Huckleberry loved Joey from the very first second he met him and, to be honest, it wasn’t too long after this night that I realized I loved him too (but we’ll get there later). Upon presenting him his squeaky new gift, Joey and Huck spent a few minutes running through my second story apartment, playing as if they’d been life-long friends. If ever there was a moment a guy earned multiple points with me, this was it. I was comforted by the fact that he could relax in my place. I was thrilled to see Huck take to someone so quickly. I was laughing. Holy fuck, I was laughing.
Once we settled in to start cooking, Joey refused to let me do anything. “I got this,” he said over and over again. I was unsure whether he truly meant that he had everything he needed or if he just wanted to impress me. Either way, it was another tiny milestone for me: I hadn’t been with someone who cooked for me since I was with David. That was 5 years ago. Even though I questioned Joey’s sincerity, his confidence was stifling.
Since my tiny dining area was just outside of my 50s-inspired kitchenette, I sat with a glass of wine and excitedly watched him work. He calmly narrated every step of the process. First, he made a glaze for the salmon. Second, he added the garlic to be sauteed with the green-beans. Third…you get the idea. It’s incredibly sexy to see a man be in so much control of the kitchen, so I sat there quietly, often finding myself smiling at the flowers he’d brought.
Mentally counting out the moments that would’ve been awkward but, instead, were saved by Joey, helped me realize how great of a time we were having. Dinner conversation was polite, even though we didn’t shy away from talking politics and religion. We all know I’m a fan of all things scandalous, and I wanted to see if J could handle the hard questions. Dating, after all, is about determining whether or not two people are compatible enough to make their differences work. But through all of this, he was able to articulate exactly how he felt, never dodging questions on faith or opinion or placing judgement on me for differing opinions. Our dinner conversation was one of the best I’ve ever had, and he never made me feel like my opinion didn’t matter or my beliefs were flawed. He accepted me. And that’s when I realized how rare his heart was. How could I have ever thought, for even one second, to refuse spending more time with him?
As the night was about to end, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see him again for over two weeks. I was leaving for a girl’s trip to Florida the next day (hello, Scarlet and Megan), and I’d be at UDA camp with my girls the week after my vacation. I wished the night wasn’t going to end, that I had another few days to spend in his company, that there was a pause button on life. I wished, above all else, that we could do this again. I felt lighter, like the rest of my worries, the regrets and sorrow, had no place in my life at that moment. And I didn’t want that to end. But it would have to if I was going to get anything done before leaving the following evening. So I walked him to the stairs where he turned to face me and asked one of the sweetest questions I’ve ever heard.
J: “Fina, can I hug you?”
And as I said, ‘yes’ I moved in closer to his body, to touch him for the first time, and wrecked-the-shit out of the first 4 hours of romance we’d just experienced. Everything felt perfect and time stood still, until my nerves got the better of me. My reach landed one of my arms above his right shoulder and the other underneath his left arm. Buddy style, ladies and gentlemen. It was like I was trying to pull some WWE style hold on the guy who’d just defied every awkward moment for the entire night. I swear to each of you right now, I think I patted his back afterward. Like a ‘good game’ meets a ‘thanks for trying’ and a ‘I’m so freakishly uncomfortable.’ Immediately, I wanted to revert back to the girl who was so confident in her words, smiles, and body movement that she knew she’d sucker someone into her arms that night. But I couldn’t. Not with him. He was different and I could feel it.
Joey was kind enough to avoid making it worse. He wished me a happy trip, asked if he’d be hearing from me while I was gone (yes), and thanked me for a great night before leaving my apartment.
What? Did you think everything would be perfect? Not in Fina-land. It was just one small bobble. I’ll get my groove back. Promise.