#76 – My Amazingly Crazy Date – Kevin O. Johnson

My buddies and I had just turned 16 and they wanted to do a group date ASAP.  They were a little shy but they figured if I’d come, there would be enough conversation to go around and all would go fine.  So they planned everything and I put it in the back of my mind.  Four days before the date, I called a girl up and she agreed to go with me.  The day of the date came and it was an hour before we were supposed to pick up the girls.

The phone rang and it was my date apologizing for having to cancel on me.  I started calling everyone I knew but everyone had plans.  I went to the year book and the first girl I saw, I called.  With five minutes till 6:00, she agreed to go.  We picked her up and her dad gave me an evil glare but allowed me to take his daughter without a fight or interview.  The van now full of the six of us drove up the mountain and we pulled over to pitch a fire and roast marshmallows.  All was going well up until the sun began to set.  A car drove up and stopped right next to us.  My scout leader and some of his friends pulled over and got out to chat with us.  It was a pleasant surprise at first but then the conversation got onto the energy of the moon and stars.

My scout leader and his friends decide to teach us all about the energy of the world and how we could feel it.  So he made us all hold hands around the camp fire and meditate for about two minutes.  They were a long, long, long two minutes.  He told us how in those two minutes he saw a man in white travel across a grove of flowers.  I didn’t believe him and I felt like our dates were kind of weirded out so I asked if I could talk with him.  He apologized for intruding but asked if he could show me one more example of energy.  We were separated from the rest of the group and they all had their backs turned.  He started to rub his hands together and then he mimed like he had this orb in his hand.  Without a sound he threw it at his non-suspecting friend and his friend reacted to the invisible ball of energy like a soccer ball hitting his back.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  So for the rest of the night we all learned the how to play with energy.  Of course none of us could really do it, but it was fun to try.  For a first date I’d say everything worked out alright.

~ Kevin O. Johnson, Provo, Utah

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#73 – The Raisins of Wrath – Thomas Jones

I met her at church.  She had an easy, comforting smile and a quirky, granola-like personality.  She wore the Birkenstocks and cotton sweaters and listened to music I didn’t like but figured it was because I wasn’t hip enough.  I’d admired her for several months before I got up the nerve to ask her out.  She’d been dating a friend of mine so when they broke up I had to wait the appropriate time before I could proceed.  When I asked her, she surprised me by agreeing to go with almost no hesitation.  A good sign.

What to do?   A movie?  Miniature golf?  No.  I really want to make a good impression.  A play?   Maybe… just maybe.  I go to the trusty Las Vegas Journal Friday Edition where all good things for the weekend are spelled out amidst the gentleman’s show ads.  There it is.  The community theater is presenting Of Mice and Men.  Excellent!  I will seem cultured and it’s not a musical.

She is up for just about anything, so we arrange to meet at the theater.  I arrive first and pace nervously hoping I won’t be stood up.  I wasn’t.  I crack a joke when she arrives and she laughs genuinely.  Another good sign.

The play begins.  She’s never seen it before and can’t remember the plot.  We talk for few seconds during the first intermission.  She likes it.  She smiles a lot.  I sense that the play idea is really endearing me to her.  She wonders what will happen next.

As the play continues, she gradually scoots to the edge of her seat.  She’s really getting into it.  I, of course, know the ending and sense that I should prepare her for the disappointment ahead.  My date will not be thwarted by Steinbeck.  She leans forward as they run away.  Her finger nervously twirls a twist of auburn hair.  I should do something.  She will be so disappointed and shocked.

I sense my opportunity.  I will place my arm gently on her shoulder so when the shooting takes place I can reassure her in her grief.  Yeah, I will be both sensitive and strong, a virtual knight in shining armor.  I quietly lift my arm off of the armrest and begin to extend it out across the back of her empty chair aiming for her delicate shoulder.  This is going to be so awesome.

Then…

Pow! Lenny shoots Squiggy.

She lurches back toward me in shock and sadness.

My elbow!  My elbow!

In slow motion my elbow crushes her pretty little cheekbone.  Her head recoils, her neck absorbing the unexpected impact.  Saliva slowly dislodges from her mouth.  Her pouty lips slowly morph from pout to puff with a slight hint of black and blue.

I…didn’t…mean…to…elbow…you…in…the…face.

I envy Squiggy and his quick demise.

Defeated, I attempt the save.

“Shocking, huh?”

Nothing but the grapes of wrath.

~ Thomas Jones, Yuma, Arizona

#32 – The Most Romantic Day of My Life – Hank Kimmel

The most romantic day of my life, and I almost missed it.

New York City, 1984.
Walking home
Minding my own business.
Thinking of the night ahead.
Laundry.
Stationery bike.
Mets on TV.

I was 24
And girls were on my mind.
But not tonight.
I just broke up with my girlfriend
Or she broke up with me.
Asking what I thought of marriage
Wonderful
I said
For people over 40

My long-term plans  defined
By what it said in that night’s fortune cookie.
Not that I wasn’t interested in girls.
Or women as I was supposed to call them.
But after dating the same girl-slash-woman for three years.
I was leery about the next phase..
Not really leery.
But the Mets were playing well
And needed attention.
As for romance
I tried to be systematic
And take The Keith Hernandez Approach to Dating.

Ketih Hernandez played first for the Mets.
A 300 hitter
About one hit every three at bats
Not great for getting to work on time.
But a path to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
If I took a Keith Hernandez Approach to Dating —
and tried to be a 300 hitter
It didn’t matter if seven out of 10 dates failed,
I was an all star

As part of my “system”
I kept index cards
With a girl’s name, address and phone number.
Of course, I allowed for spontaneity.
But only on days the Mets had off.

So on this gorgeous Spring evening
I reached the corner of 30th Street and 2nd
And then it happened.
My life-altering MOMENT ….

This girl came up from behind.
Grabbed my arm
And said with breathy desperation:
“This guy is following me, would you walk with me, thanks!”
Dumbfounded, I said sure.
And this girl and I – this woman and me – walked arm in arm
To 1st avenue.

I could tell she was frantic,
But as we walked, she became calm.
Turning back twice,
It appeared her pursuer halted chase.
I don’t know, I never saw.
But it didn’t matter now.
Her stride slowed and we walked.
Like Bride and Groom down a long aisle.

When we finally reached 1st Avenue, I had a choice:
I could release her forever,
Having served my role
Or I could ask for name and number.
Create a new index card.

Daunted
I released her.
She thanked me,
And though her presence
Began to fade,
I could still feel her touch

Then it dawned on me:
Was this more than chance?

I looked back and she was gone.
I could barely remember more than
Her soft sweater
Her Head & Shoulders smell
A voice both frantic and sweet in just the right way.

As I walked back to my building
I realized I did the right thing.
Any other action might be misconstrued
Compounding this woman’s ill will toward men.

And even if I was more daring,
Was this the kind of woman who always had to act in crisis mode.
Someone who saw the necessity of getting married before 40 —
Or 30?!

Then it hit me.
This might have been my life’s turning point
And I missed it
Of course, it could have amounted to nothing –
But I am left with the feeling decades later
That if I was more daring
Who knows?

That evening
I didn’t order Chinese food.
Or get on my stationery bike.
Or watch the Mets
Instead I organized my index cards,
Daring myself to make a call.
As it turned out,
I called the woman
Who ended up becoming my wife.

~ Hank Kimmel, Atlanta, Georgia