Although I have never had a date that was as repulsive as the bursting of the snot pinata (see the "Really Hideous Moments" post) there is another date that was perhaps the strangest.
When I was an undergrad, I used my skateboard to meet romantic prospects. When I saw a guy who looked especially enticing, I'd sail down the sidewalk and knock him off his feet. Subtle, I know.
Then I would act really embarrassed and then he'd try to make me feel better and off we went into a conversation that was a quick way for the haughty Candy Rant to decide if he was my type or a false alarm.
Once, while whizzing on my skateboard through the nearly-empty lobby of my dorm, a bit drunk, I genuinely accidentally smacked into what seemed like a human, but was just way too tall. His name was John and he was, in fact, a Homo sapiens. He was also, at seven-feet-six-and-a-half, as would be expected of him, a basketball player. A very mediocre one at the smaller college across town. One of those guys you plant directly under the basket and hope for the best. After I banged into him, the usual apology and conversation ensued, but this time I got a date I wasn't sure I wanted. He asked me out for the following night, to an expensive restaurant in town known for their lobster dinners. Which impressed me. But I was a little confused when John said we'd be dining with a friend of his who would meet us there.
In my college dorm I was known for dating "fringe" types. So the news about the freakishly tall guy spread like ringworm. By the time I went downstairs to meet John in the lobby, a dozen of my friends were in my dorm room, glued to the window above the parking lot. When he and I walked to his car in the early evening sun, I realized that I must've been more drunk than I thought when I'd said yes to this date. Because in the cold light of sobriety, this guy was so tall it was ridiculous. He held my hand while we walked to his car. I had to reach up so far to grasp his, I was sure we looked just like a daddy and his little girl. I felt the heat of a dozen pairs of eyes on my spine. This date was the fringe of the fringe.
The "friend" at dinner was a sixtyish, dumpy, balding man with a thick English accent. Vincent Eckersly. As it turned out, Vincent was a reporter/photographer for the one and only National Enquirer, and had come to town to get a story on John, the Tallest Amateur Basketball Player in the World. Vincent was good dinner company. He'd met a zillion celebrities and had even been fisted in the face once by Burt Reynolds. We all got pleasantly buzzed at dinner, courtesy of the Enquirer, and for a while I forgot I was with the tallest guy I had ever seen. After all, we were sitting down.
But then the wine got the best of me and I needed a trip to the ladies' room. "I'll walk you there," the terribly genteel John said, rising like a monument. Every person in the restaurant, forks and wine glasses in midair, gawked at this beanstalk guy and his itty bitty date, all the while perhaps trying to imagine the logistics of our sex life.
After dinner, the three of us piled into the front seat of John's modified Plymouth Charger. (The front seat was pushed all the way back against the back seat.) We dropped Vincent off at his hotel. He waved goodbye to us as he stumbled past the doorman. Then John got the notion that we should go parking. There we were, on a dark cul-de-sac of new houses under construction, his snakishly long arm draped around me. As much as I tried to be accepting and unruffled, I could not stop thinking My God, John, what a mutant you are. To my utter shame, he whispered into my ear, "You're the first girl who's ever treated me like a real guy instead of some kinda freak." The guilt overtook me. I pulled out all the stops for our one and only, extremely long kiss. And it wasn't bad. For one thing, he had really good, thick, black hair I could run my hands through.
When he took me home, I felt an odd affinity with him. As we stood in the parking lot of my dorm, I could see that he felt terribly awkward, and from some remote part of my brain these words escaped my mouth: "Hey, how about if I stand on the hood of your car?" And so, with his help, I climbed up and was then eye to eye with him. He hugged me for a full minute and I felt as though I was in the tangled embrace of an unusually gentle giant squid. I looked up at the black sky and thought, Man, how many girls get the chance for a date like this?
I never went out with John again. But we talked on the phone for a few weeks. About a year later I heard he'd been in a car accident in his Charger and had become paralyzed from the waist down. The story was on the news, including the detail about his needing a custom-made wheelchair.