I can’t believe I’m subjecting these heels to pavement, I thought as I crossed seventh avenue rushing to meet a stranger I met online. I also can’t believe I made a profile on Plenty of Fish – aren’t I too young for this? I wouldn’t respond to someone who called himself Play6969 in real life, why did I think I’d be intrigued when he messaged me “Watup gurrllll” in an anonymous inbox?
Linds, what’s wrong with you?
Seeing the address a block away, I considered turning around and catching the uptown train. It wasn’t too late – I hadn’t actually seen the guy and I purposefully didn’t save his phone number, just in case he didn’t show, I wouldn’t be the whiny, pensive girl who reached out to see where he was, I’d just act like I didn’t care. Even if I did, I didn’t have a way to complain about it via BBM, and I’d be damned if I signed onto PlentyofBullS*** after being stood up.
Standing him up, though – that didn’t seem like such a bad idea. I could free myself from any troubles, from awkward first-date introductions, from telling him the basics about me that don’t really mean anything (I like red wine. I’m allergic to peanut butter. Yes, it is pronounced like the animal. Yes, I promise. Yes, it’s funny. Check please?), but I’m hungry. And he’s tall, right? Didn’t he say he was a doctor? If I had a Jewish mother, she’d tell me I’d be crazy not to go. I close my eyes and picture Fran Drescher”ma” on The Nanny, and enter the restaurant.
Mmmm, he’s stunning. Glad I wore the red heels, I complimented myself while praying for them to stop pinching my feet and for my skirt not to ride up. Maybe it’s a little too tight for the doctor type – or maybe he wants me to play nurse? Let’s see how engaging the conversation is. And he planned everything about this date, so let’s see how clever and creative he is – then maybe I’ll let him take my heart rate or maybe look at that thing, down there, that’s been….hurting? Yeah, something a little achy – like a lady part that’s pathetically lonely and bored of inaction.
He has a nice voice and he’s kind to wait staff, even talking like he’s old pals with the bartender, I analyzed while sipping on the drink he ordered. We would be hitting a few places around the Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square area – he had just moved here, after all. He wanted to see things he hadn’t before, try places he hadn’t tasted, perhaps wrangle wildlife he had yet to learn how to tame? I watched him carefully eat his food, taking incredibly small bites and demonstrate his near-perfect table manners. He even held his fork the European way, something I hadn’t seen a man do since my days of pageantry in the South. There the judges expect you to be a crystalized, real-life version of a Barbie Doll with humanitarian intentions, so they’ll give you a bit of class while eating overpriced Chicken Pot Pie at the table with ya.
The night continued in the fashion of most New York evenings – where anyone who didn’t live here would be amazed by the views, I had become in a short time, used to them, only experiencing those Louie Armstrong moments occasionally. And though we were walking around the tourist and rodent-ridden eight blocks of congestion and extremely bright lights, just as he wanted, Mr. Half just wasn’t that intrigued. The more he drank, the more reserved he became. By the last bar, it was so painful to consume our shared plate of french fries and specialty beers, that I finally had to pull the journalist out from hiding (she knows it’s not appropriate to interrogate on the first date, much better to listen), and ask him what happened. Where did my cheerful doctor who was going to inspect my body after a romantic night on the town go? Why was he so sullen that he matched the hideous gray walls in a sub-par bar charging $8 for a Bud Light?
He took another sip of Amstel, sat it down with vengeance, cut his eyes at the lines of liquor ahead of us, gave me a little grin, and asked me: “Is it possible to love with half of your heart? You’re a writer, right? You write about this stuff. Is it possible? Because as beautiful as you are, as much as I feel lucky to be here, as much as I’d like to take you home tonight, I only have half a heart left. The woman I thought was the love of my life took the rest.”
After nearly falling off my bar stool, I gathered myself and smiled at him, tears obviously welling up in my eyes. I took a deep breath, having recently ended my relationship with Mr. Idea, and answered as honestly as I could: “I have no idea, Mr. Half.”
It’s been over a year since that date, which happened to be our last (I never heard from him again) – but I remember taking a cab home that night, not because I was tipsy but because I was sad. For one of the first times, I didn’t make conversation with the cabby, but shut the window and cried as silently as I could, only pausing briefly to pay and head upstairs, to sob some more. My heart ached for Mr. Half, for myself, for all the people who put themselves out there, gave every bit of a heart they have, only to end up with half of it at the end.
Relationships are funny that way – we all want to find that person. The person who is all that we wanted, with a few surprises we didn’t know we liked, but do. And in the middle of an ordinary day (as all days mostly are), we meet someone who makes us believe that it’s possible. Who is different and charming, but not someone who strays. Someone who wants to stay, who wants to give, who proclaims their love. Who feels warm in the winter and so easy to be around that summer days fade all the way into October. And though we swore that the last time would be the last time. That we would never invest so much of ourselves, of our hope, of our precious love into another person after being so broken before. That we would never have the ability to open up because we had become so hard that softness was a distant memory of what we used to be, not what we are now. That we would never subject ourselves to such scary vulnerability when history tells that it’ll just end up crumbling us into a cab speeding up the Westside Highway following a downright depressing date. That we would never be able to love with our whole heart because we merely had half of one left.
Even though we made all those promises to that box of wine (yes, box), to that half-gallon of Ben & Jerry while sobbing to The Notebook over our version of Noah that looks nothing like Ryan Gosling – we go against it all the second that butterfly lands in our tummy. From that first kiss or that first indication of “something is happening here.” I don’t know how to mend a broken, a half, or a whole heart, but meeting someone with potential certainly helps speed up the process.
So if I were to go back to that date, if I hadn’t met my own Mr. Possibility months later, if I had known then what I know now, I would tell Mr. Half to lean in and kiss me, madly. Because the only way to see if you can love with half of your heart…is to try.