“Have you ever been to San Antonio?” Harry asked me on Tuesday during our nightly conversation.
“Why, yes. Back in 2002 my friend Edward—the gorgeous black bodybuilder—took me to San Antonio to check out a club. Turns out it was a swinger’s club. I danced on a pole and chatted with a really cute, nice couple. Edward sprang for a hotel room (for just the two of us; I don’t get into the swinger thing).” That would have been the most honest answer, but may have been a little too much honesty, so I opted for a shorter answer. “I’ve been there a couple of times, but haven’t been there for years.”
“Let’s go. I’ll drive and get the hotel rooms. What do you say?”
“Separate hotel rooms?” I was just seeking clarification; didn’t want him to think I was scared of him, but I didn’t want to make assumptions, either.
“Of course. We can go this weekend if you like,” Harry said.
“Sounds great!” I answered.
I called Portia to let her know. She was excited for me. “If ya’ll are still dating in February,” She joked, “You’ll need to send candy to Dawn to say, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day and Thank you!’ What am I saying—ya’ll don’t need to send candy, Harry will!”
“I’ll be in Austin this weekend, too. Ok if I stay at your house?” Portia’s ex-husband still lived in Austin (she had just moved to San Angelo the year before) and so Portia dropped their son off every other weekend for visitation. I had given Portia a key to my house long ago and told her that she was free to come and go as she pleased.
“Of course you’re welcome. Mi casa es su casa,” I told her.
So Portia was there when Harry arrived. I had her take pictures of us in front of Harry’s truck and the grin on my face was so goofy in love that it was my favorite picture for a long time after.
My house is about 1.5 hours from San Antonio, on the north side of Austin, which means that Harry and I had plenty of time to talk along the way. I’ve never been shy, so I came right out with what was on my mind.
“What’s your definition of a girlfriend? I mean, when can you call someone your girlfriend?” I asked.
“I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it.” He replied, pensively. “What do you think? Clearly you’ve had time to think about it.”
“Well, there are three main criteria,” I said. “First, a couple has to agree to be exclusive, which means they aren’t dating anyone else.”
“Ok, I can agree to that. I’m not dating anyone else; are you?”
“Nope,” I said, a little surprised that he was applying the list to us immediately.
“Ok, what else you got?”
“You’ve got to date a certain period of time. I’m not sure how long—my friends and I talked about at least 2 dates, or at least a month, but we couldn’t really agree. What do you think?”
“Well I think that if you like someone, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dating,” Harry said, with conviction. “What’s your third criteria?”
“That both people agree to use the titles. I say that because I’ve known guys that just hate to be called ‘boyfriend.’ It scares them off, or they just don’t like titles. What do you think?”
“I think,” Harry said, taking my hand while watching the road, and observing me with little glances to gage my mood, “That I know that I like you, I’m not dating anyone else, and I’m fine with calling you my girlfriend, if that’s what you want.”
I was a little surprised. “Yes, of course!” I said. Wow, what a great guy!
“Good. Now that we’ve got that taken care of,” he said, “Do you want to stop at Cabella’s?”
Cabella’s is a new store located in Buda, just south of Austin. It is a huge sports/hunting/fishing store featuring an indoor waterfall, stuffed animals (real ones, not the kids’ toys), and all the equipment a sports nut could dream up. It was so huge that it had become a tourist attraction; the signs on the highway announced the exit.
“Sure,” I said. Though not a hunter myself, I was curious to see this colossal superstore. And it was everything that I expected it to be. From the outside, it looked like a mall. On the inside, it still reminded me of a mall; only, instead of stores, it had departments: Fishing department, Gun department, Clothing department: different camouflage patterns, shirts with deer heads printed on them, hip waders, rubber boots, etc. As we toured the testament to man’s love of nature, we chatted some more and held hands.
“Help me out here—I’m a little hazy on the dates. When did you marry Jamie?” I asked.
“I knew this would come up,” Harry said, visibly nervous. He looked around, trying to decide how to word his answer and said, “We got married in April 2003. We were married just over two years.”
I tried to do the math in my head and it just didn’t sound right. “That means you got divorced—when?”
“This past May?” He nodded. My mind was having trouble digesting this info. That meant that he was married in April when we met. Was he wearing a ring? I couldn’t remember. But it wouldn’t matter; lots of married people had bare hands. The engineers that I worked with called rings a safety hazard.
Harry saw the confused look on my face and said, “I know you have a rule against dating guys within a year of their divorce,” Harry said, tensely, carefully, “That’s why I didn’t mention it before.” Damn right, I have a rule, and for good reasons! I’ve been bitten by this one before. I struggled against the urge to run, scream, or both. I took a deep breath. I decided that given the opportunity to go home and wonder “What if” or spend the weekend in picturesque San Antonio with the handsome Mr. Handsome, I’d take the latter.
I smiled at him and said, “Well, we’re here now, I’ll take my chances.” He let out the breath he’d been holding and smiled back at me. We walked around for a while talking about the various equipment. He carried around some ammo for a while, but then thought better of having to transport it all the way back to San Angelo, and put it back.
We were walking through the clothes—thermal underwear for the cold mornings tracking deer—when I asked Harry, “Where would you live if you could live anywhere?”
