—Saturday, November 5, 2011—
Sometimes you just have to take a chance, even if it seems like it’s from out of nowhere.
It was roughly 2 a.m. on a Thursday in August of that year when I sat down on a grungy wooden bench at the 49th Street N/R/Q stop and looked to my left. Seated a couple spots over was a young woman smattered with tattoos, an unconventional fashion sense and one side of her head shaved. I couldn’t help but glance repeatedly, which was how I noticed her smallest (visible) tattoo — a tiny Batman symbol behind her right ear.
Well, that was it for me.
As we waited for the train, I considered talking to her, but the few other people on the platform made it uncomfortable. Fortunately, I was riding the rails that night with great swagger, having just left Madelyn outside on 49th Street. She and I had been making out for the last hour or so, which had put me in a good place. After all, Madelyn was the one who originally hated the project but went on to be my Stargazing Date. She had wanted to get drinks ahead of our date and I was happy to oblige.
So, when Batgirl and I boarded the train and sat down across from each other, I decided I should tap my well of confidence and make a move. I looked her way several times after passing under the East River and pulled out a card from my wallet as we moved uptown through Astoria. As she exited the train, one stop before my own, she paused in front of me and our eyes met. She looked right at me as if she was waiting for something. I handed her my card without exchanging a single word and she walked through the closing doors.
By the time I hopped off at Astoria Blvd thirty seconds later, there was a text message on my phone reading, “Hi Evan. Nice to see u on the train just now, I’m Fiona.” I told her to check out the website on my card and let me know if she’d be interested in a date. She told me that she didn’t have a computer, so in a few text lengthy messages, I tried to explain OHD.
Fiona: Ha! I didn’t notice that!! Unfortunately i don’t have a computer…can u give me the gist of it? 2:48 AM
Me: As breifly as possible: I’m 25. Serial monogamist. Went on my first date this year. Discovered later that not enough people date. Need to be single for a year of my life so I can figure out a number of things and improve my life in certain ways. I created a list of 100 different dates and I have to go on them all in 1 year. Started in July. I write about them all and so far, they’ve all been great and I don’t reveal anything too private about the dates. I have good motives, I assure you. 2:56 AM
Me: So far, I’ve made no enemies and even won people’s opinions. The site is worth reading when you’re able to, just in case you’re skeptical of some guy on a train. 2:58 AM
Fiona: Very interesting. Do all 100 dates have to b w different ppl? 3:00 AM
Me: No. I’m sure there will be some 2nd & 3rd dates, but I can’t get into a relationship with anyone. 3:02 AM
Fiona: Very, very interesting…i wish i had a computer even more now! Hmm…what kind of dates r left on ur list? 3:10 AM
Me: Also, I’m passing out. But, I’ll gladly continue the conversation tomorrow 3:10 AM
Me: Many. I’ll try to share some tomorrow. It was nice “meet” you! Goodnight! 3:11 AM
Fiona: Goodnite! I hope to meet again soon, maybe next time i’ll get to hear ur voice ,’) 3:13 AM
Fiona: …And yeah, i’ll go on a date with u. 3:13 AM
Me: Awesome. I’ll pick a good one. 😉 ‘nite. 3:14 AM
Fiona: Sweet dreams Evan 3:16 AM
Pretty crazy, right?
Following that meeting, we exchanged numerous texts and a hoard of Facebook messages, some as long as letters, and deeply personal. We caught up on family, relationships, vices and favorite movies over the two and a half months leading up to our date. Now that we’re all caught up, I bring you to the the first Saturday in November, 2011, the year of our Lord. Remember, remember, the 5th of November — the random person I saw. I know of no reason what that random person should ever be forgot.
I was running late getting myself ready for the date because I’d slept in and also, I had my BFF Kevin staying with me that weekend. Although he knew that I’d be busy when he decided to come down, I still wanted to make sure he was taken care of and that I was not an abysmal host/friend/human. A text from Fiona, telling me that she would be there an hour later than planned, allowed me to relax. Kevin and I got some breakfast and hung out in my apartment, exchanging grand plans to rule the comedy world and theories about the next Batman movie. I also drank some water (important date tip) and cleaned up my room a bit.
