At the end of the night back in November, the night he ate pho and I didn’t, I was surprised to see that seven hours had passed since I’d met him at the train station. For me, it felt like three. The next week went on like any other, except I’d often find my thoughts turning back to that night at the most inconvenient times, especially while I was working. We’d be talking about vowels or Harry Houdini, or things around the classroom that Marcel the Shell might find useful. I’d lose focus as soon as I’d picture him and the way he would pause to choose his words thoughtfully. I’d have to shake the image from my mind as ten pairs of young eyes peered from below, innocently anticipating my next move. Which should have been a major clue. “You like him,” Kathryn commented more than once during that week. “I’m not really sure,” I’d respond after considering it. And until we went out a second time, I wasn’t.
We went out a second time. We sat across from each other for dinner first, then later down the street for drinks, and I was again unaware of the hours passing until the cafe was closing around us. At the start of the night, I was nervous like I haven’t been in a really long time. Which should have been another clue. My usual way of dealing with nerves is to make jokes, spit caustic retort, self-deprecate. Thankfully I’ve gotten over my compulsion to playfully mock. It doesn’t happen easily or often, but once I realize I like someone, I’m a bit of a wreck. As the ship sails from a familiar state of singledom, from calm, breezy, predictable waters into precarious, erratic territory, my brain sounds an alarm. “S.O.S.! DANGER AHEAD. Steer clear before you lose track of yourself and you can’t tell your head from your ass!” Before I know it, I’m in irons. I might eventually find my sea legs, but the beginning of any relationship or dating situation of mine has, historically, been choppy at best.
Lately I’ve begun to believe something, something I’ve always considered to be a tad hackneyed. The questions, the guilt, the knocks to the ego – all of it eventually builds up to something much better. Something that makes everything worthwhile. I should follow that statement with this: On my best days, I believe it. Sure, a part of me wonders when the ball is going to drop. That will never go away completely. This, whatever this is and however long it lasts, is better, and for so many reasons. Most importantly, because I trust that whatever happens, I’m going to be fine.
Writing does wonders with all of that.
We went on a third date, a fourth, a fifth, and several more after. Each time I ride the train to meet him at a different station around Seoul, my heart beats at a rate some cardiologists might find alarming. (Without trying to sound sweet or romantic, really – some cardiologists might prescribe pills for this). Everything comes easier with practice, right?
Next weekend, I’m going with him to his family’s house for Lunar New Year. As he opens up his world to me, I’m trying to be a little less spastic and to take on these new experiences one at a time. As nervous as it makes me, it feels good to be adrift.