First published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel under the pen name, Elizabeth Rose.
For date number two, Anthony planned a tasting at Area 51 Winery followed by a picnic at Alice Keck Park.
Sounded like a great afternoon, but I was mostly looking forward to redeeming myself from our last date where I blacked out from alcohol and didn’t remember the majority of that evening.
I turned onto Anacapa Street and found a parking spot near the tasting room.
Control yourself, control yourself was my new mantra, and with those words on repeat in my head, I made my way into the room.
I found Anthony leaning against the bar in deep conversation with the sommelier and I tapped his shoulder to get his attention.
“Hey, Elizabeth!” he said, bending his 6-foot-5 frame to give me a hug.
“I just spoke with Zach here, and we’ve got a special tasting for you.”
Control yourself, control yourself, control yourself.
“What did you have in mind?” I said.
“Well, I remember you said you love champagne, so we’re going to taste a few sparkling wines,” he said.
“Then we can pick a bottle to take on our picnic.”
I quickly asked for a split of water to drink after every sip of bubbly to help negate a full-blown buzz.
We settled into a corner bench and I let him do most of the talking.
After a few minutes, I asked about his job and he looked at me, confused.
“You don’t remember? We talked about it on the last date.”
My stomach caved.
I was mortified but I made my drunken bed and it was time to lie in it.
“I’m sorry again, I shouldn’t have drunk so much last time,” I said.
“I don’t remember.”
I sat there with a tail between my legs, too embarrassed to ask more.
After a few wine samples and healthy gulps of water, I asked him which bottle he preferred for our picnic.
“No, this is all you. You pick!”
I chose a dry varietal with notes of apples and pear, the closest to Veuve Clicquot we tasted.
He got the check and we drove separately to the park.
I decided it was the best move to avoid grabbing a drink after.
I found a spot across the street and looked in the rear-view mirror just in time to see him walking down the sidewalk with a picnic basket, the bottle of sparkling wine, and a blanket in hand.
Hopping out of the car, I walked over to meet him to help carry the load but he handed me a flower instead.
My stomach did a little flip.
Although I didn’t feel sparks at first, maybe there was room for romance after all.
We laid the blanket in view of the Koi pond.
I sat, then slipped on my sunglasses, noting the warm sun on my skin.
Anthony began laying out homemade treats of stuffed grape leaves, chopped quinoa salad, bruschetta, chocolate strawberries, and two crystal champagne flutes.
We ate, talked, and after a glass and a half of bubbly, Anthony began to look a little cuter than he did before.
That warm familiar feeling of alcohol was seeping in and my mantra faded out.
I decided the best way to find out if there were sparks was through a kiss, so I knocked back my last sip and made a move.
“Want to make out?” I said.
A bit stunned, he laughed and said, “Sure!”
What came next was the most awkward kiss of my life.
Stiff lips, a dart-y tongue, and really bad garlic breath.
We pulled away and I popped a strawberry in my mouth to give my tongue something else to play with.
I pretended to check my phone for missed calls as he leaned in for another.
“Oh, man! I didn’t realize how late it is! I have to go.”
After helping him pack up, I thanked him with a hug and all but sprinted to my car.
I was happy to not end the date in a drunken stupor again, but an awkward kiss fueled by alcohol was barely an improvement.