I am an amazing date night planner.
Unfortunately, most of the time those dates either never happen, or go wrong due to circumstances out of my control. While I can’t control the weather, or a botulism outbreak at our favorite sushi bar, there are other areas in which I can take the reins. Those areas, are learning your partner’s interests. In my opinion, there are three key components to any great date. Number one, food. Food is life. If you can find out her favorite food and scout a restaurant that serves it, or even better, her favorite place, you’re well on your way to a wonderful evening.
The second key component is an activity. Any schmuck can find a place to eat, but finding something to do? That’s a little harder. You have to discover her interests first, that can be a daunting challenge. There are some safe bets though. If she’s an outgoing extrovert, dancing is always a good one. Maybe she’s a bibliophile. Find a nice café and bookshop (not a Barnes & Noble. Find something unique) and take her there. Or maybe she’s heavy into music. There’s always a concert somewhere.
The final feature, and the most important one, is cultivating an environment where conversation can blossom. That can be tricky, especially if you’re like me and lack verbal communication skills. However, if you can pull off all three of these feats in one date, you’re probably going to create one of the most memorable experiences of her life. And yours.
Which is why it hurts so bad when they fall apart.
At the beginning of August, Jewelwing and I had been talking for a few weeks. We were making plans to see each other. To hold each other. We both wanted to be together so desperately at that point. Her from longing for emotional connection, me to put an end to my loneliness. It’s no wonder we were drawn back to each other’s orbits. There was just one problem. It’s difficult to take a married woman on a date, no matter how unhappy her marriage is.
You have to be careful where you go. You need to leave a wide berth between her life with her husband and the life you’re trying to create for her. This came in the form of a regional shift. I didn’t want to go anywhere she could be spotted by her husband or one of his friends. So I chose a location an hour and half north of me (two hours for her). We would meet at my house, and I would drive us there and back. Now I just had to set it up.
Jewelwing had told me a while back during one of our many late night conversations that, “Pizza is life.” I had responded with that was an untruth, because Marvel is life, to which she rebuked, “Yeah, Marvel is good. But you can’t eat them.”
So I had to find a pizza joint in one of the larger metropolitan areas within my state. Piece of cake (erm…slice of pie?). I did a quick web search of pizza joints in that town and came up with a dozen results. Never take your girl to a franchised establishment for your first date, guys. Lesson numero uno. Little Caesar’s may be alright in a pinch when you’re starved for time and your stomach is howling, but it’s no way to treat a lady.
I sifted through reviews until I found two that I liked. The first one was out of the way from anything else we would have found interesting. I made a note of the address to try their pizza and compare it to the other joint, but it seemed unreasonable to go the extra 15 miles, especially once I discovered the second part of our date.
Now bear in mind, I had no idea what I was going to put together for an activity while I was out researching pizza places. I only knew I didn’t want something simple or cliché like a movie. Or a walk in the park. Or a stroll down the bay. I wanted to create a memory. One that was going to make her think of me every time her husband was being a jerk. One that would make her want to be with me even more than she already claimed she did.
Which is why I had to make this day extra special. I remembered something else she had told me during a separate conversation. While I couldn’t research it online, I made a note to seek out a place that served ice cream sandwiches as well. Jewelwing loves those things. She could probably eat a whole box an hour if her delicate stomach would allow it. Anyone can go to the store and get some chocolate wafer-shaped, vanilla ice cream sandwiches. I wanted something extraordinary.
So now it was time to head out. I left around 10am on a sunny Sunday and I wouldn’t get back till around 6pm. What started off as a fun activity to plan a wonderful evening for the girl I loved, ended as a case study in compulsion disorders. The drive there was pleasant. Very little traffic, great tunes on the radio, I was bubbly and effervescing joy. While I had a good idea of where to eat, I still needed a plan for something to do. So my first stop would be the mall.
The reason for this is they usually have pamphlets for what’s going on around town tucked away in malls if you know where to look. I was unfamiliar with the area we were going. As such, I had no idea where to take Jewelwing for some fun and games. I knew she loved dancing, but we were going on an afternoon date on a Wednesday. It was her only day off, and to make matters worse at the time, it was the only day I had class during summer. So there was just a brief window for us to share that day together.
After wandering around the mall, I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the food court, then went and scoped out a few stores. It was a nicer one than any out near me, but considering I live in a small town, 30 minutes in every direction from a slum, that made sense. Even though our date never happened, some good did come out of it. I found a store that presses shirts and sweaters. Guess whose winning the ugly sweater competition this Christmas?
But I digress.
I didn’t find any pamphlets for anything that would be interesting to us, so I decided to go check out the farthest pizza joint. Remember that pleasant drive on the way in? Turns out, country roads are quiet on a Sunday. But city roads are busy as the dickens (heathens). After almost being hit by teenagers half a dozen times, I finally pulled into the pizza place.
Only to find out they were closed for renovations.
