Performance Art Date

—Friday, May 18, 2012—

As soon as we first went out, on Bowling Date, I knew that I needed to go out with Pearl again. I was upset, however, that I had let so much time pass before asking her again. In the whirlwind of my OHD year, Fall had turned to Winter and Winter to Spring in seemingly no time at all. It had been nearly seven months since I’d seen Pearl, but I hadn’t forgotten the romantic feelings she stirred in me the first time around.

IMG_2012I was thrilled to be going out with her again. I had reached out in early April, hoping that she was still single, and was relieved to learn that she was…and willing to go out again.

We discussed going to see Fuerza Bruta — an immersive dance and theatrical event which had been running at the Daryl Roth Theatre since 2007 — and since deals would pop up online for it frequently, we waited a while. Finally, some half-off tickets became available and I bought them. It took a month for everything to line up, but finally, the night of our second date rolled around.

While standing in front of our sushi dinner destination, I received a text from Pearl telling me that she was running 15 minutes late. No big deal, I thought. I walked around the corner from the restaurant and wasted time in a J. Crew. I actually worried that I was a little too dressed up that evening though it was was nothing extravagant — I had on a blazer and I was wearing business casual work clothes. I thought I looked nice, so I wasn’t too stressed. I just didn’t want her to feel like she had not dressed up enough. While in J. Crew, I tried on a fedora.IMG_2013

As the 15 minute mark approached, I found myself back in front of the sushi restaurant, waiting on Pearl.

Waiting for someone on the street could be so funny, and I’ve probably said this before, but I loved the little game of trying to catch them as they arrived but without looking too expectant. As if you had something else going on as you waited there with your stupid smart phone.

Pearl was tall and black, with a big head of hair, so she should have stood out a block away. Yet somehow, she snuck up on me when I was not looking. I felt dumb that I didn’t see her coming and then I felt really stupid because the reason I hadn’t seen her was that I was staring as some woman’s ass.

I shit you not. I had messed up before I’d even said anything. I don’t think she realized the slip though, because she just smiled and laughed at my surprised look upon noticing her.

She apologized for being late, but I didn’t care. I was just happy she was there. I told her she looked great because, hot damn, she looked awesome. She had on this slinky casual gold dress and a black blazer. She told me that I looked good too, but I was no match. I admitted that I’d been worried about being overdressed and she confessed that she’d been worried about looking too much like “work.” But we’d both worn blazers! What were the chances? It was cool. Pearl agreed.

I had never been to Edo before but it seemed to be a pretty middle of the road sushi place when I looked it up online and it was just across Union Square from Fuerza Bruta. Plus, there was a sign outside that said beers were half off if you spent more than $10 on food. Sweet deals, bro.

As we were sitting down, Pearl said, “Okay I have a question to ask you immediately.” Oh, this was interesting. I wondered if it would be about the project or what. That seemed most obvious.

“Do you watch the show GIRLS?” she asked.

“Hah. Um, only the pilot. Why?”

“Well, I think that Shoshanna is sitting in that corner,” she said while darting her eyes to the right.

I asked her to clarify which character that was and she reminded me that Shoshanna was the virgin. I turned around to get a good look and it was totally her, well, Zosia Mamet, but you get the idea. Super cool, right? I had brought her some place très chic.

Pearl told me that she had spotted Ryan Gosling recently, which was just about the ultimate run-in you could have as a young straight woman in NYC. Apparently he lived near her place of work. I told her that I had run into Michael Ian Black the day before. I spent a few minutes trying to tell Pearl who MIB was but it wasn’t any use. She definitely did not know him by name, nor was she particularly familiar with his work. Why were my favorite celebrities not celebrities?

I asked Pearl if she watched GIRLS and she did. In fact, it was something she frequently did with our mutual acquaintance Kris and another friend. It was their weekly thing. “So typical,” she said. Girls watching GIRLS.

We talked about the criticisms that the show had been garnering, mostly about its narrow demographic scope, and we both agreed that it was all kind of bullshit. It was not supposed to represent everyone. It was supposed to be about a fairly specific group of young women. Even then, Pearl said she found it very relatable as someone outside of that narrow scope. It didn’t matter to her that there was not a black female on the show. People were really just upset with the marketing anyway. FRIENDS should have been equally panned. Also, the fact that everyone was mad that the actresses were privileged in their real lives was a bit unnecessary. It didn’t mean they were undeserving or untalented. They were good.

I ordered a beer and Pearl stuck with water when the waitress asked. Smart woman — staying hydrated was essential to good dating. I asked her about her day, which she said had been interesting because they had had a staff development day rather than regular programming. The first thing they’d done was a workshop on the re-education of hip-hop, which was all about hip-hop culture and understanding it as a way to teach kids and teens. I asked her if it had been as bad as one of those rapping PSAs from the early 90’s. You know, those ones that they shoved into every children’s program as rap became normalized in American culture? I put on my whitest voice and demonstrated what I was talking about.