Soon enough, I received a text from Fiona reading, “I’m here!” I was in the process of replying when the buzzer rang. Whoa! Okay. The time had come to speak to this woman for the first time. There had been so much communication and anticipation leading up to this moment, that I was feeling a bit on edge as I held the button to buzz her in. I opened the apartment door a few seconds later and there she was, walking up my stairwell.
I greeted Fiona and heard her voice for the first time. She seemed friendly enough for a total stranger from the subway. Entering my apartment, she surveyed the space and put her bag down before asking for the bathroom. While she was in the can, I told Kevin he could continue to relax in the living room and watch The Walking Dead since Fiona and I would be in my room.
Fiona came out of the bathroom and I noticed for the first time how she was dressed. Dare I say, she looked modestly provocative? Her jeans were standard fare, but on top she was wearing a sheer white blouse with a black polka dot bra, so while I couldn’t really see anything too explicitly, it provided a significant amount of allure. The visible bra was a deliberate choice, I am sure. It was cool.
I told her she could “step into my office” and we entered my bedroom. On paper, this was the coolest start to a date I’d had yet. In under five minutes, I was in my bedroom with my date and her bra was in plain sight. Normally, this was a recipe for success. Normally.
In my world though, things didn’t come so easily. Fiona had met me there, and was in my room, because she wanted to know more about Tumblr.
She kept her own blog about dating but didn’t feel like she really understood how to use Tumblr effectively and to her, I had a great deal more knowledge. Before I could even get into anything, she asked about the mask hanging on the lamp next to my bed. It was from Sleep No More, which I tried to explain to her, but ended up playing videos and showing her pictures of it instead.
Kevin popped his head into my room to tell me he was taking off. I don’t think he had anywhere to be and I felt a bit bad that he felt intrusive. The fact that this project held reign over how and when I interacted with my friends was something I worried about frequently, yet the project persisted. Not sure if it was my pride or vanity that allowed for such endurance, but I’m not sure either was an acceptable excuse.
With Kevin gone from the apartment, Fiona and I got to it. I showed her around Tumblr’s interface and described some of the features she found unfamiliar — adding photos, embedding video, hyperlinking — nothing very advanced. She took notes on it all. I also gave her an overview of Google Analytics in case she became interested in finding out who she was reaching. By the end of it, I felt I had taught a small workshop and she was thankful for the tips. It had to be one of the most productive dates thus far.
All we had to do next was figure out what to do for the rest of our date. The intention, after all, was to be somewhat random.
I, for one, was curious about Flushing Meadows Corona Park. I had never been there and its association with the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs had intrigued me since I first saw Men In Black. I’d always found past depictions of the future to be fascinating. Fiona had never been there either and she readily agreed that it was both random and seemingly fun. We threw on jackets and headed out the door.
Walking down my street, Fiona lit a cigarette and I asked if she wanted anything from the deli. She didn’t and we talked for another minute before she sought my opinion on her smoking. I told her that she was the first smoker I’d ever been on a date with and that, although I had no interest in partaking, it didn’t bother me very much. Fiona was surprised that she was the first smoker since she had rarely been on a date with a non-smoker. I wondered if they attracted each other or if we repelled one another. Someone please conduct a survey.
As we approached the subway station, I asked her why she had so many tattoos. I don’t think enough people ask this question. We are very used to asking the meaning behind specific tattoos but I had never heard anyone ask a heavily tattooed person why they decided to be covered in tattoos.
Fiona’s first response was simple: She liked to piss off her mom. Also, it let people know that she didn’t give a fuck and that she was crazy. Well, those all sounded like great reasons to have a body of tattoos. And although her answers, when quoted, make her sound a bit radical, she said them with an assurance that gave them credibility. I suppose that if those things are true, you might as well tell everyone. Better that they know it from the onset.
I had always enjoyed the view from the elevated Astoria Blvd subway platform. It looked straight out over the Triborough Bridge and I was glad that our entire ride to the park would be above ground. It made for better scenery than the tunnels. The journey was a relatively simple one, involving only one transfer, and Fiona was easy to talk to. Her upfront nature was a quality I really appreciated, especially when I thought about how it was our first time truly meeting.
