#23: Where are you taking me??

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As you know, I’m back on OKC. Yes there are many more 90+% matches than before, but as always I wonder about the logic of their match calculations and really miss the friendship% number. However, I do tend to go look at those high match profiles and just once in a while, ever so rarely, one of them makes my eyes go round and my jaw drop and okay maybe my tongue hang out a little bit. I write to them, but of course these paragons never write back. So imagine my surprise when my ‘Hello, care to chat?’ received an enthusiastic ‘Absolutely’ in response, followed by an actual joke: ‘Your real name isn’t <OKC ID> is it?’. And we launched into gentle banter, which, while less immediately exciting than intense banter, is really the best kind of banter, like caipirinhas on a summer afternoon, as opposed to tequila shots on a Saturday night.

Several OKC messages later we switched to gmail chat, and we always ended up talking ridiculously early in the morning, because he works nights and I’m up at 6. I sent him to the blog and he was most enthused, saying he wanted to be #25. Alas fate conspired otherwise heh. The only time that works is the weekend and the first weekend I have time is this one, so we settled on Sunday night, with a strict injunction to get me home by ten because it’s past my bedtime. Only it turns out he has to work this weekend, so we ended up going out on Thursday.

Right from the start I feel this date is going to be different, but I caution myself to not believe it–burned many times. The thing is though, he’s made a plan. An actual good plan. We’re going to a standup, which will end at ten so we will skate in only a little past curfew. He wants to talk too though, so we decide to meet at Cyber Hub at 5, and since I’m the expert I pick the place. Thursday rolls around and he’s late, moving it to 530 at 450. I haven’t left the office though so I simply settle back to read more. Then I head downstairs and he’s still late, showing up at 545. But he does show up, and he’s tall and wearing a collar and could pass for Tamil, so obviously I’m happy. He’s also pretty hot. And he apologises profusely for being late, telling me he’s really gotten off to a good start hasn’t he, making me wait, with a wry smile. Oh sarcasm!

We end up at Imperfecto, tucked into a corner and he orders some food, which I pass on because I had a late lunch, and we just start talking. I ask him a ton of questions and he answers without protest or complain. I hear about the long relationship, the crazy not-relationship, several travel adventures, school and college and family. He asks about my job, what it entails, why I like it. I tell him stories about my travels and my family–or not. I don’t really remember the details of that happy rambly conversation, mainly that it was happy, and rambly, and snarky, and we laughed a lot.

At one point he’s telling me a story about a bar/restaurant in Goa where he and his friends are and says Cyrus (I don’t remember his surname) owns it, the not Cyrus Broacha guy. And sometimes he’s there, hanging out in his restaurant with his hot girlfriend, it’s disgusting. So I ask him why it’s disgusting, and he has to stop for a minute and think about it. ‘You know,’ he tells me, ‘I have never thought about that before. I guess I was jealous?’ So I tell him about how much I love doing this to people, just asking them why they feel the things they feel.

Soon enough it’s time to go to Manhattan, which is where the show is. I’m quite excited because back in my early lonely days in Delhi I used to be a regular at the Cheese Monkey Mafia open mic nights at the International Diner, and both Mandava and Abhijit Ganguly were on so I was looking forward to hearing them again. As we’re riding down the escalator I say something about being tall and he snorts, looks down at me from 6 feet and 1 inch and says, ‘That’s cute’, which, I’ve come to realise, is his snarkiest dismissal possible. I protest and cite statistics of the heights of Indian women and he nods while I talk, but returns to ‘That’s cute’ at the end. We’re busy rambling and snarking and laughing in the car so we end up on a circuitous route there, but we do get there and as soon as we come to the door Mandava jumps on me to say hi, which is nice. We go in, weigh the risk of being picked on against the possibility that we won’t see much and decide that the back is the better place for us, and settle at a table.

