First Date Jitters
James Barnett, more commonly called Jimmy by his friends, finished ironing his light blue polo shirt. It was his go to lucky shirt. He never had a bad first date in his lucky shirt. The problem was, he couldn’t wear it on the second and third date.
Jimmy still hadn’t decided between slacks or jeans. Slacks were definitely dressier, but he was just going to the movies. He wasn’t even picking Layla up, she was meeting him there and not to mention, they were seeing a comedy, not a romance or a horror film. This was more like chilling than a date.
“No, don’t do this to yourself,” he said out loud. This was most definitely a date. He had specifically asked her out, on a date.
“Step up to the plate Jimmy, step up to the plate.”
He ironed out the few wrinkles in the slacks and put them on, while they were still warm. He put the iron and ironing board in his bedroom closet and took down the three bottles of cologne sitting on the dresser. The first bottle he purchased in a department store, from a cute perfume counter girl, about three years ago. The second bottle was given to him by his girlfriend at the time, Brianna. The third was given to him by his sister Julie, on one of his birthdays. Each had their ups. The one Julie bought was a nice fresh scent, not to strong, and lasted a while. He often wore it to work. It was nice all around. The second cologne, the one he purchased from the department store, had a scent like citrus and a little of it went a long way. It was great for when you wanted to be noticed. The cologne Brianna bought him, was a musky scent, but it was the most subtle of the three. You needed to be in his personal space to enjoy it, which Brianna frequented, when they dated. Jimmy knew how each one smelled, yet he was having hard time narrowing down. He wanted to make an impression, but he didn’t want to seem like he was trying too hard. He thought it presumptuous that Layla would be in close proximity to him, but wanted to be prepared in case. In the end he chose the department store cologne.
In the kitchen, he grabbed a couple Tylenol’s from the cabinet and slid them into his shirt pocket. He walked into the bedroom for one more once over in the standing mirror. He needed a haircut, he just didn’t get around to it. He liked to wear his hair in a short fade, but he had enough to comb right now. At least his mustache and goatee were lined up.
Jimmy kept trying to ignore it, but his brain kept bringing it to his attention.
“Shit…” Jimmy took his cell phone out and snapped a quick selfie. He sent the picture, to the two women he figured would be truthful with him.
Julie, his older sister by 6 years, texted him first.
Cute pic Jimmy, where you headed
What about your eyes?
Do my eyes look yellow?
No Jimmy, your eyes are fine
Be for real Julie…
Your eyes are fine, ok. You must have a date or something
Something… later Sis
She was pretending not to see it. Asking her was like asking mom. Brianna wouldn’t hold back though. Whether or not she would reply back, was a crap shoot.
He stood there looking in the mirror, for a few more moments, waiting for Brianna. He finally gave up on her. If he waited any later, he would be late for the date. The guy couldn’t be late.
The sun was just beginning to set when Jimmy crank up his car. He synched up the car with his phone’s Bluetooth and put on the “Go Getter” Playlist. Down the road, Brianna called him.
“Jimmy, why you sending me pictures, in your little lucky polo? You want me to know you got a date or something?”
“Why would I care, if you knew I had a date?”
“You tell me?” He remembered, just then, why they were broken up.
“Forget that, ok. Look at my eyes.”
“Look at your eyes?”
“In the picture…look at my eyes, in the picture.”
“Ok…what about your eyes?”
“How yellow are they?”
“Really Jimmy!” She was yelling now. She always ended up yelling.
“So your eyes are a bit yellow. It’s ok. Don’t let this mess your date up Jimmy.”
“It’s not gonna mess up my date…”
“Yeah, yeah, you know how you are. Does she know you have Sickle Cell?”
Jimmy didn’t immediately answer and Brianna pounced.
“Oh Jimmy, sweetheart…”
“I’m not your sweetheart.” Brianna laughed. Jimmy really regretted texting her. “This is our first date, Brianna…”
So he didn’t want to run her off. He really liked talking to Layla. She was smart and funny and sweet enough to give you a cavity just by walking by. He had a good feeling about Layla and that was saying something. He hardly ever got good feelings about anything. The last good feeling he got from a lady, was from Brianna, and their relationship was like living in the Florida Keys during hurricane season.
“Jimmy, you will have to tell her at some point.”
“Yeah, I realize that Bree.”
“Ok, Jimmy. I guess you know what you’re doing.”
