the face of romance part 4

I can’t believe I met such a great guy out of the blue like this. These blind date things never seemed to work out. Yet, here I was, swapping cheesy jokes with a multi-talented guy in a medical field. What more could I ask for? As soon as I left the school I worked at I whipped out my phone. I smile when I see the picture of him soaked in diet coke that’s now my background, and started texting.

Jennifer- Hey cutie, wanted to let you know I’m planning on buying a few paintball grendades. Better pray we’re on the same team :).

Jason– Sounds like fun, hey, my phone recently had a glitch, remind me who this is again?

Jennifer– That stinks, deleted all your contacts huh? Well this is Jennifer.

Jason– I don’t know any Jennifers. I think you have the wrong number, sorry :(.

Jennifer– That’s funny, anyway, I know we agreed to rent markers there, but I couldn’t help but give myself an advantage :).

Jason– It sounds like a lot of fun, but I really don’t know any Jennifers. Enjoy the paintball!

Jennifer– Jason this joke is starting to get a little old.

Jason– It’s no joke. As much as I love paintball I really don’t know any Jennifers.

Jennifer– Okay Jason’s friend, you’ve had your laugh, now hand the phone to Jason I’d like to talk to him now.

Jason– Ah, okay, you definitely have the wrong number. This is Marcus.

Jennifer– What? No, I can see our text conversation from the rest of the day. We were just swapping cheesy jokes.

Jason– The first text I have from you is the one about paintball grenades.

Jennifer-That’s not right, look, I can forward you the other texts. I promise you we’ve been talking all day.

Jason– That really wouldn’t prove anything, and talking all day? That doesn’t sound like me.

Jennifer– Jason, you’re starting to worry me. Are you okay? Are you in the hospital?

Jason– I’m fine, just got back from work actually. Are you okay? You seem to have a very strong memory of something that never happened.

Had I fallen for a guy with some serious mental disorder? This had gone on far too long for it to be a joke, and Jason didn’t seem the type that would play such a mean spirited trick.

Should I just end the conversation now? I don’t know if I could be with somebody who just forgot everything once every few days. Clearly he doesn’t remember me so if I just stop right now it’s not like his feelings would get hurt.

I think about it. I think about just pressing delete on your conversation and removing him from my contacts. He asked me what my name was so it’s obvious he already deleted me from his contacts.

Thinking that thought hurts, and it moves me to hit delete. If I mean so little to him that he’d just delete me from his contacts then I should do the same to him. I’m not going to be toyed with like that.

I put my thumb over the delete button.

“It was fun while it lasted Jason.” I say in memory of our wonderful date.

Then, right before I erase our conversation a thought occurs to me. ‘If he has a mental disorder, why would he delete me from his contacts?’

Jennifer– Jason, you said your phone had a glitch? Are any of your other contacts deleted?

Jason– No, everything else is here. Photos, contacts, conversations, listen, I really have to go.

Something else is going on. There’s no way he loses all memory of me and has me, and only me, completely erased from his phone. Something very wrong is going on.

Jennifer– No, Jason, I’m sorry you don’t believe me, but I think you might be in danger. I’m calling you now, please pick up, just one conversation, and if you don’t believe me I’ll leave you alone. Just please pick up, just this once Jason.

I give him a little time to read the text, and then I press call.

The phone rings once.

‘I’ve got to think of something to convince him. Something that most people wouldn’t know about him.’

The phone rings twice.

‘Would blowing up watermelons be enough? Do lots of people do that?’

The phone rings three times.

‘Maybe it’s a new fad, gotta try something else. Something more personal.’

The phone rings four times.

‘Pick it up Jason, please pick it up. Something personal, what about his superpower. Empathy was it?’

The phone rings five times.

‘It’s going to go to voice mail soon. No, empathy isn’t deep enough. I’ve got to go more personal than that.’

“Hello? Is this Jennifer?” I feel lighter when he says my name, but I can’t let my emotions overpower me right now.

“You have a deep seated need to help people. It’s the driving force behind what you do. Healing, in particular you want to heal, but not the body, although that’s important. You want to heal the mind. You want to reach inside people, take the negative, and mold it into something positive. You’re a mind healer Jason.” I try and think of some old prayer from grade school to recite while I wait for his response. It was a shot in the dark, but it was all I had.

“Jennifer right?” Jason says.

“That’s right.” I say, trying to keep my voice steady.

“Well Jennifer, you have my attention. I don’t know how you knew me well enough to rephrase my personal motto ‘it’s what’s underneath that matters’, but I want to find out.” He tells me his address. “Meet me as soon as you can.”

