First Date, Part II

Darkness settled by the time we emerged from the T stop, but the city lights reflected off of the partly cloudy sky, ever so slightly illuminating the way with an almost faux-moonlight. Despite the fact that a dinner full of ramen, spilt glasses of water, and strawberry lemonade had ended, the real date had just begun. Leon took me on the blue line, farther than I had ever gone before, to an unrevealed destination. I may have been apprehensive of going on a trek like this with anyone else — it was only the second date — but for some inexplicable reason, I trusted Leon. After all of the either unsuccessful or successful-turned-unsuccessful dates that I had been on this previous year, I craved something different, something lasting. But, I never expected a date like this one. “Okay,” he said as the gravel crunched beneath our feet. “We’re almost there.”

“And where would that be?”

“It’s this placed called Piers Park.” His excitement reverberated through the air. “It’s right on the water. You can see the city from across the bay. It’s beautiful at night.” Entering through the towering iron gates that appeared to open just for us, we approached the water. Leon asked, “Where should we sit?” A field of freshly cut grass laid to our left and a pier with a stunted lighthouse stood to our right.

“There.” I pointed towards the grass. We would be alone, surrounded by trees.

“Perfect.” He dropped his bag after we circled around our spot like dogs finding the best place to nap, only to have Leon pull out another tote. “What you’re about to see,” he said as he clutched the bag close to his chest, “is my most prized possession.” He undid two latches and like magic unfolded the tote into a plaid picnic blanket, stitched of orange, green, and yellow like summer. We held down the corners of the blanket with our shoes. Leon and I lowered onto the ground. I felt the hairs on his arm brush against mine. “And now for the real surprise.”

“The real surprise? I thought that this place was the surprise.”

“Oh, absolutely not.” He emphasized the penultimate syllable of the word “absolutely” in his performative style. “Do you really think that this is all I would plan for you?” The astonishment in his voice rung out, enveloping the two of us in a blanket of tenderness and devotion. He contorted his body as he reached into his bag, ensuring that no matter where his limbs traveled, his body never departed the space adjacent to mine. He removed a gift of red and black, immaculately wrapped in a scarlet ribbon with a tag cut from a brown paper bag. It read: “A gift for: Max.” It was a book. No, not just a book. I immediately knew what he presented before I read the cover. House of Leaves. I sat speechless for what could have been eons. “I can’t believe…” He placed the bundle delicately in my hands like it was a newborn child.

“You told me you wanted it, so I thought I would speed up the process.” I forgot I mentioned the book to him, but he remembered. “And, I thought you deserved it.”

I felt blood rush to my cheeks as appreciation accompanied by embarrassment traveled down my synapses. “Now I feel bad. I didn’t think to get you anything.”

“But, you did get me something.” The sentimentality dripped out of his mouth.

I sat, confused. “What do you mean?”

“The present you gave me is the smile on your face right now.” His eyes twinkled in the dusk. My adoration for Leon exploded like a cosmic bang, painting the sky with shining stars and vibrant cosmos. I bloomed into a flower made for him and only him to pluck.

“Thank you… so much.”

“Like I said, you deserve it. I know we haven’t known each other for long, but from our times together, I can tell that you are an amazing, thoughtful person.”

I looked down at my gift in astonishment. “This truly is a perfect second date.”

“Well, our first date last April was so long ago that we both can barely remember anything we said, so I think this would more appropriately be called our first date, part two.”

I smiled. “I like that. First date part two.” I was at a loss for words, and all I could do was lose myself in his eyes. His irises, full of the green of the earth, exploded with flames of gold. I stroked his rosy cheeks. “I can’t express how appreciative I am.” He revealed an exquisite smile, exposing white teeth between pink lips. “It’s hard to explain how when it’s coming so fast.”

“So fast?” His visage shifted from tranquil to frightened. I saw worry darken his eyes.

“No, not like that.” I reassured. “Fast in the sense of emotions. It’s like all of this is arriving faster than I’m used to. I’ve always dreamed of moments like this. Watching a couple walk hand-in-hand, smiling at each other without even having to say anything. I’ve always wanted that — romanticism — but I’ve never been able to have it. Now it is starting to happen, I don’t have the words to say what I need to say.” I reached for his hand. “You may try to say this gift wasn’t a big deal or too difficult to get. But it’s so much more. I have never been on a date like this before. Let alone a first date.”

