11. The Date That Feels Like College


The Backstory

I have the type of job that occasionally sends me to conferences. I’ve had great experiences at conferences that were informative and productive, while I’ve hated others because the weather was awful, or the talks were boring and irrelevant to my job. Most conferences are just kind of meh. The last conference I attended, however, was an entirely new and different experience because I met a most awesome person there.


On Day 1 of this particular conference on the sunny West Coast, I give a presentation early in the day and, with no other high-stress obligations for the week, I’m feeling pretty good come 5 pm. There’s a social event scheduled for 5:15 and as I’m walking to the event, I come to an intersection of sorts and see a guy walking, turning in the same direction as me. (Picture the conference venue like a University — lots of various buildings for meetings laid out in a campus-like manner with roads, sidewalks, benches and the like, minus the frat boys playing frisbee.) I recognize this guy as a conference attendee because I saw him earlier in the day. He looks at me and gives a slight nod and smile of recognition like you do to people you recognize but don’t know.

We approach this intersection at the same time from different directions, but then we find ourselves walking in the same direction at the same time, pretty much next to each other. I assume he’s going to the same event. I’m honestly not certain if I’m going the right way, so I ask him, “Is this the way to the Smith Building?”

He says, “Yea, I think it is, but I’m not sure.” He puts out his hand, “I’m Sam*.”

I shake his hand, and look him in the eye, “Hi, Sam. I’m Stella.”

We make brief small talk as we walk together and arrive at Smith. As we enter the building, we’re greeted by a table of make-your-own gin-and-tonics. Perfect.

I fill two glasses with ice. Sam pours the gin. I top it off with tonic. We each grab a lime.

This is where it all begins.


Day 1

Sam and I mingle around the room separately at this event, but after a little while, we wander our way to each other again. We sit and chat about semi-normal things. Sam has the most intense blue eyes I’ve ever seen and he looks right into my eyes when he talks and when he’s listening to me. And he’s actually listening. He’s the type of person who listens to what you’re saying and reacts to it. He’s not thinking about the next words out of his mouth the entire time you’re talking. He’s a big nerd — we are at a work conference after all. He’s smart and funny, and I find myself smiling a lot.

We have instant chemistry and wind up talking about all sorts of things including how we both hate mingling at these types of events. It’s as if the two most awkward, lost, faking-it-till-you-make it kind of people attending the conference found each other intuitively. And we latched on.

We talk about how we should go watch the sunset that night on the beach, conveniently right across the street from the conference venue, but then as the event ends, we both wind up mingling our separate ways and end up at different dinner tables.

After dinner though, as I see Sam walking out, I strategically run into him and we swap numbers.

“I’m gonna go shower and stuff, but text me and we’ll meet back here, grab a bottle of wine, and go watch that sunset,” he says, then adds, “unless I’m being pushy.”

“No, no, no, not at all, “ I say, “That sounds good to me.”

And it does!

And that’s exactly what we do.

On the beach we talk and talk, more and more. Sam says he’s always been better at making friends with women. I say I totally understand because I’ve always been better at making friends with guys. We talk about college, getting older, and wine, and about annoying things that other people do, how weird some social norms are, and chunky versus smooth peanut butter (always chunky).

The night turns out to be cloudy and the sunset just isn’t really happening, so we decide to walk to a fire pit rumored to be located nearby. We find the fire pit, and see a nice big hammock hanging next to it.

Nobody’s around.

Sam climbs into the hammock and lies down.

I sit next to the fire pit.

We’re halfway into the bottle of wine at this point.

We talk some more, Sam in the hammock, me next to the fire.

“Do you want more wine?” Sam asks.

“Sure,” I say as I get up and walk toward him. We started off with glasses, but ditched them, so we’re swigging out of the bottle now. He hands me the bottle, I sip, and pass it back to him.

“Get in the hammock,” he says, “I won’t be weird about it.”

“Okay,” I say, “But I’m putting my feet up here.” I get in and put my feet next to his head, with my head down by his feet.

We lie there for a while, talking and laughing, and passing the bottle back and forth between us. We talk about our siblings and parents and how neither of our families is exactly “normal”, whatever that means. We talk about marriage and monogamy.

“Do you think people are meant to be monogamous?” he asks.

“Nope,” I answer immediately, practically before he even finishes the question.

