Our Story Part 2: The Date

Boy, am I lucky she said yes to dinner..

Hannah headed to work and we arranged to meet after her shift. I was feeling pretty good about things, and myself, but still curious about how she felt. But… soon after she left, I felt an oddly familiar feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time. It took me a minute to figure out when I’d felt that way before. It was in fifth grade at a summer camp that was going too long.

I felt homesick.

Now, maybe there is an ‘awwwwe’ going through your mind, or ‘that’s darling or cute’ or whatever - but for me it was terrible. I say that because that’s a common reaction to this story and it might seem like I’m trying to be cute or sensitive. There was nothing cute about it. Never had an individual had this kind of an impact on me, and it felt awful. I was anxious, and nervous, and started to doubt myself. Was I annoying, did I talk too much? Did I have bad breath? Was I too forward in asking her to dinner? I felt like I needed to be with her to get the feeling I had with her back. Should I go to her work and surprise her? That would be too forward and creepy. Was I an obsessed creep? What was happening!? I’d never doubted myself this badly.  

Hard as I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling. It was a feeling so contrary to what I felt when she was there…and this after an hour with her? 

Contrary to what other men may say, or express regarding their feelings, we think and feel these things and ask ourselves these questions of self-doubt all the time - we just don’t like to admit it. Men tend to deny having these questions and feelings but they are there. There is a lot more happening in our one-word answers than you might think, all it takes is a little common sense and an analysis of their lives to deduce the feelings behind a one-word answer. 

For example - let's say there is a married man with four kids under the age of 7. You can deduce that when you ask him how he is doing and he says ‘good’ he is in fact not good, but as good as he can be given his circumstances. He has 4 kids under the age of 7 - this is all you need to know. He’s probably averaging 4-6 hours of sleep a night, and if one is a baby and he’s a good husband, he’ll take a shift bottle-feeding the infant so his wife can sleep. So in that case, he’s operating on a good 4 hours. He works full time after waking up, likely at a job he doesn’t really love, and dislikes even more because he doesn’t sleep very much.  

You could be wrong, but you won’t be too far off if you deduce that his ‘good’ answer is equal to ‘good enough for his circumstances’, but not ‘good’ in the sense of the actual meaning of the word. 

Men are good at hiding their feelings or putting them somewhere else so we can maintain our perceived strength or status. We won’t say anything to each other because that would be strange and make a friendship weird. 

But you’re not here to analyze the inner workings and deficiencies of male feelings…you’re here for our love story. 

Let’s just say, I was not comprehending what was happening with the inner workings of my mind, heart, and soul. Yet if you were to see me or interact with me, you’d think I was fine…I was not fine. I needed to see Hannah again. 

The time finally came for me to meet her at her work. She worked in a bridal shop in the mall, sp I had my friend drop me off around 9. When I got to the store, the front gate had been closed but I could see Hannah behind the checkout desk closing up shop. The homesick feeling began to subside and was replaced with excitement and anticipation. 

I did my best to stay out of the way while they finished closing and we went to the infamous Applebee’s. Not for its fine cuisine, but because it was close and easy to choose. Anyway, for me, the place didn’t matter as much as the company. It was late and we both weren’t terribly hungry, so we shared a quesadilla. I have since learned Han does not like to share food, but that’s another story. We kept on talking and talking about a lot of things.

My homesick feeling was gone, but still, I wondered how this was going. 

Through our conversation, I started to feel a little pang in my gut, like the feeling you need to say something. But I didn’t know what I needed to say. 

Gradually, my mind was brought back to several years ago when she came to visit Boston for the summer. She was a small-town girl experiencing a much bigger city. Her sister I think was hopeful to have me help show her around and be a friend during her stay. On her first night in town, we went to ice cream with my family, my brother, and her sister. Now, back then I was still a teenager in need of more coherent thinking and reasoning so I was not as astute in relationships, manners, or common decency. I was awkward. We sat with each other at ice cream and I don’t remember what we talked about. That turned out to be one of the only times I saw her that summer. She was at our place for dinner a few times, but I was usually gone before dinner was over and heading to see my friends. 

Then I remembered another situation I felt particularly bad about. That summer her sister had arranged to have me take her to a Red Sox game. However, in all of my teenage glory and incoherence, I canceled on her at the last minute. I don’t know exactly why I did that, but at that moment sitting across from her years later at Applebee’s, the wrongness of what I did weighed heavily on me. 

See, when I was about 18 or 19 years old I finally decided I should choose who I wanted to be. I’d faced some challenging situations and made some bad choices, but I think I was an ok guy. Yet, at that age, I wanted to raise the bar so to speak. Through some meditation and soul searching, I decided to live my life by a few simple rules. I try to think simply and I have a relatively short attention span, so the simpler and shorter the list the better. I dislike lists, to be honest with you. In truth, I didn’t even write this down when I was 18 or 19. I just internalized them and tried to base the decisions I made on them. So often people will tell me to write things down or I’ll forget them. For me, if the quote, list, saying or other idea is memorable and worth remembering, I’ll remember it. I’m probably wrong about that, but here is the list: 

  1. Be kind in all situations no matter what
  2. Do what you can to make the lives of the people around you better, easier, and happier
  3. If you can help…then help
  4. Do what you say you are going to do

By the time I was sitting there with Hannah, these rules had become a core part of my life. At that moment, I recognized that the summer Hannah visited Boston I had betrayed every one of these rules with her. I needed to do something about it. 

So in the middle of our conversation, somewhat out of the blue, I said this:

“Hannah, I need to apologize for how I treated you when you came to Boston. I am sorry I wasn’t a better host or friend. And I am really sorry I didn’t take you to the Red Sox game.”

Now, I’ll say it again - I’ve said and done a lot of dumb things in my life but apologizing to Hannah at that moment was one of the best and smartest things I have ever done.