—Wednesday, August 31, 2011—
This date just didn’t want to happen. Little Miss Havana and I were becoming star-crossed lovers.
We were originally supposed to go to Governors Island two weekends earlier, but as I approached her apartment that day, dressed for a 1920’s dance party, the clouds over Manhattan and the forecast of rain were too much to risk it, so we cancelled our travel plans and hung out for the day in Williamsburg instead.
LMH and I figured that Billyburg was the one place in NYC we could go dressed for the jazz age and have no one notice at all. We had a delicious brunch, a couple summer cocktails and a pair of craft beers as we crisscrossed our way around the neighborhood. I didn’t mind at all that we had cancelled our Governors Island trip since, in essence, I was able to steal an extra date with LMH. It ended up raining for all of 15 minutes. Go figure.
We rescheduled our adventure, meant to fulfill Ferry Ride Date, for the next weekend, but Hurricane Irene decided to rear her ugly head. Mother Nature, you were a dark soul.
We decided to scrap the ferry ride thing and take our date inside that weekend. What better way to spend a rainy day than in a spa? I booked an appointment for Saturday afternoon at Vada Spa in the West Village. Saturday arrived, and of course, Irene was SO angry that the trains to Manhattan were not running.
Hey Date With This Beautiful Young Cuban Woman, you were becoming a real pain in the ass.
So, I re-booked it. For the third time!
Even as the evening of our date approached, the dating Gods still wanted to fuck with us.
The white shirt I had brought to work, which I’d planned on wearing on my date, was stained. Nice to know that I was taking good care of my wardrobe. Just great. I was mildly flustered by having to make a snap decision to wear something other than what I planned, and with very few choices. As such, I was a little late leaving the office.
As I emerged from the subway, I received a text message from LMH saying that she was stuck at work. Our appointment was 10 minutes away. She said she would be a half an hour late. I entered the spa and explained to them the situation. I told them that she would make it by 7:30 p.m. and they told me that we could still get thirty minutes of our original one hour massage. Okay. It wasn’t a crisis — just some massage time lost.
New York City isn’t the kind of place I picture when imagining a luxurious spa experience. Sure, there are some high class clientele in this fine city, but to me, a spa makes me think of nature, running water and salt baths. I don’t usually think of what was in front of me at that moment: a nail technician of indiscernible gender, smoking a cigarette on 6th Avenue, laughing out loud at text messages. But hey, I didn’t have hundreds of dollars to drop on something more chic, so Vada Spa would have to do.
LMH arrived just before 7:40 p.m. and they rushed us upstairs for a 20 minute massage. I was shown into my room, which looked to be a single room with a large mirror until the door in the mirror opened and LMH walked through. It was actually two small, identical rooms side by side, so that we would be massaged more or less together. The masseuses left us in there to ready ourselves.
We had barely taken the time to greet one another before we were taking our clothes off. I would have told her she looked great but I didn’t have time to process her outfit before it was on the floor.
I’d never had a massage before, so I asked LMH, “So do we just get naked or what?” She told me to get down to my skivvies and get under the blanket. Okay. Got it. We paused for a minute to say hi to each other, continued to undress and then situated ourselves on our tables. There were knocks on both doors and we told them to enter.
The whole strip-down spa experience with LMH really wasn’t too embarrassing or awkward. I was lucky, I suppose, that I was able to go on this particular date with her. It’s worth mentioning that our spa date was actually the sixth time LMH and I had hung out on our own.
We met after one of my improv shows, as she had come to see a friend of hers who was in my class. I remember her sitting there, this amazingly cute blonde girl, and thinking I wouldn’t have a shot with her. I hadn’t even spoken to her by the time One Hundred Dates became a topic of conversation at the table. That was when she piped up. She was genuinely interested in it. She joined the conversation, laughed at my stupid quips and I realized maybe I had a chance. I sent my classmate a message on the way home that night, asking for LMH’s phone number.
I texted with her for a week or so, just looking for a time to call her and discuss a potential date, when one Sunday night at nearly midnight, we were going back and forth with text messages and I asked if I could call her. We talked on the phone for about 45 minutes, and while we made some plans for a date, we also got to know each other a bit. I told her how surprised I was that she was into the idea of OHD and when she asked why, I told her quite honestly, “I thought you were too pretty. You didn’t seem like the type of person who would ever have to worry about getting dates.” It had been a while since I’d spoken on the phone with a near stranger for so long and actually got to know someone that way. It was refreshing.
It turned out that LMH lived fairly close to me, only a 10 minute bike ride at most, which was how I ended up sharing a cab back to Astoria with her and our mutual friend one night later that week. The very next evening, LMH and I met up for drinks at a local bar where we talked at length about the project and also, each other, getting to know one another a bit more. I got a kiss goodnight and that was that.
We casually hung out a few more times and I had it in my mind that LMH was the biggest sweetheart in the world. So much so, that I made little to no attempt to make out with with her over those weeks. It wasn’t until we found ourselves having drinks together for the fifth time that I really kissed her again.