I’m glad that the very loud music and the slightly awkward seating (at right angles, not across the table from each other) give me enough opportunities to lean in and pat him arm and other such things, but he also doesn’t really react. (Which is making me a little nervous as I write this; never has the inequality of this whole deal come home to me as strongly as it does right now.) He teases me about how much I’m yawning, and I swear it’s not him, it’s me. Then he teases me about using cliches. The show starts and it is funny, and then funnier, and then by the end, when Jeeveshu Ahluwalia is on, we’re both in pain from laughing. This despite my missing half the jokes since they’re in such rapid fire Hindi I can’t catch them and then, when I do, I don’t always understand them.

Finally the show’s over and we head out, at ten thirty, eek, and he says he needs to stop off at his place to grab some stuff before he heads out to Delhi, dropping me on the way. We end up taking weird badly paved back roads that don’t have streetlights, and I say to him in mock alarm ‘Kahan le ja rahe ho mujhe!’, which makes him laugh. Only, later, when we’re on a road I expect to recognize and don’t, he grins evilly and says, ‘Maybe I am planning to murder you.’ ‘Just murder na? Then it’s fine,’ I toss back. ‘Well I guess it depends on my mood,’ he shoots back and squeal and smack his thigh.

It’s drizzling and the night is gorgeous as we zip away back towards Delhi. The windows are open a crack and cool air comes pouring in, reeking of petrichor, and the street lights flash by. We talk quietly as he drives. He asks if I like drives, and I tell him I do, especially in this weather. ‘I love taking road trips, but I rarely have anyone to share the driving.’ ‘That’s so sad!’ he exclaims and I agree. I tell him how it feels weird to be going down MG Road in the dark, since I’m usually on it in this direction at 430pm. We continue to chat; I continue to yawn, and eventually we get to my house.

‘Would you like to come up for a bit?’ I ask him. ‘I wouldn’t want to keep you up; it’s past your bedtime.’ ‘Don’t worry; I’ll evict you when I want to sleep,’ I reassure him. He thinks for a bit, but finally declines. ‘I’ll go,’ he tells me, unsnapping his seatbelt for a goodbye hug. ‘Okay,’ I tell him, ‘we should do this again. I had a lovely time,’ and then I kiss his cheek and hop out. ‘Yes we should,’ he says. I head towards my house , pausing to return his wave as he drives by. I skip up the stairs and really really hope he meant it.

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#22: Holy cow! Do you write that blog?

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Yes! I finally went on a date! It all happened very suddenly. I was sick, my weekend trip was cancelled, so I decided to spend the day in the hammock and finish a book off my reading challenge. And for some reason, I decided to peek into OKC just once. Only my 50dates profile has been banned or whatever they call it, because it never lets me log in, telling me that there’s a technical error, which is apparently how OKC, in the fine tradition of cowardly people in dating situations, avoids actually telling you you’ve been kicked off. But I digress.

I logged in with my old ID and idly looked through the matches to see if anyone new or interesting had signed up. There were quite a few over 90% matches, which is new, so I was reading through them when one jumped out. You know me and my gut. So I wrote to him, and he replied and suddenly I was lounging in the hammock, book cast aside, talking to this guy. I tossed him my standard ‘What brings you to OKC?’ question and he replied before tossing it back at me. Then I had to think because that profile does not have the experiment laid out. ‘I’m running an experiment,’ I replied, ‘and also you know I’ve met some fun people here.’ ‘Have you read that fifty first dates blog?’ he asked me. I started to laugh. ‘Hahahaha. Yes I have read the blog. Would you like to be #23?’

We soon switch to Whatsapp and he says let’s get coffee sometime, because I don’t drink. Since Saturday is his only day off, we’d have to wait till Saturday, but then I don’t have a Saturday free for three weeks, so we quickly decide to try and meet right then. It is about 1045 by this point, and he says he has to be in Munirka at 1230, so we could meet around then. I have a friend coming over at noon, but she will understand, and so I tell him okay. ‘Let’s go to Sanjay Van and wander around. I’ll see you at JNU gate at 1230.’ Only, he’s running late and it becomes 1 and I fret because my friend will be here by 230 and then his phone runs out of battery and when we finally do meet at Sanjay Van, it’s 120.

