I had taken Rebecca to the gardens for our first date. It was good that I had checked her online profile. I found that she liked gardening and the outdoors in general. Mine you I didn’t stalk her online, just a bit of research. Not that I normally research people so don’t get the wrong idea. Okay? Okay. Anyway, we were at the gardens on our first date and it was a good day for it. The sun was surrounded by puffy white clouds scattered in the blue above.
I thought the date was going well. We had visited the dolphin fountain and smelled the mint plants in the herb garden. Yes, very well indeed. At least until Rebecca grabbed me to check out the rose garden. It wasn’t a ‘hey, come over here’ grab. Oh, no, it was a full, prolonged, not gonna let go, hand holder. I became tense and stayed that way as she led me to the flowers. I expected her to let go of my hand when we reached the area. She did not.
As Rebecca started talking about how to take care of the roses, I couldn’t help but feel self-conscious. I glanced around, my eyes settling upon a couple. They looked to be in their thirties. I was thinking they might spot our hands entwined and laugh. It wasn’t going to happen though. They looked like they could care less about the world beyond their locked lips. I couldn’t understand how they could be so comfortable with their public affection.
Rebecca let go of my hand and I came back to the date. I followed as she headed to the next set of roses.
‘What’s my problem?’ I thought to myself.
Here was this beautiful girl who actually wanted to hold my hand and I was uncomfortable. I knew what it was. It was my parents’ fault. That sounds like every teenagers complaint for everything in their life, but it was true in this instance. Growing up I never saw PDA from my mom or dad. Sure they kissed every once in a while, but it was in the privacy of our home. They never even held hands outside of the house.
I had no sooner admitted the truth before Rebecca took my arm, leaning against my shoulder.
“This was a good idea,” she said.
I was focusing on relaxing my arm. I didn’t want her to feel bad about how uncomfortable I was. I made it through the rest of the date, the intervals of tension like a roller-coaster with the PDA. As we headed toward the exit, Rebecca stopped.
“Thanks for trying to be comfortable holding hands.”
“No one flexes their muscles that much.”
I couldn’t argue with that.
“We’ll have to practice getting you comfortable with it,” Rebecca said.
She kissed me, drawing back with a confused look.
“Was that your first kiss?”
I stammered with an explanation. She just smiled.
“We’ll have to practice that, too.”
I smiled. That sounded like a good idea to me. And so ended my first date ever.
Philip is one of several In Print members to have his work on Public Displays of Affection featured at the Allegory Project, an art space and exhibition co-sponsored by the Art Matters Artist Coop and the Rockford Area Arts Council. The Allegory Project plans to have a theme that is explored in various art forms: painting and sculpture, photography, repurposed objects, and the spoken and written word.