“I will.” I say, as soon as he had started giving me his address I had grabbed my keys and my shoes, and was already halfway out the door. “I’m coming Jason.” I hang up the phone and sprint to my car.

It took a lot of restraint not to speed and blow through red lights, but getting pulled over wasn’t going to get me to Jason any quicker.

He was waiting on his doorstep when I arrived. I was impressed that he lived in his own townhouse at his age, but I didn’t have time to admire his neat little garden or his well kept car. I had a mission.

I reflexively run to hug him, but he catches me by the shoulders and holds me at an arm’s length. It’s nice to feel his touch again. I can still feel a ghost of his finger where he brushed the drop of watermelon juice from my face.

“I know that there’s something big going on here, but this is all a little fast and I’m going to need to take this one step at a time. I don’t know what to think or feel about this, and until I do we’re going to have to keep this professional.” I nod. It’s not what I want, but if it’s what he needs then I can give it to him. He gestures to the spot next to him on the porch and we both sit down.

“First things first.” He says. “How did you know all that about me?”

“Because we went on a date.” I say. He nods. It was pretty obvious I thought we were dating from the messages, and from me going straight for the hug. This is just confirming suspicions for him.

“When did we go on this date?” He asks.

“Last night, it started a bit before sundown, and you took a phone call halfway through, which is fine, and we finished a little after sundown. It was a very short and sweet date.” It warms me up thinking about it.

“Last night? I don’t have any memory of that.” He says, looking out at the grass on his lawn.

“Do you have any memory at all of last night?” I ask, concerned about how deep this problem goes in him. He doesn’t answer right away. There’s confusion on his face. It’s like he’s trying to find the missing piece to the puzzle.

“I remember some old Disney shows right before I went to bed, and I remember scaring a lady at the store.” That surprises me, but I try not to show it. Why on earth had he scared a lady at the store? I would have to ask him later. Maybe he spilled some of that diet coke and Mentos during the checkout. It was probably something innocent like that.

“But those two events are separated by almost two hours. Which isn’t that weird. It’s not like I keep a running log of my day, but I’m remembering quite a bit about buying some snacks, and I can’t think of what I did with them.” He stands up.

“Yes, I’m remembering buying a watermelon, a lot of rubber bands, some diet coke, and a few breath freshening strips. It’s for a few games I like.” He explains to me.

“I know, diet coke and Mentos roulette along with exploding watermelon hot potato.” He nods.

“Right, sure, for our date that I don’t remember.” He takes his keys out of his pocket. “And if we had that date then I would’ve used all the supplies, and there should be nothing left in my house.” He unlocks his door and I follow him inside.

We move silently to his pantry as he opens cupboard after cupboard. There are no supplies in any of them. He checks the basement, his office, the living room. He walks through every room in his house, and finds nothing.

After completing his search he sits down on the couch in his living room and stares unblinkingly at the coffee table. I sit quietly next to him. I want to put a hand on his shoulder or something to help him through this, but I know it would only confuse him.

“Assuming we have been dating, how long has it been going on?” He asks.

“We were going to have our second date this weekend. It was going to be paintball.” This also surprises him.

“I blew up watermelons with you on the first date? You must be special.” I hide a smile. I can tell he still doesn’t completely believe me. The facts are there, but the totally absent memory is something that’s hard for him to justify. It’s hard for me to justify too, but we’ll figure out why it’s missing later. Right now all I want is for him to remember what we had shared the previous evening. What I wanted to share again this coming weekend.

He’s still staring at the table. He needs something else. He’s on the tipping point, but there’s still something missing from the puzzle. I wanted to give him whatever it was, but I was out of ideas. I had nothing else to remind him of what happened. Jason was going to have to meet me halfway.

“Did we kiss?” He asks.

“No, well not really, but it wasn’t that I didn’t like you. It’s just that I don’t kiss on the first date. I know it’s kind of old fashioned but it’s helped me avoid getting attached to a lot of guys that I shouldn’t get attached to. Not that you’re a guy I’d avoid getting attached to. It’s just it’s hard to know after the first date you know? I totally would’ve if I had known this was going to happen.” The last part slips out without me thinking about it and I clap a hand over my mouth. My face feels warm as it begins turning the color of the inside of a watermelon.

I can’t believe I said that. Right when he needs facts and unbiased information I blurt out this monologue about how I don’t kiss on the first date and end it by admitting I wanted to kiss him. I couldn’t believe myself.

