Chapter 78

April 30th, 2024

The traffic noise was deafening for a moment as G made her way across 6th Avenue, a loud fire engine rushing past the intersection. She was wearing a simple pair of jeans and blue sneakers, her top dressed up a little with a black velvet halter top on top of which she'd pulled a floral bomber jacket. A bit of mix and match of patterns, colors and styles was sort of 'in' these days, which left one looking a little like one had just walked out of a drift store or an haberdashery, but G had embraced it. It was the fashion of - I don't care if you like it, if I like it - which suited her perfectly.

She was running a little late, but nothing that a simple text to the person she was meeting wouldn't cure.

"5 min," she texted, now making her way down West 4th Street.

It was great seeing the streets bustling with people again, people still preferring to eat outside out of habit despite the weather bening still a little chilly this time of the evening. Her sight caught a model-looking woman walking her two brown Pomskies, which looked awfully cute, and she looked after them briefly. She did wonder what it'd be like to have a pet - but the long term commitment frightened her. She didn't know where she was going to be next year, let alone in ten. She didn't know what she wanted to do with her life yet. She hadn't travelled enough, she hadn't interned enough nor worked one or two odd jobs like it seemed to be the rite of passage for anyone her age - not that she really needed to, she hadn't partied enough, hell - she felt she hadn't dated enough.

She was trying to remedy the latter that evening, and as she turned right at MacDougal Street just at the corner of Washington Square Park. She cast one last look in her phone, using the camera as a mirror to check her makeup, her loose hair framing her face, leaving the whole look rather casual.

West 3rd Street was busy, one hole-in-the wall followed by the next and the street flooded with delivery guys picking up their orders on bikes, e-scooters and scooters. It had been the prevailing industry of the past few years, the city having lost thousands of taxis as there simply hadn't been as much need for them anymore - a lot of the movement having been replaced by taking the goods to people rather than moving people around.

People were still not too used to going out every night like they used to, a lot of the bars and restaurants having changed their strategies by stricktly offering takeaway. Besides, it was Tuesday, hence it was no surprise to see more delivery guys than clients. But G had felt she had some reason to celebrate that night having just submitted her final thesis that day.

She made her way down the door with the familiar pair of rabbit ears - no, not a playboy club - but the one bar she actually liked going to and felt fairly safe in, 124 Old Rabbit. Having one of her coursemates there tending the bar gave her the courage to meet up with someone from a hookup app.

The guy had looked alright, having a bit of a blonde viking thing going on, and his story had checked out, unless he'd put in a whole lot of effort to fake it, which seemed unlikely. Apparently the guy was a market research analyst, a couple of years older - 25, educated from Boston University - there being the Boston connection between them, and he seemed to have a love for travel just like she did. Of course G's experiences in travel were rather limited, having not gotten out of the country since she was a minor. G wasn't looking for just a hookup, really - she was truly hoping to connect, she wanted to have someone who was equally interesting to be around with both clothes on and off, while not getting overly clingy or requiring her to change who she was.

She made her way down the stairs energetically and pushed the heavy metal door to the bar open. The place was a lot more empty than she'd imagined, looking a little sad. But it was still early - just 8.30 PM.

Her friend, Hallie, was busy with a couple of customers, and she only waved to her in passing indicating wordlessly that she'd gladly have a drink when she had a moment, and positioned herself on one of the round tables in the back. None of the people in the bar looked like the guy on the picture, so she really only assumed he was late too or simply had stood her up.

Halli handed her a sour ale, which she knew G preferred, not bothering to walk all the way around the bar, but it wasn't needed in her case. After thanking her, G sipped calmly at her drink, not needing to check a drink Hallie had brought her with the SipChip, and browsed her feed on her phone. There was no indication that the guy had seen her message. It hadn't been that long, and she'd only been 10 minutes late, but already she was beginning to lose hope. But she'd been to enough of these since the world began to open up again that she wouldn't take it personally if he didn't show. She mostly met guys around campus if they were students or a couple of times out in a public park with a tracker on her phone, just in case, but after having met up with a few guys creepier than she would've normally picked out, she had stuck to this place and a couple of other restaurants she knew some of the staff.

She did hear the door, but didn't look up, for a moment having gotten caught up in reading an e-mail from her supervisor on the prognosis on her thesis defence that was taking place in a couple of weeks. She was optimistic, and the supervisor was just guessing who might be the opponent, but none of the options really worried her. After all there were ever so few thesis defences on undergraduate level, most people simply having chosen to take the exam instead.

"Hey, you're G, right?" a low, slightly hoarse, voice asked.

G looked up, recognizing indeed the facial features of the guy in the picture. But the guy was definitely not as fit as he'd been in the picture. He wasn't huge - just sort of bear-like, his arms showing at least some muscle underneath his denim shirt. The pandemic had done that to a lot of people, leaving them sitting at their home offices ordering takeaway while they got little exercise, or just getting uneven excersise. The alternative was that they'd turn into health buffs, start biking or running to kill time and get out of the apartments. G was sort of in between - she did bike, but didn't quite dare to go running on her own and she wasn't that persistent with her yoga or Ringfit regimes at home despite having started with great enthusiasm.

Now was her moment to either lie, or just give the guy a chance.

"Matt, right?" she said, wanting to be a decent human being and not judge the book by its cover. She wondered, whether that would make her easy prey in his eyes. Perhaps this would make her seem desparate enough for sex if she did not care what he looked like?

"Actually, it's Mads, but people around here mostly call me Matt. Sorry, I ran a little late," he added apologetically and gestured for the seat next to G asking if it was okay to join her.

