I like places where I can listen to my own thoughts and mute the world’s noise and clutter. This one particular day, I decided to go incognito for a couple of hours so I could dissect a special dinner date. Most other casual dates would not have required a spectacular view in order for me to compose an epiphany, but this one, strangely enough, was that important.
I went out one evening with this girl, a girl I have known for quite some time. She was crimson and clover, a long cool woman in a black dress, and too good to be true. As Elvis Presley once sang, I was caught in a trap, and I could not walk out. I quote song titles and lyrics from those eras of music history because that is what played over the background speakers at the restaurant. Of course I knew the tone for the night was officially keyed in when Otis Redding pleaded with all the potential lovers to try a little tenderness.
My date’s mannerisms struck my senses and sent them into a panicked fury. A thousand milligram Xanax would not have been able to wash away the paranoia she created just by being near the outer rim of my territorial bubble. My heart fluttered like pigeon’s wings. My armpits transferred heat like a greenhouse. My mouth was dry like freshly picked cotton. My knees trembled like I had exercised a thousand squats. My hands fidgeted as I twirled my straw wrapper. The sounds she made with her body, and the way her body carried those effects to my eyes and ears, peaked my curiosity. Her entire silhouette was symphonic, and all I could do was wait and see what the orchestra was going to infatuate me with next.
The candlelit room provided the best filter for us to interrogate one another and jot mental case notes inside our imaginary folders. When she grinned at my attempts to be suave with my one liners or when I tried to tell a joke, her ivory teeth broke the shadows. The flickering flame of the candle sat between us, and we undressed one another with our eyes while the dragon’s eye licked the air and gave us a private dance.
I listened as her fingers fumbled with the worn out menu, her nails grazing and picking at the creases as she flipped the pages. It sounded like a long nailed tiger was trying to find traction on hardwood floors while in hot pursuit of a lean gazelle. When she rubbed her fingerprints over each item on the menu and slowly decided what she was going to devour, I dreamed of being an expert crime scene investigator. I wanted to sprinkle powder, softly brush, then lightly blow where I thought she had left her trademark stamps and hope her trail of victims would lead to me.
When our salads arrived, I watched her politely unfold her silverware. She wiggled around, found her spot in the high top chair, and patted her napkin onto her lap. She brought her glass up to her mouth, and it was beading with sweat. She eyeballed me as she put the straw into her mouth. I watched the elixir slowly define gravity and climb up to her lips. She was the most unique street side magician I had ever witnessed, and I wanted to be a prop for her most grand illusion ever.
With my point of view peaking amongst the interspaced chatter in the room, I studied her like a freshman artist observing the Sistine Chapel for the first time. When she swallowed her food, it was like watching a snake force a bowling ball down its slender, elongated body. When she chewed her lettuce, it was like listening to a trail blazer cut his way through an overgrown jungle with a sharp machete. When she gathered the last bites of food into an organized pile on her plate, it sounded like someone dragging a rake over a mic’ed off piece of tin. Most people would cringe at these sounds, but I was lulled into a trance.
To catch her off guard and put her on the spot, I asked her a question just as soon as she mouthed a piece of food. She held up her finger, answered with the batting of her eyes, and muffled a response. After rushing to chew that bite of food and swallow it, she answered my question and threw one back in my direction as I fed myself. This was our back and forth game of cat and mouse, and I knew what was around the corner, the biggest trap on any special dinner date – dessert.
At the mention of our sweet treat to top off our date, we had to look at one another to see which way the scales were tipped. We decided to order one piece of cake and split it between the both of us. She slowly took her fork, pushed it through the dessert until it made contact with the plate, and gingerly filleted her next bite. The tinging sound of her fork hitting the plate reverberated like a man trying to drive a spike through solid granite. A couple of times, she closed her eyes when the dessert made contact with her tongue. I would fly in behind her fork with mine, sneak off a piece of sweetness, and see what her eyes were talking about.
We ended the date outside the restaurant and not at one another’s apartment door like movies and television shows portray. Neon lights from other street side restaurants and pubs bounced off our faces and filled the dark alleyways. We began to create one of those moments when the second hand of the clock ticks slower for you than it does for other people. Our eyes connected. I wanted a hug. She wanted the same. We wanted to touch, and this embrace was going to allow that. When our puffy jackets collided, it sounded like beached mermaids, wrapped in sleeping bags, rubbing against one another. Her cheek was cold when it touched mine. People walked the sidewalks and laughed, but their sounds were muted. Cars drove by yet were silent. The only sound was her heart playing patty cake with mine.
I came to this mountainside today to think about these sounds I know, the sounds that keep me wondering if there are any surprises left in this world. I know there are and will continue to be if I am still enough to hear their specific hum. Even as I stand here with a mountainside all to myself, the girl from my dinner date has texted me and invited me over to her place tonight. She found a new recipe on Pinterest and wants me to be the guinea pig taste tester. Me, well, I think you already know what my reply was. To make me walk a thinner tight rope than I was currently balancing on, her last text was worded like this :
“I think it’s supposed to rain tonight, and I have a tin roofed back patio. We can sit there, drink wine, and hope Otis Redding, Frank Sinatra, or Etta James has something to sing about.”
I look out over my special place where only the passing wind makes noise. I hear my heart beat. I swallow and hear the internal air rub the sides of my throat. I chuckle to myself and let my laughter disappear in front of me and into oblivion.
These are the sounds I know.