“Listen up kids what I have to say: You should never do drugs, not any day.”

She laughed at my attempt at urban education and assured me that it haven’t been like that. Remember though when every fucking song and television show had a rap segment? I was thinking of female R&B singers who had to throw a rap verse in their songs and the cast of Saved By The Bell poorly stringing words together in a mockery of hip-hop. I mean, WTF, society? Oh gosh. That shit was so bad. If Pearl didn’t agree with that, I think we’d be splitsville.

Luckily, she laughed about it and agreed, saying that at the workshop, she had learned that she was a terrible rapper, like many of those who attempted it in the 90’s. I told her that I was mediocre, which I think was possibly true. Then I told her about Dave, my Man Date, and how he worked as a freestyle rapper for The Ride. Also, I mentioned North Coast, which was an improv comedy hip-hop troupe, and some of the rapping improv warm-ups that existed.

The second workshop her work held that day was on African dance, which Pearl was happy doing. I had no funny comments on this portion of her day. Without commentary, I felt uninteresting. It probably just seemed like I was listening though.

We made some sushi choices and discussed my hatred of avocado’s pervasiveness in the rice and seafood dish from Japan, a country which does not grow avocados. I had already ranted about this at work that day for at least the second time. I mean, guys, people needed to hear my opinions on this stuff.

Pearl commented how it seemed like we had made these plans forever ago and I told her I could easily check on the date they were made. I took out my phone and checked my texts. “April 17th. A month and a day,” I told her. Then she asked if I knew where the theater was. I did, but I doubled checked, just in case. Phew. Yes, it was still just across Union Square from us. She said that was good, because she hadn’t accounted for anything. It was on me.

That was fine. I had it under control.

When our appetizers arrived, Pearl broke one of her chopsticks trying to separate them but continued to use the busted set. I thought this was cute, but I didn’t say anything because I thought it was weird to tell someone that what they were inadvertently doing was cute. She’d never had shumai before and she approved of them, which was a good thing because they were delicious.

Pearl asked if I had seen much of Kris lately but I really hadn’t. Maybe not at all, in fact. The UCB improv class I’d taken with her had long since passed and for whatever reasons, I never ran into her. I had been doing a lot of improv though. That might have been one of the reasons we hadn’t run into each other — I’d been over at the Magnet Theater much more than UCB. Maybe I needed to start watching GIRLS with them.

She also asked me what I’d been up to besides work and improv. I strategically left OHD out of my update, which was a significant omission. It was odd with Pearl because I had only ever communicated with her over the phone and I don’t think she had ever even been to the OHD website. She knew what I was doing, more or less, but I didn’t like drawing attention to it. 

So rather than talk about all the dates with other women I’d been going on, I told her about my somewhat recent travels to New Orleans and Los Angeles. She had never been to NoLa but she did have a friend there so she said she wanted to go. Pearl then told me about a weird story her older sister had told her when she was little that made her scared to ever visit New Orleans. In a dream, her sister was walking along the road in NoLa and there was a store or something with lights on and some kind of life inside of it, but when she looked back, it was all closed up and deserted. I definitely had a soft spot for mysticism, but that sounded insane. She laughed at how ridiculous it was. I told her that the city was awesome and that she didn’t need to worry about any quickly closing storefronts.

Pearl had recently been in Kingston, Jamaica for a wedding and said it was incredible. She really loved the city even though she didn’t really want to live there necessarily. She related to me that she was bad about visiting American cities, which was one reason she and Kris were hoping to make a cross country road trip one day. First, across the South, and then back on a Northern route.

Coincidentally, I had once been to Jamaica largely because it was a cheaper option at the time than going to New Orleans. I’d been looking into a NoLa to Austin to San Francisco trip at the end of 2010, but then looked up flights to Jamaica on a whim. The total airfare was less expensive, so I went for it. Being so flexible with plans was a major advantage of traveling alone, I told her.

“Yeah,” she said, “traveling with someone you don’t like sucks.” I could imagine. You’d be stuck, stewing in resentment, especially in a car. Roommates were like that too.

Such was the situation within Pearl’s apartment at that time. The vibes were not working out between her and her roommate. The last time they had seen each other was the day she moved into her place. Holy crap. That was almost seven months earlier. Know how I knew that? Because our first date was the day she moved into that apartment. Talk about a patient woman! Nearly seven months between dates and she was still in good spirits.

I asked her about the neighborhood where she lived and she said, “It’s hood. Like, really hood.” I laughed. I felt like most people would have sugarcoated such a description. Not Pearl.