I see the bright yellow Nano he told me to expect and he’s standing next it. He waves at me and I quickly park in front of him and hop out. We say hi and I turn to walk in but he’s checking the doors of the car repeatedly. ‘Wow,’ I say, ‘you have a system eh?’ ‘No, it’s something I need to do.’ ‘Yeah, I get it. Everyone has their quirks.’ I’m trying not to use the word OCD because I hate how we throw around mental illnesses like they’re regular adjectives. ‘I have OCD,’ he says. ‘Okay, I get it, you like things a certain way,’ I respond. ‘No, I mean I’m on medication. I’ve been diagnosed.’ And just like that, the gloves are off.

Later on I realise that moment defines the date. No shame, no embarrassment, no judgement, no thoughtless words. Everything we talk about is brutally honest and completely safe. It’s intoxicating, more than anything I could ever imbibe. There are very few guys (okay, people) I know who can talk like this, and I love it.

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We walk a short way in, discussing mental illness, medication, and our own experiences it it. ‘That’s why you don’t drink,’ I tell him. ‘Yeah, it’s not worth it.’ I fully agree, and tell him about a person I used to be friends with who was taking Lithium, among other things, and then would drink and spiral into bas downs because the medicines didn’t work. I have never understood that mentality. He agrees. He asks me what I was taking for my depression and I tell him that no I have never been that ill thank GOD but the therapy really helped. ‘It isn’t much help for me,’ he says, and I agree, because well, I don’t think talk therapy would help with things other than anxiety and depression.

We’ve come across some benches, and he suggests we sit down. He lights up a cigarette and I refrain from telling my camel joke*. And then he starts to ask me questions. He’s read the blog, clearly, and is very curious about a lot of things. ‘What happens after?’ he asks, like many others. (He’s actually already asked me on whatsapp but we continue to discuss it.) He wants to know if I see them again. I tell him that of course I see the ones I like again, but barring #2, I don’t write about them. I also tell him that very few have reached mutual interest enough to still be around–only three in fact. But then how do you juggle so many relationships? is the inevitable follow up question, and I launch into my theory of dating.

The thing with real life is that it’s messy; it isn’t neatly divided into relationship, not relationship, and so on. Every guy who dates me knows about the blog, he knows there are other people I’m seeing. I ask them if they want to know more, or not. I respect what they tell me. I make a conscious effort to communicate. I try and express in clear unambivalent terms what I’m thinking and feeling, what I want, that I want them to do the same. There is no judgement. I try to create a safe space to express unhappiness, anger, jealousy–whatever feelings the other person might have. And I hope the other person understands this and tries too. That’s about all anyone can do in any relationship yeah? Anyway it’s not like anyone has asked me to or inspired in me the desire to not see other people! And it’s not like there are many other people to date.

All the while he listens, engages and asks intelligent questions. Our conversation is the kind I love; it goes tripping and tumbling and soaring off in a hundred directions and we rarely do finish the subject we’ve begun. This is the first time a date has ever got more about me than I have got about them. At one point I say something about how I’m older and see things differently, and it’s the first time in my life a younger person has just casually nodded and said yeah, you’re 32, I should hope you’d have a different perspective. I’m gasping in shock.

He asks why I wrote to him, and I tell him honestly that I have no idea. I pull up his profile and decide that my gut responded to his photo because it was sort of being conscious of its self consciousness. And of course we launch into a discussion being self conscious about dating online and how people react and present themselves, and how everything online is a construct and I like it when people are aware of this, and that’s what his photo said to me. He tells me about a woman who’s asked him is he was going to marry her after their fourth date–I am in shock. I tell him about my troll and the sheer amount of crap I run into on OKC.

We get up and walk a bit now, and end up discussing STDs and how people in India are so head in the sand about them. He tells me this is the first time he’s had a conversation about STDs with a woman who is actually open and informed about them. I laugh and tell him I’m special. He makes a mean crack about my age and shortly after I make one about his. It’s now 215, though it feels like it’s been three hours, and I regretfully tell him I better go. We talk out to the cars; he says we should do this again soon; we hug.