So I hopped back in my car, found some side streets to avoid main road mayhem, and maneuvered toward the pizza place with only slightly lower reviews. On my way there, I passed by a BBQ joint attached to a meat market. On a big blue and white sign above the store, printed in large black and gold lettering was, “Best Ice Cream Sandwiches in the Region.”
I knew I wanted to test that boast, but since I’d already had my GPS keyed in with the pizza shop’s address, and I didn’t want to confuse the poor thing (which is surprisingly easy to do for a phone which claims dominant intelligence over me), I decided to keep on toward the parlor. It was on the same road, and I didn’t mind backtracking a little bit. It would certainly be preferable to listening as my GPS entered existential crisis mode.
I arrived at the pizza place, aptly named, “The Pizza Factory,” 10 minutes later and discovered it was a small brick building sitting on a large lot. A few teenagers dressed as Marilyn Manson music video extras prowled a corner of the parking lot passing a cigarette back and forth, but all in all, it didn’t look like a bad place to have a date. I didn’t swing in yet, I just wanted to know where it was. Now I had to go taste test ice cream.
Headed back toward the BBQ joint, I managed to retrace my steps (which is hard to do for someone as directionally challenged as me), and pulled into a space outside the meat market. A light drizzle was rolling in off the bay and misted my car softly through the sun’s rays. I ended up seeing a double rainbow as I exited my car. I actually went home and wrote a song about it. Jewelwing really was the rainbow of my otherwise colorless life. I’ll always miss the joy she brought me. I’ll never forgive myself for destroying that in her.
I walked in and was greeted by Eminem’s likely less talented cousin sweeping the floor in a butcher’s smock. I shoved my hands in my pockets, standing in the entranceway, taking in the whole establishment. Wooden panel walls, cedar, not the cheap stuff, filled my nostrils with memories of my log cabin. Knowing that Jewelwing used to have a cabin which once burned down, I thought that maybe this place might trigger a bad memory in her (I think about things like that). So immediately I was on the fence.
The guy must have seen me just staring at all of the glass compartments housing various meats because he asked if there was anything he could get for me. I shook my head and said I’d seen the sign about ice cream sandwiches. He laughed uncomfortably and replied, “Yeah, turns out we aren’t serving them this year. Which I’m starting to think was kind of dumb considering how many people come in asking about them.”
First the best pizza joint is closed, now the best ice cream sandwiches are gone. IS NOTHING SACRED ANYMORE?!?!?! My inner voice screamed. Not Morgan Freeman. The one I can control. I let out a sigh and asked if there was anywhere else. He thought for a moment, rattled off a couple places which I took mental note of, and then for some reason or another, went and got his boss. I still don’t know why, but after he already called the man out, it felt rude to just turn around and leave.
His boss was a big burly man who looked as if he were born into the butcher’s life. If it wasn’t that, he was going to be a biker gang’s enforcer. He stepped out of the backroom covered in a bloodstained smock which had seen far too many pitiless cattle and began talking about The Right to Farm Act. After listening to how it was killing small meat shop businesses and farmers alike for 20 minutes, I left thinking, what the hell did any of that have to do with ice cream?
So remember how I mentioned my compulsion disorder? Now that I couldn’t have the perfect ice cream sandwiches that were advertised, I had to find a substitute. Jewelwing demanded the best, and I was going to give it to her. I drove to the first place on the list. Mama Lupo’s. It looked like a quaint diner which had been built in the 50’s, and only remodeled so as to keep it up to building codes. The parking accommodations however…
I don’t even know how to begin describing the lot. In what one would assume is the front of the building there is a small 16 square foot blacktop. There are no yellow lines indicating vehicles can park there, and anywhere you park obscures the entrance. I had to look like a complete idiot as I pulled in, decided this is not where we’re supposed to park, and then turned the wrong way on a one-way exiting. I drove around the block, found the correct lot (which was really just a skinny stretch of concrete), and pulled up next to a big truck.
Once I saw the sign on the door though, my heart dropped. They opened at 2:30. I would need to be back in the car and headed home by then. The plan was to leave my house by 9am, eat ice cream sandwiches (always do dessert first), go get some food, then go have some fun. But I needed to be home that day by 4 in order to make it to class on time. So Mama Lupo’s, no matter how good their homemade cookies and hand churned ice cream was, was officially out.
There was one last place on my list, and it turned out it would have been my saving grace had this date happened. The last place suggested to me by the kid at the meat shop was a miniature golf course down by the marina. I keyed in Buoy 18 to my GPS, hopped in the car, and prayed for a miracle. Fortunately, for once, it seemed like God was listening.
I didn’t know what to expect when I pulled in, but it certainly wasn’t what I saw. The small golf course looked adorable. Both kids and adults alike were laughing as they attempted to batter colorful balls around cleverly designed obstacles. In that moment, I realized, I’d take Jewelwing here. Why not? The weather for our date was supposed to be sunny and 80. She loved children. It would be perfect.