This led to a long discussion on gentrification. I’d love to take a class all about it.  I find the reasons for gentrification, the motivations behind it and the way it occurs extremely interesting. The nature of it being good for the community, city and businesses, but potentially terrible for the residents who are forced out. This was another one of those topics that I loved talking about with Pearl because we could really dive into it and she was great at keeping the conversation moving. 

I told her about some artist that I had listened to that day for the first time, Emeli Sandé, who I thought sounded like a cross between Beyoncé and Adele. This led to a discussion about how great Beyoncé was and how early 90’s R&B was the bomb. We went into detail about Beyonce’s album “4,” discussing who we thought might have written the different songs. Some were love songs (presumably about Jay-Z) and then there was “Best Thing I Never Had,” which was an anomaly on that album since it seemed be more of a breakup song. Also, we talked about how Beyonce was a feminist and had a number of empowering songs throughout her career. I don’t necessarily she had maintained a hard feminist line (Especially lately), but she was certainly doing more than most pop and R&B artists.

The sushi was gone but we kept talking. We discussed Jay-Z, the new Brooklyn Nets logos, which had recently been unveiled, and how they could been so much better. We also talked about all the throwback Grizzlies hats which had been popping up everywhere. Didn’t people remember how that shit was ugly in the 90‘s? It was still ugly! I obviously didn’t understand urban street wear well enough.

We talked so long that we needed to quickly use the bathroom, pay and leave in order to make it to the show. It was already 10 p.m.

Amidst the shuffle, Pearl was texting with a friend who was staying at her place that night. Her roommate wasn’t answering his phone so she said she might have to meet up with her friend to give her apartment keys. This was mildly distressing news because it sounded to me like our evening would be cut somewhat short. 

We walked across Union Square and Pearl commented on how beautiful it was. Yeah, it was that small portion of the year when NYC wasn’t cold and wasn’t hot and gross. It was actually quite perfect.

That perfection was shattered as we passed by one of the tackiest places on earth, TGI Fridays. “When was the last time you went there?” I asked her. Years, probably. She had no idea, really, but it was definitely in New Jersey. The next storefront was a giant Babies R Us. The place was huge. Remember when Toys R Us used to be the shit? I bet they barely existed anymore. Kids didn’t seem to play with real toys any longer, which was both dumb and very sad.

We entered into the box office and picked up our tickets. I read to her the disclaimers posted on the wall: Strobe lights, fog, water, movement, audience interaction and no one under eight years old. She was okay with all of them. Before we went inside, she called her friend to sort out the apartment situation. Luckily, her friend was going to get into NYC and immediately go out on the town, which was cool, because it meant Pearl didn’t need to meet up with her anytime soon. 

After handing the door person our tickets, we descended the stairs down to the D-Lounge to wait for the start of the show. As we walked away from the coat check, Pearl ran into her friend Dario, who was working there. They hugged, gushed at one another and laughed. He told us that he had “run” in the 8 p.m. show, as the man in white, but for the upcoming show he would be doing regular work. Neither of us was sure what any of it meant but Pearl told him that she would come back to see him “run” some time. How cool. We knew someone in the show!

We decided to get drinks but there was only about 10 minutes until the show began. We only had a few minutes until showtime once our drinks were in hand, so we had to drink them quickly. It was gross to drink a gin & tonic so fast, but it had to be done. We both overestimated our abilities to pound cocktails, but we got them down and hustled up to the show before it began.

As we walked up to the entrance, Pearl hooked her arm in mine and kept it there until we were upstairs where her hand dropped down to my own. Yes, please. I loved this.

We circled around the large crowd already present to the opposite side of the floor. The music was playing loudly and everyone seemed to be feeling good. A very friendly couple nearby talked to us for a few minutes and got us dancing a little.

This was really the only time I was truly nervous all night. Pearl was an actual, real-life dancer and choreographer. That was her thing! I was immediately hyperaware of my white, Puritan, suburban Massachusetts upbringing as I prepared to dance with this NYC based, Jamaican hip-hop and dancehall professional. Did I mention SHE WAS A DANCER??

It reminded me of the time that I found myself grinding to dancehall in a Montego Bay strip club about a year a half earlier. I was in Jamaica on vacation and the group I was barhopping with ended up going into a strip club since it had the cheapest cover on the strip. After sitting there, in front of the strippers, for a little while, I looked over and discovered a group of local women seated next to me. I was alone by this point, not sure where my comrades had gone. One of them, Sharika, struck up a conversation with me and when she and her friends began dancing, they persuaded me to join them.