*Two women are standing in a bus stop. They pull out cigarettes and light up, but it starts to rain. One mutters and throws hers away. The other opens her bag, pulls out a condom with the tip cut off, pulls it over the cigarette and continues. Lady #1 is wide-eyed. ‘What’s that and where can I get one?’ she asks. Lady #2 says, ‘Oh it’s a condom. You’ll get it at a drugstore.’ Later that day Lady #1 walks into a drusgtore. ‘I’d like some condoms please,’ she says. ‘Sure, what size?’ asks the salesperson. ‘Big enough to fit a camel,’ she replies.

P.S. Eeek I make it 23 when it was 22. Why did I think it was 23? Huh.

#20: Don’t drop the soap

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When I got back from the US I was, strangely, very jetlagged. I’m usually good with jetlag, but maybe winter and illness and whatnot. Funnily this didn’t mean I was sleepy in the middle of the day, just that I was waking up at 1 am unfailingly. So I took to entertaining myself with Tinder. Swipe swipe swipe. Kept me going till I was sleepy again. Of course I rarely wrote to the matches and when I did they rarely wrote back. One night (I say this as if there were several heh) I got a message from one of them. His profile was brief but interesting, it cited finance, travel and my Mecca, New York. So I replied and asked him what was going on.

Enjoying the sun

Wishing I was on an island with monkey butlers in tuxedos

We then proceeded to discuss the monkey butlers and the emancipation of the monkey race into slavery for the next fifteen minutes. It was great. Lots of fizz. And so it went fizzing along most of the day, until I got sick of Tinder’s shite messaging and we switched to whatsapp, and by the next morning, to the phone. We talked for nearly and hour and a half while I did my chores, in one of those conversations where no story is every finished because it triggers another, and another and another.

He’s visiting family from Canada, where he lives and will be here for a couple weeks more, so I tell him we can go out when I’m back from Bombay. I send him a link to the blog and tell him to decide if he’s up for it! He says he is and remains on the other end of the phone my whole trip. We talk every day, with as much fizz as the first time, and lots of laughing. There are many whatsapp messages and by the time I’m back we’ve fallen into the this-is-what-I’m-doing-right-now mode of messaging.

On my return we try and figure when it will work and it looks like we’re going to have to wait till Saturday. Which is a pity, and I tell him so. This inspires him to agree to Wednesday lunch near my office, so we decide on that plan.

I’m teased at work all day because I have made an effort and am not in winter uniform of yoga pants and shapeless sweater. When I say I have a date I’m bombarded with questions and I have to tell people to wait for the post! Heh. We’re meeting at Delhi Heights (my first Gurgaon date! Now I can truly call myself 50datesinNCR), and I’m wondering what to eat because I have just begun diet (don’t ask). I get there and I can’t spot him. I try to call but there’s no signal inside, something I’d forgotten. Eventually I ask the ‘maitre d’hotel’ if a guy had come in solo and asked for a table for two. He’s seated in a corner tucked behind the bar which id why I didn’t see him.

He stands up and we side-hug, a titch awkwardly. Sadly, for the promises of bringing his A-game, he’s wearing baggy jeans and a giant sweatshirt. Boo. Phoren-living finance-working exactly-the-right-amount-obnoxious boy and he doesn’t wear a shirt. And me with lipstick and everything!

We sit down and start talking again. I am merciless with him, and take his trip at every thing he says. In my defence, he just makes it SO easy. He’s always dropping the soap in the prison shower; it’s impossible to resist! He’s laughing along with me, but I wonder a little bit if I’m being too harsh–they could be ‘I can’t believe she said that the bitch’ laughs from sheer shock.

We finally get around to ordering, and I tease him for drinking bottled water. These poor NRI types. He wants a burger but can’t eat red meat, so I tease him for being a fake Punjabi. He makes several deliberately obnoxious statements about the place of women in this world, so I hit right back at him and tease him about his clothes. ‘You could at least have worn a shirt,’ I say, shaking my head sadly. ‘Whaaat? I love this sweatshirt. It’s my favourite sweatshirt!’ ‘Look at me; I made an effort!’ ‘This?’ he says, raking me down, ‘this isn’t an effort!’ No wonder I’m teasing him so much. I don’t think I’ve ever been this mean to anyone on a date. I just can’t resist the urge to smack him down. But it’s okay because he is not scared of my intelligence or my confidence and it is an overwhelming relief to be me unadulterated, unfiltered, unaffected.

