The Shark

Published: October 14, 2014

I am phobic about second dates. The B-movie screenwriter of my life always drops hints in my second dates about how the relationship will end.

Orthodox Boyfriend, Date #2: An Orthodox tisch is so much fun; a conservative tisch is too uptight.

A tisch is a religious hoedown with lectures. Girls were not invited to the Orthodox ones.

Me: More fun for the men, you mean?

It took us a year before we understood we couldn’t bridge that gap, but he tipped his hand on Date #2.

Other boyfriends were less subtle.

Holocaust Boyfriend, Date #2: I was a virgin until I was 34.

Clearly that boy’s deck was stacked with crazy cards, but I kept dating him.

Mr. Hyde, Date #2: My indomitable daughter is the product of a botched abortion.

Yes, Hyde’s jokers were completely wild, but I was lost in a post-coital haze and could see neither the whackadoo nor the get-out-of-bed-and-run-for-the-trees.

On second dates we get confessional. In that earliest intimacy we see the petite reveal, the telegraphed plot, the tell pointing toward a possibly explosive finale. I’ve been at this long enough, I should hear the shingles coming by now.

The Sailor was keen to spend as much time with me as he could before my next long trip and returned to the city only days after we met. The weekend, he said, was too far away.

Did I want to go dancing, tango perhaps? A lecture on Tibetan pantomime? No, and no. I wanted to just talk.

Me: Do you ever stop moving?
Sailor: My nickname is Shark.

We met in Central Park and, despite his need for speed, we did nothing but deliver our romantic curriculum vitae: families, jobs, histories, and dreams. I was convinced I could see all the way to the end if I looked hard enough during a second date.

Sailor: I really want kids, and I’m buying a house.

That was direct. We could just seal this deal in minutes.

Sailor: I’ve been in love twice.
Me: Uh, five times. I guess?
Sailor: But I’ve lived with three women. It’s always exciting when you move in.

I’ve never lived with anyone. My name is on a stabilized lease in Manhattan. Real estate has thus far trumped passion.

Sailor: All the women I date are either boring and sane or crazy and interesting. You seem interesting and sane.
Me: You should see the picture in my attic.

The afternoon faded to evening. As the last train approached, the Sailor stole another kiss at Grand Central. I could find no early signs of pathological creepiness.

But was I seeing stars?

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