Off-Broadway Date

—Saturday, January 21, 2012—

It had been a long week and I needed a pick me up in more ways than one.

Originally, I was supposed to take someone else on this date, but when that fell through, Dora got the call. I was three weeks into the second half of the project and it seemed like all my dates were falling through on me. Dora was there to be the upbeat presence that I needed.

She had emailed me a couple weeks priors after a friend of a friend of a friend saw my site and it made its way through the grapevine to her. Dora seemed very fun from her emails and the few text messages we had exchanged. I had even talked to her on the phone earlier in the day and she sounded so positive, that I expected the date to be quite enjoyable.

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We were going to see a musical called Seasons, co-written by and co-starring my friend Katie Hammond and directed by my other friend Danny Williams. It was part of the first Times Square International Theater Festival, which was going on at the time, and I was excited to not only support my friends but also to show them off to a date.

Arriving at the venue, my friend and frequent improv-collaborator, Danielle was in the downstairs lobby waiting for the elevator. She and I had performed improv with Katie at the Magnet Theater, so it wasn’t a surprise to see her there. I gave her a big hug and told her I couldn’t ride up with her because I needed to wait for my date! She told me to go wait on my own, so that she wouldn’t be in the way, and said that she’d save us a couple seats. I was grateful to have friends both in the production and in the audience.

After only a minute or so of waiting, Danielle’s elevator still hadn’t arrived, but I saw Dora approaching through the lobby’s glass doors, coming up the stairs. She smiled wide as she greeted me and gave me an enthusiastic hug hello. “Ah, so great to meet you,” she exclaimed before her gaze immediately shifted to Danielle over by the elevator.

“Wait a second,” she said, “I know her.”

I followed her eyes and questioned, “Danielle?”

“Yeah!” she replied, and as she did so, Danielle noticed Dora as well and they crossed the lobby with excitement. The two women embraced and exchanged expressions of “Whaaaa?!?!” and “This is crazy!!”

Now this was a surprise.

“How the heck do you guys know each other?” I asked them. I soon found out that Dora and Danielle went all the way back to high school, where they’d done theater together. No way. What a teeny tiny world it was that I lived in.

I explained that Danielle and I did improv together with Katie, who was in the show. On top of that, Katie knew the director, Danny, because she used to live with a friend of his, Angela, who had gone Fairfield University, where Danny and I both attended school. Also, it was the combination of Danny and Angela that had brought my Stargazing Date into my life. It was all a lot to process in that moment. Wow. To think — what if I’d brought my original date that night? [Whoever that was supposed to be.]

We spent some time catching up in the lobby and it was great because Danielle asked a lot of the really basic questions I might ask when meeting a date. I learned that Dora had just returned from doing a show in Japan for the past three months (she was a singer and actor) and that she lived in Washington Heights. I actually heard about a lot of the recent things in her life by the time we took the elevator up to where the show was, simply because Danielle had done much of the heavy lifting.

Danielle asked if we were going to the after party following the performance. I didn’t even know there would be an after party, but I told her that we might check it out for a bit. I had dinner reservations, but God, what were the chances that we’d ended up with a mini-reunion?

The audience was filing in as we secured our tickets. On our way in, I passed by another Fairfield alum, Pamela, who was working as an usher and was way too young to know Danny, so I had no idea how she ended up there. It turned out that she simply had an internship at that theater. Totally weird — so many wires had crossed that night already.

I gave Dora a warning that Katie, the writer/actor, had told me the play was fairly sad. “Like, death and stuff?” she asked. “Yeah, probably. That’s the normal sad stuff, right?” I answered, not getting any more into it.

Actually though, it had been a pretty fucking sad week for me. Tuesday had been the seven year anniversary of my mom dying, which I wrote a post about, and all week, Julie had been in LA where she planned to move and where her ex-boyfriend lived. She was spending time with him and it was oddly painful to watch via social media. Painful because I liked her a whole lot, she liked him a whole lot and the previous weekend, when I’d last seen her, things really didn’t go so well. It was odd because, well, I was the one going on a shitload of dates and posting about them all over social media, so I was a hypocrite. I don’t think I was allowed to be hurt by it. Regardless of the logic, it had been a shitty week. I wanted someone to be there for me and it certainly wasn’t going to be Julie.

