—Wednesday, April 18, 2012—
There she was. Three rows up. Sitting alone. My date was at my improv show and I saw her take her seat just before my team went backstage to ready ourselves. As if the show itself wasn’t enough to make me nervous, I also wanted to specifically impress Kathleen.
Several weeks earlier, Kathleen had emailed to explain that she’d had a crush on me years prior while in high school, that she really liked OHD, that she was going to be in NYC and that she really wanted to go on a date with me. I was incredibly flattered to find out that I had an admirer, but my week was packed and I told her that the only time and date that could work would be an ice cream date after my improv show that Wednesday.
She liked the idea of seeing one of my shows, so she agreed to the date and had shown up at the Magnet Theater to watch me be funny. At least, that was the goal. In addition to the show, we were going to try and check out two of Manhattan’s best ice cream shops. While most ice cream dates were likely quick and casual affairs, I figured we could make a little more of a night out of it and explore some new places.
After the show was over, Kathleen found me in the lobby and hugged me hello. I told her I had to get notes from my coach, but that I would meet back up with her in a few minutes.
When I returned, Kathleen was immediately talkative and it almost surprised me. Then again, I’d never really spoken to her enough to assume otherwise. Though I knew Kathleen from my hometown of Winchester, MA, we had never actually gone to school together. I was five years older than her, which meant that when I was a senior in high school, Kathleen was an eighth grader. To give it a less creepy context, it meant that on the night of our date, Kathleen was a senior in college while I was a bonafide adult.
I was typically a little uncomfortable with such situations, because we were in different places in life, but she was the one pursuing me, so I figured she knew what she was getting into.
Kathleen told me that it was funny to meet me at the Magnet because the last time she had seen me was also at an improv theater. Weird. Really? I reasoned that it must have been ImprovBoston, but I couldn’t actually remember ever seeing her there. She also told me that I had been funny in the show she’d just seen. She had been worried that if I wasn’t any good, she wouldn’t know what to say to me afterwards. I understood that concern and told her that people usually said generically nonjudgmental stuff like, “That was fun!” or, “I could never do that.”
I asked Kathleen if she needed to eat dinner or if she’d be okay going straight to ice cream. She had just flown in from Arizona the day prior and the time difference was still messing with her. As such, she had eaten lunch late in the afternoon and wasn’t hungry yet. Ice cream would be just fine, she said.
Kathleen was in town for a job interview which she actually didn’t even need. She explained that though she’d scheduled this interview some time ago, she’d just accepted a summer job a week earlier. However, she wanted to keep this interview, because the upcoming gig, which would be based in San Francisco, was only guaranteed for ten weeks. If the New York company was willing to defer her employment, she could possibly do both. I told her that sounded like a smart idea and related that I had actually done the same thing when I graduated college. The company I went on to work for deferred my employment for a summer while I went and worked in Italy, thus providing me with the greatest summer of my life.
Waxing nostalgic, Kathleen reminded me of when we first met, which was at Concert 4 Chris, back in 2007. C4C was a benefit concert that my friends and I put used to run in order to raise money for a scholarship fund established in the name of our friend Chris, who had passed in high school. [If anyone remembers Tattoo Date, the “No. 4” on my arm was for Chris.] Kathleen told me that she had loved C4C, which must have started while she was in middle school and ended when she was a Junior in high school, so she was our primary demographic in a lot of ways. That was great to hear because that event had meant so much to me. I even wrote my college entrance essay about it.
The thing was, I didn’t actually remember meeting Kathleen at C4C. For some reason, I figured I had met her one summer in college when my friends and I showed up to this kid Alex’s back yard party where we were the four token college kids. I met a bunch of random high school girls that night and assumed that Kathleen had been one of them, especially because she had sent me a number of Facebook messages later that summer, asking me about college and seeking advice on the next phase of her life. However, she informed me that we never actually spoke that night. Welp, I felt stupid.
As we walked toward the train downtown, Kathleen revealed that she had a present for me and made me turn my head for a moment. While I wasn’t looking, she handed me a small gift and told me to turn back. It was a sheriff’s badge with my name on it that she’d picked up in Arizona. This was so nice of her! She had read a recent reply I’d written on the blog to a question someone had asked regarding gifts I’d been given and she said that it had inspired her to get me one. The gesture was so awesome. She was definitely a fan of the site, I guess.