Jason, still staring at the coffee table, rubs his hand on his chin, considering what I’ve just told him.

“This may sound a bit weird, but I’m going to need you to kiss me on the cheek.”

My heart skips a beat. I hadn’t mentioned that I kissed him on the cheek.

“Of course.” I say, wishing to kiss more than his lips.

He’s still staring at the table, trying to pull in the memory of yesterday. It makes it awkward, him not even trying to look at me while I lean in, but I don’t really have much choice in the matter. I can’t ask him to make it romantic at all if he’s not even sure we’re an item. I’m not using to giving kisses as a memory aid, but I do it anyway.

Just like last night I lean in and gently brush my lips against his cheekbone, making sure to place them in the same spot I did last night, and slowly kiss his cheek.

He reels back like I’ve just shocked him. He’s looking at me like I’m some lion that’s escaped and might decide to eat him at any moment. It hurts to have him look at me like that, but I stay calm for him.

He reaches out with his right hand. I watch it draw nearer, fearful of what he might do, but I don’t move. His fingers draw near to my face, and he caresses the side of it, in the same spot where he caressed it last night.

“It blew up while you were holding it didn’t it?” He asked.

I bounce on the couch with excitement. “You remember!” I shout.

“Not much.” He says. “It’s still very blocky. I can only remember small scenes, almost like screen shots, but it’s something.”

“What do you remember?” I ask.

“I remember blasting myself with the bottle of diet coke. I remember the watermelon exploding. And the way you were getting so scared about putting on more rubber bands.” He smiles again when he talks about the rubber bands. It’s the first time I’ve seen him smile today and it sort of makes this whole ordeal worthwhile. The way he’s pulling at my heart strings, the worry that something was, or is, happening to him, the rushed drive over here. Even the sitting on this couch right now unsure of what’s going to happen next, it’s all worth it to see him smile.

“Man you squealed when we started going over 400.” He touches his cheek now, and he’s still smiling, but it’s different somehow. I like his smile right now better than I did before. I’m not sure why I like it more, but I do. “And your kiss.” That’s why I like it more, because the smile was about me. I was making him smile.

“And what else?” I prod him. Now the smile fades.

“That’s all.” He glances back at the coffee table, like it could give him the answers he was looking for. “I don’t remember how it ends, so there must be more to that memory, but that’s all I have.”

“You don’t remember anything about the phone call?” I ask. “You don’t remember anything about what you asked me or what I asked you? And you don’t remember anything from today about organizing our second date?” He looks guilty, like a chastised child.

“I’m sorry. Like I said, I know there’s more, but I just can’t remember it.” My stomach drops, now I really am out of ideas. Well, not completely, there is one more thing I can try.

“Do you trust me?” I ask him, knowing that what I’m about to do might cause more harm than good.

He finally turns and looks me up and down, considering my question. His eyes move to the spot on my face he’d been caressing just moments before, and his hand moves to the spot on his cheek where I had kissed him.

“Yes.” He says. “Yes I do.”

I move quickly so my courage doesn’t fade. I lunge across the couch and knock him down, positioning myself above him, and before he can protest I slam my lips into his.

My lips finally meet his, and I wrap my arms around, leaning into him as I firmly press my lips into his. My breath catches and I inhale sharply as he returns my embrace. Reaching up with one hand to grab the back of my head at the spot just above the neck, and wrapping his other arm around me in a fierce embrace.

It all goes so quickly and before I know it I’m pulling back, breathing faster than before, and looking him up and down to make sure he’s okay.

I should say that I tried to pull back, he stills has his hands on me and he stops me from pulling away more than a few inches. His hand on my head caresses my check again and he says.

“My loyal mare, you came back.” I swoop back down for round two.

“Yes.” I say between our squished lips. “But don’t call me a horse again.”

“K.” He replies, and it’s a discrete period before either of us says anything else.

When we do manage to disconnect from each other there’s a significant lag while both of our brains speed back up from romantic slow motion time, to real life time. My brain speeds up first, which is understandable. He’s just had a rush of memory that no doubt added to the experience.

The first thing I notice is that of all expressions, the one he has chosen to wear is concern. He doesn’t look joyful, or overwhelmed with emotion. He just looks concerned.

“Are you okay?” I ask. He must’ve realized the expression his face had taken, and quickly flipped back to happiness.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, and I remember so much. It’s just a lot you know?”

“So you remember everything?” I ask.

“Almost.” He says.

“Well that’ll have to do, because I want to know why your face looks just like some other dude’s I met the other day. Do you two know each other? His name is Ryan I think.”

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