POI, as promised, was quite offensive.
I showed up ten minutes late to our first (and second and third and many thereafter) date, out of breath. I apologized profusely, made sure my voice was the right (higher) octave.
“Sorry! I’m so sorry!” I said, taking in his freshly shaven head and face, “I’m so late!”
He stood up from his seat at the bar (like a gentleman), put his phone away (like a polite human being) and gave me a stiff one-armed hug (odd).
“Yeah, you are,” he said.
I was offended. My expression, I hope, replied, “That’s for me to apologize for (which I did) and you to brush off. Ass.”
I was offended again during dessert. We had ordered tiramisu and while waiting for it to arrive, I spent a good five minutes telling POI how much I loved cream.
“Whipped cream, sour cream, mascarpone, Greek yogurt…” (I am always reminded of those scenes in “Forrest Gump” when Bubba tells Forrest of all the ways he loves to cook shrimp). I watched POI watch me then watched as his gaze shifted to the waiter’s hand place a disappointingly small plate of tiramisu on the table.
“Anyway,” I continued, picking up my fork, “I just love cream. Or anything with a cream-like texture.” *
As I spoke, POI, not listening at all, nodded absent-mindedly and scooped up the entire top layer of mascarpone, leaving nothing but mushy lady fingers on the plate. I stared in first date horror, my face incredulous as he inserted the heaping spoon into his mouth and pulled it out again. The spoon gleamed wretchedly. Sure, some fool in the kitchen had plated the tiramisu sideways – but still: it was not two seconds after my “I Love All Things Cream” speech.
“You ate all the cream,” I said. Whatever incredulity I was attempting to contain was not contained.
POI, realizing his error, gulped down the rest of the cream.
“Oops,” he said.
“You messed up. “
“I didn’t know!”
I shook my head, “You messed up so bad,” I said.
“It was right in front of me and I just took a bite. I didn’t know it was all the cream. I hate cream…”
“I don’t care,” I said, crossing my arms, “That’s just rude.”
I was just beginning to enjoy the mini power trip occasionally afforded to girls on the first date. I watched POI process this information; he was at a crossroads.
They say in the beginning of a relationship, precedents must be set. A general rule of thumb: don’t start things you can’t keep up. “Can’t” meaning “won’t” because it’s not in your nature. POI, I’ve come to learn, is not an apologizer in the conventional sense. The word “sorry” exists in his vocabulary, but he rarely employs it and if ever, then in a way similar to that one irritating hashtag: #sorrynotsorry.
When they do make an appearance however, POI’s apologies are tiny syntactical marvels:
“That was not good strategery on my part.”
“That was not my best play.”
“I will try harder to be a better man.”
Nix that last one. Pure fantasy.
Called out by a cream lover as having committed an irreparable first date faux-pas, POI decided fear was not the answer. He did what he often does best. He smiled a damn smug smile and batted his eyelashes.
“Well, actually it was delicious,” he said.
My own smug smile fell away. I considered punching him in the throat – the table between us was not so wide. What insolence!
They say too, that minus the dunces who love blindly and think with their kneecaps rather than an ideal balance of logic and intuition, people know what they’re getting into. Mostly, they just can’t put it into words.
I was offended by all the aforementioned slights as, I’m sure, POI was by mine, most of them likely beginning, “You white people…” ** but felt a non sequitur – I wanted to see him again.
On the subway home, I analyzed the night’s data points:
- We sent the waiter back four times because we were talking so much.
- He called me out on being late.
- It was apparent, after lengthy discussions about family, food and travel that we agreed: all were good and important. Want more (in varying degrees).
- He ate all the cream.
- We both wanted, after dessert, for the night to continue and walked to a bar down the street.
- He did not apologize for eating the cream.
We took the same train home and POI had, as the train pulled into his station, reached over with one arm to grab my face. He kissed my cheek and said with brusque nervousness, “I’ll talk to you later, yeah?” Hopped off. I found that mildly offensive too, but also endearing – a perplexing combination of feelings that would underpin most of our interactions:
I’m offended! But…touched.
Offended or not, my gut told me POI would not be easy to date, never mind be with in a far-flung long distance relationship. But logic, a much better mathematician, added it all up.
“Shut up and smile,” she said as the train lumbered forward, “You had fun.”
*For you chortling imbeciles with “That’s what she said” on the tip of your tongue, shove it. An original thinker you are not.
**POI hates it when I generalize about white people, even though I soothe him by saying it’s something all Asian people do.