The weekend was looking up though. I’d had a good improv show the night before and I even had sex afterwards, so that was cool. Still, the sad parts of my week hung overhead more than I would have typically allowed.

We grabbed four seats, two for us and two for Danielle and her friend Steph. As we settled in, Danielle and Dora continued to talk a bit, catching up on Danielle’s life and that of her husband too. When Steph arrived, I was more or less able to have Dora to myself. She told me about her recent stint with The Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in Japan, where she was singing Disney songs with them. It sounded like a blast. We talked briefly about Japan, since I’d been there somewhat recently, right up until the beginning of the show.

The director, Danny, came out to introduce us to both the festival and that night’s show, which began once he exited the state.

Right in the first song, we were told of an unwanted pregnancy, a marriage proposal and a mom with cancer. So, it was pretty heavy stuff and we were immediately looking down the barrel of a maternal death. This was perfect for dead mom week.

I believe what we saw was a modified version of Seasons, one which only presented the songs, with the dramatic scenes cut for time. I have no clue how this particular festival worked, but I’m guessing they had to make changes for some reason related to festival constraints. Either way, it was really good.

It was a bit confusing why the audience only clapped after certain pieces, but I guess it made sense each time they did. I was more a fan of clapping after everything, but maybe because it was so sad, people felt weird applauding. I’m not sure.

The mother dying of cancer didn’t get to me until one song near the end of the production where the mother sang to her daughter to give her strength and to say that she’d always be there for her. I couldn’t help it — I began tearing up. I hadn’t cried all week but the song being belted out on stage triggered me to let it out. Danielle was crying too and it had a sort of yawning effect on me. I took off my glasses and dried my eyes when the song ended. I bet Dora was really impressed with my emotional vulnerability.

So, yeah. Fun stuff! The play ended and Danielle was a wreck. We all laughed about the the sad choice of musical to take in on a Saturday night, which allowed the sadness to pass. Dora didn’t look particularly upset, which was good. I was worried that I had really started off the date with a terrible choice of activity which would upset more so than entertain.

Out in the lobby, I greeted my friend Dede, who was Danny’s ex-roommate as of that very day, and a fellow improviser and Fairfield alumna. Eventually, we all made our way downstairs and parted ways with all my various friends. Everyone was going to the after party, but I wanted to go on a date, so we bade them all farewell and walked over to 9th Avenue.

Our dinner reservation was not for an hour, so we had got some time to kill and went to The Hourglass Tavern for a drink. I had just been there on Tuesday, distracting myself from the sadness of my mom’s deathiverary with friendly drinks with another friend named Katie, this one a friend from college.

On the way, we discussed how sad the musical had been and Dora told me that she didn’t necessarily like to engage with sad things because she felt like it always had the potential unleash a whole can of worms. Someone told her once that sadness was cumulative — that it just builds and builds — such that when you finally attempt to access a piece of it, it has a tendency to flood out all at once. Though I often opened up about sad things, I admitted that I understood the feeling of everything coming all at once. That was what a lot of that week had felt like, actually, and probably why I ended up crying at the end of the production.

Over two glasses of house red, Dora and I talked a lot about the play, my mom and improv. I told her how it had been one of those cumulative weeks for me, though I left out the stuff about Julie, mentioning that the play seemed particularly relevant, given the anniversary of my mother’s death that week. We also managed to talk about improv during this conversation and she asked how I got involved with it. After explaining how my friend Dede, who we’d just met, was actually one of the people who convinced me to try it out, I walked her through my introduction to improv in college and how the wonderful community of people, and the basic lessons of improv, helped me deal with the loss of my mother.

I’d had the conversation many times before, and I felt like I was monologizing, but if this date, with the week it had been and with the production we’d just seen, wasn’t the time to dip deep into that well, then I don’t know when would have been. Plus, Dora seemed very interested in what I had to say and was doing a great job of humoring me.

She clarified at one point, quite intently, “This was freshman year of college?”

That was correct. My mom died during my freshman year of college.

Once I had finished my very long-winded explanation of my mother’s death and improv and all that stuff, Dora seemed to take it all in and then, with a very sympathetic look in her normally bright eyes, told me the story of how Seasons had been even more relevant to her life.

