There's a thrift store on my street that has a bookcase full of CDs for sale. They are refugees of the iPod revolution, during which thousands of people voluntarily exchanged all of their high-quality audio recordings for crappy, compressed MP3 files to be played through microscopic "ear-bud" speakers -- essentially the musical equivalent of listening to the roar of the ocean through a sewer pipe. But their loss is my gain. Especially when the CDs go on sale for one dollar each. At that price, they're practically disposable.
A few weeks ago, I noticed the $1 sale sign and went into the store to browse the shelf. Usually there's a lot of stuff I don't care for, but every once in a while, I find a real gem. On this particular occasion, I found a pristine copy of Van Morrison's classic album, Moondance.
Although I know every song on the album note for note, I've never actually owned a copy. So it was a real treat to pop it into my stereo and let it spin from beginning to end. Just about every song is a chestnut. And every one brings back a flood of memories. But the title track brings back the strongest memory of all. Whenever I hear the song Moondance, I am reminded of the first date I went on back in college. It was with a girl named Ann.
Freshman year, I didn't really date anyone at college. First semester, I was still in love with my post high-school sweetheart. Unfortunately, that relationship didn't survive the whole semester. Over Christmas break, I managed to win her back, but by Spring break it had ended again. I tried to salvage the relationship once more over the break, but that didn't go too well. For the rest of the semester, I was pretty much a wreck.
By sophomore year, I was ready to begin dating again. I was running on the cross country team and Ann was on the women's team. She was cute, kind of quiet -- a "normal" girl compared to some of the other women I'd met at Wesleyan. I asked her to go see a movie: Midnight Cowboy was playing at the Science Center auditorium that Friday. Now, you may think that Midnight Cowboy is not exactly first date material. And you would be exactly right. It's a great movie, but it really left me in a weird state. Kind of depressing. Actually, very depressing. I couldn't get the ending out of my mind.
I walked Ann back to her dorm after the movie. I couldn't shake the image of Joe Buck and Ratso in the back of that bus bound for Miami. I needed to talk about it. We got to Ann's room and she put on a record. She skipped track one and went straight for track two, the title track: Moondance.
Well, it's a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies…
I'm not sure exactly what happened next. I do know what didn't happen: fantabulous romance. Somehow I completely missed out on what was going on and ended up back in my dorm room. Alone. Everyone I told about the date said the exact same thing: "She played Moondance? And you left? What were you thinking?"
But that's the problem -- I was thinking. I was thinking about the movie. I was thinking about the song. I was thinking about what I was doing in her room. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Too much thinking, not enough moondancing.
And I never asked her out again. I don't know why. I wound up dating another girl who was very different from Ann in every way. She was great. She was beautiful. She was super cool. Maybe a little out of my league. I took off second semester that year and by the time I got back, she had moved on.
I always wondered, though, what would have happened if I had been more aware of the not-so-subtle message Ann was sending me on that crisp October night. For all I know, she might have been the one woman I was meant to be with. And I blew it. Missed out. Dropped the ball.
It wasn't the first time.
Back in junior high, there was this girl I met in our church youth group. She wasn't like the other fourteen year old girls. She was like… a woman. She was gorgeous. And sweet. And lots of fun. Her name was Lorraine.
There was this one time when Lorraine was at my house with some other kids. We were all hanging out in the basement. Lorraine and I were sitting on the old metal cot that served as a couch. At some point, someone threw a blanket over our heads. It was kind of a gag -- like, "now you two can make out - ha ha." I felt embarrassed. Not for me, but for Lorraine. She shouldn't have to suffer such indignation -- being trapped under a blanket with the likes of me. I hurried to remove the blanket to save her from any further shame.
But, in that fleeting moment before I got the blanket off our heads, I noticed two things: 1) Lorraine was looking right at me and smiling, and 2) She wasn't making any effort whatsoever to remove the blanket. So why was I in such a hurry? Didn't matter -- by the time I had processed the information, the blanket was off and we were back in the real world.
