That weekend, I celebrated my birthday with my friends. It had taken me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do, so I think it didn't give people a lot of notice. For that reason, I had a modest number to go for lunch at Cacao 70. Our party comprised of Étienne, Stella and my sister. Louis had said he might be able to come, so I wasn't sure if he was going to drop in as well.
|What I shared with my sister|
the first time I went to Cacao 70
At first, Amin was not biting. I was stunned: how could he refuse chocolate?! He said it was very thoughtful of me to invite him, but that he should not meet my friends at this time. I had anticipated the possibility of him being nervous, but I did not expect it to stop him from going. So I used my powers of persuasion, which seemed rather effective on him. I talked to him about what would make him feel more comfortable. I explained that it was going to be a small party, which is one of the reasons I thought it was more than acceptable to ask him along. I knew he was a bit on the shy side, so I wasn't going to expose him to a lot of different people at once. He was still hesitant. Finally we got to the root of the matter: he was feeling a bit odd about what my friends would think, given that we had met online. This is something I suppose I had thought about myself. It is perhaps a bit awkward to admit to meeting someone online. It is becoming more and more common, but I think it still feels a bit strange or embarrassing. It was such an easy fix, though: no one had to know! So we decided what our story should be. It was nothing elaborate, but fun to concoct at the same time. I suppose it is the writer in me that likes to create stories and make-believe like when I was a kid. We settled on having met "at school". It is simple to retain and not the sort of answer that usually brings on a lot of questions. What made it exciting was that it was our secret. It was also sufficient for Amin to feel comfortable and for him to agree to come.
I had set the time for 1:00, but I had a hiccup that caused me to run late. I was positively mortified: I was late for my own celebration! My sister got on her cellphone and began texting to let Étienne and Amin know. Stella was with us as we made our way to Cacao 70. Amin replied and said that he had found Étienne and that they were waiting for us (it turns out that I had miscopied Étienne's number for some reason, so he never got the message; it was lucky indeed that he had collided with Amin!). I was nearly dying, because it was such an odd scenario. Here was the person who had encouraged me to go on Plenty of Fish, Étienne, sitting with one of the people I had met on the site, Amin. I was positively squirming, because neither of them knew who exactly they were talking to! I would've loved to be a fly on the wall at that point to see what on earth they were saying.
We arrived fashionably late; I suppose the only advantage was making an entrance at my own party. I stood up on my tiptoes to give Étienne a hug and I went over to give Amin one. I made a nervous joke about how they had obviously gotten along all right because they hadn't killed one another. I slunk sheepishly into a chair as soon as possible. Since Étienne was sitting beside him, I made sure to choose the seat in front of Amin, to make sure that I was nearby. After all, I was the only person he knew there, so I had to make sure that he was comfortable. Even later, when my sister and I needed to sit together to share our chocolate, I did not move from that spot. I asked Stella and her if they could switch places instead.
It was a very pleasant outing. Much was talked of, particularly Étienne's exciting job opportunities and Stella's upcoming trek to the base camp of Mount Everest to raise funds for cancer research. The person who talked the most was undoubtedly my sister. She had lots of energy that day, which will bring out her very sociable and bubbly personality. She was the life of the party certainly that day and was the main reason (besides chocolate) that it was such a nice birthday celebration. I have always been quieter than her by nature and sitting back listening to her talk that day, I was not feeling that she was stealing my spotlight or anything; I was just feeling that she had so many interesting and intelligent things to say and feeling very proud of her. Amin had been self-conscious about being older than my friends, but here was the youngest out of everyone and she was just awesome.
I had a good time and everyone else professed that they did also. I received a small gift from Stella: a black and red necklace. She said it was not a proper birthday gift, but I was happy for this thoughtful token of friendship. When we left Cacao 70, it was raining a little. None of us were really equipped except Amin. He gallantly offered to share his umbrella with Stella (which would've been a challenge, since she is tall!), but she declined. None of us seemed too worried about the rain, since it was so slight. So Amin came over to me and asked. I could hardly refuse such a kind gesture. My sister and Étienne got ahead of us, then so did Stella. Amin and I brought up the rear under his umbrella. I was feeling a bit strange at that point, perhaps recalling that afternoon with Giles. What I remember is that I could not look at Amin and consequently didn't stay under the umbrella very well. I couldn't find much to say, but he wasn't very talkative in any case. I had been a bit concerned about him. I had expected he would mostly listen rather than talk, since he was unfamiliar with my friends and that he would probably be observing how I interacted with the others. However, much as he was surrounded by lots of chocolate and a near infinite menu of delicious chocolate choices, he only had a milkshake. That is what worried me; I could hardly reconcile that with the chocoholic I knew he was! What I later discovered is that his meal times are different from the ones I keep, so it was simply a question of appetite.
I talked later with Amin and finally got to hear his enthusiasm about the outing. He said that I had very nice friends and he was glad I invited him. He was curious to know what my friends thought of him, but they could hardly give me feedback based on one such occasion. Stella, however, had remembered Amin from my conversation with her after the Gardens date. She asked me if I was dating him or not yet and how I felt about him. I could not offer a clear-cut answer at that time, which she thought was strange. She thought I should not be so confused about how I felt about Amin and where I wanted him to fit in my life. I was glad to have the opportunity to ask her to shake his hand rather than kiss him as a greeting, which he greatly appreciated. The one thing Stella did say afterwards, which I refused to repeat to Amin, was that we had chemistry. I didn't understand how she could possibly tell something like that, based on an outing in a group setting where he and I didn't interact a lot. She said she simply could not explain it, but that is exactly what she felt. I take people's intuition seriously as well as the assessment of someone on the outside looking in on a scenario, so I kept what she said in mind. What puzzled me, though, was how she had felt something, but I hadn't...