So after all that rigamarole with phone numbers and cowardice, whom should I encounter at the video store last night? Yes, "Gus" himself, looking unutterably cute and hunting through the pre-viewed VHS. Of course I looked like shit-on-toast, unshaved and unwashed, suffering a bad case of bed-head, dressed in my ratty and sticky gym-clothes. I had only stopped into the Blockbuster on Lakeshore to kill a little time while I waited for my hamburgers to be made at Adam Burger across the street, and I'm flipping through the comprehensively dismal selection of surplus videos when I suddenly hear this familiar and distinctive voice behind me.
So here's my chance... no weirdness about cold phone calls, no scheming or scripting to make it seem natural, we simply ran into each other in the video store, just like normal folk. Manna from heaven! One of those typical "Is it odd or is it God" moments. I don't really believe that God took time out of His busy schedule to prod Gus into entering the Blockbuster at the same time as me, I don't in fact think that God prods us or makes us do things (for then what would be the point of Free Will); but it's a little more than coincidental, don't you think?
So there I am with Gus in the Blockbuster; I instantly split into two people, one of whom was chatting quite casually with Gus about movies and what-not, the other of whom was plotting madly in his head, trying to talk himself into asking Gus to dinner and yet feeling awkward and idiotically fearful. How do I phrase the invitation? How can I live with myself if I let this opportunity pass by without asking him to dinner or at least getting his phone number? Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Other people do this sort of thing all the time... but then other people aren't chickenshitted little cowards. And like that, all while carrying on a normal conversation and browsing through movies.
After about half an hour of browsing and chatting about films and actors and mutual acquaintance on the one hand, and beating myself up on the other hand, I finally came out with it; I had to leave eventually — aside from the fact that my and Grandmother's dinner was getting cold across the street, I had already picked out two movies and had no excuse to linger. So I just held my breath, acted all casual, and said "We should have dinner together sometime."
A hell of a lot of psychic buildup just to spit out six words. And I should have said, "I would like to take you to dinner; are you free on Friday?" That statement would have made the dinner unequivocally a date, whereas "dinner together sometime" can be interpreted any number of ways. But still, I got the concept of a shared meal out into the open, and I didn't explode or implode or drop dead or embarrass myself in any other way.
"I'd love that," he responded (to the "dinner together sometime"), and we exchanged phone numbers and I bought my movies and went to pick up my hamburgers (which were stone cold by then). And as usual, when I finally manage to do something that I have been fretting myself about, I wondered why I had been so scared. It wasn't so hard, after all, and he said he'd "love" to! Not "like" to, not "sure, whatever," not "why would I eat with you?" It was all very pleasant.
Well, after getting that off my mind, you can imagine that I had a bit of a bounce to my step. So much bounce that, to the naked eye, it looked a lot like a manic episode. Even Grandmother noticed that I seemed exceptionally cheerful. I went home and ate my cold hamburger and chatted with the Grandmother and checked my email and what-have-you.
I was surprised, later, when Gus showed up at the meeting. He hadn't planned to go, when I spoke to him at the video store, but I guess he changed his mind. He also changed his clothes and looked even cuter in an orange sweater and a really pretty scarf; I of course hadn't changed, I was still in the same ratty gym-clothes though I had added an extra layer of clothing (a black sweatshirt over the T-shirt, since it was cold out), and I hadn't even combed my hair or brushed my teeth... I looked like shit and I smelled like hamburgers and Altoids.
To make it all that much more comical, the topic of disucssion at the meeting was "Fear and Faith, how we work through Fear in recovery." And there I was, with this really great story of how I'd let fear get to me and how I had managed to finally get through it, but I couldn't tell the story because the person I was afraid to call was sitting right behind me. I could hear God laughing at me (or laughing with me, since I saw the humor in it, too). Either way, it gave me an opportunity to listen instead of thinking about what I was going to say, and I heard a lot of things I needed to hear about handling fear with faith.
So anyway... this is not the end of the story, though it ends my quest for Gus's phone number, which is now programmed into my cellphone. Now I have to actually call him and arrange the time and place for dinner. That shouldn't be too difficult... having cleared the hurdle of asking him, I'm not so worried about follow-through. I will of course have a complete mental meltdown when it comes time to get ready for the dinner (what do I wear? how do I act?), and then there will be the exercise of future-tripping that will take up a great deal of my time if I let myself think about any possible outcomes of that dinner (will he like me? will my family like him? will we be sexually compatible? will we get married? will he just want to be friends? will we break up painfully? will I scare him off with my neuroses?) but I'll cross those bridges when I get to them.
In the meantime, I am going to make more of an effort to groom myself properly so we don't have so much of this being unprepared to meet someone we like and looking like shit when we don't want to. Keep the teeth brushed and the hair combed and the skin clean; it doesn't do to get lazy about such things... you never know when you're going to meet someone at Blockbuster.