I hesitated briefly on my way home from work. I would normally take the Main Street Bridge home but had promised myself that today was the day. Today was the day I actually grew a pair and walked across the West Street Bridge. More importantly today was the day I walked across the West Street Bridge and asked the girl who sat there to watch the sunset if she would go on a date with me.
I forced myself to head towards West Street. How do you even start a conversation like this, I thought. I knew next to nothing about talking to girls. I grew up the youngest of five boys raised by a single dad. It meant that I always had a playmate, never had to play with dolls or deal with a sister's tears, and a great deal of red meat was consumed in our household. I also watched each of my four older brothers successfully gain girlfriends and later wives. I suppose we were a good looking family and realistically I probably should have been able to figure out the talking to girls thing. Unfortunately that gene seemed to have skipped me and without a mother to help me deal with my first, oh, hundred or so rejections I just stopped talking to girls, never mind asking them on dates.
What to say? I wondered. You're pretty. Creepy. I've been watching you for about two months. Creepier. What time is it? Too casual. Want to come back to my place. Way too much, way too soon. And then I realized I was standing next to her and probably had been for about a minute. Certainly long enough that she was staring at me uncomfortably and starting to gather her purse into her lap.
But holy, crap! She was even prettier up close! Shit! Shit! Say Something! I screamed inside.
"Hi," I began. Awesome, great start, idiot.
"Uhhh..." The girl started to panic and began to make an effort to get up off the wall of the bridge.
"May I sit down?" I asked quickly, trying to stop her from leaving.
"Sure?" She certainly did not sound sure.
I sat and stared out over the river. We sat in silence for a while, because I couldn't seem to think of any of the things I had practiced saying and now I was being super creepy and if I didn't come up with something fast she was going to leave and she might never come back because I had freaked her out. I also knew this was one of her favorite places, since I had watched from the other bridge for two months as she watched the sunset and I really didn't want her to have to give it up because I was a doofus. I took a deep breath and tried to calm my racing heart and brain. Neither appeared to be working correctly.
"Hi," I said again and slapped myself mentally.
"Hi," she smiled and then looked away, avoiding eye contact like I was a crazy. To be fair, I was acting kind of crazy, but her smile made my stomach flip flop in a good way. Or possibly a nervous, I may puke kind of way. I had not really made up my mind on that yet.
I decided that best route was probably honesty. "So, I'm pretty sure that there is no way I can say this that is going to not sound crazy," I rushed, "but I usually sit on the bridge."
"Um," she sounded and looked fairly confused. Since she sat on the bridge and had not seen me ever. Bad move, my inner critic said. She's going to think you're a stalker. But, I could not seem to stop the words from pouring out of my mouth. The filter had completely disintegrated.
"Well, not this bridge, that bridge." I pointed behind us towards Main Street Bridge. "For lunch and then again at sunset on my way home from work, and I noticed you awhile back doing the same thing. Only it was just sunset mostly. And well...I feel like maybe we should get to know each other and maybe watch the sunset together."
There! It was all out and not super, super stalker-ish. Maybe only seventy percent stalker-ish, I thought.
But still didn't ask her out, dumbass, piped up the voice.
"Okay," she said. "Well, this is really odd." She gave me a sort of half smile.
"Yeah, I guess I'm not exactly a superstar of conversation." Understatement of the year. "If you want we could just sit in silence and watch the sunset but I was wondering if I might join you again tomorrow evening."
"Sure, I guess," she replied. We then didn't speak until the sunset. I just sort of sat there fidgeting and unable to form a coherent thought in order to ask her out on a real date.
"Ok," I said as I climbed down and helped her to the sidewalk. "Tomorrow?"
"Sure." She waved and walked away. I just about floated home.
The next day I showed up and we almost had a conversation. Something about what we were thinking about for dinner. Way to go asshole, I thought, as she got up early and walked away after a particularly inept remark.
