I knew it was over as soon as he said, ‘How old are you again? Oh wait, and when is your birthday?’
It’s another late night dinner, another night out, another in a long and steady catalogue of dates with Jonathan.
I’m munching on green beans and mash. Shaking my head slightly, I think to myself, ‘Oh no. He doesn’t even know how old I am’. I can feel myself start to sink low into my chair. My chest starts to feel empty and heavy at the same time.
He didn’t remember, but he helped me celebrate my last birthday a few months earlier. He didn’t know, but I knew his age like it was etched into the back of my hand. He probably wouldn’t remember this detail either; the romantic bar that was set months earlier by our chance meeting with a stranger that I later called The Lobster Roll Guy.
Jonathan and I met The Lobster Roll Guy in one of those random and fleeting New York-style meetings.
Night’s end and descending inside an elevator, Jonathan and I were leaving a charity event together. We shared an elevator with another man who oddly announces that he has just eaten the best lobster roll of his life.
‘What’s a lobster roll?’ I asked him. I meant it. I’d never seen or eaten one before.
The stranger’s drunken eyes unglaze for a moment. He looks at me, ignores my question and says, ‘Wait, keep talking.’
I must have looked confused because Jonathan chimed in and said, ‘Your accent. He wants to hear more of your accent.’
‘Oh, right,’ I replied. Not an uncommon request. ‘I’m Australian,’ I smiled.
The stranger nods at me, cocks his head to one side and looks up at Jonathan. His eyes dart between the two of us. He’s summing up the situation in the remaining seconds as the elevator hurtles towards the lobby. The doors open and as he steps out of the elevator, he leaves Jonathan and I with this parting comment.
‘You, sir, are the luckiest guy in the world.’
Jonathan laughed. I did too. Truth be known, I beamed. Not because I think it’s true but because I really wanted Jonathan to believe it was true. Regardless, nothing feels more corroborating than external validation, even when it comes from drunken strangers who have a thing for lobster rolls.
I later renamed the stranger inside the elevator as The Lobster Roll Guy. I thought a lot about his comment and in time it’s become somewhat of a dating yardstick. The Lobster Roll Guy made me realize how important it is in early dating that both sides feel like the luckiest person on Earth. It has to be mutual in order for dating to feel fluid and reciprocal.
Only with Jonathan, it didn’t. If I’m honest, it never did. Over green beans and mash and him telling me that he had no idea when I was born, I could no longer ignore what I’d been denying for a long time – that I wanted us more than he ever would.
There were shared interests, but never a shared spark. A mutual caring that grew, but never developed. I hung with him and his guy friends, only I was a girl. I was frequently his mate, but only ever his friend. He always kept me at arm’s length, and I naively filed that under the complexities of New York City dating.
It went on like this for a long time. The convenience worked for us both but I kick myself now for letting it go on for as long as it did. A part of me wonders if he, consciously or otherwise, fed me these steady negative signs in order to make a dignified exit.
After getting through the last of my green beans, I could no longer deny that the end was now here. When we finally talked it out later that night, I refused to sob about it and we agreed to remain friends.
He was in my life for all of two minutes and only told me three sentences but The Lobster Roll Guy taught me a lot. Mostly that the sweet spot in dating comes when both sides feel they are the luckiest person on Earth to be dating the other.
Now that the dust has settled on Jonathan and I have the wise lessons of The Lobster Roll Guy deep in my back pocket, there’s really only one thing left to do. If I am going to find the one who thinks of me like The Lobster Roll Guy, I probably need to try a lobster roll for myself. And that then begs the question.
Where is the best place in New York City to find the best lobster roll?
I’m still searching.