He shows me pictures of his dogs and his nephew; I reciprocate with ones of my cat and nieces. He tells me how he’s got all these crazy meetings with local businessmen, and one of them earnestly pats his hand and tells him he doesn’t drink, he doesn’t beat women, he lives in Canada with a steady job–he’ll get 2.5 crore dowry if he wants. I dare him to take it and live with the woman he has to marry. He apologises for being unable to focus on what I’m saying–apparently I have ‘an amazing rack’ which is distracting him.

The food comes; mine is superb, his a little strange–it’s an inside out chicken burger. He mocks me for eating potato wedges while on a diet, especially when I chop my burger in half and so I only eat half. I mock him for bring a Punjabi in Knedda. I ask him why he was on Tinder anyway, and he tells me it was random experiment. He asks me about my work and I explain it to him, with attendant whining about how it’s been too stressful of late. In short, our conversation continues to spark and explode, though we do manage to finish half our stories this time.

Lunch over, we wander out to find some coffee. He wants to go to Krispy Kreme and I glare at him sullenly for the suggestion. He suggests Starbucks and I tell him I’m judging him. We go inside, with me bitchslapping him verbally every other minute and him helplessly laughing and calling me mean. The coffee, when it comes, is execrable. I make endless jokes about dropping the soap in the shower, and he makes fun of me for insisting on sitting outside and then wearing gloves. I keep rubbing his back in apology for the horrible things I’m saying and he asks me what is up with that. When I explain he says he’s not a very physical person, and I warn him that I am: I always express emotions physically.  Eventually it is really as long a lunch hour as I can take, so I reluctantly get up to leave. We hug goodbye and I thank him snarkily for making an exception to the physical contact rule.

‘I’ll see you Saturday?’ he says.

‘Wear a shirt,’ I shoot back.

(P.S. He doesn’t.)

Special Edition Oakland: Ghetto birds

IMG_20141210_093123 When I came to the Bay Area on this trip I was torn. Should I take a break from all that effort of trying to date, or should I use this opportunity to date a different kind of guy, one I couldn’t date in Delhi? I kept floating around OKC and Tinder just to see what happened, and the results were dismal. Despite having more than twenty over-95% matches on OKC, no one wrote to me or replied. Plus the Bay Area seems to be full of white hipster boys in poly relationships, drinking craft beer and keeping their bushy beards out of it. Not exactly my type ahem. And I assume I’m not their type, especially with my short stay.

But then there was this one guy on Tinder–he had no picture–but he had a clearly Spanish name, and that famous gut of mine was like READ MORE. His description was charmingly straightforward, so I wrote to him, and he responded with interest and engagement and we decided we’d go out. After much haggling about dates, we decided on a Tuesday night movie at the New Parkway Theater–a theatre with couches and wine!

The day comes around and I’m supposed to meet him at Paramount Theater in Oakland, since the bus from where I am goes there. But in a case of brilliant Google fuckup, I end up expecting the trip to take twice as long as it does and then of course overshoot and miss the spot. I ask the lady behind me when the stop is coming up and she says oh you missed it! I’m not too far though so she tells me to hop out at the next stop and get a bus back. I’m totally lost and I think I could probably walk back to it but I don’t know how. I hate not having data. I text him to tell him about the fuckup and he very sweetly asks where I am so he can come and pick me up. Five minutes later there he is in a car across the street.

I hop in; we hug hello and set off of the theatre. Once there we discover we’re going to be watching a documentary called 20,000 Days on Earth, which neither of us knows anything about, but hey, wine and couches. The movie turns out to be a very er masturbatory exercise by Nick Cave, and sadly seems to be one of those movies that’s only fun if you’re a fan instead of one that pulls you into being a fan. But we don’t mind, since then we can whisper to each other and not care about missing bits of the movie. Some time into the movie he puts his arm around me and I snuggle up on his shoulder, and we hold hands. It’s all very cute. And cosy. And comfy.

