“Please order everything for me…I have no idea what half of these things are” I told Tim, holding the menu in confusion.
“Okay, okay. Don’t you worry. I will order,” he said with a toothy smile.
It happened. Tim had persisted through my constant, wishy-washy, yes-no-maybe answers. It was hard for me to even believe that I was sitting across from him, our feet practically electrons away from each other. We were on our first date eating his favorite food—hot pot. The people around us were all speaking Chinese and all the food smelled unfamiliar. This wasn’t Panda Express..this was authentic.
The waiter brought bowls of different meats and meat-ish things, lots of vegetables, and…bread?
“It’s like…” he paused, looking up as if he may be able to see the words written on the ceiling. “Like a donut,” Tim said finally.
“So I’m putting a donut in my soup?” I responded with a nervous smile. Tim only smiled back at me and gestured at the large pot in front of me. There were two chambers with two different colored broths. The only difference, besides color, that I could glean from the two was that the darker one was spicy. I reached for a mushroom floating in the spicy broth, but, afraid to choke in front of Tim, played it safe and opted for a piece of cabbage swimming in the mild broth. It was a little bland.
“So…um I kinda want to go see that new movie, Love Simon. I actually read the book for once so I want to see it” I said. I wanted to fill the awkward silence the meal had fallen into. “Do you want to watch it with me?”
“Yeah, yeah, sure. Let me look at the times” he said. Tim pulled out his phone and stared at the screen for a few minutes. “Ah no, no. I don’t want to see this movie. It’s gay, no, I don’t want to see it.”
“…okay…we don’t have to then—”
“Yes, I am not gay so I don’t want to watch it.”
A sick feeling rose inside of me. Oh god, no. Is he…homophobic? If the weird Chinese soup-donut didn’t sound appealing before, it sure wasn’t sounding too appetizing now. I tried not to think about what just happened. Maybe thing are different where he’s from? We continued to eat and talk about school and class and eventually we were done.
After dinner we walked around the parking lot. The sun had set but the lights in the parking lot had not turned on yet, so we shuffled slowly to his car trying not to trip on the cracked, uneven concrete. “Hey take off your jacket” he told me once we reached his car. He then began to take off his white pullover. Hesitantly I did what he asked and took it off. He reached out his hand, gesturing for me to give him my jacket, so I did. He gave me his too. Then, he began to put my army green jacket on himself. The cinched waist hugged him tightly, giving him an almost feminine form. He looked so…cute. He gave me another toothy-Tim smile. I laughed a little and put his sweater on myself, careful not to smudge my makeup on the fabric.
“Do you want to go get some boba?” Tim asked. We had originally planned for him to drop me off at my dorm after dinner, but he looked really sweet in my jacket so I said yes.
The drink was a bit too bitter, I thought. The sweet, honey-flavored tapioca balls were tasty, but something about the tea was too tart. We had switched back our jackets before going into the shop, but now it smelled like him. I hoped this was a good thing.
“So are we boyfriend-girlfriend now?” Tim said. He looked at me and took a sip of his drink.
“Um, I’m not quite sure…” I said, trying to end the questioning.
“You know, you are the hardest person I’ve tried to get. Most girls say yes sooner, but you take forever.” Something about this struck a chord with me. Perhaps it was the annoyed tone of his voice, like a child who didn’t get what they wanted, or maybe it was his choice of words. What does he mean by “get?” I put my drink down.
“Tim, what were your other girlfriend’s like?”
“Don’t worry, Sarah, you are just as pretty as them. I only date pretty girls! You are very pretty.” I felt a bit disheartened. Did he only like me for the way I looked? I wondered about the reason why his other relationships didn’t work out and about what else he saw in me, but I just picked my drink back up and took a sip of the tea, not wanting to hear the answers to those questions.
We drove home as my mind raced. Tim had struck some nerves with me, but he seemed to be unaware of his transgressions. I wanted to forget the things he said, so I pushed them to the back of my mind.
As we said goodbye, I gave him a hug. He grabbed my waist, lifted me off the ground, and spun me around. It was like something out of a movie, and I could feel the blood rush to my face and upper arms. He put me down but held onto me still. A group of students gathered in the moonlit parking lot was now staring at us.
“Tim, there are people looking—”
“It’s okay, I don’t care.”
He leaned me against his car and bent over me. Oh shit, I thought. He wants to kiss me. I had only ever kissed one person. It was eighth grade and part of a dare. It had only lasted half a second then. I felt completely unprepared. It was too much too soon. I leaned further back but I was pinned against the car and it was difficult to move away without losing my balance. He came closer. I was a bit frightened. I put my hand against his chest and pushed him back with a gentle motion. Still, he pressed forward, so I made my push more firm. Finally, he backed away.
“Um…thank you for dinner and I will text you,” I said, probably looking a bit too eager to leave.
“Fine, I’ll see you later” he said. His brows were raised but furrowed, making him appear both a bit confused and a bit annoyed.
When I waked through the door to my dorm, my three roommates—Maggie, Mikhaela, and Annabel—were waiting there for me. All of them were sitting on the couch; Maggie and Mikhaela looked worried while Annabel wore a scowl.
“Sarah where were you? Check your phone, we called you probably twenty times…” Maggie said. I pulled out my phone. They were right. It was full of unanswered texts and calls. I had turned my phone on the “do not disturb” setting so that I wouldn’t be distracted on my date.
“We thought you were going to be home at seven. Where did you go? The restaurant closed at nine,” Mikhaela said in a soft voice.
“I’m sorry you guys. We got boba and talked afterwards and I forgot to tell you,” I said.
“We don’t like Tim,” Annabel said bluntly. It sent a shockwave down my spine. “Sarah from what we know of him he is not right for you.” I froze in place and the tears began to fall. I had not even put my purse down or taken off my jacket and here I was in the threshold of my home, crying like a child. No one said anything. I stifled my wails just enough to speak.
“I am never going to see Tim again. I’m going to take a shower.”
“Sarah,” Mikhaela said in her gentle voice, “are you oka—”
“Yup..I am fine. I’m going to shower now,” I said walking away fast. Sitting on the shower floor, I resolved not to start a relationship with Tim. Being with him gave me emotional whiplash; one moment I’d be blushing and the next I wanted to be anywhere else. I let out few tears and–I swear–I even laughed just a bit at myself for how terrible it all went.