“Saying that took a lot out of you, didn’t it?” She laughed again, sweeter this time.
“Where did you meet her?”
“At a wedding…”
“Is this the girl you walked down the aisle at Benjamin’s wedding?” How did she know about the wedding?
“Your mom told me, Jimmy. She was so happy for your brother and she said you looked so handsome in your tuxedo…” Brianna laughed again, not as sweet. Jimmy couldn’t stand it. “She sent me pictures. You thought you were clean in the tux, all cheesing.”
“Awww…I’m just playing Jimmy. You were gonna be all vague and stuff weren’t you.” More laughing. “Jimmy have fun on your date and drink some water.”
Jimmy hung up. He shouldn’t have, but he couldn’t let Bree mess up his mood, before the date. She acted like it was easy to just tell somebody you were sickly.
The theater was pretty packed. The line was all the way down the sidewalk, filled with cute couples and three or four girl night out groups. Jimmy chilled in the car. His tickets were already bought, he just had to wait for Layla. He looked in the rearview mirror for the fifth time, eyes yellow as a retired school bus. It was unavoidable at this point. Layla was already out of his league, like way out of his league. What was one more thing to overcome?
Her ringtone started playing, an old Dru Hill song that he used to hear riding around with his brother. Sisqo was singing in all his glory.
“Hey there,” Jimmy said, smiling ear to ear.
“Hello James, I just made it. Have you been waiting long?” He liked how she called him “James.” He liked how she assumed he was there on time. Brianna was habitually late, so she found his punctuality annoying. He also lectured her on being late all the time, maybe that’s what she found annoying.
“No I pulled up a bit ago.”
“I was not expecting so many people to be here.” Jimmy heard Layla close her car door. “Ok I’m headed to the line, see you in a bit.”
Jimmy reached in his back seat for his green bomber jacket. He always kept a jacket in the car, ever since he almost turned into an icicle during a hockey game and ended up in the emergency room. Jimmy often described having Sickle Cell as someone constantly walking a tightrope. If he got too cold, like sitting outside on a cold day or sitting in a restaurant under a vent, it could trigger a painful episode. Hot weather could do the same thing, it was easy for him to get dehydrated. Jimmy tried hard to keep balance and predict what may go wrong, two Tylenols in the front pocket, jacket always in the back seat.
Layla waited in line. She had skin like a chocolate malt ball. Her hair was in a high playful ponytail. A peach blouse was matched with some dark denim jeans, subtlety ripped, and heels, but not maddeningly high. She wore a silver bracelet on her arm, that Jimmy didn’t really pay any mind. How could you notice a bracelet, with her smiling like that? He could get lost in it. He took a step and then stopped.
“Ok dude, don’t walk over there grinning like an idiot. She already likes talking to you, just don’t do anything unforgivably stupid.” A little voice inside answered back, “good luck with that.”
She spotted him as he walked up. The smile that followed, caught him off guard. She genuinely looked happy to see him.
“Hey James,” Layla said, hugging him. Her perfume was simply glorious. It had to have been the tuxedo. He couldn’t figure out how he managed to get here. She was so out of his league. He felt like a guy barely on the high school track team, trying to qualify for the Olympics.
“That perfume is wonderful…you look wonderful Layla.” She laughed. Why did she laugh? Was that too much?
“Wonderful is high praise James.”
“I mean it though, Layla.”
“I can tell,” she said clearly entertained, “You’re not half stepping yourself. I really like that cologne, it smells nice.” Jimmy gave himself an internal high five. “We should have got here earlier, we’re going to be late for the movie.”
“I already bought the tickets,” he said with a wink.
“Oh that was great thinking. So we can skip past the line?”
“We certainly can.” Inside the movie theater, Jimmy got the tickets from the kiosk. The concession stand had a little line.
“Popcorn?” he asked her.
“I love it, but it gets all in my teeth, so I’m going to pass.”
“Oh, well you have to get… something. It’s not a movie unless you get something from the concession stand. It’s my treat.”
“Well, maybe an Icee.”
“There you go, now we’re talking. What flavor?”
“What can I get you?” asked the guy behind the counter.
“The pretty lady will have a cherry Icee.” Layla blushed a bit at that.
“What size?” They both looked at her.
“No that’s it.” Jimmy wanted some popcorn, but she was right about the hardships of getting it out of your teeth. He wanted a drink too, but he didn’t want to miss any of the movie because of a bathroom break.
