's birthday before we head off to the ballpark. It's the one day of the weekend I'm working, and she joins me in the press box for the game. Afterwards, we stop by a barbecue hosted by one of the team's front office members and talk with some of the friends I've begun to make on the job, particularly Photo Dave. He asks at one point how we know each other or something, and although I'd told him a friend from Chicago was coming to visit, I didn't divulge the extent of our relationship. When I tell him this is the first time we've met, he asks, "Oh, is this one of them internet things?" It is, in a way, but not like that. In the car, she says, "But it's not one of those internet things." We weren't logging into online singles sites, and I wasn't particularly looking for a girlfriend when I first e-mailed her. But over time, through conversations and chats and little gifts in the mail, we got to know each other and like each other – it was all really like it happens in real life, except for the part about, you know, like, actually meeting.
Right before we leave, as Casey walks inside, Dave watches her walk away and says, "She's a great gal, Dan. Don't screw this up."
We drive home after stops at a few Kevin Smith movie sites, more site research needed for her class project, taking pictures of Holden and Binky's doorway from "Chasing Amy" and of the Quickstop from "Clerks" and the Marina Diner, where Silent Bob speaks, giving the Chasing Amy soliloquy. A stop to stand on the beach before returning home where we the beginning of "Black Sheep" before moving outside to lie in the hammock for a while in suburbia.
And then this morning. I wake up around 6 a.m. and go downstairs to get her up, the last of our morning greetings for a while. We move through the varying morning rush hour traffic back to Newark Airport, where we stand outside looking out toward her gate where there is no plane yet. At 8:40, we walk back inside, past the newsstand where 64 hours ago I first saw her, and say goodbye next to the USAir departure screens. She walks down through the security checkpoint, and I go back outside to watch until her plane pulls away from the gate and she's off, heading back to Chicago.
For the first time in three days, I'm alone in my car, and I go with music we haven't listened to, not sure I want to go straight down Memory Lane. I get home and check my e-mail for the first time in days and crawl into bed at noon, flipping to "The Wonder Years" and seeing the beginning of the series finale, but falling asleep before I get through it.
My phone rings at 1 p.m., Casey calling from O'Hare. And that's when I know she's gone, when we're back to e-mail and IM and late-night calls – hearing her voice on the other end, a thousand miles away. And now the count begins to Aug. 24.
How did this happen? How did I stumble upon her diary? How did I feel just as she did when she thought, "David Gray's Babylon perfectly captures the feeling of driving on a lonely grey evening into night"? How did I manage to misspell her diary name when first putting it on my favorites list, promting her to IM me one drunken February night? How did we continue to talk through the little AOL box long into the weekend mornings and make sketchy, then failed half-plans to meet up in March and May? How did I, we, someone know that it wasn't right then? How did I get the nerve to call her from South Bend and talk for half an hour? And how did it all come together to the point that when she came here this weekend, she said and did everything I'd hoped for, everything I'd expected, everything I'd wondered and questioned and doubted and thought to myself, "Well, it would be a whole lot easier if she just kisses me so that I don't have to guess what her feelings are"? How did I fall into this?
I don't want to question it, though. I just want to enjoy it.
She's anything but typical
— Garth Brooks, "She's Every Woman"
Next page: Hooked on a feeling
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