First published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose.
My friend was hosting a party on the rooftop of the Canary Hotel, and I arrived just as the sun began to set.
It was one of those quintessential Santa Barbara evenings; the sunset cast shades of orange and pink and the mountains turned a royal purple.
I spotted her by the DJ booth and ran over to give her a hug.
“Elizabeth! I’m so glad you’re here,” she said.
“You have to meet my fiancé. He’s over by the bar.”
She grabbed my hand and we moved through the crowd.
I met her fiancé and he introduced me to his friend, Anthony.
I could tell Anthony was smitten with me by the grin that wouldn’t leave his face.
He seemed nice; a tall Asian man with an adult job as a chemical engineer.
Physically, he’s not my type but I was open.
After a few minutes of small talk, he said, “Elizabeth, I’d love to learn more about you. Would it be okay if I took you out sometime?”
Flattered, I dug in my purse for a pen and a scrap piece of paper.
He called the next day to plan our date.
It Started Out Ok
We met at The Good Lion, coincidentally the scene of a date I had the week before.
After walking in and seeing the same bartenders and possibly the same hipsters circling the bar, I decided this would be the last time I’d meet a guy here – It was starting to feel a little like the movie Groundhog Day where I was doomed to relive the same date over and over again.
But let me back up.
Hours before, I was at a barbecue, day-drinking with friends.
By four o’clock, spirits were high and so was my buzz.
I don’t know why I didn’t cancel the date or, for that matter, why the hell I decided to drink all day, but I against my better judgment, I left straight from the party to meet him.
Anthony was perched at a table near the front window and as soon as I sat down, we ordered cocktails.
I recall a little of our conversation but not the second drink or the dinner we had right after.
My only clue to dinner was waking up the next morning in my bed with a full stomach and the lingering scent of pho in my hair.
Morning Of Regret
When I rolled over to look at the clock on my bedside table, I realized that I was still fully dressed.
What happened last night?
I got up, drug myself to the window, and noticed my car missing in the driveway.
My stomach dropped.
I ran to my computer and logged in to check my bank account.
Thank God that I had enough sense to call an Uber.
Or maybe Anthony insisted?
I shuttered at what might have happened and said a prayer, thankful I was safe at home.
Forgoing coffee – my hangover wouldn’t allow it quite yet – I peeled off my clothes, got in the shower, and stood motionless, hoping the water would wash away my horrible feeling of regret.
I couldn’t go on living like this, especially on dates with men I hardly know.
Anthony called later that evening.
I was almost too embarrassed to answer the phone but was pretty sure I owed him an apology.
I swallowed what was left of my pride and answered.
“Hey Elizabeth, are you… okay?”
Instead of going on and on about what an idiot I was, I kept it simple – I’m sure my behavior the night before spoke for itself.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said. “I’m really sorry. Thanks for making sure I got home okay.”
After a few seconds of silence, he brushed it off.
“Well, it happens to the best of us. I had a great time and would love to take you out again.”
Is he serious?
I agreed to a second date, mainly out of guilt and hoping I could make up for the fact that I was a complete drunk.
I had a chance to prove I wasn’t a total train-wreck.
At the very least, I owed it to myself.