Getting ready for my date with Mr. Florida was comedic. He said we’d be going out in his boat, so I needed to find some different clothes than those in my backpack. I’d been wearing jeans and sweaters for the month I’d been on the road, so I walked down to my car from my friend Naveen’s second-story apartment and went trunk shopping. After a little digging, I found my black bikini, some capri pants, and a t-shirt. I’d also need some footwear other than hiking boots, so a little more digging produced my shoe bag. I got some flip flops and headed back up to the apartment.
A swimsuit is not my typical date attire, but I’d actually done it once before. I decided to use the same tactic I had that time: distract him with the goods up top so he doesn’t look anywhere else. I hadn’t seen the inside of a gym in a month, so things were even worse than normal. Plus I was really white. Like glow-in-the-dark white. I looked at myself in the mirror and decided it was not a bikini day. I vowed to a) stop eating junk food as I drove across the country, b) start doing sit-ups, and c) buy some of that tan-in-a-bottle lotion. Yikes.
I opted for the t-shirt and capris, but felt the v-neck showed too much pasty whiteness. I trekked back down to the parking lot to find a shirt that covered a little more of me. I ended up making four trips up and down the stairs before giving up and wearing the last thing I'd put on.
Mr. Florida already had the boat in the river when I got to the dock, and we took off. It was a gorgeous day. I love water. I loved the mountains when I lived in Colorado, but if I could pick (and if I won the lottery to pay for it), I’d live right on a lake with a ski boat and a little Sunfish sailboat and a kayak of my very own. When Kenny Chesney & Dave Matthews’ duet “I’m Alive” came on, I thought it was a perfect song at that very moment. I felt completely content.
It’s funny how my last date planned out every detail of the evening and this date seemed to wing it. Mr. Alabama took me to the nicest restaurant his coworkers could think of. Mr. Florida took me to a place on the river called the Swamp House. Two different styles, two fabulous dates. But there was something about Mr. Florida that made me completely comfortable from the very beginning. I guess some people you just click with.
At the Swamp House, Mr. Florida thought I should try some new foods. I looked around to see where the nearest bathroom was, just in case I puked. The alligator bites were surprisingly good. They were deep-fat fried and looked like popcorn chicken. Not bad at all. The oysters, however, were gross. I got one down, but he thought I should try another. I seriously almost gagged. It was so slimy. I’m not sure, because this is just a theory I haven’t actually tested, but I’m guessing that if you vomit on a man, he will probably not be attracted to you. I got it down, though, and that was the end of new food tasting. Well, until his friends showed up. They were a cute little couple who’d been dating a long time and were out on the river that day, too. We sat on the patio of the Swamp House and she went and bought some Cajun Boiled Peanuts. Not as good as the alligator bites, but not nearly as bad as the oysters.
We got back in the boat and kept cruising up the river. I kept my eyes peeled for an alligator, but we never saw one. We ended up pulling over along a little beach where the remnant of a fire was just barely glowing. We gathered up a bunch of wood and got it raging. Another boat pulled up and the four of us were joined around the fire by four locals. (That’s a nice way of saying crackers, which is what the city folks around here call the country folks.) They had a boom box strapped to their boat that they blasted some country songs on. The fire was crackling, the stars were twinkling . . . it was totally random, totally unplanned, and perhaps my favorite moment of this crazy experiment so far.
Mr. Florida also got the first physical contact of the trip. Most people who know me know that I’m not touchy-feely. But standing around the campfire, Mr. Florida put his arm around my waist and I guarantee I didn’t mind it one bit. It’s like I said earlier -- some people you’re just comfortable with right from the start.
We headed back to the boat dock, got the boats out of the water, and went to a restaurant to grab some food. All in all, we spent about ten hours together, which was by far the longest date of the ten so far. At the end of the night, Mr. Florida walked me to my car, being the gentleman that he is, and yep, I kissed him. First kiss of the trip. This guy was setting all the records.
Driving down the interstate, I started thinking about how I should have kissed him earlier in the day so I’d have had more time to kiss him more. And then I thought, man, why didn’t I just kiss him more in the parking lot? It had been a year since I’d kissed anyone, and what if I didn’t get to kiss anyone again for another year? I didn’t get nearly enough. And what did I have to lose? It wasn’t like I was ever going to see him again. I fired up a little conversation via texts.
Me: Are you still on I-4?
Him: Yep. Why?
Me: I’m not sure I was quite done saying good-bye to you yet.
Bold, huh? Yeah. I was trying to be flirtatious, but being the one-woman comedy show that I am, I got all mixed up in the neighborhood where I exited and told him to meet me. After ten minutes of driving in circles, I eventually found him (thankfully he didn’t just give up and drive away), and I was glad I did, even if I did exhibit more dorkiness than hotness.
I checked in with my Chief Safety Officer on the way home and she could tell I was really happy. It had been one heck of a great date.
“You know, you’re setting your own rules,” she said. “It’s not like you can only date him once. You can see him again if you want to.”
I thought the next day about what she said. Maybe, I thought. Maybe I could fly down sometime this summer and see him again. Go fishing. He said he likes that. Or in the fall -- go to an FSU game. I tried not to think about it too much. I thought I’d wait and see if he called or texted or emailed or ignored me.
I friended him on Facebook, which probably wasn’t a good idea. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. He was surrounded by women in a bunch of his pictures. Not in a gross, lewd way, but in a way that showed people love to be around him because he’s so much fun. The thing that got me, though, was that all the women were beautiful. I thought, this is what he’s used to. This is what women in Florida look like. And I’m not enough. Not blonde enough. Not tan enough. Not tall enough. Not thin enough. Not surgically enhanced enough. Not rich enough. Not fashionable enough. I would never fit into his world.
And honestly, for a day I felt pretty bummed about it. Because he was fabulous, and a part of me really would have loved to be part of his world.
But here’s the thing: I am enough. For someone, I will be more than enough. He’ll think I look hot, whether I’m in stilettos or I’ve slept in a tent for a week. He’ll love my big heart and want to go visit orphans in Africa with me. He won’t care that when I take off my ski helmet my hair is flat. He’ll love my dorkiness because I make him laugh. He’ll overlook my outer flaws and see my inner beauty. He’s out there somewhere. And when I find him, I am going to make him one happy man.