As Sharika backed her ass into my loading zone, I did my best to keep my shit together and mimic whatever kind of dancing she was doing. Apparently though, I was was not doing a good enough job since her friends found it necessary to tell me to trust more and, at one point, even put their hands on the small of my back and forced me to grind with Skarika harder than I would have ever thought socially acceptable. Even then, it was clear that I was just barely cutting it. I felt like I was fucking her with our clothes on. Admittedly, the strip club dancehall vibe wasn’t my typical stomping ground.

Despite that haunting cultural experience, I liked dancing, and in the suburban white dude world, I was pretty okay at it. But in Pearl’s world, which was filled with talented dancers, I was sure to be an abomination. I shifted around a bit, like an uptight stiff sent there to represent the worst of my demographic, but luckily there was not much actual dancing before the show began.

And when it did, it fucking began. This show had ENERGY.

It became apparent pretty quickly that the guy in white, who ran seemingly did not stop running throughout the entire show, was THE MAIN DUDE. When Dario told us he had “run” earlier, he meant he had played the fucking star of the production. Crazy.

The show was super fun and there were so many parts to it. There was treadmill stuff, staged dancing, people running on the walls, actors bursting through walls, and a dance on water up above our heads.

Throughout the whole show, Pearl and I moved around, but always I had my hands on her body and she was looking to hold them in her own wherever they drifted. We were doing our own little dance down there below the professionals. I kissed her cheek. Later, a second time. Then her temple as I stood by her side.

Our little dance was not exactly planned this way, but as the show’s finale erupted with massive bass hits, and the energy of the room built to a climax, Pearl turned towards me and slowly we both leaned in to kiss. Everyone was smiling, jumping and dancing and the atmosphere in there was simply alive with frenetic energy. It was a long kiss and as she backed away her smile beamed forth.

Damn. She had me crazy in love.

There was no time to relish it though, since immediately after, dancing commenced and all I could think was, “Okay, Evan, just try to keep up and not look stupid.”

Pearl’s friend Dario found us and we congratulated him on an excellent show (He had been one of the dancers but not the runner). He said we were there on a fun night because the DJ would keep playing for a while after the show was over. He also told us that the show was from Argentina which was where the mixed style of dancing they had used originated from. It probably made more sense to Pearl, but I appreciated the information as well. He exited and we returned to dancing.

As the venue cleared out a bit and I began to feel more comfortable, Full On Dancing Evan took over.

Mostly, I tried to match what Pearl was doing on some level. I was having fun. She was having fun. We danced together, then apart. Back and forth. A kiss tossed in there occasionally. Pearl looked SO DAMN GOOD. So sexy. Jesus.

I danced up to her, hugged her close, and yelled into her ear, “YOU LOOK GORGEOUS.” I kissed her cheek and released her back to dance.

Shortly thereafter, she danced up to me and yelled into my ear: “YOU’RE A GREAT DANCER.”

I know. I know. WHAT?! Yeah, I was a great dancer apparently. I told her how nervous I had been, that I didn’t want to look bad in front of her. She told that she never had fun dancing with someone, one-on-one, but that she was having a blast. A blast! Holy shit.

Sure, she admitted that she was surprised, like, “Where did this come from, Evan?” but I think that only made it better. I didn’t know! I was just trying not to look dumb.

I’m honestly not sure that any compliment has ever made me feel happier. I was so proud that I didn’t suck. We’d been low key dancing, latin hip swinging, shuffling, pulling Usher shit and stepping through the Jackson 5 playbook — all of it.

I WAS CRAZY PROUD. Can you not tell?

Eventually, the dancing was over. We were both gross with sweat. At least, that was how I perceived myself. Pearl couldn’t have looked more beautiful.

I had danced my ass off and the experience was really quite beautiful. There were moments when our interplay was just fucking cute. I felt like, “Ah. This is it.”

We went back down to D-Lounge and got our things from coat check. Pearl went to the bathroom and I waited there with her purse. She came out and laughed at me holding her bag like a lady. Oh, whatever. I went to the bathroom to pee, dried myself off and said hi to two Estonian dudes.

Back in the lounge, Pearl closed her phone and said that she needed to meet her friend at 33rd & 7th. We could do that, I told her.

We walked to the train and I asked if she was just dropping off her key or what. “No,” she said. She was probably going with her. Ah. It was a real bummer.

She made noises of frustration while holding my hand. I don’t think she wanted our night to be over either. I really didn’t want it to be over. She said that she would feel like a bad host if she ditched her friend for a date and I understood completely.

Pearl had to go, but I just really wanted her home with me, especially after the circumstantial end to our first date. The main reason she hadn’t gone home with me that time was because she was staying with a friend. It was basically the polar opposite reason this time around — a friend was staying with her.

Well, what a shame. We got on the train and grabbed seats. We talked, we laughed and three stops later, I gave her a kiss.

I stood up as the train’s doors opened and hugged her goodbye. Then I continued home with a full heart and half a boner.