I don't know why - perhaps because we met so infrequently, or that my memory is not as good as it used to be, maybe because we'd already spoken so much online before I saw you that I'd had to create a lot of the details from my imagination, who knows - but there was always that brief moment whenever we met, where for that instant I would not recognise the stranger standing in front of me, where your voice would not be familiar and your face would be new to me, did you feel that too?
When you opened the car door - even though I'd been expecting you, had unlocked the passenger side for you and was writing a message to tell you I'd arrived - there was that second where I tensed, where I thought "who is this getting into my car", before you smiled and said something, and my brain matched the "text you" with the "real you" and let me relax, accepting the can of drink you offered and welcoming the cool caffeine hit as I studied you, trying to memorise your appearance again, even whilst knowing that within a few days I would only remember parts and not how they fit together as a whole.
I've never been good with faces, and as I type I try to call your face to mind but the effort is futile and frustrating, a nose, glasses, freckles, a smile, I can describe your face in detail but I can't bring together an image of how these individual elements join together to form your face and this annoys me, that you could send me a message from any number and I'd instantly know it was you, and yet I couldn't pick out your face in a crowd.
Oh I expect given enough time and logic I'd find you eventually but still, at first glance you would be a stranger to me. And for some reason it seems important to me each time to try and make the effort to remember your face, even though I know it's probably hopeless. And when you catch me staring you ask why, and I tell you that I like looking at you - and this is true of course, there's something about your face that I find myself drawn to, maybe your smile, I have a thing about smiles - but also I'm trying to remember your face as a whole so that one day I won't have that moment of blankness when I see you again, and so that I can sit at home as I'm doing now and not get angry with myself for not being able to see your face in my mind.
Either way I find that I've gotten sidetracked as I did then and that will never do. So where was I? Oh yes...
By this time we'd walked around the store several times - my eye briefly being drawn to a display of riding crops before dismissing them, knowing that my curiosity was all that made them interesting and that reality would dim the appeal somewhat, experience having shown me that some things are better left in the imagination - and we were back in the car. You leaned over to kiss me quickly as you got out and I felt the brief soft touch of your cool lips on mine as I mentally replayed the conversation, trying to work out where and why you were leaving before my mind caught up and I started the car to follow you. I knew where I was now and where we were going to but the route in between the two was unclear in my mind and so I tried to stay close behind you until I recognised the road into the city and could fall back a little.
I pulled into the carpark behind you and moved over to the barrier on your right. You didn't see me and I wondered briefly if you'd noticed me following you, but you didn't look over and when the barrier raised you drove straight ahead, while I turned to the left to where I knew there would be spaces.
I parked quickly and unplugged my phone from the charger placing it with the other inside my bag, grabbing the bag from the seat where I'd thrown it and hoisting it over my shoulder, thinking as I always did, that at some point I needed to clear it out as it was far too heavy. Not wanting to keep you waiting I climbed out of the car and locked it, walking quickly to the stairs whilst taking my bank key card out of my bag to transfer over some money. I glanced around as I reached the top of the stairs but you were nowhere in sight and so I stood by the entrance to the cinema, logging on to my internet banking and making sure I didn't look up because I hate that awkward moment when you see someone from a distance and have to wait. I'm never quite sure what to do at that point, they're generally too far away to say anything and once you've seen someone it seems rude to ignore them or stay where you are, but then what do you do, do you walk to meet them halfway, do you wave, shout something, what if they haven't seen you, there's just too many things to consider so I'd rather wait here sorting out the transfer of money from one account to another and let you walk up to me unnoticed than to make the wrong move. I know, I'm strange, you must have realised that by now right?
Either way, you made it to me and we walked up the stairs to the cinema, stopping to look at the films that were showing while I called my bank. You disappeared inside and I looked at the times, instantly picking out the two which were showing soonest as I hung up the phone. I stood there for a moment longer before starting to feel edgy, I'm still not entirely trusting of people who go off alone at cinemas, always half expecting them not to come back, and so I walked into the lobby and hung around, attempting to look like I belonged and hoping you wouldn't be too long. A minute later you appeared beside me and I waited while you looked at the film times, picking out the two I'd selected as possibles.
I didn't want to decide, always nervous of picking the wrong one, but you didn't either and eventually I told you we'd see the one that started soonest, pushing you in front of me in the queue so that you would have to choose the seats and telling the cashier "the same" when she asked. You'd handed her your parking ticket when you paid, so that it could be validated, but I didn't know what this was and so I kept mine in my purse, not wanting to embarrass myself by asking. If I'd been by myself then perhaps I would have, but I hate other people seeing that I don't know something, I don't like to show weakness.
We walked through the door to the corridor, past the usher who checked our tickets and up to the screen door. I left you to visit the toilet and again had that moment of uncertainty, wondering if you'd be there when I got back. Worrying that you'd have gone in without me or worse still gone altogether and that I'd have to try and find my seat in the dark theatre on my own. The stupid thing is that if I'd been there by myself I would have confidently walked in and found my seat by myself. I've never cared for the opinions of strangers. Being with someone I know though always makes me self conscious and worry that I'll do something stupid, which of course makes me nervous. Silly I know. But you were still there when I came out and you led me to our seat. I had a moment of panic where I wondered if I was meant to sit on the left or the right but decided it didn't matter and took the seat to your left, placing my bag on the seat to the left of me and taking off my shoes so I could curl my legs up under me.
.... There is more of this story ...