Dora had lost her mom during her freshman year of college as well, and it was after nine years of fighting cancer. Jesus, I thought. How’d she keep her shit together during that play? Wow. I was impressed. She told me about growing up really fast and learning to take care of herself because she knew her mom wouldn’t be around much longer. Her story was relatable in its common themes and inspiring in a way that I hoped I would never have to experience. My dad had been diagnosed with lymphoma four months earlier, but they expected that it was already gone from his body by this time. Her journey, which lasted longer than her teenage years, was a difficult one and I admired her for coming through it with such a cheerful disposition.

Though both of us had grown into fairly well-adjusted adults, we both admitted that we still had trouble navigating our mothers’ deaths sometimes. There always seemed to be new challenges which would present themselves every once in a while. It was nice to talk to her about it.

I felt bad burdening my friends with my mommy issues and it always seemed easier to talk to someone who’d experienced it. I had reached out to a a friend earlier in the week for advice, and they had said that people spoke to therapists rather than friends because therapists were like whores for emotional issues. You didn’t pay whores for sex, you paid them to go away after. Your friends had to hang out with you for the rest of the night. Something about the analogy made a lot of sense to me.

We shifted the conversation to the topic of travel and then, Japan. We discussed how the Japanese seemed to be an oddly repressed culture, but one that was also awesome in its own ways. One of the things that the repression seemed to create were bizarre habits surrounding sexuality. Dora had made friends with some Japanese men and they simply wouldn’t talk about sex. I told her about my Japanese date, and how her last boyfriend had hidden things from her, Dora related that none of the women in her group of friends could get any sexual intelligence from the Japanese guys. Cultures!

As we approached our dinner time, we paid our bar tab and made moves. We picked up a bottle of wine at Ninth Avenue Vintner (the restaurant was BYOB) and both agreed on my old standby, Montepulciano.

We arrived at Nook a few minutes after our reservation and they sat us right down. Some guy from across the room came over almost immediately because he and Dora knew each other from a previous theater venture. The world of this date could not get any smaller.

Our waiter, Ramón, was very friendly and complimented Dora on how great she looked. He seemed gay, and he was overweight, so I was not particularly threatened. We talked more about travel and places we both wanted to visit as we looked over the menu. I had read online about Nook’s to-die-for mushroom cigars, so we ordered those for an appetizer and got to talking about foods that I didn’t like because the cigars had feta in them (I believe).

Dora simply did not understand how I could not like certain foods. I don’t remember exactly what I mentioned, but I’m sure her disbelief had a lot to do with my frequent distaste for various cheeses. I got similarly flabbergasted reactions like hers a lot, and I was okay with the judgements. I told her not to worry — she could think I was a freak — I didn’t mind.

Our wine was corked and the cigars came out within a couple minutes. They were good.

Over our the course of our meal, we talked about dating a lot. Dora told me that dating was difficult for her because of men’s expectations. She felt like they always wanted to move faster than she did and that they didn’t take the time to listen to her concerns. How could she expect a man to be sensitive to certain female issues when some guys couldn’t even get their minds around periods and chicks pooping? I agreed with her and said that even as a man who’d had a bikini wax and spent a lot of time around women, I still had to default to their judgement on a lot of issues because I was a man and their opinion mattered more.

By far the most interesting thing that came up over dinner was Dora’s unbridled love of Jesus. This wasn’t surprising, because it was in the dating profile she had sent me, but I admitted to her that I was wondering about it quite a bit. Before meeting her, I wondered how she could be so outgoing about dating, so funny and flirtatious, while also really loving the shit out of Jesus?

Dora explained it in a way that made a lot of sense to me. Her version of what is meant to be Christian was pretty loose, but a love for Jesus and being a good person were at the center of it. Despite being raised in the Catholic church, or perhaps because of it, she hated Catholicism as much as I did. Even with our diametrically opposed beliefs in God, we actually saw eye to eye on a lot of stuff surrounding humanity and general ideas of faith.

Naturally, I wanted to know how this love of the J-Man affected her dating life, as she’d expressed a lot of trouble surrounding male expectations. Dora responded quite frankly that one thing came up time and time again: she refused sleep with anyone she was not in love with. This had far has less to do with God though and more to do with protecting her own heart. She was not prude, she insisted, but the sex thing was a deal breaker for a lot of guys, especially in NYC.

