Our first date was Halloween. It was the culmination of years and years of devotion – sometimes implicit, more recently explicit. Time spent talking on instant messenger, then on the phone – for hours, every night, despite the fact that I had to wait up until midnight so her unlimited cell phone minutes would kick in, seeing as she was an entire country away. There was a lot of buildup for this one date.
We had started talking online probably three or so years earlier, having met on a message board for a now-defunct comedy website, like so many couples do. She said something mean to somebody I hated on the Internet, so naturally I fell in love. That's how guys work, by the way – especially guys on the Internet. We fall in love very quickly, and for any reason we want to. “She made a joke about David Byrne. She and I must be soulmates. Better latch on FOREVER.” So I latched on.
A few weeks before Halloween, I got invited to a party. Now, I hate Halloween and I hate parties and I hate costumes and I hate everything and ugh Jesus I'm a wretch. I told her about the party, and how I wasn't going because I didn't have a date. That was a lie. I wasn't going because, y'know, fuck that noise, right? Being social? Having fun? No thank you.
“What if I were your date?”
“Yeah, right. You fly out to Massachusetts and I'll go to this party.”
“Done. I have that weekend off. See you then.”
Shit. Well, now I have to go this horrible party full of jerks. (NB: I really don't actually hate everybody who was at this party, just everybody in general. You understand.) On top of that horror, I had the unenviable task of meeting my, I suppose, girlfriend. Meeting somebody from the Internet is a scary thing. I've done it a handful of times now, and it never gets easier. Meeting someone you've only spoken to a few times is nerve-wracking, but there's something much worse about spending years and years getting to know somebody – falling in love with somebody (because, let's be clear, I was completely in love with her) – and then having to actually meet her. It's not a voice on the phone anymore. It's not text on a screen. She's an actual person who knows everything about me. Fears, hopes, shame. Everything.
And there she is, getting off the plane. And I can read it on her face – she hates me.
I was awful. Just the worst. I was sweaty and pimply and exhausted and poorly dressed. She had every right to look at me and immediately turn around, get back on the plane and fly back to Los Angeles. I now know that she would have, if the plane hadn't already left the terminal. Planes work the same way buses do, right? They have a circuit that they just follow all day? I'm pretty sure that's how they work.
So we drove back to my parents' house. They were much more interested in meeting the mystery girl I'd been spending years talking to than I was, and I helped pay for her flight. We couldn't even look at each other for the whole first night. It was too surreal. I figured the best way to simulate a phone call would be for her to sit on the bed and for me to lie down on the floor next to it. We turned off the lights and just talked for a few hours. It helped, but it didn't solve the problem. I think we ended up breaking up three or four times that weekend.
So it's Halloween. She's some kind of vampirate thing or whatever. She looks good. I'm something that involved dress pants. I can't remember what. Tom Waits? Probably. Sure. We'll say that my costume was Fat Tom Waits. As we left for the party, my mom asked where we were going.
“There's a party over at Rachel and Julie's place.”
“Really, Joshua? 'Rachel and Julie?' You don't do that to somebody you love, Joshua.”
I'm not entirely sure what she meant by that. I guess if you love a girl, you shouldn't take her to parties at other girls' houses. That makes a certain kind of nonsense, if you squint your eyes and turn your head. Whatever. We drove to the party in relative silence. We stopped at Burger King so she could get some chicken nuggets or whatever. The moment we got to the house, we were accosted by a girl whose costume appeared to be “drunk pregnant girl with cat ears.”
Important: I'm terrible at parties. I have crazy anxiety around strangers. Frankly, I have crazy anxiety around familiarers. The ratio of strangers to familiarers was like, 40:1. It was too much for me to bear, especially considering I was certain that I had gone and ruined my friendship with the girl from the Internet. We broke up. Again.
We talked and talked and didn't talk and didn't talk. Finally, we decided on going to a different party over at my friend Joe's house, which consisted of Joe, the rest of the Magnuses, Joe's girlfriend, our friend Nate and nobody else. I was instantly at ease, although I can't remember if that was a result of the familiarity of Joe's house, or the fact that I started drinking the moment I got there. Whatever it was, something clicked. I explained to Nate and Joe that the girl from the Internet and I were just going to be friends. We had broken up for the Nth and final time. It's all over. We're just friends. Phew. At least we were still friends.
That night, we were both hanging out in my bed. My mom poked in and asked us if we were in love. That's the kind of question a child of divorce asks his mom and her new boyfriend. It's awkward when a kid says that, and boy was it ever awkward when my mom said that. The thing is, we probably weren't. The rest of her visit was a blur. We went out for breakfast the next day. It snowed, which made her cry – not in a fun, “oh this is so beautiful” way, but in a “GODDAMNIT WHY CAN'T ANYTHING BE THE WAY I WANT IT TO BE” way. We watched State and Main. I drove her back to the airport. I cried the entire way home. We got married a little over a year later.
Josh Grimmer lives in Hollywood with his wife (who he met on the Internet) and cat (who he met in person). He kinda sorta runs this blog, and has another one at http://mousebed.blogspot.com. Twitter him up at http://twitter.com/JoshGrimmer
Trick or whatever who cares. How was Halloween week for you guys? Good, I hope. What are you guys and gals going to dress up as tomorrow night? I'm thinking Doughy Elvis Costello. No, not for me. For you. For all of you. Each and every reader of this blog should dress up as a Doughy Elvis Costello. Put on the weight, I don't care. Just do it.
Living in Hollywood, every day is like Halloween. Oh, except for Halloween. That day is like getting punched in the solar plexus by Halloween. Thousands of people in costumes, clogging the streets. It's difficult to get anywhere. You can't drive, you can't park, you can't walk. It's utter misery. Second worst day of the year for me, right behind Oscar night. Good thing I'm moving soon.
[[HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THIS SEGUE]]
Speaking of moving, that's next week's theme! Starting tomorrow, we'll be posting a bunch of great essays about moving from all of your favorite writers, including Katie McMahon, Sarah Vowell, Steve Strong, Charles Bukowski, Marsi White, JD Salinger – all of them and more! (Can you say “special guest writers?” I'm not saying you should expect something from Mark Twain but uh... I hope you like Southernisms. That's all I'll say.)
The next theme for submissions is fashion. Now, I know what you're thinking. “Great! I can write about Etsy.” You know what? Go ahead. If I get a dozen essays about Etsy, then cool. Please, though, be sure to be interesting. That's all I care about. Oh, interesting and before the deadline. November 5. That's a Friday, just like every deadline.
The week after that, the theme will be “Listen to This.” I'd like to receive essays about your favorite mix tape, or the time your friend took you to see a band that you hadn't ever heard of but you ended up liking, or the time you dated a girl who was really, really into Tori Amos so you ended up becoming a Tori Amos fan by osmosis. There's something very scary and intimate about giving somebody some music to listen to for the first time. Hopefully there'll be nothing scary about submitting your essays by Friday, November 12.
I'm running woefully long, so this'll be my last thing. Do any of you write music. HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION. I know some of you do. If you have a song you've written or would like to write about any of our topics, I'd love to post them. Songwriting is still writing. Let's make this thing an Internet multimedia extravaganza or something.
Josh Grimmer, Editor-in-Chief