She’d been grilling me about what I wanted from her. If she was just a date, why did I talk to her all the time and see her so often? I admitted to her that I liked her and, since she lived so close, it was great to have a new friend in the area. Obviously, I thought she was very attractive, so I also wanted to kiss her if that was in the cards. But I couldn’t have a girlfriend right? “So,” she asked me, “friends with benefits is your ideal situation?” It sounded coarse coming out that way, but yeah, in a dream world, that would have been ideal. “I could do that,” she said. We kissed for a while at the bar and it was the first time we’d done so with something other than mere flirtation behind it.
This spa date was taking place only three nights after that evening at the bar.
Since it was my first massage, I was glad LMH had experience with them and was there to show me the ropes. I was told by the masseuse that she would be working on my back and shoulders since we only had 20 minutes, and that was fine by me. Twenty minutes was way better than zero minutes. She oiled me up and got to it. How I wished that sentence referred to something cooler.
Oh man. It was so good. Even if it was truly mediocre, I didn’t know the difference as a novice. Ignorance was bliss. I hope I never get stuck up and picky about something as wonderful as a massage. It’s like pizza or sex, right? As long as it’s not terrible, it’s pretty damn good.
I could hear LMH exchange a few words with her masseuse, about being kept at work late and having to rush to the spa. The massage would be good after a long day at work. Just a couple minutes in, I heard her ask the masseuse if he was using oil or lotion. He said oil and asked if that was a problem. LMH politely said it didn’t matter, but it was apparent she would have preferred lotion.
What a priss, huh? Totally JK. I could understand it. Oil wasn’t something you necessarily wanted on your body for long periods of time. It didn’t really soak in as well and I’m sure it could clog your pores and whatnot. Honestly though, I don’t know what I’m talking about.-
It was time to zone out and enjoy the massage. It felt really great. Very relaxing. I tried to release all my muscles and sink into the table like I had learned to do in acting class back in college. Towards the latter half, the masseuse began chopping at my back which was awkward because it broke the near silence in the room and gave LMH a window into the world of my massage that she otherwise hadn’t been privy to. Despite being in the same space, we couldn’t observe each other because our faces were planted in the massage tables. It was like hearing your neighbor yell at her husband. Like, you knew from looking at them that she wore the pants, but to hear him groveling just seemed like an invasion of privacy.
Several minutes later, my masseuse exited the room so I propped myself up on my elbows, wondering if I should get up. LMH’s masseuse wasn’t done yet, so I was hesitant do much more than look around and wonder what was going on. The door opened and my masseuse came back in so I dropped back down to my chest. Then there was a hot towel covering my entire back. Ohhhh yeahhhh. Same thing on LMH’s side. Once they’d run the towels all over our backs, removing the excess oil, we were told that it was over and our masseuses left us to get dressed.
I politely averted my gaze as LMH and I put our clothes back on and exited the massage room. We were brought downstairs to the main room for our mani/pedis. They started us on pedicures but put us in the only two chairs in the room which weren’t side by side. We were seated back to back and couldn’t see or even speak to one another. I had bought a package called “Couples Retreat” and this was their idea of a joint experience! Not only could we not be with each other, but we were in a room with roughly 25 other people shuffling about. Rethink your experience, spa.
As the nail tech drew my foot bath, I shyly removed my shoes and socks and sat there on the side of the chair. Eventually, she told me to put my feet in the tub and I did as I was told because I am accommodating. It felt real nice. I was asked if I wanted red or white wine and I went with white because it was summer, baby!
As I lamented the poor positioning of our chairs, LMH texted me. Clever girl.
Me: Hello you’d think they’d put us in any chairs except for the ones that face away from each other. lol
LMH: I know its hilarious. Well at least now I can “oh him idk this guy” 😉
LMH: We r on silent date
Me: I have almost no toe nails. I bet she’s like, WTF?
Me: Haha. Yes, also not actually seeing each other date.
Me: Really? The fact that I don’t have ladies toe nails is TMI? I assumed you knew.
LMH: My ladies weird lol
Me: Why’s she weird? On a sale of 1-10, how foreign is she?
LMH: My ladys supa serious .
LMH: Not foreign that’s weird lol.
Me: Yeah. Agreed. Haha.
The nail tech cut and filed my toenails and then asked if I wanted nail polish. Of course I wanted nail polish! I didn’t pay for that shit not to get any nail polish. “Clear coat?” I asked, and that’s what I got. I also received a foot massage before the polish was applied, which was greatly appreciated. Okay spa, not bad.
Me: I am getting a clear coat. haha.
LMH: Clear huh, I’m horny now!
Then it was on to my manicure. I didn’t get to speak to LMH but I saw she was getting a simultaneous manicure and pedicure at her chair. I shuffled across the room in paper slippers, looking like a total knob.
