Cory couldn’t dance because of the fresh tattoo on his foot, and Noelle wasn’t dancing much either, probably due to a combination of not knowing any of the other dancers and because she would rather stay at the table and socialize with Cory anyway.
So I went out on the dance floor alone, dancing a few songs in a row with various partners before making my way back to our table to ask Cory and Noelle if they’d like to go do something else. Both of them suggested going for drinks somewhere, so we looked up wine bars nearby. The most promising one, a quaint wine dive with mid-range pricing, was about three-quarters of a block away.
I started to ask if we wanted to walk or drive, but then I looked down at Cory’s foot where his Sperrys were already starting to chafe the tender skin around his new tattoo. “Do you guys want to walk or — oh, I forgot, we have a gimp with us,” I said in a teasing voice, nudging Cory with my shoulder playfully.
“Hey, now!” he exclaimed in an equally playful voice. “Just because you said that, we’re walking,” he stated emphatically with a nod and a mock serious face. We all laughed, and I – looking out for him – said, “No, really. We can drive. I was just giving you a hard time.”
Cory raised his eyebrows at me. “I know a challenge when I hear one. We are walking!” I hadn’t realized how stubborn this man was but, given all I’d already discovered about his passion, intensity, pride and drive to become a surgeon, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
It actually was a nice night out – a bit humid, but not too hot and not too cold. Since we’re all music lovers, we started talking about our favorite composers. Cory definitely favors German composers, and I listed a few French composers I love (e.g. Debussy), but Chopin was the unanimous favorite for piano compositions.
Cory was a Music major in college before going to do his prereqs for med school, so his knowledge of music history vastly outweighed that of Noelle and me. When Cory mentioned a composer we didn’t know, he would inevitably start belting out some of their music, showing off both his knowledge and his phenomenal voice.
As we neared the wine dive, we all started singing Broadway numbers, harmonizing as we went, walking in a single line when the sidewalk narrowed and fanning out as it widened. Once inside, we settled at a tiny round table near a window, lit by a single candle and surrounded by beautifully carved wooden paneling. The place was beautiful – cozy and romantic but also earthy and rustic, with an air of class and elegance.
Cory asked me what I like to drink, and I told him that my favorite is Riesling. I hadn’t realized he was going to go order for me until he nodded, stood, and looked to Noelle, who shrugged and admitted, “I’m not a wine connoisseur; I’ll have whatever she’s having.”
A few moments later, Cory returned from the beautifully polished mahogany bar with two glasses of Riesling and one Malbec. I typically don’t like reds, but Cory let me try a sip of his, and it was surprisingly good. But that may have just been the influence of his company.
All throughout conversation, although the three of us were talking, Cory continued to look deeply into my eyes as though he was trying to read my unspoken – and often, unbidden – thoughts. I suspect he saw more than I meant for him to, especially as I drained my wine glass. He’s a handsome, intelligent, talented, passionate and thoughtful doctor-to-be who spent hours opening up, being emotionally vulnerable and connecting with me. With us, I reminded myself.
At one point during the evening, Noelle got up to go to the bathroom. The moment she left the table, Cory turned the full force of his gaze on me, seeming to drink in the sight of me, unhindered in his admiration now that we were without an audience. I hadn’t realized he had been dampening his intensity until Noelle was gone and I felt the shift in him.
We sat in silence just looking into each other’s eyes for a few moments. It was a comfortable silence, sitting there by candlelight, just enjoying the presence of one another.
“I could get lost in your eyes,” Cory murmured quietly to me, still studying my face.
I felt my face get hot, and I smiled shyly.
“I could just sit here, looking into your eyes for hours,” he went on. “You have the most beautiful eyes. Actually,” he smiled, “They were the first thing I noticed about you when you walked up at the talent show. They’re stunning – and so expressive. You gave me a look that night that I couldn’t get out of my head for days. I even went on and on about it to my friend Alexa after the show, trying to decipher what it meant and talking about your eyes and how beautiful they are until she got jealous, and I had to stop. I kept telling her, ‘There was something about her eyes…'”
Just then, Noelle came back from the bathroom, and Cory trailed off mid-sentence. We hadn’t noticed her approach, and I suspect she felt the shift in the mood and intensity. I started trying to encourage flirtation between the two of them again. Help, help, help.
As the evening wore on and Cory finished his third glass of wine, he started to really open up – even more than before. He shared with Noelle some of the things he had already told me, like the meaningful significance of each of his tattoos, but he went into more detail this time, telling stories about his parents’ divorce when he was a young child. And how they’re both on their fourth marriages. And how his mom is an alcoholic with undiagnosed bipolar disorder who was abusive when he was a boy.
He shared some other stories from his childhood too painful, graphic and personal for me to rename here, but suffice it to say that Cory has walked through some of the darkest experiences possible this side of death, but rather than feeling sorry for him, I admired him even as my heart went out to him. He has done so well for himself, considering all he has been through.
Eventually midnight rolled around, and we agreed to call it a night. We walked the mile back toward where our cars were parked, and we dropped Noelle off at her car first, hugging her goodnight before Cory and I made our way back to my BMW.
As before, Cory came over to the driver side of my car to open the driver door for me, but as I started to pull out my keys to unlock it, Cory turned toward me from where he stood between me and the driver door. “Can I do something impulsive?” he asked.
I dropped my keys back into my purse, startled, and the world started going in slow motion. Cory’s stance was both confident and timid. He didn’t know what I would say. I knew what he was asking, and in the back of my mind, I knew it was a terrible idea, but he was a hurting, attractive man who had just spent the past few hours pouring his heart out to me about very emotional, intimate things, and besides, another voice rationalized, it’s just a kiss, and I felt my head nod.
Without further encouragement, Cory slipped one hand behind my head and another around my waist, pulling me to him, where he leaned resting against my BMW.
His lips met mine, gently at first, and then more demanding. We both started smiling as we pulled away, and I heard the surprise in Cory’s voice when he whispered, “You’re a good kisser!”
I laughed, and he picked me up effortlessly, turned us around, and set me up on top of the trunk of my car before burying his hands in my hair again…
I’m currently working on a mashup for our a cappella group, and I suspect it doesn’t take much imagination to determine my inspiration.
Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders
I should be wiser and realize that I’ve got
One less problem without you
I got one less, one less problem
He’s so tall and handsome as hell
He’s so bad but he does it so well
I can see the end as it begins
My one condition is:
Say you’ll remember me
Standing in a nice dress, staring at the sunset babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you’ll see me again even if it’s just in your wildest dreams
Say you’ll see me again… even if it’s just pretend.