When I stepped inside, a few college girls that were too cute to have been hired in by coincidence alone, were standing behind the counter. Their white-brimmed hats and sky-blue smocks, coupled with their blonde hair and perfectly round eyes, gave them the appearance of having come off an assembly line. Despite the Stepford Wives vibe, I smiled when I looked up at the menu. They weren’t your standard bar-shaped ice cream sandwiches. These were real cookies, with ice cream smashed between them, and rolled in the topping of your choice. Jewelwing was going to love it.
I priced out the cookies and the golf course, told the girls I’d be back on Wednesday (which turned out to be a lie) and headed back toward my car. On the way there I peeked over the fence to take one last look at the course. It was going to be a blast. Simple, not at all challenging, but it would be the perfect environment in which to focus on part three of my perfect date itinerary. Conversation.
The final stop was the pizza place. I headed there now, with fresh confidence that this was going to be the best date ever, and pulled into a parking space across from the goth lot lizards. As I exited the vehicle there was an odd smell I couldn’t pin down. Like, burning tires mixed with sulfur. I realize now I was near the foundry.
While the odor was a mild inconvenience, I didn’t think it would be enough to sully the rest of the date. I walked inside, looked around, and grabbed a menu. The place was minimalistic. White tables and black steel chairs filled out a huge dining space. Only one couple was sitting near the back eating, giving the empty hall a much larger sense than what it actually was. The back was completely visible to the public, and the best part? A brick fired oven. You know that pizza is going to be good.
So I got back in my car and I headed home. I told Jewelwing about the pizza place and told her there were a couple more surprises. I never told her about how much of an ordeal it was though. It only would have served to make her feel guilty, and I don’t want that anymore. We were both so excited for this to happen. We only had to wait a few days.
But on Tuesday, the walls came tumbling down. Jewelwing had been spending a lot of time on her phone talking to me. Clearly, this hadn’t gone unnoticed by her husband. For a while, he had just seemed to be letting it slide. It was almost as though he was looking for an out from his marriage just as much as Jewelwing. But that morning, he confronted her.
I don’t know the full details of the conversation, I only know what I was told. He’d asked her if there was someone else. She didn’t say yes, she didn’t say no. She’s a horrible liar. So when that question came forth, I know she panicked. She hesitated. And that was perhaps even worse than a lie or the truth.
I marked that as the official death knell of any relationship that could have sprung forth from these events. After that instance he became more possessive. He began frightening her. He was convinced she was sleeping with one of his friends. He said he would start coming home to perform random checks on her days off, or send someone else to do it, just to make sure she was there. So that morning, when Jewelwing texted me as she did every morning just a short while ago, she sank my heart to the bottom of the sea:
“I can’t go with you on Wednesday. I’m sorry.”
I wanted to cry. All that effort for naught. I should have known it would happen. She had been getting careless with her phone lately. Blatantly leaving it out in the open, practically daring him to go through it. I had been begging her to delete our messages for a while. I knew if he found out it would be the end of us, and here it was. He didn’t know who she was talking to, but he knew it was someone.
The end had come.
I didn’t explode on her like I expected I would. I didn’t try to guilt her either. I simply told her I understood. She said, “No, I don’t think you do.”
To which I responded, “You still love him, and you’re not ready for a divorce yet, but you love me too, and it’s confusing. So you need time to figure things out.”
“Okay…so maybe you DO understand. I’m so sorry, Bug.”
That was her nickname for me by the way. Bug. Probably why I’m so easy to squish. We’d never get that date. Our dalliance would be over several weeks from that day, all because I couldn’t control my emotions. But things like this always happen to me. It adds up over time. Still, I shouldn’t have taken all of that out on her. I just didn’t know how to communicate what I was feeling in a way that didn’t feel like I was trying to manipulate her.
I tread a fine line everyday with my disorders. Every word I say to someone can be viewed as a form of emotional manipulation. It’s stressful to have to concern oneself with such matters, but I do. If we were to ever have gotten together, I wanted it to be because she loved me. Because she wanted me. Because I fulfilled her every desire and she couldn’t picture being happier with anyone else.
Not because she pitied me.
It’s all ashes to the wind now I suppose. But I am an amazing date planner. Even if they don’t happen. Sometimes I have to remind myself of the things I’m good at. It’s too easy for me to lose sight of that. I have a lot of love to give in this old soul. I guess I just need to find the right person to give it to. I still wish that could have been Jewelwing, but let’s be fair. I was betting against the house. The casino never lets you walk away with their payroll.
Maybe someday I’ll find someone else, plan another date like this one, and maybe it won’t fall through. I’m doubtful though. I don’t know that I can face rejection too many more times. Honestly, I don’t think I can face it one more time. But I’ll never take a different girl on this date. Because every time I eat pizza and ice cream I’ll think of Jewelwing. I’ll think of how amazing that date could have been. And I’ll think about how she said to me:
“You’re so thoughtful. No one’s ever driven that far to plan a date with me before.”
And I know I won’t be bitter.
Because I understand, Jewelwing. I really, really do.