The topic was actually the subject of a one-woman show that she was writing, but her story was so much funnier than what I expected. She’d had one crazy night with an ex-boyfriend where she very nearly lost her virginity but, well…you’ll have to wait for the live show. That boyfriend was the last guy she had been in love with, and as such, she’d still never really had the sex.

Interesting, I thought to myself. I had my dick in someone this morning and it didn’t seem like a big deal. I guess we were a bit different in that regard.

However, Dora was quiet adamant about getting across to me that she was not prude — she’d do everything else besides sex. I wasn’t judging too harshly over on my side of the table, but I could understand why she wanted to make that point clear. I’m sure a lot of people assumed she was uptight simply because she was a virgin, but nothing besides all the Jesus stuff and the virgin thing would have made me think that, so she was still in my cool book. She was a fascinating person, for sure.

We ordered a chocolate mousse for dessert and had made it about halfway through the thing when we were nudged by the very kind Ramón to finish up because he had a table of ten waiting outside and needed the space. Nook, as its name suggested, was a tiny restaurant. We’d been there for some time and didn’t harbor any ill feelings for being asked to leave.

There had been a lot of laughter and some great moments of connection up to that point in the night, so there was no good reason for the date to end. As we exited outside, I asked Dora what she wanted to do next. She asked what I had in mind and I told her that I was trying to determine whether or not it was safe to drink more.

She laughed. She had a great laugh. I looked down at the ground, as I so often did after trying to be funny, and then looked up at her, took a step closer and kissed her.

It was exciting. It was a good first kiss. It was a welcome event in a week where I’d spent most every hour thinking about Julie.

Dora was someone who appreciated me. Someone who got it. I wasn’t getting that from Julie.

Plus, Dora was someone who had a dead mom. It was a morbid thing to think about, I know, but it had helped me connect with her. I remember thinking to myself, Is this really where my psyche is going right now? Yeah? WELP. Go with it. Like I said earlier, I was still figuring out how to navigate my mother’s death and having someone like Dora around was a guiding light in my stormy sea.

We walked up 9th Avenue to a wine bar she knew of called Casellula. There were only two seats available at the bar and we took them. Sitting close together, it did not feel awkward to kiss again. Each of us cheerfully ordered a different red wine. We toasted, each took a sip of our wines and then, without hesitation or question, exchanged glasses to see what the other was drinking.

Once we had our own glasses back, Dora and I kissed again. It was all horribly romantic and we were having a disgustingly brilliant time. We joked with each other some more and I got onto a kick about how there was humor in everything. I even told her about the few times I had joked about my dead mom and we were cracking up. Nothing like those inside jokes about mothers passed on.

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After some more kissing, I leaned in and told Dora that, because I knew she wouldn’t have sex with me, I was actually more comfortable asking her back to my place. My logic was something like this: I couldn’t be that much of a creep if I already knew I wasn’t going to get laid because it just meant that I wanted to make out and spend more time with her in a private setting.

Dora seemed to follow my line of thinking and told me that although she really wanted to take me up on the offer, it was “not a great time” for her. I totally understood what she meant because, as I’ve previously mentioned, I had spent a lot of time around women. And I wasn’t thick. I told her that if I had an option of sleeping next to her or sleeping alone, I would take the barely sexual sleepover over a night of isolation. She laughed. She was tempted, she admitted.

“As long as you know that it will be very PG-13,” she said. “Of course. I know. And I’m cool with it,” I agreed. “As long as you’re cool with the fact that I need to make my bed when I get home and that I have to wake up for a lunchtime date tomorrow?” I went on to ask. She agreed to the terms and we finished our wine as quickly as we could.

On the subway platform, we held each other and kissed as a we waited for the N train. Only two stops into our journey home, the train was held up by a medical emergency and I wasn’t having it. We left the train, jumped into to a cab and were home in no time.

Back in Astoria, we made out a bunch and ended our night with some good old fashioned pillow talk.

I don’t know how I lucked out with such an amazing date, but I felt very lucky to have found Dora at the end of that very long week.

—Saturday, January 22, 2012—

The next morning, I showered and got dressed only to find out that my date for the day had cancelled due to illness. As such, I asked Dora if she wanted to continue our date and get breakfast. “Of course!” she replied. We made our way to Sparrow and as soon as we entered, we ran into another friend of mine from college.

That seemed about right.