Hey, are you busy? The message is from an unknown number.
Who is this? I don’t even apologize for not having their number saved.
Dan, from the coffee shop? Oh. Right. I’m not actually busy, but do I feel like talking to him right now? My phone vibes again.
I was wondering if I could call you. If you’re not busy, I mean. Sigh.
Thirty seconds later my phone rings. I move from my place at the kitchen table to the comfy chair in my room before answering.
“Hey, it’s Dan!” I roll my eyes.
“Yeah, I know… we just talked about this,” I say.
“Right, heh… So how are you?” he asks, trying to move past the awkwardness I’d created.
“I’m fine, and you?” I return.
“I’m good! I was thinking we could talk on the phone a bit before our date, get all the awkwardness out now, ya know?”
I purposely pause for an extra beat. “Yeah. Sure.”
“So… where are you from?” he asks, clearly picking up on the fact that I’m not going to make this easy for him.
Honestly, I hate small talk. People always say that you should be open to new things, and building walls to keep people out is unhealthy. But I disagree. Why should everyone I come into contact with who thinks to ask me about myself be privy to any part of my life story? What if this person never amounts to anyone particularly important in my life? It’s a waste of time.
Sometimes, someone comes along who skips the small talk and goes straight for the goods. Like “What are you passionate about?” “What was your childhood like?” (way different from “Where are you from?”) “How do you feel about the state of humanity?” And then “Why do you hate people?” Dan isn’t off to a good start.
“I’m from Chicago,” I say. “I’ve lived here my whole life except for when I left to college.”
“Oh nice! And you came back after college, too? You must really like it here.”
“Yeah…it’s home.” Pause. “Where are you from?”
“Pittsburgh! Yeah, I grew up there and then I went to school at Northwestern. After graduation I just decided to stay in the city.”
“Cool, cool.”Longer pause.
“Why are you so cold? You don’t have to talk to me.” He suddenly sounds frustrated. I feel a slight pang of guilt.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t really like small talk. And I know I don’t have to talk to you, but you put a lot of effort into getting my number. For whatever reason, I feel like I have to at least give you a chance. Blame my mother.”
“She told me to be more adventurous, more open to new things.”
“Then I’ll thank her, not blame her.” The frustration is gone from his voice, and he seems pleased to have gotten more than two sentences out of me. “Why did she tell you to be more adventurous?”
As I’ve done so many times before, I contemplate how much I want to tell him. I decide to avoid the topic of my depression, but telling him I’m an introvert wouldn’t be so bad, right?
“I tend to keep to myself. I prefer to be alone, really. She just worries about me, worries that I don’t have enough friends, that I spend too much time reading books and in my head.”
“Do you not have friends?” he asks, a hint of skepticism in his voice.
“Of course I have friends!” It comes out more defensive than I mean it to. “I have all the friends I need,” I say more calmly.
“Wellll clearly not enough by your mother’s standards,” he chides. I think he might be smiling.
“I’m sorry, are you trying to get me to like you?” I’m not smiling, but I’m not not enjoying this.
“Oh, so I have a chance? I was beginning to lose hope!” I roll my eyes.
“I didn’t say anything about having a chance.”
“Hm, you are very intriguing. I stand by my puzzle statement.” He’s definitely smiling.
“And I stand by mine. I am not yours to figure out.”
“I’m not so worried about finding the solution; I just want to spend time…flipping all the pieces over to get an idea of what I’m working with.”
I stay quiet. I’m not sure how I feel about this statement.
“You still there?” he asks.
“Yeah, sorry, I’m here,” I quietly reply.
“Okay, so… you’re still down to let me take you on a date?”
“Um, yeah. Sure. Can you pick me up Friday at 8?”
“Actually I was thinking day-date. How’s Saturday for you?”
A day-date? Day-dates were for friends, for people I know I like to spend time with. Starting early means I can’t use “It’s getting late” as an excuse if I want to go home. A day with a guy I just met made me so anxious just to think about, I don’t know if–
“Did I lose you again? You get lost in your thoughts a lot, huh?” I can almost see his perfect teeth in front me.
“Saturday works,” I say slowly. “I’ll be free after 12.” I’ll be free before 12, but I will probably need at least the morning to be alone. My battery is going to have to be fully charged if I’ll be spending the day with this particular boy. I have a feeling he’s going to require a lot of energy.
“Perfect! So I’ll pick you up at 12:30. You can text me your address whenever. Can’t wait!” His excitement softens my face a little. Until this point I didn’t even realize it was so tense.
“Great. So… I’ll see you Saturday?” I ask, hoping to end this phone call.
“Oh, I didn’t realize we were done talking…” he replies. Dammit.
“Oh. Uh, I guess I can talk for a little longer…”
To be continued…