She didn’t seemingly flirt, but I think that in some way, being straightforward is a great form of flirtation. It shows one’s confidence without necessarily making you look like a cocky asshole. We discussed Occupy Wall Street for a while, which went well, and then the idea of “playing hurt”. That is, continuing to do something and ignoring the fact that it hurts you. Saying that back to myself makes me think of my last relationship, but Fiona and I kept the conversation limited to sports, sleep and illness mostly.
We could see the Unisphere and New York State Pavilion before we even reached our stop, Mets-Willets Point, and as we stepped off of the train, I was reminded of my Sporting Event Date with Ariana. Time had passed by so quickly since July.
Fiona and I traversed the boardwalk over to the northern entrance to the park, passing by the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and a group of young marching band drummers. She was telling me about her family from upstate. I was wondering if those kids were in a marching band or just a drumline. There was a large, phallic map on a stone wall just before the park’s entrance and we read it over in order to develop a battle plan.
The park emanated a sense of glory lost as we walked through it. The soccer fields where I’m sure there used to be World’s Fair tents were fine enough, but the stagnant Pool of Industry and its non-functioning fountain were only hieroglyphs of better times. It was depressing. Also, insane to think that there had actually been a temporary village in that location.
We walked down the greenway, passing by the Rocket Thrower statue, en route to the Unisphere. I told her about the children’s book I wanted to write. She thought it was cute. At least, I think she thought it was cute. It was about fireflies.
Ah, the Unisphere. This was the landmark I’d most desired to see in NYC since I had moved to Queens. The large globe was actually topographical! I never would have guessed. There was no water in the fountain surrounding the large structure and someone had already climbed up to the base of it. As soon as he left, we strode across the barren flats of the fountain pool and scaled the Unsphere’s base. Standing underneath the massive ball of metal was awesome and I took some photos. I wanted to climb the structure like a jungle gym. Fiona wanted to fly straight up into the middle of it.
The Queens Museum of Art was directly west of us and I asked Fiona if she had been there, being an artist and all. She hadn’t and it appeared to be closed anyway. In fact, I vaguely recalled reading that fact online earlier that week. I wondered aloud what exhibits or pieces it could possibly have that would make it stand out against the other art museums of NYC. I could only imagine that it was unimpressive, quite unlike the 1964 World’s Fair and the massive globe above us.
Hopping down off of the base, we walked out towards the museum to take photos standing in front of the Unisphere. The day’s light was lowering and the photos didn’t look great but they did the trick of documenting the adventure.
South of the Unisphere was the New York State Pavilion and we walked over to it, talking about what a strange landmark it was. I can remember my first cab ride from JFK and passing by the structure. I don’t think I knew it was a real place. I certainly didn’t know where it was. I only remembered that the observation towers were used as hidden spacecraft in Men In Black.
The structure was huge and decrepit. Its only saving grace was a newly renovated theater next door, home of the Queens Theatre in the Park.
I tried to imagine what the main circular structure would have looked like in its early years. There were only cables where there had once been a roof, invoking something like a spider’s web built by suspension bridge engineers. We searched around the entrances in an attempt to see inside, but there was not much to see, only the remains of some lofty predictions of the future.
Fiona asked me to take a picture of her in front of the pavilion. I did so, but declined to pose for the camera myself. I’m weird sometimes.
We probably didn’t want to be hanging around the park after dark on account of what people said about parks after dark. Drugs, rape, violence, etc. It has always seems strange to me that city parks have had such reputations given how innocent and mild-mannered they are during the day.
Walking back towards the train, past a skate park and the Unisphere, Fiona told me about her current living situation. She was sleeping on the floor of a room she shared with a man in Bushwick. It was incredibly cheap though — something like 200 dollars a month. Although sharing a room wasn’t ideal, she preferred it to living alone. She would rather that than have her own place. If I’d had to find an exact opposite of her mindset, I’d have looked no further than myself.
Another random curiosity of mine since moving to Queens was the famed food of Jackson Heights, so that was where we set our sights next. We waited a bit for the express train and it didn’t take long to get to our culinary and cultural oasis.
