Crystal stretched across her bed, reached for a pillow to hug, and thought about her talk with Mario. What just happened? Last week, she was telling him how she’d embarrass him in a spades game if they ever played each other. Today, she was mentally burning his image into her brain and replaying the conversation they’d had so she wouldn’t forget it.
She had been going to the writer’s lounge about four months. Most of the members wrote spoken word poetry, so two months passed before she was comfortable enough to share her song lyrics. Tina had encouraged her to interact with other writers, artists, and creative types since she had become a recluse after her breakup. Although it had been several months, the wounds still felt fresh. Crystal ran her fingers across the back of her neck and thought about how much her ex-boyfriend, Derrick, had hurt her.
I’VE GOT TO MAKE MY OWN WAY! The ringtone she had recorded to motivate herself interrupted her descent into despondency and snapped her back into the moment. Crystal looked at the time on the phone. It was 8:39.
“Perfect timing, Tina!”
“Okay, so what’s going on? What’s up, Chick?
“Well…I think…yeah, so, I just… Okay. Girl! So you remember the creative arts meeting you told me to check out? Well, there’s…um, oh, shoot! My face is smiling so hard that I can’t even talk right!”
“Spit it out! What? You sang your new song? You found someone to record it? You met a producer? What?! What?!”
“I…was asked on a DATE!” Crystal started laughing.
Tina paused a moment, “Okay, before I get all excited and congratulate you for coming back to enter the world of the living. By date, do you mean a ‘date’ date with a guy who wants to take you out and spend time with you, or do you mean ‘date’ like the parking attendant invited you to stop by his booth to pick up pre-validated parking again? I really can’t be getting excited because you saved $2 in parking lot fees.” Tina had a tendency to be very straightforward and could be sarcastic at times, so anyone who didn’t know her might think she was rude. Having grown up with Tina, Crystal thought of her as a sister because they understood each other.
“A DATE date!” squealed Crystal.
“AAAAAAAAahhhhhhh, yes! Finally! It’s about TIME!” laughed Tina. “Not that I was beginning to worry, but…um, yeah, I was beginning to worry,” she teased. “Now, who’s it with, where are you going, and when? Then, we can pick your outfit.”
“Mario…the Hot Spot for ‘Spotlight’…and…I don’t know.”
“Wait? What? How do you have a date without the actual date?” asked a very confused Tina. “Does he know y’all have a date?”
“Yeah, sorta,” Crystal answered. “Well, no. Not exactly. Um, as of right now, you’re the only one that knows he and I have a date.”
A fast and continuous knock on the door followed Crystal’s sentence, and she hung up the phone while she opened the door. Tina turned off her cell phone as she entered Crystal’s room and sat down. She leaned her arm across the top of the chair, cocked her head to one side, and squinted her eyes at Crystal. “I started making my way downstairs when you told me you had a date because I wanted to jump up and down with you from excitement. Now, I’m wondering where I went wrong. Somewhere along the course of our conversations, I seem to have forgotten to inform you that both you and the guy have to know about a date in order for it to count. Otherwise, you’re delusional or are planning to kidnap him. Either way isn’t a good look for you and is likely to greatly cut down your chances of getting any future dates while you’re at this school.”
Crystal doubled over with laughter. “Yes, crazy is definitely not sexy. No, no, it’s not like that.” She caught her breath and sat on her bed. “Mario is a guy from the creative arts writing group. He actually helped get it started a couple years ago, so he comes back to participate because it’s kind of a part of him even though he’s not a current student anymore. Anyway, we took turns sharing our writing progress like we always do. So, it’s my turn, right? I start to say the lyrics to my song as I always do, and he asks me to sing it so they can get a better feel for it. I’m all like, ‘No, no, my voice isn’t good,’ but he’s encouraging me, so I do it. Everybody claps and tells me how great it is, and he’s sitting back smiling and nodding slowly.”
“Niiiiiicccceee,” said Tina.
“I know, right? So, like everyone gets their turn. He says he came to hear everyone else and doesn’t share this time. No biggie. So, I get ready to leave, and he asks if he can talk to me for a minute. I’m like, ‘Sure.’ So, we’re talking, and he asks me what my inspiration is for the last song because it was really moving. I tell him it’s from pain, fear, wanting to try something new, blah, blah, blah, and we just talked about 15 minutes.”
“Okay,” said Tina, who was obviously waiting to see where a date fit into the story.
“So, he tells me he makes it a point to listen to everyone who reads when he’s here and that he’s been noticing my growth and the depths that I reach when I write because he can tell that I’m not afraid to transfer my full emotional self into my writing. Many people are reserved, but few are brave enough to tap into it. The other thing he noticed is that I seem to have more disappointment or hurt than anything and that my conversations and descriptions about myself are very critical. And then…” Crystal trailed off.
“…aaaaannnnnd then what?”
“And then he told me what he’s observed about me from my group interactions and from my writing and thought I might like to check out the ‘Hot Spot’ with him on a Thursday night.” Crystal’s voice got softer. “He said I have a beautiful mind and must have a beautiful spirit to go with it and that he’d be honored if I’d let him have the opportunity to get to know me better on a personal level.” She smiled. “No guy has ever called me ‘beautiful.’ I’ve been called ‘cute’ and ‘pretty,’ but no one has ever called me ‘beautiful’ – much less asked to get to know me better because they could hear me through my writing. Girl, I lost it!”
“I lost it – whatever ‘it’ is in this instance. I lost IT! I just started crying, couldn’t talk, and couldn’t answer him. I had to have looked crazy.” Crystal’s eyes got big to reflect how strange she thought she looked. “He told me I could make it a group date or whatever, but what if I scared him off because I can’t talk around him? What if he doesn’t want me in the group anymore? What if he’s trying to figure out how to turn me down if I call him? Oh, no! What if –”
“What if you just calm down and accept the fact that you’ve got an open invitation for a date, huh? Tell him you’ll plan for next week so that we can get your nervous energy out, and we can pick out some non-grandma clothes for you to wear on your date,” Tina said frowning with disgust at the closet holding the clothes Crystal had begun wearing several months ago. Sometimes, Tina’s ability to cut people off mid-sentence was helpful to get people to focus on the right things. She walked over to Crystal and hugged her. “Alright! Congratulations on stepping out of the cave into the land of the living and almost securing yourself a date. For you, this is pretty major, so we’ll take the little victories. Now, I’m going back to my cupcakes and video games. Your account of this event has managed to kill my desire to study. Everything for the rest of the night needs to either be the edited, short version, or the version where there’s a definitive conclusion. Dates with only one person knowing when you’ll go out usually ends up with someone arrested.” Tina started laughing.
“I’m trying,” Crystal giggled as she rubbed the back of her neck.
“I know! That’s what makes it funny. But don’t worry. You’ll be fine. Talk to you later.” She grabbed herself a soda from the mini refrigerator by the desk and let herself out.
Crystal looked at Mario’s number sitting beside the clock alarm – 9:20 p.m. She wondered how late was too late to call to confirm a date.
Purchase print or ebook on Amazon here.