You know those nights when you’re rushing for no reason, and you leave work just a little bit late, and then your friend’s fiance needs a place to sleep, but you already have a Tinder date scheduled, and you do a bunch of math in your head, and then say let’s go, Tuesday night, let’s do this, but you’re a bit distracted by the other thing the whole time you’re doing the one thing?

My friend’s fiance pulled up before I had time to change for my date. I skedaddled into the bathroom (because while my apartment has a bedroom, that bedroom doesn’t have a door), and pulled on a black sundress, and when it turned out to be just a little bit too tight, I was too rushed to do anything about it. And while I often change my clothes repeatedly before I leave the house, I didn’t want to be that person who changes twice before a date while someone was watching.

The fiance and I skipped down the hill for tacos, me with my phone in my hand, trying to calculate how fast we’d have to eat if I were to make my date in time.

“How was your day?” I asked Z, telling myself to pay attention to what was in front of my face.

“It was ok,” he said. Whenever Z talks, I think of California. This is partially because he grew up on the beach, and partially because he sometimes has a slow and soothing surfer drawl. “I’m tired. It’s funny…modeling isn’t that hard physically, but it’s really taxing mentally.”

I made the same work-is-hard sympathy face I make for all work complaints/comments….Oh your boss sucks? Mmmhmm. Oh there are termites eating through your desk? I feel ya. Oh modeling….wait what?

“Are you excited for your date?” he asked. “You don’t seem excited,” he added before I could open my mouth with that eerie sixth sense model-surfer-hippies sometimes have. You know.

“I’m….tired,” I admitted. “I’m sort of over it. This is going to be my last date for a while. I had a date last night, and I think I’ve just hit a wall.”

We stuffed tacos in our faces, I gave him directions back to my apartment, keys, and a general idea of where he was, and then I set off down the hill at a quick trot.

It’s not that I was opposed to going on my date—I just wished it was on a different night, and that my dress wasn’t quite so tight around my ribcage, and that I wasn’t late, and that I didn’t feel guilty about leaving Z to entertain himself. I didn’t want to cancel on someone who seemed nice—not because I was so sure it was a match, but because cancelling is rude, and I really had no excuse: we’d had an entertaining exchange over the weekend, I already knew we had things in common, and he’d made the date easy on me, suggesting a day, time, and place that all were convenient.

Plus, he looked like he fit a type that I hadn’t been out with and that I’m objectively and subjectively fond of: blond, blue-eyed, short, loyal, trustworthy, and generally nice. In other words: Samwise Gamgee.

He was sitting in a booth, facing the door, and I immediately knew I hadn’t been wrong. We talked easily, like we were friends already, and he looked patient and the the server looked impatient while I quick-scanned the list for the beer with the lowest alcohol content. This is my only beer strategy. It didn’t work. My beer still tasted like beer. He ordered a 10 lb hammer double IPA, the opposite of what I’d chosen.

We talked about work, and words, and places we’ve been and places we want to go. When I said Italy, he looked hungry. I valiantly finished my beer and he enjoyed his. “My tongue tastes like hops,” he marveled. I chugged water.

“I have to go,” I said. “I have a friend sleeping on my floor—my friend’s fiance—he’s up here for a modeling gig—” I stopped talking.

Sam either didn’t notice or didn’t care that I had a model-worthy man sleeping on my floor and walked with me back up the hill without a change in tone. When we reached my street, I paused. “This was nice,” I said, thinking about how glad I was to be done dating for a bit, that this was a nice note to end on.

“Do you want to just…hang out sometime?” he asked. Open-faced, open question. Like the date, it was easy to agree to. Low stakes. Hanging out. Someone who already felt like a friend. I’m telling you: Samwise Gamgee.

I went home and sat on the roof with Z, and talked about his fiance, one of my first and best friends. She and I met two days before sixth grade, at band orientation. We both played clarinet. I held her close in my mind while I talked to Z, who sees her every day, and is planning a life with her—a baby on the way, a new family, worlds expanding and small and large, the summer sky cool and mild, and almost tempting enough to say yes when Z, who loves sleeping outdoors, asked if we could sleep on the roof, but my usual self rising up and winning out, I slipped down the stairs for my four walls, a bed, and a roof—something of a habit-bound hobbit myself.

Date #1
Date #2
Dates #3, 4, 5
Date #6
Date #7 (not a date)
Date #8
Date #9
Date #10
Date #11
Date #12
Date #13
Date #14
Date #15
Date #16
Date #17
Date #18
Date #19, Part I
Date #19, Part II