Three First Dates at The Map Room, in Descending Order of Relative Success
I am early. By just a little bit. And you… you are late.
After ten minutes, twenty, I start to wonder, then panic.
Finally you lurch in, disoriented, full of apologies,
clutching a stranger’s insurance information. You are late
because you were rear-ended on your way here, just three blocks over.
You aren’t hurt, and so we laugh. (This is a good story.)
We arrive at the same time. You pay for both our beers. I can’t
keep my eyes off your boyish face, your smile so wide
it could swallow the whole table, half the bar. We discover
we both have family from Michigan and spend an hour paging
through the big atlas by our table, point out tiny towns we’ve visited.
You stand one centimeter behind me, maybe two. Our hands graze.
I am early. It helps the anxiety, I’ve discovered, to be early,
to tuck in next the stack of National Geographics and watch the door.
You stroll in exactly on time: tall, stoic, unshaven. I turn to look at you.
Three hours later, in this almost-empty bar, you tell me
you are adopted, that your only sister was killed in a car accident.
I am struck by your hushed manner. By the way you form and speak these words.
After all the nights spent next to men
with back problems, apnea problems,
after all the unconscious sighs and groans
and midnight tossing fits, after all
you slept differently beside me.
Middle of the night: waking
and tossing onto my left side, pulling
up the blanket against the draft
you shifting against my back
moving towards me, skin against sheets
against skin, your arm pitched over mine–
after all the nights curled alone
on my own side of the bed,
you follow me in your sleep.
Catherine Ruffing is a non-profit fundraiser by day and poet by night, a Midwesterner by birthright and a city gal by choice (except when choosing mountains, rivers, and deserts.) Her Monday night poetry workshop is the lifeblood of her work over the past two years, and these poems are part of a series on dating (mis)adventures she has been working on in that space.