He gives me a smile with a questioning eye.

“Did I answer that too quickly?” I ask, “I’ve just been thinking about these things a lot lately…”

Once the bottle has about a quarter left, I say, “We need to finish it now.”

“I don’t know… I’m a lightweight,” Sam says.

“Are you? No way are you more of a lightweight than me!” I say, “And I’m pretty sure it’s totally fine for two people to drink one bottle in one night.”

So we do.

By the end of the bottle, I decide to turn my body around and lie next to Sam properly, face-to-face and feet-to-feet.

We lie there and look up at the sky and talk some more.

At some point when there’s a lull in conversation, Sam just leans over and kisses me. No awkwardness. No hesitation. Just a kiss that feels completely natural and appropriate and perfect. It’s a great kiss.

Then we talk some more.

Then we kiss some more.

And it all feels really, really good.

After hammock-making-out, and a whole bottle of wine, Sam comes back to my room.

We spend the night together but he says he has this rule where he can’t fuck someone the first day he meets them. We abide by that rule. And I have an amazing night of cuddling and kissing and caressing and other non-fucking intimate things.

Early the next morning, just as the sun is beginning to rise and peek through the curtains, Sam kisses me goodbye and heads back to his room.


Days 2, 3, and 4

And that’s pretty much how the next two nights at the conference go, too. Except Sam’s no-sex-on-the-first-night rule doesn’t apply to nights 2 and 3.

Meetings all day, and then dinner, and then evenings filled with me and Sam learning about each other and simply enjoying the pleasure of getting to know another person deeply and truly… all in a matter of days.

This experience is new and weird and wonderful. I’ve never met someone and had them come home with me that night — but this isn’t a one-night-stand thing either. I like Sam, a lot. And he likes me, a lot. And we talk about this. Yet we both 100% understand that two people can be friends — or even new friends — and also be intimate.

On Day 4, I’m getting ready to head home that evening. Sam and I spend most of the afternoon together. We walk along the beach, snuggle up on a big rock, and talk some more. We lie in the hammock again briefly and make-out. Then we say goodbye.

“See you in December? Maybe?” Sam asks. There’s another conference in December that we’re both likely to be at. Until then, he and I will resume our normal lives, thousands of miles apart.

“Probably,” I say, “Find me there.”

“I will. I have your number now,” he says, “These past few days have been really fun.”

“Yeah, they have. I’m super glad I ran into you.”

I shake his hand goodbye. Ya know, to be professional. After all, this was a conference. Not college. Although it felt like college for a few days there: work during the days, and nights full of drinking, getting to know new people, and drunkenly wandering back to your room hand-in-hand.


The Assessment

How do I rate this date?
On a scale from 1 (I’d rather be in hell, literally) to 10 (fuck me now!)…

Okay, so this wasn’t really a date. Though, I think that first night — drinking wine on the beach watching the sunset — could’ve been a date. Basically, spending time with Sam was incredibly fun and if I can rate the experience of getting to know him over 3 nights and about 4 days, I’d give it a 9. Again, chemistry wins. It was there, it was intense, it was wonderful.


The Epilogue

Sam and I have been texting a bit here and there, though it’s only been a few weeks since I saw him last. My fingers are crossed we’ll both be in the same place at the same time again in December.

There have been a few people in my life where the connection felt instant, where there was something swirling in the air about that person, some electrical charge running through us during that first handshake, something telling me, “This is your kind of person. This person gets you.” Whatever it is, I’ll call it magic. Meeting Sam, well, that felt magical.

I might also add that California is starting to feel pretty magical, too, because I’ve had a lot of fun spending time with really great people there.

Will Sam and I ever get anywhere romantically? That remains to be seen. Odds are, probably not. But, at the very least, I’ve gained a new friend who happens to be a blast in bed, too, and is emotionally mature enough to understand, value, and respect that type of relationship. All in all, a very good conference indeed.

* Names have been changed, of course, to protect the innocent.


If you like what you just read, please recommend it and then check out more of my ramblings at https://medium.com/@writingsolo or tweet me @writingsolo.

For other pieces in this Publication, check out
https://medium.com/navigating-the-sea-of-singledom

Written with thanks to The Writing Cooperative, specifically: @manfraiya, @traceypharoah, @sandfarnia, and @julie.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Stella J. McKenna’s story.