I had my nails cut short and a clear coat applied. As I was nearing completion, LMH was brought over next to me to dry. I got to talk to her there and then I moved to a dryer right next to her. The whole experience of sitting there with my fingers and toes out (through paper slippers) was fairly emasculating yet oddly empowering. How that makes any sense, I do not know.
We gathered our things, prepared to leave and I asked them about my glasses, which I had left in the massage room. The woman at the counter said I could get them 10 or 15 minutes later, so LMH and I left to take a walk and look for food.
You don’t have to go far in the West Village to find some decent nosh and we passed by a number of promising restaurants as we walked. I told LMH that I liked her dress. She said thanks and informed me that it was actually just a shirt and a skirt. Had me fooled. It looked like one of those combination pieces. She commented on her heavy bag, weighed down by her laptop, so I offered to take it and stash it away in my backpack. It was much easier to carry in a backpack anyway. We made a quick loop and took note of a few places before heading back to the spa to retrieve my glasses. Someone brought them down to me and we were back on the streets, trolling for grub.
We walked back to a cute little place called Home and after reviewing the menu, we decided that it looked perfect. We went inside and were seated right away. I loved the look of the place. It was so cozy. So homey. I guess they really nailed the name then.
We decided first on drinks. LMH ordered a cucumber mint martini and I got some concoction of orange juice and sparkling wine with a dash of something else. As we looked through the menu, it was impossible to decide amongst all the tempting dishes so LMH suggested that we split everything. We ended up ordering thyme Gouda fries, duck confit salad, Brussels sprouts and braised short ribs over polenta.
Our drinks arrived and they were great. We toasted to finally getting our date on the books. The cocktails were both delicious. Very refreshing. LMH said that no one she went out with had ever liked Brussels sprouts. I didn’t believe it. I thought they were great. They were a go-to for me when cooking. LMH wanted to know what I typically cooked. Well, I hadn’t cooked since I’d been living in Queens, I told her, but otherwise I kept it very basic: protein, starch and a green — often sprouts or asparagus. Sounded like the same kind of meals she liked to make.
The food was amazing — one of the best meals I’d had in recent memory. Absolutely delicious. Everything. Every bite. And I really loved sharing everything with LMH. Because of that, we each got to experience the same dishes and talk about them all. Such a great suggestion on her part.
I learned about her college experience in DC and about going through the musical theater program at her school. It was great to talk to someone who knew what they had wanted to do in college, because I really had no idea, and I think that accounted for much of my indecisiveness at age 25. Alternatively, LMH’s decisiveness in school had led her directly to a career in acting and performance.
LMH told me about her family, and although I’d heard a good amount about them in the past, there was always more to discover. Her parents had been split up for years with her mother in New Jersey and her father in Florida. I was always amazed at how involved her family was with her life and each other’s. I told her, “For a divorced family, you guys seem very close.” Indeed, she agreed that they were.
Damn. Her parents were divorced; there were step moms and siblings; states and states separated them; and yet I am still positive that they were closer than my family had ever been — a family who grew up entirely under one roof. Kind of sad, really. Someone cry for me.
I asked LMH a lot of questions over dinner and I enjoyed being inquisitive because I was genuinely interested in her life. We’d already hung out so many times that it would be easy to get by on day to day conversation, but I liked getting to know LMH, so I figured I would take advantage of the opportunity.
Weeks prior, she had sent me some videos of her singing in Spanish and so I asked her about music and how that had played a role in her life alongside acting. I told her about the bands I used to be in and she encouraged me to return to music. I wanted to, I told her, but it would only be for fun and it seemed like everything I did around that time was already somehow related to one career or another. There was very little time for things that were purely fun. A depressing, yet truthful fact of my life.
We continued to talk and continued to eat and it was one of the most perfect dining experiences I’d had in ages. As I’ve said, the food was fantastic, but so was spending time with LMH. The whole package was so well put together. I could have done that every night of my life.
LMH and I were the last ones out of the restaurant as the staff worked to close for the night. We walked by a staffer folding napkins on the way out and LMH remarked how it was the worst part of the night. She had worked in a restaurant before and knew what it was like to be folding napkins for an hour when all you wanted was to get out of there and go home.
We were only a few storefronts away from Home when I grabbed her by the hand to slow her down. I stopped fully and I pulled her toward me for a kiss. It was a good one. Like, really good. The whole night had been really great and so much of that was because I’d become so comfortable with LMH.
Doing a project like this, it was easy to forget the small pleasures of spending meaningful time with someone like her — someone who made me feel at home. It wasn’t that it never happened, it simply was not the norm. When you also consider how much flirtation there was between us, it was a great combination. My hand grabbed hold of hers and we continued on towards the train.
We talked all the way to Queens and it seemed too quickly that we reached LMH’s stop. As we came to a halt, she asked me where I was getting off, as my stop wasn’t far away. I told her that since I was carrying her computer, it would be rude of me not to walk her home. It was the neighborly thing to do, after all.
I walked LMH home and brought a most wonderful evening, and a date that didn’t want to happen, to a close.