“First date, part two.” He interjected with a wink.

“Yes, first date, part two.” The moment suspended in time. Our hands locked, and we reclined onto the blanket, our gazes slowly drifting towards the sky. We laid silently. “You instill a trust which makes me so willing to be here with you, making me feel an indescribable way.”

“Try.” I could feel his gaze on my neck. “How do I make you feel?”

I paused before I turned towards him. “Warm.” The grass crunched beneath our bodies. Only the sea breeze, delicately flowing through our hair, invaded our solitude.

The wind blew again, displacing a cloud to reveal a twinkling star. “Look!” I gasped, pointing to the distant sun, burning trillions of lightyears away. “It’s the only star.”

Just as the words escaped my mouth, another cloud retreated, unveiling a star. “And another,” he said to me. “One for you and one for me.”

“But that one,” I said slowly as I pointed upwards, “that one is for you.”

Leon propped up his body with his elbows and looked down at me. “Why that one?”

“Because,” I locked my eyes away into the vaults of his, “that one is the brightest.” He shined brighter than any other in the heavens and descended from his lofty height to guide me through this night of newfound love. A love that was so foreign, but I needed it. I did not ask for the brightest star, but when I loosened my grip, I could see it resting in the palm of my hands.

My heart began to pound. We stared at each other. I opened my mouth, but no words would pass through my lips. I wanted to say, “I was waiting for you to come to my life.” But, I finally mustered up the strength to breathe, “can I kiss you?”

He slowly leaned towards my face, inching closer to my body. I felt his hot breath on my lips until he finally whispered, “I was waiting for you to ask.” His lips met mine with a blast of fire that engulfed our bodies, burning as we kissed. I held his cheek. The weight in my hand increased as Leon discovered I was there to hold him up. My lips tingled with his pressed against mine. The sensation amplified when he reached for the back of my neck. With every additional square inch of touch came a wave of euphoria. His lips painted me the picture of the burning gold, submerged in a sea of green that were Leon’s eyes. The stars in the sky flew towards each other, exploding into a supernova as they crashed into one another, and down came the twinkling rain of their debris, which, like dust, sprinkled our bodies.

As our lips slowed to a halt, Leon slowly pulled his face way from mine. My eyelids fluttered as they opened. He stroked my hair, winding his fingers through the maze of my curls as I continued to caress his cheek. “Why does kissing feel so good?” I found myself asking.

“Because your lips are filled with millions of nerve endings, so when you kiss someone, they send signals to your brain to release oxytocin, making you feel good.” He smiled his beautiful smile. “And,” he added, “it feels even better when you kiss someone you truly like.” I leaned in to kiss him a meaningful kiss. It marked the beginning of a new, beautiful relationship.

It became late. Time flew like the wind that tousled our hair while we walked towards the T station. The city disappeared as we descended underground while a platform with no train in sight manifested before us. “8 minutes,” the monitor read, indicating the fleeting moments Leon and I had left together in our Paradise. “Here,” he said, handing me a headphone. Once we boarded the train, I laid my head on his shoulder while we silently listened to our music. We said no words. It was clear neither of us wanted this night to end, but we both knew that it could not go on forever. We had to lock it away into our history books as the best first date, part two known to humankind. Together, we shared music, books, lips, and the stars. We danced all night, but even when our bodies stopped, our hearts continued.

Upon exiting the train to catch our respective transfers, Leon said, “Thank you for sharing this time with me. You are amazing, unbelievably beautiful and considerate beyond compare. I feel so lucky to have had this one date with you.”

I stepped closer to him. “I can’t express how thoughtful you are. This has been a perfect night.” I stood on my toes as he leaned down to kiss me, sealing the night with our lips.

I sat alone on the train back to Harvard, replaying the whole night. I could not have imagined a more perfect evening with a more saccharinely sweet boy. I saw a couple, holding hands in the seat across from me. I did not feel the need to envy them. I finally knew how they felt. The last smile of the evening slowly crept over my face. I reached up to touch my lips, but when my hands arrived, I began to laugh. My hands still smelled like him.