The scene was set: the roommate was out of town, the apartment was clean, and John was due to arrive at eight a.m. for a day of hiking and cooking. An interesting idea for a third date, considering that I was still used to the idea that dates meant dinner and a movie and "maybe I'll call you tomorrow." However, John was not your ordinary date. Even at this early stage of our relationship, I could already tell that his idea of fun did not stem from the "ordinary".
John arrived early, scoring "boyfriend points" for punctuality; and we immediately left to begin our adventure. As we drove towards Squaw Peak, he showed me maps and described the trail to me. We would be hiking the Circumference Trail, a 3.5-mile trail that wraps around the mountain; then, if weather permitted, we would try to take the Summit Trail, which takes hikers to the top of Squaw Peak. These are considered moderate trails, though during the heat of the summer the burning desert sun can make them seem more difficult than they actually are. It was early summer at that point; although the morning hours were still quite cool - thanks to El Niño - it was possible that midday would bring high temperatures that would prevent us from hiking longer through the desert terrain.
We began our hike at the trailhead of the Circumference Trail. Though I found that most of the trail was strenuous because of the uphill climbs, I was able to take my mind off of the physical exertion by talking to John. We were still in the "getting to know one another" stage of our relationship, the stage where we were still trying to determine just how much we had in common. We told each other stupid cat stories and childhood memories, discussed our hobbies in great length, talked about trails we had hiked before - including trails in Sabino Canyon, east of Tucson, Arizona. I was so enjoying our conversation that I nearly forgot that I wasn't wearing sunscreen.
Lesson #2: Sunscreen!
As we reached the junction for the Summit Trail, I began to realize that it was getting rather hot outside and that I had failed to wear the required UV protection. I then made the critical decision to finish the Circumference Trail and forget about the Summit Trail entirely. It was only ten in the morning, but the hot summer sun was already scorching upon us, and my face was redder than my hair. John agreed with me, so we completed the trail then proceeded back to the car.
The date, however, was nowhere close to being over. I was feeling quite good for having completed the 3.5-mile trail, and it was lunchtime. Though we wanted Chinese or Thai food, we had to settle for Applebee's because nothing was open yet. While we feasted on healthy salads, we talked about what to do with the rest of the day.
It was already decided that we were going to have a "cook-off", so the next stop on our adventure was the grocery store to buy what we needed to make homemade spaghetti sauce: two cans of whole tomatoes, two cans of tomato paste, mushrooms, peppers, onions, scallions, fresh garlic and oregano, and lots of spices. To complete the meal, we also bought ingredients for a salad and ready-to-bake breadsticks. Of course, we didn't forget the wine - what would a romantic dinner be without a nice bottle of Chardonnay?
With my roommate out of town, I had the apartment to myself, so John and I chose to use my kitchen for the cook-off. Together, in that kitchen, the two of us created a culinary masterpiece worthy of kings. As we sat down to dinner, we drank a toast to our fantastic feast and to our new relationship.
I blame the wine for what happened next. Having polished off two bottles of Chardonnay, we were both feeling quite toasty - and yes, a little amorous as well. Let's put it this way: John did not leave my apartment until 7:30 the next morning, at which time our date was over and I had to leave for work.
At that point in our relationship, I still didn't know what to think of him, but I had a good feeling about him, that we were destined to go places...
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