Kathleen seemed pretty familiar with NYC, at least in a cultural sense, if not the subway system, so it didn’t intimidate her at all to be visiting. She actually wanted to move there eventually, though for the time being she was in Maine at Bates College and would be in San Francisco for the summer. She told me about the company she’d be working for and what her job would be and it sounded very cool. When I was a Senior in college, I had no real idea of what I wanted to do for a career and New York City intimidated the shit out of me, so kudos to her.
I mentioned at some point that I’d like to write for television one day and Kathleen informed me that her mother worked at WGBH in Boston and that if I was ever interested in writing children’s programming, I should let her know. She said that she could always get a script read by someone there. This was an incredible connection to have and I made a note to take her up on the offer.
On our train ride downtown, we talked about study abroad experiences and travel in general. Kathleen had studied in Paris and had traveled all over Europe while living in France. She’d really taken advantage of the travel opportunities whereas I had stayed fairly local when studying in Florence, Italy. That was my personal preference, but still, I was jealous of all the sights she’d seen.
We got down to Houston Street and 2nd Avenue on the F train and it was a short walk from the subway stop to Il Laboratorio del Gelato. While this wasn’t technically ice cream, Il Laboratorio was considered one of the very best places in the city to sample Italy’s take on the frozen treat. The place was sparsely decorated and looked incredibly sanitary, but it housed a great number of different gelatos to try. After tasting a few different flavors and talking about what we typically liked and disliked, we each ordered a two-flavor small cup. Kathleen went with coconut and lime, while I got raspberry and mint/lime, both of which were sorbets. Everything was quite delicious and very fresh tasting. I didn’t usually like coconut, but Kathleen’s gelato was surprisingly tasty. Good choices, us.
Moving on to our next ice cream destination, Kathleen and I walked south under a very light sprinkle from the clouds above and we talked largely about the project and dating in general. It was interesting to hear her take on it all as a college student who had never really dated in the real world, but she seemed to understand a lot of the points I made. She was super into the whole thing, which made it much more comfortable to talk about.
As we entered Chinatown, it was beginning to rain slightly more and I remarked how it was a really shitty night for an Ice Cream Date, making sure to thank her for tagging along despite the precipitation. I mocked what she might say to her friends: “This guy brought me on a date to get ice cream and it wasn’t even that warm. Plus, it was raining. And Chinatown smelled like fish!” She laughed, which was what I was going for. Overall, there had been a lot of laughter so far, which was some of the best grease you could have for the dating wheels.
After about a 20 minute walk, we found The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and stepped inside. There were some teenagers there, which I found oddly intimidating, and we took a few minutes to assess all of the different flavor choices available. The 17 year old behind the counter eventually asked us what we wanted, but they were out of the first two things that Kathleen tried to order, so she settled on banana. This was the second time in as many dates that the first two things my date attempted to order were unavailable. Odd. I decided to check out their green tea flavor and even sprung for the mochi topping.
Kathleen further reminded me about the time we had run into each other at ImprovBoston and I finally remembered it. It had been outside of the theater and she hadn’t actually come to see a show of mine, which was likely why it hadn’t stood out to me. Ahhh, yes. I remembered telling someone, after she had said hello and passed by with her friends, “That girl sent me this slew of FB messages back a year or two ago, but otherwise, I don’t really know her.” How true it was.
We then got onto the topic of music and Kathleen asked me if I went to a lot of shows. Although I lived in a city chock full of concerts any night of the week, I really didn’t see too many shows any more. Improv and dating took up most of my nights. However, I had just seen Trampled By Turtles the night before with Louise, my Midwestern Date. Kathleen didn’t know who they were and I described them as being a little bit like The Avett Brothers, whom she loved.
Kathleen made a comment regarding The Avetts, that they had blown up in popularity right after she’d seen them at the Newport Folk Festival a few years prior, but that before Newport, she’d never heard of them. I asked her which year exactly she was referring to and when she said 2009, I told her that I had also been there that year. She already knew this though, because we had run into each other.
