Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

Before the Dawn

Theory about the beginnings of a new relationship

I have this theory about the beginnings of a new relationship, the tightrope you walk. Everyone has their own, and they're more than willing to dole out the "this worked for me" words of encouragement, but how you date, and what you do when you are standing in front of someone who has caught your breath (and equally your eye) is something else entirely.

People always tell you to hold back. That's fine, I think. It seems sometimes the best way to get someone is to act disinterested. That game I find mildly uninteresting. I've always been fairly straightforward when I like someone, when I'm interested in them. I don't see the value in keeping your cards close to your chest. Why not just a peek from time to time?

I've had this crush for the past 6 months. She's a girl who works in my building, though not for my magazine. She's just a girl I would see from time to time downstairs having a cigarette. She has the coolest style. A self-possessed manner. She stands like she doesn't need the company.

Over the past 6 months we've talked and run into each other. Really just superficial hellos and weekend tales; nothing big, but enough. I was just, well, intrigued. So I asked her out a week and a half ago.

It took about a week for our schedules to coalesce. A week for me to help close our latest issue. We went out on a date Friday night. She spent the night last night.

But I have this theory about the start of a relationship. I've known her for the past 6 months, so it's not like the first date was spent in the usual getting to know you drab recounting of the lives we've lived. In the best case, when someone really catches your attention, they can make your own stories seem somehow refreshed. New and relatively unlived in. Some of the things I told her on Friday I found myself listening to my own tales as a bystander, and of course with hers, I really was. We sat at Moto, a restaurant with a Tom Waits sounding pianist in the corner and wine on the bar before us. We split a Panini, mushrooms, and talk. We smoked cigarettes in the freezing cold.

I really do have this theory about the start of relationships. Because we've talked many times the first date was not really like a first date, more the fruition of some sort of courtship, one that was prolonged and not entirely deliberate. It was like being on a 4th or perhaps 5th date with someone, which is a nice feeling. That you know this person a little and can pull your best foot back and actually be yourself. It's a change.

I was away Saturday and part of Sunday, and wasn't going to be back to the city until later in the evening that night. Snow on the ground and dragged out time at the drop zone made it even later than I was hoping, but still I really wanted to see her again. Didn't want to wait the perfunctory 3 days or 6 days or however many days. I was tired and a little drained and thought there would be nothing better than having her come over and watching a movie. Maybe we could order take out and just sit back and talk. I thought there'd be nothing better than to have her stay awhile.

There's this theory I have, and it's nothing ground breaking. It's just a theory. Relationships are made on one or two simple moments. Perhaps three. The times at the beginning when you have an instinct, an idea. The question is always this: Do I go by the rules, or do I say fuck them and let it ride, let the person respond to me, good or bad. It's these two or three early moments that can start or end something, that can take you from interest to something else.

It's the poker metaphor. You're not exactly laying your cards down on the table, but you are offering ever the slightest peek at your hand. It's the moment you say without words that you are interested, that if they are too that you're in to see where things head from here.

I was in the car with the hetero lifemate and the magnificent Geebs, driving back to New York and I wrote her a text. "I'm heading back to the city, and probably won't be back till around 10. I'd like to see you, though, maybe rent a movie and get some take out."

It may not seem like much, but it's one of those tiny vulnerabilities. The part where you admit you'd like to see the person. Two young lovers walking in a crowded public space, or perhaps around a group of friends, before the relationship takes hold and they don't yet feel unselfconscious about hold hands so they let their shoulders rub as they walk, increasing and decreasing the space between them. It was that kind of moment.

We didn't end up watching a movie. We just stayed up talking, telling stories. We fell asleep around 3. Some time in the night, before she woke up to head for work as I slept in, I woke up, we were entwined a little bit, I hadn't moved across to the other side of the bed. It must have been after 5:30 and closer to 6 because sky was starting to brighten outside, but not too much. I woke up with her head next to mine, I stared at her for a long time, just taking it in, her bangs and dark brown 20s flapper-like hair style. Her eyes close, the rise and fall. I lay there and didn't move, didn't want to her to stir. It had been, I thought, a very long time since I had enjoyed the sight of someone like this