“Wait,” Layla said, “you’re not getting anything else? That’s messed up.”
“No I’m good,” he said laughing.
“Aren’t you like, president of the Dr. Pepper fan club?” Jimmy did a cover up laugh. President of the fan club, how often did he talk about Dr. Pepper to Layla? Now he was feeling stupid.
“I bet you a dollar you end up back here, buying a Dr. Pepper before the movie’s over.”
Their seats were on the left side, in the middle row. The theater was pretty full, with a few empty seats here and there. Jimmy was glad he brought his jacket, because he caught the chills before the previews ended. The movie theatre was cold. He hoped that Layla was hot natured, because her blouse was short sleeved.
She liked to talk during the movie, which suited Jimmy just fine. It gave him the opportunity to be funny. He was trying too hard though, couldn’t cut his brain off. He knew she could tell. Julie told him that women could always tell, but if they liked you, they would cut you some slack. She was laughing at all of his stuff and hadn’t mentioned his eyes being the color of melted butter, so he must’ve been doing ok.
About half an hour into the movie, he shivered. The first shiver was like a warning shot, to a person trespassing on private property. Do something, or watch things go downhill fast. He begin to put on the green bomber jacket. Layla glanced at him, eyes sparkling.
“That was smart of you to bring your jacket in here. I wish I would have brought one, I’m about to freeze.”
Right then, Jimmy knew he was screwed. He would have to give up his jacket now. This was always a contentious issue with him. The “gentleman” thing for him to do, is give up the jacket, let her be warm, and face the consequences. She would be sound asleep later tonight, his gesture far from her mind, while he would be in agony, praying for pain relief. It’s not her fault, she didn’t know his condition, but still. Who made this rule that guys should give up their jackets for chicks trying to be cute? You shouldn’t reward that behavior.
“Why didn’t women bring jackets, when they knew the temp would drop later,” he asked Julie, early into his dating life.
“Because we want to look cute, on the date.”
“You know what’s cute,” he replied to her, “Not freezing to death, because your date has to put on your clothes, because she trying hard to be cute. It’s kind of selfish really.”
“You’re kind off…really.” Julie never saw his side of things.
“Please take my jacket,” he told Layla, praying that he sounded genuine.
“You don’t mind James?”
“Of course not.”
“Thank you so much, you’re a life saver.” She took his hand and rubbed it against her arm. “I have chill bumps over here.”
There was an hour left in the movie, when Jimmy decided to go back to the concession stand and buy a drink. He needed something to take the Tylenols in his pocket.
“Hey, do you want something from the concession stand?”
Layla smiled that lovely smile, which made the sun rise each morning.
“Just that dollar you owe me.” Jimmy smiled. He would’ve laughed, but his left arm throbbed so much, he could only manage a smile. The pain had not started low and increased in increments. No, it had come upon him suddenly, like an eighteen wheeler pushing through a red light.
Jimmy made his way to concession stand. Nobody was in line, and the guy from earlier leaned lazily against the counter.
“You’re lady knows you well,” the cashier said with a hint of smugness. It may have been smug free truthfully, but Jimmy wasn’t any mood to hear it.
“Small Dr. Pepper.”
He took the two pills and begrudgingly took Layla's dollar out of his wallet. With the movie over, he walked her to her car and she handed him his jacket.
“Thanks so much, James.”
“You are most welcome.” He reached with his right arm, because he couldn’t move his left. It locked up on him, about twenty minutes ago. He couldn’t move it without gritting his teeth.
“I had fun James. Thank you for a great night.”
“Call me tomorrow, ok,” she said getting into her car.
“Will do. Text me, so I know you made it home safely.”
“Ok, I will. Good night.”
Jimmy walked back to his car. He had a unopened text from Brianna. She asked about the date. Jimmy didn’t know why an ex would care, but he didn’t feel like talking to her now. He dialed up his sister instead.
“It’s late Jimmy, are you ok?”
“Are we going to the emergency room?”
“I’m sorry to bother you.”
“Don’t be silly. Come on to the house. I’ll start getting ready.”
“Thanks Julie, you’re the best.”
“How did you date go?”
Jerone Agee: "I work at an elementary school in a small town in Mississippi, I'm a long time X-men fan, I miss Regular Show, and I think Jim Butcher is phenomenal."