My first impression after getting down to the street level was that it was like a Little Bombay there. Though, having never been to Bombay, it served little utility when I said this to Fiona. We were greeted by arching lights over the streets, which given the recent nightfall, made for a very dramatic entrance to the neighborhood. The place looked alive.
We walked up 74th Street and took it all in. Rounding the block, we saw a street vendor selling some kind of food out of his cart. We had no idea what he was making, but whatever it was, it must have been good because a lot of people were eating it. Fiona paused with curiosity, and I suggested that we try it. The man began to make us a bowl of the stuff, mixing what looked like puffed rice with spices, sauces and some green bits. He asked us if we wanted it spicy. Sure! Let’s do it.
An Indian woman in line politely informed us that “spicy” could be too hot for us. Well shit. We’d have to roll with it. Fiona and I agreed that we should have it whichever way he wanted to make it, which was spicy. When I eat something, or in someplace, truly unfamiliar, I always trust that their version is probably the best. Fiona felt the same way.
With two spoons, we each took cautious first tastes of the Indian treat. It was pretty good! It was like sweet and spicy cereal, which shouldn’t have been surprising, because that was literally what it was. Still though, the tastes were a combination my that my suburban tongue was not used to.
Once we had finished our Mumbai Munchies, we walked down an alley to check out some stores and restaurants. We wandered into a tiny two level mall but I use the term mall loosely. It was more like a small office building but instead of offices, there were shops packed with various South Asian goods. There was also a restaurant in the same alley which looked decent.
We walked back towards the train station and then East on Roosevelt Avenue. In what seemed like only two blocks, it appeared that we had crossed some sort of cultural divide because rather than being surrounded by Indian and Bangladeshi establishments, we were suddenly balls deep in a Latin American neighborhood. I felt like I’d been to two countries in two minutes.
There was a large discount store that we decide to enter — one of those places that had everything in the world and it was always all on sale. Fiona laughed at how all the homeware products (plates and glasses mostly) had the price written right on them in permanent marker. This was likely not the best way to go about price listing. I was impressed mainly with the array of different products that the place sold. Fiona found a pencil case she liked and I found some great NSYNC folders. I questioned how things like that were not simply in a landfill someplace (New Jersey).
There was a store cat, presumably there to catch mice, and there was an entire room dedicated to paper towels. In the women’s underwear section, I asked Fiona about cup size. It occurred to me that I never paid attention to cup sizes any longer. When we were in middle school, maybe even the start of high school, a girl’s cup size was valued information. You could brag to your friends about your girlfriend having a large cup size. Despite this once important preoccupation, I don’t think I could tell you anyone’s general cup size these days. We concluded that it likely had a lot to due with the fact that I didn’t really care about big boobs, which was definitely the case. If a woman’s breasts worked for her, and she was confident with them, it didn’t matter much their size.
Plus, who was I to be picky with such an unimpressive skin flute hanging between my legs? We’re all disappointing in our own ways.
In the end, no purchases were made and we continued our walk up Roosevelt Avenue. By the time we reached the next train station, we recognized that we should eat, so we turned around to more closely consider the many eateries that we had passed.
An ecuadorian cart found us quickly and we decided to get some things there and then return to the restaurant in the alley for Indian food. In broken Spanish, I ordered a humita (similar to a tamale), llapachingo (a friend potato patty) and some mote (hominy). The humita was amazeballs. Fiona didn’t love it, but man, I would have married that thing. The llapachingo was delicious as well and her Irish blood agreed. The mote was pretty bland but I found it redeemable, so I ate most of it.
Walking back west on Roosevelt Avenue, we passed by bars, a gentleman’s club and an “adult” store. Fiona paused and looked back at the door. “Want to go in?” I asked. Yes, she did.
This is a good time to mention that somewhere in the many messages that Fiona and I had exchanged on Facebook, she had mentioned that she was a sex addict. I don’t believe it was in such a way that she trolled Casual Encounters looking for someone to fuck that night, but certainly in a way that her sexual desires had become a problem in past relationships. Wherever she fell on the spectrum, it was something that was out there in open and so I didn’t feel freaked out entering an adult store with her.
