1. the way he looked standing next to his motorcycle in all that leather. like something from the Matrix. like Laurence Fishburn, all square and steel. bigger, broader than i’d remembered. i felt skinny as a chicken bone. and running late, i’d forgotten the usual dig-through-the-closet routine. it was just t-shirt and jeans, barely any makeup. wasn’t dressed for dating, and oddly, didn’t care about not to have showered for this. this is me, I thought, as I approached. i am a specimen of bone and dust. this is all I got for you today.
2. the quarter-inch scar on the upper left of his top lip. wondered if he’d been in a fight or something. some incident on the street. i hadn’t seen it when we’d met. hadn’t gotten that close. later, he said he’d been the only black kid in school growing up, so i thought why not. or maybe it was just a fall down a flight of steps years ago. didn’t ask him about it either way.
3. that it was too early for dinner and too late for coffee but that 6:30 was a perfectly good time for a cocktail. except on the phone, he said he didn’t drink. i wasn’t hungry enough for dinner, and besides, i’d come to believe, after gathering enough evidence over the years, that first dates should not probably not include a full-fledged meal. that an hour is just fine. that a drink is just fine. except he didn’t drink. so what do you do instead. when you’ve had the coffee and you’re not starving and he doesn’t drink. we window-shopped. stopped in a bookstore and leafed through a book on the kama stura. and then it was 7 or 7:15, and that was good enough for an appetizer, at least.
4. his mention, like an afterthought, of being a Marine. spending time at the first Gulf war. me realizing as we walked to the restaurant that it was entirely possible he’d killed someone. me realizing that i didn’t need to know the answer just yet. me drinking a glass of wine instead.
5. sharing a first course. the plate of uncut, scantily dressed romaine posing as a caesar salad. his encouragement that i eat the last leaf. our agreement that it wasn’t the best caesar salad we’d ever had. our agreement of the word “underwhelming.” me hoping that that was the last time I’d think of that word this evening. me feeling the warm, tannin slide of merlot down my throat. me secretly hoping that my enjoyment of a glass of wine now and then wasn’t going to be a problem. looking at the large glass of lemonade to his left and timing the sips from my own glass. waiting for my pizza to arrive. asking about his tattoos.
6. agreeing on the importance of fresh breath.
7. really looking at his mouth.
8. that he did not pay for dinner, and after the initial surprise of that, because i’d somehow gotten to believe this is what happens on first dates when someone asks you out, i was alright with shelling out my half of the meal. it shouldn’t have surprised me. from the beginning, he’d yelled from the middle of a street hockey game for my number. was playing goalie and didn’t care that his teammates were losing. didn’t care that i was on my bike and headed west. there no tentative sidle up at the bar and loquacious banter. and for that matter, no silent, stoic gaze from across an unreachable expanse, and a tiny note slipped into my palm at the last minute. there weren’t any of the expected formalities. he was not like a nervous first date wanting to impress, keeping things even, simple, virgin. he did not ask me about my family or what i did for a living. he wanted to know how old i was. he tried to guess my weight. he asked what my last date had been like, what i thought about black men. he did not take his eyes off me once.
9. that he came home with me to bake cookies was impressive. that he played the guitar and sang blues while i mixed the batter was even better. that he fumbled with the strings, betraying a lack of practice and precision. that sometimes he didn’t quite hit the notes. that he could play imperfectly in front of a relative stranger and not mind in the least and in fact, keep singing.
10. that we did not kiss, not really, even when he left and there was time, in the hallway, with my housemates in other rooms, a perfectly good hallway to kiss in and we didn’t, and despite that, it felt like we already had, that i knew what his lips would feel like, and then, by extension, I became certain of other things, that he would know what to do with my body, if it got that far. could imagine, somehow, the precision of his tongue. could imagine the sex turning into a whipped up furious, frenzied thing, my torso tiring before his. could imagine how I would be woken by a stroking hand on the inside of my thigh at three in the morning, and by dawn the sheets would become a litter of spent condoms. could imagine others there in bed with us, a polyamorous playpen, a rotating pool of interested candidates gathered from an internet prowl, or a late-night crawl to the Mission hotspots where such things materialize. could imagine that. all from a mouth I did not kiss. and shutting the door of him, goodbye, goodbye, you call he said, your call he said, and then the unambiguous announcement of his departure, the opposite of a purr, his motorcycle revving outside like a lion, and the whole neighborhood jolted awake by this animal noise, me returning to the kitchen for more cookies, more cookies, my own mouth gleeful with crumbs.