We agreed to meet for lunch on a Friday. One o’clock, in front of the Dim Sum restaurant on Mulberry, right off Canal. An agreement made over text the previous night after swiping right and exchanging more than a few messages. Him: a photographer, just out of school, living in Bushwick and interning at a magazine in SoHo. Me: an arch school dropout, and a minor-league dealer fucking around in Bed-Stuy.
Ever since I left college, a lot of people have taken me for a burn out. But I consider myself a foodie: someone who finds pleasure in eating, but with absolutely no career prospects. It’s a joke I like to tell myself. I do know my way around the kitchen. I’m the kind of guy who can win a boy’s heart first through his belly, but it’s not like any have stuck around for breakfast. I had a feeling this guy would.
The early summer had set in with those days of aggressive humidity and unbroken grey skies. It was the beginning of June and I couldn’t have been happier for the lazy summer ahead. I decided to walk from my apartment to the restaurant, but the light breeze that enticed this sojourn to Manhattan stagnated by noon. The dormant pavement heat blossomed by the time I had to cross the river. Beyond the buildings along the horizon, the clouds casually threatened rain, or at least I was hopeful for a deluge, a summer shower to hide the sweat stains growing darker. My hair had flattened and stuck to my forehead, completely voiding all the time I wasted styling, my center part ruined. If I were smarter, I would’ve worn a lucky cap.
Walking to the date probably wasn’t one of my best ideas, I must admit, but it was the only way I could clear my mind and sift through all my doubts about meeting this curly haired cutie. The moment I woke, a pit grew in my stomach. I figured a warm shower followed by a pep talk in the foggy mirror would calm my nerves like it always did in high school before a big game, but after all these years I was out of practice.
My legs shook as I put in my lucky square cut diamond studs and sprayed a smidge of my designer cologne, thinking this woody scent would do the trick, fuel my confidence, but agh! The shaking spread to my hands and the perfume got in my mouth. Nothing was working. I didn’t even have an urge to eat; my bowl of cereal got soggy before my eyes and eventually, I just abandoned it on the coffee table.
The downtown skyline never ceased to amaze me each time I walked the Manhattan bridge: the steel, cement, and glass rising high, the flat tops, peaks and pediments all disappearing into the low lying clouds. A picture-perfect image I once dreamed of adding to, all framed by Neo-Gothic limestone towers. I was better at lighting up a blunt than I was at designing, a fact I realized after too many years struggling through countless overnights in the studio. In the end, I came to terms with architecture not being for me.
Once I finally crossed into Chinatown, I probably smelled just as bad as the rancid fish sold on the sidewalk. Clearly, I wasn’t in any shape to meet someone new, unless he was into sweat stains. I’ll tell him I came from the gym, raw and ready for a good fuck. He should be so lucky I didn’t hookup in the locker room with the guy that spotted me, his package just above my face as I grunted with each rep. Maybe that’s all this stranger wanted anyways, even though I figured we’d take it slow. He didn’t seem like any of the other guys I’ve talked to: he wanted conversation and interested in more than just the bedroom. From his texts, I could tell he was a sweetie, and that I found the sexiest.
The invite to lunch was my idea; I figured it was best to become friends first without the influence of alcohol, or the allure of a late night. In reality, I suggested lunch so the day could easily blend into the evening if we so wanted, but now it looked like I’d need a shower at some point, or an industrial air conditioner, a change of clothes even, but other than that the day was free for the taking.
A block from the restaurant and my heart started to pound. Despite walking off my nerves, they returned, this time in a fury. But it was strange I felt these horrible pains in my stomach, my feet begging me to turn around and run, because it was never like this with the countless dates I’ve been on. The guys I met online, usually late at night, would come over to watch a movie, but would ultimately show up and suck my dick before taking it for a ride, coming on my chest, leaving before I even got the chance to clean myself.
All the men over the past few years melted into one giant twink blob. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed their company, there’s no doubt I liked getting laid, but there had to be more to dating than just hooking up, right? I wanted more. My hopeful side was coming out. I really believed this guy could be more than all the others, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
On the sidewalk out front, I smoked a cig and worked through the adrenaline that got my heart pumping and my hands all sweaty. I wiped my palms repeatedly on my jean shorts hoping they’d dry out by the time he arrived. I couldn’t believe his first impression of me was going to be clammy hands and looking like a total fucking wreck. My heart sank with the pins and needles that poked at my toes. As direct as possible, I reminded myself it was just Dim Sum, that’s all.
Let’s be real, it wasn’t “just Dim Sum”, but the best in the city. In a…