Eli messaged me while I was at the show enjoying Lucky Daye and I made it a point to hit him when I left. “Just leaving. Amazing show!”
I didn’t hear from him that night so I did what any emotionally and mentally healthy girl would do and stalked his Instagram for reasons as to why he was ignoring me. There he was, living his life, creating content, getting on live every other day, and asking silly polarizing questions on Twitter. Getting ignored these days sucks because you know 9/10 folks have their phones somewhere near them. Eventually, I did the logical thing and replied to one of his stories — he was looking extra snacky in a pair of pants.
He sent a crying laughing emoji in response to my very blatant flirting.
“Hey Eli,” I replied.
“Hey Dani, what’s up?” He answered all casual.
“You tell me. When are we linking up again?” I asked Eli.
“Oh, yeah we should. I’ve been swamped. Let’s link this week. Thursday?”
“I feel you. Me too.” I was only swamped because I kept procrastinating and making my own list longer. “I’m free that night.”
“Since you wanted to get drinks, I know a cool spot.” Eli shared an address, a time, and just like that, we had another set of plans.
“OK Eli, We love to see it!” I said, mostly to myself, satisfied that this man had no issue making plans.
Thursday came and I got ready to meet up with Eli at the address he provided. I looked it up. It was a hotel. The site didn’t say anything noteworthy about the hotel’s bar. I was wondering why he wanted to meet there, especially because I wanted to look cute and not be walking around looking all crazy and sweaty.
I got to the hotel early and waited for Eli by the bar. There were small living rooms all over the lobby, so I tucked into one of the couches and tested to make sure I could get up and down without struggle. One thing I knew about Eli was he specifically liked big girls. I never really liked to date men who exclusively dated big women because I felt like it was a fetish and we aren’t liked for who we are, just because we jiggle more than most. I was making an exception for Eli because he was cool, confident, smart, funny, and a bunch of other good qualities I wanted in a partner.
Eli walked in right on time, spotted me and came over, smiling. “Look at you, pretty.” He held my hand and stepped back, giving me a glance over. He pulled me in and kissed me on the cheek. “And you smell fantastic. This is going to be a good night.” Eli nuzzled into my neck.
“Wow, what is that?”
“It’s French. I got it when I went to Paris so that I could tell people my perfume is from Paris. I don’t know the name, but the store is Fragonard. All their scents are intoxicating.”
I smiled at Eli, watching his dimple come and go. We sat down on the couch and he pulled me down beside him. “Boy!” I said giggling and allowing my body weight to smash into him. I guess this is where he was taking us to have drinks. To be sure, I asked, “Is this where we’re having drinks?”
“Well, I don’t drink, but I know you do. I like this place and there’s a bar, so I figured, why not?” Eli said.
I had no issue dating someone who didn’t drink, but I now knew we wouldn’t be having any of those reckless and overly flirtatious drunken nights. I sighed.
“Is there a problem?” Eli asked.
“There is no problem Eli. I don’t even drink like that,” I said, mostly lying. I did and do drink like that, but I don’t need drinks. I like them, socially. “I just don’t want to drink by myself on this here date,” I elbowed him.
“Is that what this is?” I couldn’t tell if he was serious or flirting with me.
“Isn’t it?” I asked, trying to make sure he was clear I wasn’t joking.
“So you don’t want a drink?” Eli said, getting up and putting his hands out to pull me up from the cozy couch.
“Of course I do. I’ll drink without you. You can’t shame me!” I laughed. We headed to the bar.
I ordered my drink and attempted to snuggle up against Eli. “I’ve gotta use the restroom. I’ve been holding it. I’ll be right back,” he said and off he went.
The drink and the bill were placed in front of me. The bartender smiled. I smiled back, dug into my purse and found my card and popped it on top of the check. “Thank you.”
“Cheers.” He said with an Australian accent and ran my card.
Did Eli conveniently run away to the bathroom to keep from paying for my drink, I wondered. I haven’t mastered the art of communication yet, nor have I learned how to voice my grievances without coming off like I’m complaining, so when Eli returned to join me on the couch, I didn’t bring up the fact that I paid for my cocktail.