When the movie is done we shuffle out and decide to grab a drink. He wants to go to Plank in Jack London Square, and as we’re driving there we see helicopters circling and pass four police cars sirens blaring. ‘They’re headed to the protest in Berkeley I guess,’ he says. I’m very thrilled though because hello it’s like in the movies! The chopper has it’s searchlight on and is circling a particular spot. ‘You know, in Oakland they called helicopters ghetto birds,’ he tells me, which makes me chortle in glee. I love that term.

We get to Jack London Square and park and walk over to the bar. This takes us past a gorgeous Christmas tree, and I also realise we’re on the waterfront! So exciting. Yes I know, very lame desi girl in phoren happening, but hey I am desi girl in phoren. We get our stamps and go on into the bar, with me gloating about them accepting my driver’s license as ID, which I’d been warned they wouldn’t. It’s a crazy, loud gaming bar. There are videogames, a bowling alley, giant screens showing all sorts of sports channels, other throwing games outside (that I neither recognize nor remember), and an outside bar. I request sitting outside because there’s no way we’ll hear each other inside.

We hop onto bar stool and get a drink and launch into chat. He asks about my family and tells me about his. We discuss how my sister worries about me when I meet internet people, and she’s only three years older. He tells me he stopped hovering over his sister–seven years younger–a long time ago. I ask him about work and tell him about mine. I ask him if he’s seen the blog. ‘What blog?’ ‘Wait, I didn’t tell you about the project?!’ And then I do. He is very amused and then of course asks about my being single at my age in India. ‘Don’t your parents stress?’ ‘Well they do because I’m unhappy I don’t have something I want, but otherwise no. They just want they kiddies to have what they want and be happy. I have very unusual parents!’ He is very entertained when I explain the numbers logic I have and points out that I’m an analytical person.

He asks why I have the no sex on first date rule and I explain how many guys online in India just want to get laid, and while that’s fine by me, it doesn’t work for me until I connect with a person. And that connecting, while boosted nicely by having a common background, doesn’t need one. ‘Look at us. We grew up very differently, but we’re still able to talk and understand the other person’s differing opinion or perspective! That’s what I call having brain and knowing how to use it.’ He laughs. ‘But sometimes you’re just hooking up with someone and having fun and it becomes something bigger,’ he says. ‘Aren’t you cutting yourself off from that?’ I clarify that I’m not closed to that happening, but in all the time I’ve been dating it has never happened to me, and the one time it came close I was really messed up and I’d like to avoid that if possible!

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We’ve finished our drinks and he says come on let’s go for a walk. We wander out to the waterfront which is full of lights and boats and reflections. He tells me that the AT-AT Walkers in Star Wars are inspired by those very cranes we can see, and I tell him how I thought Star Wars was OK. He refrains from hissing in horror though and we go and stand by the rail so I can take pictures. We stand there talking, holding hands and being very cute. I notice the ghetto birds are out again, circling one particular spot. It’s now time to leave so we go back to the car and head out.

And then I get my movie moment. Not only are there several helicopters overhead, we constantly pass Highway Patrol and police cars, and at one point have to take a quick right turn away from an actual protest march. When we get to the freeway we’re stopped by about twenty cops in riot gear (!!!!)*. One of them starts screaming NO! NO! NO! NO! and I panic a little bit, but then I realise it’s for a guy who’s trying to drive around the police cars–that had their lights flashing–and get on the freeway anyway. (Desi? Hee.) It then takes us a really long time to actually find a way onto the freeway and then soon enough I’m home. I give him a quick goodbye hug and run into the house. I really hope I’ll see him again.

*I later discovered it was this.

#19: Breaking some rules

There I was, mere days from departure, losing my mind because my house was chaos after the flatmate moved out, my first half catsitters backed out, I didn’t have room to pack or even find all the stuff I was taking to the US for my nieces, and of course six things went wrong at work. In the middle of all this I got an email from one of the most Bengali names ever. Really, that was my very first thought. Wow, that’s a Bengali name. So racist no? Heh. So this guy introduced himself and told me he’d ended up on Delhiwalla‘s site and found me and dived in. His email made me smile.

If you are restarting your project, it could be nice to meet up sometime and share stories. Since you mention Latin America as a passion, my only connection seems to be the fact that I support Brazil as a football team and know a bit about the Incas; so that’s out.

