it would be you

Somewhere around five am on Sunday, my indulgences of late catch up with me. My body cries foul. Specifically, it says Jesus Christ, Ellie. Enough with the partying, with the drugging and drinking. Get some fucking sleep. And would it kill you to eat something green once in a while? I try apologizing to it, promising I'll start an immediate detox, but it doesn't care. It's pitiless. It says, You can put your money where your mouth is tomorrow. For now, you're going to have to put your mouth where your toilet is.

(And I hope with that unpleasantly graphic image I have done my part to de-glamorize any unintentional glamorizing I may have done, of bad behaviors chronicled in recent posts. Everything in moderation, kids. But your blogmistress has been quite immoderate, and is now paying the price.)

I pass several hours in misery before gratefully passing into a deep sleep.

Later, Upstairs texts to ask if I'd like to join him to meet some friends. I put my hand to my still-churning stomach and cautiously ask where. When he confirms my suspicions (a bar), I decline, and spend the evening blogging, cleaning, taking the dogs to the park with W., and trying to make peace with my dehydrated and chemically battered body. Upstairs texts again after a while: Would you like to have dinner tomorrow? When I say that I have aspirations to eat dinner every day, as well as breakfast and lunch, he ignores my snark and says he'll have his assistant make some plans for us. A proper date, he adds. A moment later, I get this: Joan, last thing today. Please pencil in a dinner for me tomorrow night. Somewhere casual, maybe with the slightest bit of swank.

I shoot back: Of course, Mr. ___, but this is Hazel. You fired Joan after she accidentally CCed your mother on a letter to your mistress.

---

On Monday, I awaken to this: Italian, American, Asian, or Martian? I tell him Martian, of course, then realize he truly wants direction. I changed my mind. American.

Too late, he says. Already booked the space shuttle. I love it. Window seat plz, I say. I'll have to have my spacesuit fitted, he replies. Let's say 8:15. He insists on meeting me outside the front door of our building, as if picking me up for a formal date.

After a hug and a peck on my cheek, he asks if I feel like walking or driving. He's made reservations at restaurants both downtown and in Hollywood, leaving it up to me to decide how far I want to venture forth. I opt for walking and staying local. We're both pretty dressed up, but something about staying close to home feels cozy and right tonight. He offers me his arm, but doesn't say where we're headed. During the fifteen minute walk to Little Tokyo (ending at the Lazy Ox Canteen), we chat and joke. He challenges me to skip when we cross streets, and when I do, he joins me.

I feel relaxed and happy. We're already having a great time, without even having put a morsel of food or drop of alcohol in our bodies. "I know I've come on really strong lately, even dropping some L-bombs or whatever," he says. "But I just want you to know, before we start drinking and I get silly again - I'm really glad to be spending tonight with you, to be doing this."

At dinner, he's solicitous and gentlemanly. He sits beside me rather than across, occasionally feeding me forkfuls of food - both things that normally bug me but for some reason feel comfortable and fun with him. We order several small plates to share: short ribs, brussel sprouts with bacon, yellowtail, roasted chilis, boca bits (fried chicken skin), and some kind of amazing egg/polenta dish. We split a bottle of red wine and he asks me several first date-y type questions about subjects we've only touched on before: personal, familial, and academic history. As we're finishing up, lingering over our last glasses of Cote Du Rhone, he kisses me deeply. The restaurant isn't full, but it isn't empty, and there's a table of men seated directly besides us. One of them steals several glances at the modest show we're putting on.

On the walk home, he stops momentarily on the sidewalk. He looks at me and tells me I'm a great date. He says how much he admires my self-confidence, and how attractive he finds it. I don't tell him he's the first and only man to ever comment on this quality in me, because it's pretty much brand new. I don't tell him how much a compliment I consider even his very attraction to me, coming as it does from an emotionally sound, happy, and well-adjusted man. I don't tell him that the men that have been historically drawn to me are broken and angry, or sad - and have been drawn to something equally damaged which they saw in me. I don't tell him that I consider his feelings toward me a reflection of how far I've come in the past few months, in terms of self-love. And I don't tell him that when, a few weeks back, he commented on finding Kristen Wiig and Tina Fey sexy for their independence and creativity - for being, as he called them, "strong women" - I realized he must see some similar combination of those qualities in me, and my self-esteem shot skyward like a rocket.

We stroll lazily homeward, stopping for more wine at Spring Street, where we chat up a playwright friend of his whom I mentally bookmark as a potential set up for W. He gets a text invitation to meet some friends at a restaurant in Koreatown, and asks if I'm up for it. I definitely am, and we hop in his car. He drives fast and plays music loud; he puts on a song he knows I love, and turns it up even louder when I dance in my seat, twisting my hips and shaking my hair.

The restaurant is nondescript and hard to find. We park and walk into the wrong place at first (a karaoke bar), but a friendly Korean host directs us in broken English to the correct restaurant across the road. We grab hands and run, tipsy and giggling, to the other side of the street. The first door we try is locked, and I press my face against the windows, goofing around to make him laugh. "Oh my god," he says. "If I were going to love someone, which I'm not, because I'm a big mess of a boy, it would be you." I ignore the L-bomb as we locate the main entrance and step into a softly lit restaurant, decorated with rice paper hangings and huge ceramic vases.

His friends are a funny, engaging, warm, and totally down-to-earth couple with whom he worked years prior. They're clearly very fond of him, and scold him for being unavailable of late. They regale me with tales of their friendship with Upstairs, and I'm touched by the affection the three of them show one another. They're lovely people, easy to click with, and inclusive. When they ask about my profession, Upstairs saves me from having to decide what version of the truth to give by chiming in quickly, "She's a writer," and adding some hyperbolic but heartwarming embellishments of my skills. I squeeze his knee under the table, and he kisses my cheek. He's read very, very little of my writing, but it's not the first time he's been so over-the-top complimentary of it. The four of us share fried chicken wings and kimchi, and drink shot after shot of Shochu.

After a while, we make our goodbyes and drive back home. We park in the garage across from our building, which we don't leave for nearly twenty minutes, messing around in, then against, and finally on, his car.

---

Later, we shower together before climbing under the covers. I don't stay the night. The wine and Shochu - the last thing my already-abused body needed - keep me awake, and I don't want my tossing and turning to ruin his night, too.

I've still yet to pass an entire night in his company; I've still yet to see him in the light of morning. But now, I've officially been on a date with him. And here's a blurry cell phone pic of what I looked like when I did it (included for the benefit of my future self):