Jane's First Date

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Jane was feeling despondent about her date with Todd. She planned on deleting the Tinder app from her phone but, at the encouragement of her best friend Ann, Jane decided to swipe right on someone who sent her a Super Like. This wasn’t her ideal way to find her relationship but times had changed. After all, she’d been with John since freshman year of high school—for fourteen years, to be exact. Though they both had a thriving career, they’d fallen prey to a stale routine that involved going to work, taking their beagle Howie for evening walks and binge-watching crime documentaries on Netflix.

Jane knew things were really starting to unravel when they started working on jigsaw puzzles during the weekend, which was just a way for them to do something together without talking as they'd run out of the fodder necessary to feed a conversation. Midway through their second puzzle project (a 1,000-piece one featuring deep sea creatures), John simply said “I can’t do this anymore.” He moved out to his brother’s apartment that week and took only his clothing and personal belongings. There was nothing left to discuss–he even gave Jane full custody of Howie. Although she herself was neither sad nor angry, his unemotional approach stunned her.  It was as though John had evaporated into thin air.

One day, as she was swiping through profiles on Tinder, she came across someone who looked vaguely familiar. With Ann’s help, they were able to determine that his name was Thomas and he was the older brother of one of John’s co-workers. She recalled seeing him at one of John's after-work events a year or two ago. Thomas had chiseled good looks and worked as a management consultant for a top firm. He posted photos of himself at a London pub with work buddies, hiking through Swiss Alps, and on vacation in Tulum. Ann playfully nicknamed him "Captain America." Thomas was the upgrade that Jane needed from John. She swiped right, but there was no match to be had.

That night, she dreamt that she was on a beach in Tulum and ran straight into Thomas' arms. He whirled her around on the shore as waves lapped at their feet. The best part was that, when he looked at her, he looked so deeply into her eyes that it stirred her soul. Jane couldn't stop thinking about Thomas. He was on her mind constantly, so when she saw him on the same subway car later that week, she was uncertain whether it was just a figment of her imagination.

But there he was, standing by the door, tall and handsome in a crisp shirt and jeans, looking down at his phone. Her breath was caught in her chest. She had just come from a hot yoga class and looked sweaty and plain. She secretly wished that he would look up and see that there was an empty seat on the bench in front of her, but he got off at the next stop. Still, she thought of this chance meeting as a sign. They were destined to be together. When she got home, she decided to play into the momentum and send him a message on Facebook. She felt bolder and braver than ever before: Hi, We have some friends in common and you look like a nice person. Would you like to meet for a cup of coffee sometime? Jane  

After a week with no response from Thomas, Jane started to miss John. She spent her nights reorganizing all the drawers in their apartment and found his old high school yearbook and a troll doll from his childhood. She texted him about it as she would were he an acquaintance–casually and with an upbeat tone.  But when she didn't hear from him within the hour, she wrote: If you don't come and pick them up by Sunday, I'm throwing them into the garbage.

John never told her she was beautiful or that she looked nice. He was never really affectionate either, now that she thought about it. People used to think that they were brother and sister. She looked in the mirror and examined her face from every angle. The bump on the bridge of her nose bothered her more than ever before, a trait she inherited from her father. She had to get a nose job or else she'd be lonely for the rest of her life. She was absolutely sure of it. 

It was at this particularly low point when Ann suggested she consider the guys who sent her a Super Like on Tinder. They weren't exactly the cream of the crop but they had already shown an interest in her which eliminated any of the work from her end. From what she could tell, Todd looked like a nice enough guy. They were the same age and he worked in digital marketing. His profile picture featured a black-and-white photo of him at a wedding. He was caught in profile, holding up a flute of champagne and laughing. He appeared to be making a toast. She swiped right. 

They chatted a little bit here and there throughout the week. Their conversations weren't wildly interesting but she felt comfortable with the pace. They discovered that they grew up two towns away from each other in New Jersey. He had been sharing an apartment with his best friend in Williamsburg for the past two years and was now looking for his own place. One night, when they chatted, he told her he was at a local dive bar for trivia night. Then, at some point, he said that if she wasn't doing anything on Wednesday after work, they could meet at this little Italian restaurant that he liked. It was halfway between her place and his. 

Jane had nothing to wear. She had been a homebody with John for so long that she either had clothes for the office or a bunch of random t-shirts and sweatpants. Ann let her borrow a floral dress which she ended up wearing with sneakers. 

Todd was already there when she arrived. He was a lot shorter and rounder than she imagined. His t-shirt and hoodie made her feel slightly overdressed. They gave each other a hug before making their way to the table. He ordered a sausage pizza and a beer while she chose spaghetti pomodoro with a glass of red. It was a cute and casual place. He asked her how work was. She told him that she was a junior producer at an agency that did video content creation. They were working on some projects for the U.S. soccer team. He said that his agency did an online campaign for them once. It occurred to them that their work might intersect somewhere down the line, so that helped further along the flow of conversation. 

When the food arrived, she noticed that Todd was eating rather fast. In fact, he was eating so fast that his cheeks were flushed and his breathing slowed. She found this off-putting and deliberately twirled the strands of spaghetti slowly around her fork before bringing it to her mouth, as though this subtle cue would help him to recalibrate. He'd already scarfed down three slices by the time the server came around to ask how everything was. Meanwhile, she was barely halfway through her pasta. Then, to her horror, he took his fork, reached across the table, and began eating from her plate as he continued to talk. 

At the end of dinner, he suggested that they order the trio of gelato. She told him she was full but he insisted and ordered one anyway–"to share."  He ate all of the chocolate one before she could get her spoon in. As they sat there, Todd delivered a soliloquy on why he believed that splitting the check was the mark of true equality in a relationship. She hid her annoyance and silently counted down the minutes until she could leave. When the server brought the check, she handed her credit card over, along with Todd's. She managed to feel more distant from this stranger after having dinner with him than before.

Jane walked home briskly afterwards, dodging passersby, wrapped up in her own thoughts. She had no expectations for that evening, and yet it still disappointed her. Howie greeted her at the door with his tail wagging. She kicked off her sneakers, took out her phone and deleted her Tinder account. Then, she threw herself onto the bed and stared at the ceiling. That night, for the first time ever, she let Howie sleep on the bed.