On our first date he didn't bring flowers. He brought raspberries.
I was nervous. I was still an active Mormon. He was the first non-Mormon I had ever even gone on a date with. I was 30. I wanted out. I wanted something different than I had ever known.
He was different.
He was tough. Not in a poetic way, but in an "I'll-Kick-Your-Ass-And-Throw-More-Than-A-Cellphon-At-You-Russell-Crowe-Way". He had been in fights, you could tell by the scars on his knuckles. He was not afraid of speaking his mind. He had long hair, and yes, this seemed exotic to a woman who had dated clean shaven men from BYU most of her days. He smoked. A lot. He had a dark side. More than that, he had a "past". He was Marlon Brando in The Wild One and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, all in one, minus the jacket. He didn't give a fuck about pleasing other people, and that is pretty much what I aimed to do ever day. He was my exact opposite in every way.
I was defined by my innocence and it showed. I was Doris Day in Pillow Talk and Sandra Dee in Gidget all in one. I had long, blonde hair that I still wore in braids. I did not own any low cut blouses. I still liked to watch reruns of Little House on the Prairie. And thus, when the sexual chemistry sucker punched us both at the same time, from the same moment, we were knocked over. It was like that Romeo & Juliet-forbidden-desire-kind-of-a-sucker-punch, and no force was going to stop it. It forced the air out of our guts, so that we couldn't stand, instead we sort of just fell into each other, fast. And for a while, he was all I saw. No one understood it. No one bought into it. One person thought I had brain tumor. It was the kind of experience I should have had at 14, the kind of exploratory mission we should all go on before we are 20, but I was 30, and it was finally happening to me.
Our first date was rainy and the sun was setting. I ran across the parking lot with my sweater over my head. He jumped out of his jeep and met me in the middle of the parking lot located somewhere in Western America. His head greeted mine under the sweater, and we smiled at each other when our foreheads accidentally bumped. Pause. Eye lock. Withheld breath. Uncertainty. Giddiness. I looked away and thought that he was going to be able to tell that I did not belong with him, then I looked up again. His eyes never faltered. He smiled a knowing smile and grabbed my hand. He was in my head already, knowing the thoughts racing there. We ran to his car. He opened my door. I jumped in, taking in his scent and his belongings in the space of a second: a pair of sunglasses on the dash, a worn jacket tossed on the back seat, a frisbee thrown haphazardly on the floor, a pack of cigarettes, and a bowl of raspberries nestled between the parking break and his seat.
I breathed in the scent of raspberries, cigarettes, car leather, and him. All my senses, the ones that had been dulled by robot-boy after robot-boy started yawning, stretching, and waking up. He jumped in and shook the steady rain off his jacket. We both tripped over some words.
"I brought you something."
"I was thinking flowers, but you're not that girl. So, I brought you raspberries from my house."
"You grow things?" He did not look like a man who grew things.
"They grow themselves, a little wild and crazy, taking over my whole back yard, but I don't get in their way."
I reached for one.
"Here, wait." He took one and put it on the roof of his mouth. "If you put it here and then press your tongue against it slowly, it will fill your mouth with the sweetest burst of flavor you've ever tasted. It's the only way to eat them." I watched his mouth take in the berry and then saw his jaw work, indicating his tongue slowly bursting the raspberry juice into his mouth..like a mini-orgasm.
"You try it," he said.
My mouth had gone dry. I gulped. I took the raspberry from the small bowl he held and placed it into my mouth. I let my tongue close around it.
Burst. Flavor. Release.