“On a scale from one to busy, what are you doing between seven and nine?” That was the text that got me here: sitting on the steps outside my best friend Danielle’s house at ten o’clock on a Thursday. The text was from Ben, my favorite notification, or “freaking Ben” as my friends exclaimed most times he was brought up.
I received the text that afternoon and had promptly responded “Well apparently I’ll be doing something.” I was already euphoric; anything he could have said next would have been exciting, but what I read from him next sent that rush through my veins that you get at the top of a roller coaster just before the drop.
“Spice and Dice with Chris+Kirstin and me?” Dead. I was dead. I have been fangirling over this boy since my freshman year. No idea why. I have a bad habit of putting people I don’t know very well on pedestals because the idea of someone is often more exciting than the actual person. As much as I anticipated going out, I was kind of terrified. I’d never had a conversation with Ben – he was more of a concept than an actual person. My fears were that either we wouldn’t have anything to talk about or, worse, I would realize he’s not as great as I made him out to be. He’d been my unattainable secret crush for eons, so being asked out by him (even with a group) was like a Middle-Earth level of fantasy-surrealness.
I accepted that invitation real quick, duh, and immediately texted best friends Rachel, Abi, and Danielle to freak out with, also duh; we freaked way out until my vibrating phone interrupted me. If that first message was what it felt like to be on top of a roller coaster, reading this next one felt like being catapulted off the roller coaster through a downpour of confetti and into a foam pit in Disney World.
“So uh Chris stopped responding when I asked him if they were going but do you still wanna go *laugh/cry emoji*?” I forgot how to breathe. This was it. I was going on a real, actual date with someone I held at celebrity-crush level unattainability. It’s a good things boys can’t smell fear because I reeked of it. The night began shortly thereafter with his “Here I think” text and I went out to his yellow punch-buggy chariot.
The night we had at the restaurant was basically like if there was an apocalypse and we were just in the middle of everything giggling and baking cookies. Everything that could go wrong went wrong, yet we couldn’t help but not care. It was packed. There was literally only one sad excuse for a table open (I was honestly worried our food wouldn’t fit) but by golly we took it. We ordered basil fried rice with spring rolls to start– big mistako. With every bite, crunchy spring roll shell shrapnel flew everywhere. Considering the amount of misfortune so soon into the night between poor appetizer selection and sad table assignment, we were way too amused.
As we waited for our food Ben reached for his phone. “I’m not being a d*****bag,” he insisted, “I swear; I’m looking for that thing I mentioned in the car.” He was talking about this questionnaire which I’d heard of before and secretly always wanted to try. The idea is that the questions start off easy and become increasingly more thought provoking, making the two participants closer. The first one he asked was “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?”
I definitely didn’t have to think about this one: “…Ben.” He looked at me. “That’s my answer.” He hid behind his hands and died laughing.
He uncovered his flushed face as soon as he could make words again and replied “God dammit Kyra I was going to use that line on you, suave as hell.”
We finally got our food – pineapple chicken and rice. Normally I wouldn’t have said anything and I would have just eaten the wrong dish but it turns out Ben is allergic to pineapple. To avoid killing my date, I got up to find our waitress and tell her about the mix up, but as I got up from my tiny chair at our tiny table, a woman behind me also got up. Chairs collided. Bodies were flung. Both water glasses at our table became acquainted with Ben’s lap and subsequently the floor. Amidst all the sorry’s and oh-my-gosh’s I heard a familiar laugh and looked up to see a soaking wet Ben talking to none other than, of course, my ex-boyfriend. I wasn’t even mad. At this point all I could think was today’s already been so god-damn crazy I guess this might as well happen. And happen it did because he lingered for like, a bit; I was not a fan. He’s pretty decently acquainted with Ben, so as I uncomfortably watched, he made equally as uncomfortable small talk and put his hand on my head and other weird unnecessary s***, like a socially unaware alien trying really poorly to blend in with humans. After legitimately a good seven or eight minutes (seriously, who loiters at someone’s table that long, Jesus), he finally left.
Ben and I looked at each other with red cheeks and stupid smiles and simultaneously let out a sigh. We couldn’t help but laugh at each other. “This whole night would actually be the most awful experience if I was with anyone else.” He was right.
Regrouped, he swiped to the next question. “If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one ability, what would it be?” He answered first. “Part of me feels like it should be something cool or at least useful but part of me wants to say, like, perfect pitch.” They were pretty much all stupid and funny like that until the by the end we were describing our relationships with our mothers, our greatest fears, generally things that wouldn’t come up on a first date. My habit of holding people at such a high standing means I’m easily disappointed when I actually get to know them. The crazy thing is that even though Ben wasn’t who I built up in my head, I liked who he turned out to be more. The more I talked to him and saw him as a person instead of some mystical creature, the more astonished I was at how easy he was to talk to, how comfortable I felt around him when I used to barely breathe during any interactions.
Answers to each question continued into a longer tangent than the previous one, until it was 9:15 and Spice and Dice was closing. He picked up the check, we boxed our food, and he drove me home.
By home I mean Danielle’s house because that’s where Danielle, Abi, and Rachel were all waiting for me to tell them about my night. He pulled up to Danielle’s driveway and while we’d been talking and laughing the whole car ride, we both suddenly became very interested in saying nothing and staring at our feet.
“I had a really great time”… or at least I learned later that that’s apparently what he’d said. In the moment I was frozen and didn’t realize he’d said anything until after he’d said it. Not knowing how to respond, I laughed and hoped it wasn’t a question. Dense, hot, awkward air escaped when I opened the door to leave. It wasn’t until about 10 minutes later when I remembered my box of leftovers sitting in the back seat.
The girls were extremely disappointed with the conclusion of our night when I told them about it, so when he called to say he was coming back to deliver the leftovers they definitely freaked way out. So I sat on the steps outside waiting for the little yellow beetle and looked forward to, hopefully, a better ending to my story.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.