Jesus Christ. I was such an absent-minded jerk. This poor woman. She had remembered every interaction she’d ever had with me, and knew other information about my life thanks to OHD, and I could barely even distinguish her in my mind from the other girls in her grade. She didn’t seem to care, but God, I felt like a real jackass.
I had Kathleen try my ice cream since she’d never had green tea flavor nor mochi before. We finished our cups and I inquired as to what we should do next. It seemed as though we’d had enough ice cream for the time being and most places would be closing soon anyway, but the city was our oyster.
My two suggestions were walking to a nearby bar, or going to a bar in Astoria. That was where Kathleen was staying, after all, with her brother, and where I lived. It would not only be convenient, but also, very convenient. She opted to check out Astoria since she had never really hung out there and she was interested to see my neighborhood. That sounded great to me. I mapped the nearest train and we hustled a little bit to make the next uptown N train at Canal Street.
I had no idea about this, but Kathleen told me that she’d had a big presence on Threadless in her teenage years and that she’d actually written her college entrance essay about it. I was unaware of the social aspect of Threadless, so it was cool to hear about. We just barely made the train and we talked about high school teachers for a while as we cruised towards Queens. She had remained friends with one of our former mutual teachers and showed me a picture of the teacher’s young son that she had on her phone. It was weird because that child hadn’t existed, even in theory, when I was in high school.
It felt odd — I was so far removed from that world of Winchester, high school and even college. It all seemed so foreign. We talked about high school sports, attempting to stay active in our twenties and returning home as alumni. There was a particular precedent for wrestling and I told her how it was common for alumni to visit practices while home on breaks from school.
The things that had kept me connected to my schools, more so than teachers or administrators, were the activities I participated in. In high school, it was athletics and music. In college, it became theater. I missed them all to a certain degree.
A visit to Astoria was nothing without a trip to its famed beer garden, so that was where we went when we got back to Queens. Over beers, we talked about some of the bands from our home town (The Images, The Wooden Nickels, The Kung-Fu Beatniks, Carlson, 5 Pounds Light, etcetera) and some of the guys that were in them. My guess was that she’d had crushes on a number of them. We also discussed different cliques and social groups that we both knew, mostly involving kids a few years younger than me and a couple years older than Kathleen.
It was fun talking about hometown things with someone who had a very different perspective, both socially and in regards to timing. We discussed Chris’s death, which was obviously very different for those of us in his grade versus kids in Kathleen’s grade, who were closer in age to Chris’ youngest brother. This led us to discussing a number of younger siblings and the social bridges that they helped form between age groups. It was all very interesting.
As our beer glasses emptied, we found ourselves talking about movies and television and I admitted that I didn’t watch much of either. I told her that if I had a choice of accomplishing something over the course of two hours — like writing for OHD, reading, cleaning — or watching a movie, I usually chose the former because I always had shit to do and I felt guilt over it. The beer garden’s last call was at midnight and I used the bathroom before we headed out.
Upon exiting the bathroom, I suggested that we either go across to Sparrow for food and drinks or we could go watch a movie at my place, which was only a few blocks away, since we’d just been talking about it. Kathleen quickly decided that the movie sounded best.
Make out potential was at an all time high.
Back at my place, I asked Kathleen if she wanted anything to drink. I had only water and wine to offer her and she chose red wine. The party wasn’t stopping anytime soon.
I poured a couple glasses for the two of us and then we sat down on my bed. On my laptop, which was my only means of watching a movie, we perused Netflix and settled on Kick Ass. As the movie got underway, we inched closer and closer together and eventually, at around the 16 minute mark, Kathleen turned to me and said, “So I kinda really want to kiss you right now, but I’m afraid you’ll blog about it.”
“I probably will,” I replied, and I turned to face her, locking lips as we embraced. A few moments later, we came up for air and Kathleen said with great enthusiasm, “Sixteen year old me is going nuts right now.”
It was a sort of terrifying thing to hear, because she was so young and it made her sound even younger, but also, it was hilarious. For one night, I was the teen heartthrob I’d always wanted to be in high school.
Kathleen went home to her brother’s place around 1:30 a.m. and left me where I was, 80 dates down, sitting alone.