Blind Before Digital

[The story connected with this came up a couple of times in conversation recently. Going to link to it, I realized I’d never ported it over to this site. It was originally written December 5, 2005 in another journal of mine.]

Long ago (back in the late 80s and early 90s), I kept paper journals. The first was an old ledger book where I crossed out the old dates at the tops of the pages and put the correct ones in. I limited myself, more or less, to a single page. There were other bound books I used, sporadically at times, but the “big one” was the one I used in 1990. It was then that I switched to a three ring binder, giving me a near infinite number of pages I could sprawl my chicken-scratch penmanship across. At least it seemed like a near infinite number of pages back then.

What this notebook actually gave me the chance to do was accumulate a lot of random things. All thanks to the clip in the front and the ample space between pages. (In the bound books, stuffing too many random things inside would prevent the thing from closing right.)

Around Halloween, as I was digging for costume parts, I came across the box I had packed those old journals away in. They’ve bounced around a little since then. Moving from box to shelf and back again a few times. Just the other day, as I was wasting what little awake time I had at home over the weekend, I took the notebook off the shelf and flipped through it a little.

With each page, each random slip of paper, each saved card and ticket stub, a world of memories flooded back…

Jessica's number

A torn piece of pink paper, obviously from a spiral bound, three-hole punched notebook, has a name, address and phone number written on it in fading pencil. The writing is not mine. It is a round, clear and only slightly bubbly female printing. The girl who wrote it was named Lisa. The name she wrote is Jessica Catlin.

Lisa was the first–and thankfully last–person to ever set me up on a date. Why she did it, I’m not sure. She was new in town and fell in quickly and easily with the bad kids that I hung with because I had no choice. They were an OK bunch, really, but without a doubt trouble. If it had been any other group of “bad” kids, I doubt Lisa or I would have fit in at all. From where I stand now, I wouldn’t say her and I were friends, but we were in the same group and it was a group that did things for one another. That’s all the reason she needed.

Jessica lived about an hour away, back in the town here Lisa had moved from. I remember that first nervous call to her. Even then I hated the phone, already conditioned by numerous failures at being social in previous years. My mouth would dry up, my throat would tighten, my mind would go blank. The conversation we had is just a blur in my memory. As are the other two or three that I had with her before the “big date.”

I do, however, remember a sly, hopeful grin on my mother’s face every time I’d take the phone to make one of those calls. I really do think she was more excited than I ever was about the prospect of me dating.

The “big date” was one of the video dance parties my high school was doing. We had at least four open dances a year. I never missed one. This one was the first one I ever had a date for. And the last.

Jessica was tall. At least as tall as I was. A little awkward (but weren’t we all back then?) and, it would seem, quite nervous. Her hands were delicate, but clammy when I took them in mine. She had reddish brown hair that was done up kind of poofy (it was, after all, just after the 80s). Her dress was plain but nice. Lisa was at her side, grinning.

I bought the tickets and we went into the cafeteria, transformed through the magic of a big movie screen, a small stage that held the DJ equipment, some fancy lights and a big stack of speakers into the video dance party of the year. (Really, it just looked like the cafeteria always did at the dances, except the screen made it feel more crowded than it was.) Lisa and her date left Jessica and I. There was some small talk, choked out in fits of nervousness. Neither of us danced all that well. We did dance to a slow song that came up in the rotation, swaying back and forth holding one another, not sure at all what to do.

Thankfully, Lisa and her date came back and we were able to hang with them for a little while out in the hallway. It was starting to get just a little bit better. My nerves were calming down, my throat was opening up, talking wasn’t as much of a challenge. (Though finding anything worth saying was.)

And then, on the way back in to the dance, Jessica pretty much just fainted.

Lisa caught her a bit, I caught her a bit, she didn’t hit the ground before she regained her balance.

That was pretty much the end of the night. Lisa, her date and Jessica left a little while after that. I remember a light peck on my cheek before I watched them go.

It may have been the end of the dance, I may have gone back in to mull about on my own some more before my ride showed up. One thing was for sure, I considered the night a disaster.

I think I only called Jessica once or twice more.

Then I missed a call I was going to make one day.

Out of anxiety over having to hear her upset, I skipped another one.

And another.

Lisa never mentioned Jessica again. I never asked about her.

The only other time I would have ever run into her would have been Lisa’s Sweet 16 party… which I had to cancel on due to my parents not wanting to make an hour or so drive in a snowstorm.

This is one of the reasons I don’t care much for the concept of blind dates.

At least now, in the digital age, we can get to know people just a little bit better. And those of us who write better than we speak on the phone don’t have to worry about our brains exploding from nerves.

NOTE: This is how I told this story for many years. It recently came to my attention that this is not at all how Jessica and I met, knew one another or ended. In short, the above memory is a total fabrication of my mind. The real story will be posted next.

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