“My sister is in Tennessee, so maybe there,” he began. “Or Fort Worth. I’ve done some job shopping online—nothing serious, just seeing what’s out there—and FW has some ME jobs in the medical manufacturing industry; I could live there. San Antonio’s nice, too. I’m vested at J&J; if I stay two more years, then I’ll be fully vested. So I’m going to try to stick around until then. What about you?” he countered.
“I love Texas and I want my kids to be around family, where are here. If I could have any job, it would be working for NASA. But the jobs I wants are in California or Colorado. Since I don’t want to leave the state, I’d rather live in Austin, San Antonio, or Fort Worth. San Angelo is nice, too.” I smiled at him.
“Did they tell you when you’d find out if you have the job?” Harry had insider knowledge yet pretended that he didn’t. I respected his strong ethics; a lesser man would have told me what the interviewers decided.
“The HR rep said two weeks,” I replied, “Which was over last week. I sent an email to Kathy and she responded that I should hear back from them next week.”
Harry shook his head. “That human resources department is so slow.”
We had walked around most the store (though not seen everything, I’m sure, since it is so huge), so Harry asked, “Ready to go?”
From there we went to San Marcos, which is the next major city on I-35. San Marcos is known for its outlet malls. Buses of Mexicans arrive every weekend, since the border is only a couple of hours away, and Texans drive for miles for the chance to get a name brand outfit for a good price. Harry and I decided to look around. I wanted some cute tops and Harry wanted some sunglasses.
Harry bought me three different tops from three different stores. He’s a very patient shopper. Maybe because has four sisters. He pointed out shirts that he thought were cute. We stopped in the Sunglasses Hut to get shades. He tried on one wrap around pair and said, “Look! McFly!” He would have been happy to shop longer, but I felt like I was taking advantage as it were. So we stopped for lunch. I had seen a Schlotski’s Deli on the way in and suggested that, but when we started driving to it, we realized that it was on the other side of the interstate. “Never mind,” I said, “We can eat at Applebee’s, right here.”
“If you want to eat at Schlotski’s, I don’t mind driving over there,” my ultra-sweet Boyfriend (!!) offered. He was sincere in wanting to make me happy; there was no spite or frustration in his voice or eyes. I didn’t really care; I could eat at either restaurant (they’re both franchises). So we went to Applebee’s.
While we were sitting at the table, Harry said, “There’s this girl that I like…” I stiffened up. Was he dating someone else? No, he told me in the car that he wasn’t. “I’m taking her to San Antonio.” OH he was talking about ME! Duh. In third person, how cute!
“Yes?” I encouraged him to continue.
“How do I know that she likes me?” He asked.
I laughed. I couldn’t help it! Here I was, all goofy over this guy, and he wasn’t sure that I liked him?! I began in a Socratic way.
“She agreed to go with you to San Antonio?”
“Yes,” he responded.
“Does she ever hold your hand?” like in Cabella’s, surrounded by stuffed dead things, while pretending to enjoy the scenery?
“Then she likes you,” I concluded. Maybe not the best or well-thought out argument, but it worked. Harry beamed a pleased, slightly embarrassed smile. He looked so boyish and young, he was just too adorable!
“What about you? You seeing anyone?” He prompted.
“Sure, I’m dating this guy,” I responded. “But I’m not sure about when we should—you know—be physically intimate. In my experience, guys quit liking a girl afterward.”
He looked confused. “I think physical intimacy should bring two people closer together,” he said.
“Well it seems to me that beforehand, there’s romantic dinners and flowers and such, and none of that afterward.”
“I think there should be more romance after,” he said, confidently. I hoped that he was right (despite my experience to the contrary). I smiled flirtatiously.
The rest of the weekend was like a dream: so perfect. We checked into the hotel, which was the Hilton on the Riverwalk. Our rooms were on one of the high floors and were gorgeous; the hotel had recently renovated, so the paint was fresh and carpet was new. The rooms were spacious, too. From that and the location, I could tell that Harry had spent some cash and I appreciated it.
After checking in, we went down to the Riverwalk. It is beautiful. It’s below street level, with lots of trees and plants, so that its mostly cool and shady. (Texas is hot, even in October.) Restaurants and shops line the river and at one end there’s a mall. The river is only four feet deep in most places. Harry and I walked and talked and ducked into a few art shops just off the Riverwalk.
That night we had dinner at a great TexMex restaurant. At least, I think it was great; the margarita certainly was! Then we walked over to Howl at the Moon, a piano bar. We had fun watching the Aggie vs. UT Fight Song war! He’s an Aggie (graduated from Texas A&M) and I’m a Longhorn (I attend the University of Texas at Austin.) One piano player would start playing the A&M fight song, then someone would tip the other piano player and he would play the Longhorn’s Eyes of Texas Are Upon You. This would go back and forth, as the crowd got more worked up and the tips piled up, until finally a winner was pronounced to much cheering and booing. This night, the Longhorns were more generous than the Aggies.
We stayed for a couple of hours watching the piano players perform, then walked back to the hotel. Harry was a perfect gentleman.
I was not the perfect lady. I kissed him, letting him know that I wanted more. We really could have gotten just one hotel room; but I’m glad that it was a choice.
This was part II of the story of Harry and I dating. We were together for another month before it ended; that story isn’t as fun. If you missed Part I, it’s here.
Come back next week; I hope to share some life-altering good news with you.
May your dates be hot, if you want them to be 😉