Nine (disastrous) dates, part one
Dates 1 – 3
1. Truth or Dare
It would have been my first kiss.
Maimie was a tomboy, but she was cute as a koala. I was in 7th grade and she was in 6th . I had a crush on her, and (I think) she liked me.
We were with a group of friends playing Truth or Dare, when one of them “dared” me to kiss her. I lit up like a sparkler, and Maimie blushed like...well, a 6th grade schoolgirl. We stepped into a dimly lit closet as the others snickered.
Having no precedent, I wasn’t sure if I should open my eyes or not. So, I compromised. I squinted like Clint Eastwood in a Spaghetti Western desert. Through the narrow slits I saw Maimie’s puckered face leaning toward mine. It was no longer as cute as an Australian marsupial’s though. It looked funny and kinda scary, like a star-nosed mole or a prehistoric pumpkin. It was sequenced up as though she had just eaten a half a dozen lemons. I couldn’t help it --and I’m not proud of it -- I burst out laughing. Maimie opened her eyes, shrieked with embarrassment and ran away – carrying off any hope of a first kiss!
2. Eight O’Clocks
At the first Eight O’Clocks dance, I met Comma. (Yes, her name was “Comma.” I was ribbed for a solid year with quips like, “Conjunction junction, what’s her function?” “Semicolon is much prettier,” and “I’ve heard she’s a real exclamation point!”)
Anyway, when I first met Comma I was standing like a wallflower next to the jukebox when she approached. “Do you like music?” she asked.
“Of course,” I replied.
“What’s your favorite band?” she asked.
“Um, a, um,” was all I could come up with. I was more into sports and critters at the time.
“Do you like the Beatles?” she asked.
I LOVE the Beatles,” I (ex)claimed!”
So, what’s your favorite album?” she asked.
“Um, a, um,” I stammered. “I like them all.”
“Me too,” she said, “but Rubber Soul is the best. I LOVE “Michelle!’”
Before I could respond with something other than “um,” a boy stepped in between us and asked her to dance. “Suffragette City” by David Bowie was playing. (I’m haunted by the song to this day!) Comma remained beneath the disco ball for the rest of the evening.
At the second Eight O’Clocks, I brought Comma a Dolby cassette of Rubber Soul, and I asked the DJ to play “Michelle,” not realizing it wasn’t exactly an 8th grade dance favorite.
I then waited and waited and waited for our song to play, but it never did. Finally, I decided to ask her to dance to something else. I think Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” was playing. As I slowly shuffled across the floor, absolutely terrified, the song ended and the DJ announced, “That's it boys and girls. See ya next time!” The lights came on and parents streamed in.
At the third and final Eight O’Clocks, I finally mustered up enough courage to ask Comma out on a date. An actual date! She looked at me with sad blue eyes, shrugged and said, “I wish you had asked me earlier; we’re moving back to Stockholm in a week.”
Riding home in the back of my parents’ faux wood paneled station wagon, I listened to “Michelle, my bell, these are words that go together well, my Michelle…”
3. The Walk for Hunger
I attended a small New England boarding school. The day before Thanksgiving Break, I left a bouquet of flowers in the mailbox of Edie Findeis, a girl I had a crush on. Unbeknownst to me, she had left the day before. When she returned a week and a half later, the flowers (and my first attempt at courtship) had expired!
It took several months to recover. In the spring, I finally tried again. I invited Edie to join me on "The Walk for Hunger," an annual charity event in Boston. I had twenty miles to redeem myself for the flower fiasco. Considering Edie was taller, smarter and way better looking than me, it was gonna be a long, difficult, uphill journey.
Walking along the Charles River, I tried to win her over with my nascent Southern charm. I told her Cajun jokes and stories about growing up on the bayou; but both fell painfully flat.
Something got lost in translation. I was flailing like a mullet in the dry hull of a Lafitte skiff piloted by Boudreaux and Thibodeaux. So, with my hands buried in my pockets, and looking for any excuse not to look at her, I walked in silence.
Then, I had a revelation. “Maybe I could impress her with my athleticism?” I thought. “I’m on the varsity football and wrestling teams for crying out loud!” But, there was an obvious problem: It was a “walk” and not a “decathlon” for hunger. I would have to improvise.
So, I decided to dazzle her with my stellar skipping prowess. But, as I bounded past Edie, my right foot clipped my left, and, with my hands still stuck in my pockets, I fell like a timber. I landed squarely, facedown in a deep puddle, the only one on the entire path.
Embarrassed beyond belief, I wanted to die, possibly from mud water asphyxiation. I lay there motionless, waiting for Edie to laugh, but hoping she would just continue to walk – away, far away. But, she didn’t, and she didn’t. Instead, she helped me up, brushed me off and held my hand. We had more than ten (agonizing) miles to go...
Folwell Dunbar is an educator, artist and survivor of many failed dates. He can be reached at [email protected]
Folwell Dunbar is a New Orleans educator, artist and survivor of many things, from roaches to German U-boats and heartbreak. He is putting together a collection of these short stories and survival tales called He Falls Well (his name is pronounced “fall well”). NolaVie is honored to preview some of those stories here. Email him [email protected].