We chatted for what felt like hours. I’d been thirsty 47 times over and Eli would offer me water every time he got up to refill his own. They were free. I made a note of that. We kept talking and the more I got to know about him, the more he intrigued me. He told me he wasn’t a kiss on the first date type of dude and that it took him significant time before he had sex with someone. I appreciated his honesty and it was refreshing to hear a man speak about being celibate. It made me want him more.
After a couple of hours, my stomach had moved beyond growling into full-blown attack mode. “I’m hungry,” I said looking at Eli for some sort of sign that he was avoiding having to pull out his wallet.
“Yeah, me too. I was actually going to go to my favorite noodle spot in Chinatown.” Eli said.
I waited for him to tell me to come with him. But he didn’t. “I like noodles,” I offered.
“Oooh, you want to come with me?” Eli said, as if it didn’t dawn on him that he was on a date.
“I mean, if it’s not too much trouble,” I said with sarcasm in my tone. “Where is it?”
“That’s the thing. I don’t know. I always just walk there and I know where I am,” Eli said as he stood up. He pulled me up and held on to my hands. “Soft.” He smiled.
“Thank you,” I blushed. He was so charming, even when I was screaming inside, trying to figure out what was going on.
“So we walk? Are you ok with getting sweaty?” Eli laughed, teasing me because I told him about my little sweaty problem.
“I’m OK with it if you are.” I followed him outside and, thank the Lord, it was raining. Neither of us had an umbrella. “Train?” I asked, motioning toward a train line I’d never taken a day in my life.
“It’s kinda too close for the train. Plus I don’t think this is the one we’d take. We’d have to do too much to connect to the right train,” Eli offered, pulling out his phone. “Let me see where it is. I kind of have an idea.”
“So we can take an Uber?” I asked.
“You can!” Eli laughed. “I’m fine walking, but I know you don’t want to walk in the rain.” There he goes again, making it my “fault,” but he was right. I wasn’t walking in the rain.
“Fine, I’ll call an Uber, for us,” I said. By then, I was sick of pulling out my wallet to pay for every little thing. He was going to pay for my noodles and that’s that!
We pulled up to the restaurant and the rain had stopped, leaving us in the steamy and humid thickness of a New York City summer. Eli and I tucked ourselves into a booth in the corner of the small restaurant. It looked a bit sketchy, but Eli swore the food was delicious.
The menu displayed nothing over $10, not that it mattered; it was just another note to put in my back pocket. I decided quickly that I wanted chicken wings and one of their signature noodle dishes.
“Ballin’!” Eli joked.
I didn’t laugh. I looked at the prices of the two items I decided on and they were $17 total. I added a drink and Eli ordered water and one of the noodle specials.
“You can have some of my wings too if you want. I kinda ordered them for us,” I offered.
“Oh nah, that’s all you baller!” Eli laughed.
Again, I didn’t. We chatted and waited for our food to arrive. As we were talking, Eli stopped speaking, his jaw hung open and he laughed hysterically. I thought something I said just processed in his brain, but a guy made his way over to our table after having a similar reaction to seeing Eli.
Eli jumped up and greeted the man, “Kofi! What are you doing here man?” His African accent slid down his tongue.
Kofi explained that he was bringing a friend to try the noodles. Eli then explained to me that Kofi was his best friend and that they often come to this particular noodle spot together. This was their first time not coming with one another and they still showed up at the same time. Eli and Kofi chatted, laughed and Eli didn’t introduce me at all. When Kofi walked away, he looked at me, smiled, did an awkward wave and went to join his friend at their table.
Eli’s affections changed. We were playing with each other’s fingers as we talked and ate. Now, he sat across from me, but scooched down one seat so that he wasn’t directly in front of me, like he was before his friend came in.
“You about ready to call it a night?” Eli said, waving at the waiter for the check.
“You got this?” I asked Eli, glancing at the check, which was $30-something.
“I think you’ve got it baller!” Eli slid $10 across the table. “Put it on your card and this is my contribution,” Eli said as if I couldn’t tell his $10 slide was all he was going to give towards the bill.
I had planned on riding the train with Eli to continue flirting, but I decided I would call an Uber and make my way home and try my best not to go over Eli’s actions and non-actions in my head too much. I didn’t have any room to overthink what this was and what it wasn’t. I was clear, Eli asked me on a date, only to not take me on one. Is this what’s hot in the streets now?