Of course I never followed up on that moment. I mean, I couldn't really ask her about it. And I was still bewildered by the fact that she hadn't screamed and quickly whipped the blanket off our heads and run out of the room. I never did ask her out on a date. I had never asked anyone out on a date before and had no idea how it was done. I think she started seeing one of the other guys in the youth group. He was older. He had a car.
I'll never forget the look in her eyes when we were under that blanket -- it haunts me.
Then there was that rich girl in Manhattan. We worked together as temps in a prestigious law firm in midtown. Her father had recently been indicted in a big insider trading scandal. We went out for dinner one night and somehow wound up at her place. Although I guess it must have been her parent's place, because it was pretty damn big for Manhattan. High ceilings, leather couch, nice view. We sat on the couch and talked. Before long, I noticed, she had cleverly steered the conversation to the subject of back rubs. Now, this time, I knew what was going on. I may be dumb, but even I know what "back rub" means. But for some reason we never got around to the back rubs.
And to this day, I don't know why.
Oh, wait -- yes I do: Because I'm an idiot.
The last time something like this happened was just after I moved to Hollywood. She was an actress -- a very sexy redhead. She was out here from New York auditioning for TV pilots. I knew her through a mutual friend and we started hanging out together, since she didn't know anyone else in town. We went to a few bars -- she was into karaoke. She got a little frisky a few times. Said some fairly suggestive things. But I didn't take her seriously. She was a big smartass like me and was probably just messing around.
Besides, she was married.
One night we went out and she had a few drinks. She climbed up onto the bar and started attracting a lot of attention. I decided to intervene. I managed to talk her down. Actually, I had to drag her down. At this point she was clinging onto me. So we started slow dancing. She asked me to sing to her. So I did. Nothing wrong with that. A little harmless fun. I got her home all right. Got myself home too. But I couldn't stop thinking about that slow dance. My arms around her. Singing softly in her ear. I was hooked.
Can I just have one more moondance with you, my love?
Can I just make some more romance with you, my love?
After that she started sending me these emails filled with sexual innuendo. They were pretty hot. It wasn't helping.
She invited me over one night for margaritas. I decided to find out how far she was willing to go with this flirtation thing. Call it a social experiment. I brought some tequila and limes. And some of those temporary tattoos. We drank a bunch of margaritas and started playing this game: You tattoo me and I'll tattoo you. It got a little intimate. And very intense. I was trying so hard not to cross the line. But the line was getting very blurry. And she was applying a dragon tattoo onto my neck.
With her tongue.
Then we started talking about her marriage. It was in trouble. She had already had an affair with a trumpet player back in New York. She said she was attracted to passionate artistic types. We talked for a long time, sprawled out on her couch. We were very close. And getting closer. The line was all but invisible at this point.
I was way too drunk to drive home, so I stayed the night. But I didn't cross the line. Technically. But I so wanted too. Why should I care if she cheated on her husband? Again. That's their business, not mine. But I was a good boy.
An extremely frustrated good boy.
She went back to New York not long after that, but said she would return. I waited all summer to hear from her again. Finally, she did come back. And this time she was officially separated from her husband. So I did the right thing, right? I'd waited for her to become available. Now we could finally finish what we almost started.
But things were different this time. Gone was the innuendo. Gone was the flirting. Gone was the magic. Now that she was "available" she was even less available that before. It seemed unfair. I could have easily taken advantage of her in her weak and vulnerable state. But no -- not me, I had to respect her crappy marriage and be considerate of her stupid fragile feelings. What a dork. And what did I get for my troubles? A peck on the cheek and a hug.
And then she was gone.
I have told this story to a few of my (male) friends and about half of them said I should have gone for it. The rest said that I did the right thing. I'm not sure who is right. Would my life have turned out any worse if I'd crossed that line? Probably not. I'd probably have an awesome memory, accompanied by a certain measure of guilt. But hey, guilt is for suckers.
So the next time I'm the the presence of a beautiful and desirous woman who is sending me clear and unambiguous signals of her amorous intentions, I will not waste my time THINKING about the consequences, or the ramifications, or her honor, or some stupid movie, or the fact that we work together. I will simply act. Boldly and without hesitation. That's what I will do.
Yeah, next time.