Friday, April 1, 2016

EX FACTOR

Sometimes it is who you know.

After a solid first coffee with Craig, even a guarded guy like me had to conclude that it was one of the more promising starts. The conversation revealed more in common than I can recall with, well, anyone. I didn’t for a moment doubt that there would be a second date.

Sure enough, Craig texted at 8 a.m. the next day to say, “Thanks so much for hanging out yesterday. I enjoyed it, and would like to do it again.” We both have busy schedules but I always go with a while-the-fire’s-hot mindset. Two days later, we grabbed another coffee and walked the seawall.

Nothing questionable in Craig’s attire this time. He wore a blue zippered hoodie, jeans and sneakers. For the next hour and a half, we walked in the morning sun and the conversation went smoothly. At least it did for the first seventy-five minutes. That’s when I said something I shouldn’t have.

It’s not like I said something inappropriate. I’m careful with my words. Perhaps too much so. I sometimes wonder if I wear my reserved nature on my sleeve. So, no, I did not proclaim something ludicrous about an encounter with a UFO or that I wanted to plan a weekend getaway to attend Trump rallies. I did not say something controversial about religion. I did not even cuss. But what I said was worse.

As Craig works in human resources, we were talking about employees who say and post things they shouldn’t on Twitter and Facebook. He offered lots of examples he’d come across and I guess I figured I needed to contribute something instead of simply nodding and reacting. I mentioned a friend of mine I’d met on Plenty of Fish a year ago. This guy hadn’t seen dating potential in us but we’d become tennis buddies. This guy works for BC Ferries but had just been accepted to become an RCMP officer. I thought his Facebook posts—

Craig suddenly stopped walking. “Wait. What’s your friend’s name?” I gave the name. “That’s my ex.”

Oh.

Craig was clearly rattled. I’d opened a deep wound. He muttered, “So Jay plays tennis now.”

It felt like we were suddenly on a sinking ship and I only had a coffee cup to bail water. I tried to quickly finish the Facebook anecdote and move on. The equivalent to an emphatic, “Anyway…”

But Craig was distracted by his own thoughts. About Jay. And perhaps about the fact I was friends with Jay.

If only I had more friends—especially ones who posted inappropriate things—Jay’s name might never have come up. At least not this early on.

As I tried to shift the conversation, I flashed back to that first coffee date with Jay. We’d walked the seawall too, although on the other side of False Creek. That was late June and Jay had gone where you’re not supposed to go on first dates. He’d brought up his ex, a guy named—yes, that’s right—Craig. They’d officially broken up four months prior as I recall. And it had been under sad circumstances. Odd, in fact. Jay felt some guilt for ending a ten-year relationship, but there hadn’t been sex in the last two years and there wasn’t any hope of things turning around. His partner had started dressing, first androgynously, and then in “man dresses”. The change had the effect of neutering attraction and Jay had felt guilty, even shallow. But it was what it was. I remember thinking at the time that I may very well have done the same thing as Jay. At the very least, I could not judge.

Maybe this explained Craig’s odd attire on our first coffee date. Once we’d gotten into conversation, I’d completely lost sight of what he wore. But now I had this extra piece of information. I knew too much too soon. Still, I told myself to focus on the Craig I was with at that moment and not the Craig that Jay spoke of.

So Craig and I finished the walk, continuing to talk but I felt the momentum was gone. I was still game but I wondered if Craig was out. We reached Craig’s turnoff point and Craig noted that he had a busy week ahead and a full weekend but he’d be in touch. We hugged and I offered my most hopeful smile before we walked in different directions. It’s still good, I told myself. I still enjoyed his company and I wanted to know him better. Surely we could work through the fact I was friends with his ex. And, yes, if Craig’s clothing choices and perhaps his identity became an issue, we’d talk about that In due course. If we weren’t hopelessly off-course already. Yes, it’s still good. If I thought it enough, it was possible. Someone coined the phrase, “the power of positive thinking”. Here I am, a guarded, perhaps even pessimistic, person putting it to the test.

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