A Geek's First Date
In the eighth grade I had a best friend named Lorie. She was actually my only friend, as the year before I had been deemed the biggest school geek and I was as popular as an Untouchable in India’s caste system. She arrived at my school as a new student, a girl oddly dressed in prairie skirts and cowboy boots, another member of the Untouchables. Only she never realized it. She knew nothing of my background but seemed to understand how desperate I was for friendship. At the time I didn’t realize she’d moved to our town because her family was forced to live with her grandparents after her father’s sudden death. Perhaps she needed me as much as I needed her. I’d like to think so. While I was scared of boys—thought of them as a rare species, beautiful to look at but not to be touched—Lorie considered them game in her hunt for love. She spoke to them in a manner that belied her age. Even at thirteen, flirting came second nature. I immediately went out and purchased cowboy boots, considering it might change my circumstances as if I was another Cinderella. They did nothing to help me gain confidence, but I loved those boots. One day Lorie told me she met a guy—not from our school—and set me up on a blind date with his friend. I can’t recall how she met him, or even how she managed to snag a date for both her and me while I continued to slink around the school hallways, books pressed into my chest like armor. I do recall the excitement that stirred in me. I was a bear waking from hibernation. I spent many restless nights imagining a handsome boy holding my hand at the movies. The future held hour-long conversations and love letters being passed back and forth. After all, if Lorie could shimmy her way into a boy’s heart, couldn’t I do the same? We met them at the movie theater. I think my dad dropped me off at her house one Saturday afternoon and we walked to the theater. The boys were there. Lanky. Pimply. Somewhat stand-offish. I think I said five words to my date, who spent most of his time snickering and yakking with his friend. Lorie didn’t seem to mind, but I had a sinking feeling my date didn’t find me of much interest. Perhaps if I wasn’t wearing glasses. Or I had a rounder chest. Or if gawkiness didn’t follow me around as if I had it on a leash. We paid for the movie (I believe I paid my own way), and we sat down in seats. Me, Lorie, her date, and my date. That’s right. My date did not sit with me. A bad sign. In those days, before the previews rolled, the screen would light up with trivia questions and ads. A picture of a monkey filled the screen, and Lorie joked, “Look! There’s Kim!” My date replied, “Who’s Kim?” At that point I knew the date was a bust. After the movie we headed for Burger King, which was within walking distance. We sat in a booth: Lorie and I seated together, our dates across from us. My date and I spent a few minutes slapping flies on the window and sticking their lifeless bodies beneath the salt and pepper shakers. I had no problem killing flies in this manner, which must have been oh-so-appealing to the opposite sex. I suppose I was trying to show off my bravado. I cringe to think of this now. Especially the part about placing the flies in a place they were sure to fall off into someone’s meal. Funny at the time. Now, with a grown-up’s perspective, it was cruel on so many levels. I don’t remember much after that. I know the boy and I talked to each other. I know we had an okay time and by the end of the date he knew my name. I know we parted ways, never to see each other again. In the end, I wasn’t disappointed. He wasn’t my type (I decided, although I had no formed type in my head, unless you counted alive—this was in the days before vampires became sex objects), and besides, he didn’t go to my school. How often would I have been able to see him anyway? It’s funny how resilient we are. We can have aspirations that fall like confetti—something beautiful that becomes swept into the garbage—and manage to remember moments of amusement. Even laugh about it over time. We live with small regrets, forgiving our younger selves because we were in the process of learning. And I did learn. It was my first date ever. Although it didn’t end the way I had hoped, it was a stepping-stone toward the future. One that didn’t contain dead flies, a date asking, “Who’s Kim?” or even cowboy boots worn long enough to cause blisters on growing feet. Despite the school’s caste system, me, the Supergeek had a friend. Someone who would help me understand boys. Someone who would get me through the bad times while helping me maintain my sense of humor. Someone who would escort me on my first date and not point out my mistakes. I was no longer in hibernation.