He had just got home and I was going away soon. But I had to see him before I left. I am under the impression that we were going bowling. I get to his house early to avoid the sluggish Washington traffic. I knew the combo for the garage, something a casual date should never, ever know. Then again, we were well passed the casual. I wait for him to get home from work, and my nerves get the best of me as my anticipation grows. I hear the door swing open. He walks through the door and my stomach turn to knots. Are those butterflies? That had never happened before. Was I losing my mind? I didn’t realize at the time it wasn’t my mind I was losing, but my heart.
He rushes upstairs to change out of his stylish work clothes into something more appropriate for bowling. Although he’ll turn your head in a button down shirt, he’s a t-shirts and jeans kind of guy at the core. I think are going bowling but he drives us to the metro instead.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
“You’ll see. I’m not telling you,” he says, as if mystery is part of his game. His innocence and genuineness is what draws me in, so this takes me by surprise.
I have to add money to my metro card. I wait in line only to find the machine is broken. I get a little flustered and finally add money to my card. He watches silently the whole time, before shaking his head and saying “Only you.”
The metro is full of people. Where are they going, I wonder? Where am I going? But where they were going, or where I was going, for that matter, wasn’t really important. All I saw on the train was him. As we rode along and switched lines, I grinned realizing where we were going. But I didn’t want to say anything, not yet. He had his poker face on, so I stayed clueless as he tells me to follow him and we switch lines. There is really only one reason to take a ride on the green line though.
We get off the train and not until we exit into the open streets of the Southwest riverfront does he smile, laughs his goofy laugh and says, “We’re going to the Nats game, if you couldn’t tell.”
A date to see a baseball game pretty much cannot be topped in my book.
“We should find a bar to grab a few drinks first,” he says.
Beer and baseball? You had me at hello.
He pulls out his iPhone. He leads me in the direction of some bar. He stops, laughs, tells me we are going the wrong direction. We turn around, determined to find our way, and do the same thing. He laughs again, tells me we were going the right way to begin with. The air is warm and the sky is still bright as the sun starts its slow, lazy summer descent. The late summer sun is just like him: warm, unassuming, with a purpose, but no rush to get there.
We finally reach our destination, according to his calculations. There is nothing there but an empty building. Neither of us says a thing, but we both die in fits of laughter at our many failed attempts to find a place that didn’t exist to begin with. Giving up, we join the crowds of others at the Bull Pen bar outside the stadium. We have a few drinks and the bartender jokes with Mr. Clean that he is very sorry, he simply cannot serve him because of the Yankees-hating slogan on his t-shirt. They laugh it off as I internally agree with the bartender and desperately hope he doesn’t think I share these sentiments. I’m going to go to baseball hell for kissing a Red Sox fan. But it’s a price I’m willing to play, and we head into the game to finally root, root, root for the same home team
The summer is drawing to an end; this is one of the last games the Nats will play that season. This, like many others, wasn’t their year. It’s a weeknight and the stadium is pretty empty. The wear and tear of another season is apparent; hotdog wrappers are littered around and leftover beer oozes out of empty plastic cups. We have the entire row to ourselves, but there is a younger woman and an older man sitting in front of us. We play the “what are they to each other game.” Father and daughter? Lovers? Friends? Are we being too loud? Did they hear us? We laugh at how silly we are acting.
“Want a sunflower seed?” he asks. Although my gut reaction is to say no, which with anyone else I would have, my honesty creeps out of me. “Actually, I don’t really even know how to eat a sunflower seed.” Maybe if I give it a chance, I think, I may just like it.
“And you call yourself a baseball fan, here,” he says rolling his eyes and smiling. His youth shines as he fiddles with the bag of seeds and I can imagine him during his days has a mischievous little boy playing catch in the backyard. “Just put it in your mouth and break the sides of the shell with your teeth, then spit out the shell. They are really salty, be careful” he warns, handing me the bag. “Try it. “ I look at him skeptically. “Just try one though,” he insists, laughing.
I take the bag and put the shell in my mouth. I follow his instructions as he sits there, patiently watching my attempt to eat a sunflower seed. I crack the delicate shell, and spit it out as politely as one can spit a sunflower seed shell. I taste the salty goodness of the seed and ask for more. Because, all I want is more. More of the seeds, more of summer, more of him.
He smiles at his new, successful pupil. I’m not sure what was happening on the field, nor did I care. He taught me how to eat sunflower seeds.