(Also notice the correctly used semi-colon. Be still my vibrating editor’s pencil.)

I wrote back and asked me many questions, to which he replied with great frankness and questions of his own (yay!) and we proceeded to email vigorously for a while. I told him he’d have to wait till January when I was back if we were going to go on a date, and I hoped it wouldn’t fizzle out by then. (Or, as seems to be the case with me, he wouldn’t go and meet some hummaze girl and want to date her. Not that I don’t wish that for people; it’s just happening with annoying regularity.) Our emails became shorter and shorter and he asked to switch to gtalk–this was actually the day I was leaving. We chatted through my crazy last day at work that I had originally planned to take off entirely, and when I left, 3 hours behind schedule, I gave him my number so we could whatsapp through my cab ride home.

Traffic turned out to be horrendous (some satsang. Gah.), so we were chatting away. At some point he asked me what time my flight was, and I told him. ‘Why’d you ask?’ ‘No reason,’ he said. ‘Oh I thought you’d be all let me drive you to the airport,’ I tossed at him cheekily. (This seems to have become what I say to everyone these days: ‘Please drive me to/pick me up from the airport.’ Clearly I’m tired of being strong independent woman.)

If u want
Why not?

My chin was on the floor of my taxi at this point, because I was just being sassy and never expected to be taken seriously. I told him it was sweet but too much, and he then said no, I’m a nice person, and you’re a lady going to the airport at 2am, I cannot let you take a taxi. I will come. But I don’t drive, so it’ll be errr a taxi.

I was very touched, and so I told him to come have dinner with me at home with my cousin and friend who were there to see me off and take over house and JP. This was a most unusual date anyway after all–I could break some rules. I got home and finished packing and whatnot, and my friend turned up, only to threaten to leave because I had date coming over. So I texted the date and asked him what he thought.

Does your friend drink whiskey?

Yes

Then it’s fine.

I expect him to turn up at ten (airport departure is at 1230), but he tells me he is leaving at about 730, and there he is at my door, bottle of whiskey in hand, at 830. He’s most youthful looking, has a bit of a tummy (signs he enjoys the good life) and is very nicely dressed. Shirt and loafers and all. Okay maybe they’re not loafers, but I mean not-floaters-or-sneakers. After introductions are over we pull out glasses and set to.

He’s expansive and interesting–and interested, but it’s a threeway conversation, and he makes sure to engage with my friend too. We talk about his friend’s dog that he loves and I call utterly spoilt, while JP refuses to even sniff his shoes (which is unusual, since there are few things JP loves more than leather shoes). It turns out he has also worked on the project my friend is working on, so they talk shop. We swap stories of people and places; I ask about dinner and he says he ate lunch very late so he’s ok. He’s been watching a friend in hospital for a couple of days, so I ask after the friend, who is better and bouncing about, much to the horror of his caregivers.

My cousin shows up, with another friend, who joins us while the cousin goes off to prepare for class the next day. We sit around; they are drinking the whiskey rapidly and I’m being good and taking it ridiculously slow because hello plane. Time saunters past us in a haze of chill, smoke and laughter. It’s my cousin’s birthday, so at midnight we pounce on her and there is some tuneless singing and standing around sheepishly. And then it is time to go. I change and gather my stuff; they say their gooodbyes; my friend helps us schlepp my suitcases downstairs and he calls his driver.

And there we are, at the alone part of this most unusual date. I am literally falling asleep because it is three hours past my bedtime, and I’ve been up since 530am. So I put my head on his shoulder, he puts his arm around me and holds my hand, and we talk nonsense for the forty minutes it takes to get there. (Yes forty, because Mahipalpur has a jam. Of course it does. Eyeroll. But this tim I’m glad.) I tell him how sweet he is to do this and he brushes me off with an ‘I’m a good person; I keep telling you!’

And then we’re there, and I’m running off to get a trolley and he’s unloading the suitcases and piling them up for me, and I hug him goodbye and kiss his cheek and tell him I’ll see him again when I’m back. ‘Of course you will,’ he says. ‘Text me when you’re through security.’