We repeated the process for the next two weeks. THe conversations got better and better. I had managed to reduce my stumbling halting awkward conversations to every other day, instead. I suppose I was aided by the fact that it was fall and the days were getting shorter and we did not have to wait as long for sunset.
Two weeks in, she brought muffins and initiated contact. "I made muffins would you like one?"
"Sure." The conversation that day was awful. I was too excited to think properly and too nervous about messing it up.
A month later we had to start wearing heavy coats. I brought coffee and she started bringing cookies. My conversing had not improved greatly but I didn't stutter nearly as much and I didn't make as many inappropriate comments. I also found out a bit about her.
She had grown up in a different province and had only moved recently. She had a sister and a brother. She liked vanilla lattes. She was working part time at a nearby diner while she was studying English literature at the university and when I misquoted Romeo's what light at yonder window speech, she almost threw me off the bridge, even though she hated the play. She was allergic to apples (plums, I found out through a near mishap in which her throat almost closed up, are in the apple family) and she was as verbally proficient as I was dismal.
Words were her friends. She talked, not overly much, but with such amazing diction and tone that it seemed as though every word was carefully chosen and imbued with the perfect inflection in the blink of an eye. I wished I had half as glib a tongue as she did. If I did, I thought wryly, we would not be stuck on this wall and in this limbo. I would have already asked her out no problem.
All of that information, I stored in my brain along with every other tidbit of information she had ever revealed. I seriously needed to ask her out already. It was getting weird and pathetic. Well, more pathetic and definitely weirder.
November brought a blanket along with one snowfall that iced over the sidewalks and made me nervous whenever she stood on the narrow rock wall of the bridge and walked a ways to seat herself next to me. "It did not matter if she could swim," I repeated day after day, "it was a matter of the frigid water killing her."
December was halfway done and it had been nearly two months since I had approached her that first time. I finally got up enough courage to ask her on a real date. One evening, I sat down next to her with her favourite latte and she wiggled a little closer to share the blanket.
I took a deep breath and just went for it. "So you what do you date..." I trailed off. Apparently I was less prepared than I thought. I was so embarrassed. I quickly coughed and tried to cover up my garbled attempt by asking, "What are you doing for the holidays?"
She shot a sideways glance at me telling me without words she knew it was a cover up. "Is that really what you meant to ask?"
"No," I took another deep breath. What the hell, I thought, I'm an idiot anyway at this point. "I meant to ask if you wanted to go on a date with me sometime."
She started to laugh and I turned quickly away. I stood and hopped down from the wall blushing furiously. I could not just sit there and listen to the laughter. After getting to know her over the last few months I was not sure I was going to be able to handle her rejection ever. There was for sure, no way of taking it back and no way I could go back to sitting next to her after that catastrophe. I was going to have to go back to walking home on the Main Street Bridge.
I shoved my hands in my pockets and I began walking swiftly home. I felt a tug on my arm a few moments later. "Jeez, you sure walk fast."
"I can't do this." I said honestly and probably the most clearly that I had ever spoken to her.
She stood on tip toe and lightly kissed me, lingering a moment and I savored it. The feel of her pressing up against me, of her hands clenched around my biceps, the softness of her lips, the slight chill that crept down the back of my neck, all of it was precious and a memory I was never going to forget.
"Uhhhh..." was all I could manage when she stepped back.
"There was no need to be scared to ask me out," she said with a smile.
"Uh yeah, there was. You laughed in my face!" I exclaimed. Had she not noticed that, because I sure as hell had.
"Because we've been going on dates every night for two months." She finished, "plus you did the pre-courtship dance for two before that." I opened my mouth to deny it, but she cut me off. "Yes, I saw you. Why do you think I made myself so predictable? You move at a glacial pace and you don't like change. You're shit with words, but I think it's kind of endearing. You don't have to be some kind of poet to win my heart you know; you just have to be you. Now let's go grab the coffee you left on the wall when you ran away and take them back to your place and have dinner, okay?"
I gladly let her lead me back to the bridge to gather our things, happy that things worked out even though I was a dork who could not talk to girls.