I had been in an adult store once before in my life, but that was with some housemates of mine in college and it was specifically for the purpose of buying a large double-ended dildo to have around the house. Typical guy stuff. Fiona was surprised that I’d never gone into one on my own or with a partner. “Well, I don’t think most of this stuff is meant for me,” I told her as we walked by an aisle of lingerie.
The dildo spread in the back room was pretty impressive while also being a tad unsettling. There were units there so large that they pushed the boundaries of what I knew to be physically possible. They also had a fake vagina section but I wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t think there’s anything wrong with pleasuring one’s self, but the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the night was clean my own semen out of a rubber vagina. If I were ever desperate enough to need a fake vagina, I’d go online or to the trashiest bar I knew of and find a woman as ugly and as desperate as me.
Back towards the front of the store, there were some straps and various bondage items that I could make sense of, but neither of us understood the zipper-mouth masks. It would be so hard to breath, and with your nose smashed down like, I couldn’t imagine having a good time . There was some condom talk before we left the store behind and continued on our walk.
We stopped at a taco cart because it was a taco cart and there are few things better in life. Once again, the food did not disappoint. The tacos were delicious.
Carrying on our way, we landed right back at the alleyway Indian restaurant. We sat down at a table and the staff was immediately concerned. Two waitresses came over to deal with us and asked what they could do. Fiona asked if we were supposed to order our food from the counter and sure enough, that was the deal. There was no table service in that sense.
We ordered a plate piled with a variety of foods, and laughed about how random our assortment was, much to the disapproval of the man who served us. Taking the food back to our table, Fiona sat on the same side of the booth as me so that she wouldn’t watch the TV over my head. She said that growing up without cable made television very distracting and she was easily sucked into watching anything.
After sampling all of the food we had assembled, I determined that none of it was very good, but it was not terrible either. Certain things hit better than others. I also reasoned that it was probably a Pakistani restaurant given the amount of beef on the menu. Indian restaurants typically never served beef.
The waitress again came to greet us asking, “Happy?” We laughed. Yes, we were happy.
After we each used the bathroom and paid, we ventured back to the train past what looked to be an old porno theater on a newly closed off pedestrian street. It was a great juxtaposition — the civility and cleaned up nature of a pedestrian street with a dingy old porno theater sitting in the middle of the block.
A herd of people were already on the platform waiting for the train and when it arrived, we managed to get seats despite the crowd. We talked about sports and art and how risk was all about perspective. I’m sure that some parents think it very risky to have their children play sports considering the physical damage it does to their bodies and the myriad of freak accidents that occur. Other parents though, would worry about the financial and lifestyle risks associated with having their children becoming artists. Those parents who think a life of art would spell ruin probably think nothing of dressing their children in hockey pads and putting them out on ice for a few months each year. I grew up with both worries, but my parents probably fell more in the “pro-sports, cautious about art” camp.
We discussed getting a drink back in Astoria and so we got off one stop before my own, at 30th Avenue, where I knew there were more bars. This was the same stop where I had handed Fiona my card, nearly three months earlier. Once we were on the street, Fiona said we should walk towards my apartment since we had to get her things there later. We walked along Newtown Avenue and up Crescent but we really didn’t pass any bars, which I knew would be the case, so I told her we could go to the bar next to my apartment. Come to think of it, I had yet to bring a date there. I dropped off my camera at my apartment and we went to Mosaic, just one building over.
There was an open couch, which we claimed for ourselves, and in no time someone was taking our order. We each got a beer and settled in. Fiona preferred lagers while I was more inclined towards ales and stouts. The topic of wine, beer and other things that led to bad decisions carried us through a round or two, intermixed with more stories of our pasts. I told her how, when my apartment was broken into in October, the owner of Mosaic helped find us a carpenter to repair the door and how her was so nice to Pat, my roommate, in the aftermath. It was a great place to have as a neighbor.
Just like that, it was late at night and we’d been out together for hours. It was time we get going. We retreated back to my apartment so that Fiona could gather her things. She took a seat up on my bed and it looked like she was waiting for something rather than grabbing her things and taking off.
We’d spent hours together and I hadn’t made a single move, so I took the hint and at the edge of my bed, there was nothing random about the kiss — it was as intentional as they came.