I didn’t text anyone when I got home to let them know I made it home safely. I was notorious for doing that. The next day, I woke up with sequins everywhere, gifts thrown in my living room, pain in my knees, and a feeling like I had the best night ever.
I checked my Instagram for evidence and watched my blonde weave and pink sequin sparkle all up and down my friends’ stories. The night slowly came back to me piece by piece as I downed what was left of the bottled water next to me. I remembered Poppa was the one who gave me the bottle. I went to my texts and saw one from him, “So you home?” The message was sent to me at 4 am.
I replied to him. It was 11:30 am. “Hey Poppa! I’m home!” I put a crying laughing emoji.
“About time! You had me worried. But I knew you were OK. How are you feeling this morning?” He replied.
I clicked over into Instagram to check to see if Eli had watched my stories. He had. I felt good about that and went over to my texts to message him. “Hey Eli, I was so drunk last night and passed out before I let you know I was OK.” I waited for his response. It wasn’t as immediate as Poppa’s. Oh yeah, Poppa!
I went back to his text. “Aww, I love that you were worried about me. I’m feeling good. Glad I had that bottle of water to save my life. Thank you.”
While I waited for Poppa to respond, I got up and made myself some coffee. I got a text notification and it was Eli, “Hey Danielle. Glad you had a great birthday night. I had a great time too. You’re a lot of fun when you’re drunk and partying. Are you this much fun all the time?”
I smiled. He thinks I’m fun. “I’m Danielle all the time. I may not be drunk all the time, but I do think I am mostly fun.”
“Mostly?” Eli put a thinking emoji after his inquiry.
“I mean, everyone can’t be everything all the time,” I said.
“True. I’d like to see how you’re like one on one,” Eli said, confidently shooting his shot.
See? This is what I’m talking about! That energy! I liked how Eli was all about it while Poppa only flirted when he thought about it. Otherwise, I didn’t exist.
“That’s a good idea. What did you have in mind?” I asked Eli and hoped he would have a solid response instead of something unsure or up in the air.
I got a notification for a text from Poppa and instead of addressing the water comment, leaving open a perfectly good chance to flirt, he said, “So I’ve got one of your disposable cameras. I was taking pictures and I forgot to put it back on the table.” (I’d provided disposable cameras at my birthday party for nostalgia’s sake.)
“Oh word? Clever. Now that you’ve got it, you have to see me to get it back to me.” I replied.
“There’s still some pictures left on it too,” Poppa offered, not acknowledging my open invitation for us to hang out.
“So yeah, maybe we can MEET UP and take the rest of them and get them developed. Old school fun.”
Eli replied as I waited for Poppa to flirt back with me. “Let’s do coffee. That’s easy, right? You like coffee?”
“I do. I have a thing for coffee shops.”
“How’s Sunday afternoon?” Eli asked.
I had plans to see Lucky Daye that night in the Lower East Side. I could meet up with Eli and then head over to the show. “That works,” I typed as I explained my plans to Eli and he agreed to meet up.
“You can even pick the coffee shop. You seem like you would appreciate that,” Eli messaged me.
“You’re right. And I know just the spot.”
I was already late when I got to the train to meet Eli that early Sunday afternoon. I let Eli know I was running late and that I’d see him at the shop. By the time I got off the train, he messaged me back, “No worries. I’m in the neighborhood. Let me know when you’re close.”
It was hot, so I tried to walk slow, but I was pouring sweat anyway. Any makeup I had on my face was a thing of the past at this point and I’d only walked two blocks. I slowed down even more. I passed by a cute little park and made a note of the location just in case Eli and I wanted to go for a walk. We could dip into there and chill and I could slow my sweating down. I stopped walking altogether and calmed myself down. The more I thought about my sweat, the hotter I got. I messaged Eli, “I’m just getting off the train. Be there in a moment.” I lingered in front of the park.
“Hey you!” I turned to see Eli coming my way. I was mortified because I was still sweating.
I pretended to be on the phone so that I could turn around and wipe the sweat off my face and, in some sad attempt, not look like a wet dog. I gave the one-moment phone gesture and turned my back. He stopped walking toward me.
I couldn’t get myself to calm down, but I didn’t want to make the moment weirder than it already was. I ended the fake phone call and walked over to Eli. I was always good at making up a reason behind my sweatiness. Before I even knew I was doing it, I hugged Eli and said, “Woo, calls like that get me hot! I hate when people don’t want to know your worth!”
Eli laughed, “A business woman, even on Sunday afternoon. Wow.” He hugged me. “Hi Danielle. You’re late.”
“I know. I always am. But I’m here!” We walked towards the coffee shop.
There were plants everywhere when we walked in and I walked around pretending to admire them, mostly trying not to keep sweating in front of him. I excused myself to the bathroom after telling him my order, “A triple dirty iced chai with oat milk, thanks!”
I patted myself down in the bathroom and reapplied a bit of makeup so that I wouldn’t look like I just finished an intense workout. I went back out to meet Eli for our drinks. He was standing by the register and asked, “You got this?”
“What? You were waiting for me to pay for this?” I asked.
“Well, yours is kinda pricey and she added them together and I figured it would be easier for you to pay since you got it like that!” Eli laughed.
I didn’t laugh. In order to just be done with it, I paid. But the note was taken. We sat in the coffee shop for a bit, sipping my coffees and I tried to forget how he refused to pay for the $13 drinks. The conversation was actually good. He made me laugh, he was smart, well-read, beginning to travel, so he was more excited about it than he was pretentious.
“We should go back to that park around the corner. It’s nice out,” Eli suggested.
We sat at the park and talked about our childhoods and our relationships with our parents as adults. We made jokes about the fights we’ve gotten in with our parents. I teared up telling a story and he slid his hand under mine.
“I’m here,” Eli leaned into me and held my hand.
When it was time to get going to the show, I was about to ask Eli if we could do it again.
“Can I see you tomorrow?” He asked, smiling with that dimple.
Even though we were having a good time, I couldn’t tell if it was actually a date, especially because he didn’t pay for the coffee. “Yeah, actually. Let’s have drinks.”
“Enjoy the show and I’ll hit you,” and with that, he walked away. There was no kiss, no shoulder hold, no hand grab, nothing. He was just gone.
It’s not like it was mixed signals, but I certainly felt confused by his actions. But he was cute and a cool guy, so it was worth seeing him again.
To be continued next week.