"That's an unusual name..," G pointed out, and nodded in agreement.

"Not where I'm from," he replied, huskily.

"Where are you from then?" she asked, pushing her hair behind her hear, unsure which stance to take.

"Denmark, lived in Hjørring until I was 19," Mads replied and described roughly where the city was located and what the town was like.

The fact that the guy had actually something in common with her - having lived a part of his childhood somewhere other than the City or the US even, actually gave her hope that they'd have something to talk about and she indeed opened up a little about her own Parisian experience. He wasn't a boring guy for a conversation, but there was a certain insecurity that shone through his body language that she wasn't sure she was able to work with. Confidence was sexy, and he just seemed flustered, a little sweaty and clumsy - not that he'd had given her much of a demonstration on the latter, which G put down on him being nervous, which was kind of cute at the same time.

But she could already imagine three ways of this going as she listened to him talk.

A) She might just outright say that she was a shallow person, stay true to herself, and admit that personality alone just wasn't enough for her;

B) She might say that she just wanted to stay friends which could turn into either them going their separate ways or them going out for a movie or something and it ending up with her friendzoning him and him pining after her - assuming of course that he was attracted to her which her radar was saying that he was;

C) She could close her eyes and think of England - if she were to think of Rory's words. She was fairly good at taking charge and getting herself off, essentially treating a guy like a sex toy - but this was so not the fun way this could've gone. He liked guys who would take charge a little, know what they were doing and preferably know the importance of foreplay. It wasn't like she'd never settled, and she was kind of horny, hence she was actually considering this, believing firmly that her imagination was capable of a lot of things.

"So you said, you'd just submitted your thesis, right?" Mads asked her, jolting her out of her thoughts.

"I did, yeah," G replied. "I feel so much lighter already. I kind of feel like celebrating," she added, smilingly. But it was a rather lonely celebration in this case - Rory and Logan still in Beeney, spring being busy over there and most of her course mates cramming for their finals, while she just had one more to go in a couple of weeks, leaving her plenty of time to revise.

"I wouldn't even know what to do if I graduated as early as you," Mads continued, knowing G's age and comparing that to the fact that she was already graduating NYU, her having mentioned it before while chatting online. "I mean, I just went off to do internships, three actually, but it was pretty much just searching for something I liked," he added and continued to explain how business and marketing studies were so broad that one really could end up anywhere from managing a superstore to a highly corporate setting and how he'd tried a number of things but settled somewhere in between, at a IT startup, not liking the tension at the typical corporate world. The latter kind of showed in his appearance, his love for more casual clothing for example, but G herself really wasn't looking for a typical yuppie either. Besides, a yuppie wouldn't probably be caught dead in a place like this one. She wanted guys that were unpretencious.

"I don't really know what I want yet. I just kept going along a path and nothing really pushed me off of it and now there's just…," G said and shrugged. "So I honestly don't know. Gradschool is not going anywhere, a career isn't going anywhere," she added, becoming a little cautious, almost slipping and telling a near stranger too much about her finances. "So I'm not sure yet. I might want to travel a bit - there are a lot of places I'd like to see. Maybe now would be the time to go backpacking or something, volunteer or some non-profit maybe, try living somewhere else," she added, toning down on needing to explain why she didn't really need to hurry to find a job. She'd just recently started developing the idea of perhaps considering investing in a place somewhere - maybe something that could be her home away from home and at the same time something she could rent out in the meanwhile like she knew Celeste did with her real estate in France. Or maybe just get a place to rent out and have reason to visit every now and again - she wasn't sure. But she wasn't about to shed light on this to the guy in question.

"I did that one summer after I graduated and before I came here. I figured it was then or never. I knew that once I came here I'd be working throughout my studies to pay for everything. Most people back home thought I was crazy going to study in the US, considering higher education is free in Denmark. But I got a partial scholarship, so it wasn't that bad," Mads continued. "So me and my girlfriend at the time went on the Interrail for like 300 Euros unlimited pass through Berlin, Munich, Milan, Zagreb, Budapest, Prague, from there back to Berlin and then from there to Amsterdam," he added.

"Sounds like fun," G noted, not minding at all that he'd mentioned an ex which some might consider this not the appropriate first date topic. But frankly - it actually raised his rating in her eyes. If he had in fact been in a serious relationship to do something like that, assuming it was a fairly long term relationship, also led her to assume he couldn't be that horrible in bed.

"What was your favourite city?" G asked, showing some curiosity towards him, deciding to give him a real try by leaning in a little, wanting to see how he acted if she flirted a little. Sometimes that was just the needed incentive people needed to show their true selves once their confidence got a little boost.

"Berlin, hence going there twice," Mads replied. "But I guess in part it only really shows how much of a homebody I was. I mean, liking a place that spoke the language I knew, that had a lot of the same stuff in stores and restaurant and all-in-all was very comfortable to get around, with the added perks of a more lively nightlife compared to my hometown," he explained.

"I've heard it used to be quite wild over there," G noted, mostly speaking through her friend Astrid's experiences, who she knew from Paris, who'd done a lot of travelling.

"Oh, definitely," he continued in a low chuckle, and spoke elaborately about going to raves, art clubs that offered also the most spectacular visuals along with their music, open air parties by the river, some X-rated clubs, just to name a few, the latter actually raising G's curiosity a great deal.

After talking for about two hours, which was quite a lot for a date like this, something cracked in Mads. Maybe it was his patience, or maybe he just didn't want to torture himself anymore?

"Listen, I know I'm not quite the person on my profile picture anymore, and I know it wasn't really fair of me to lure you to meet me with it. But I'd appreciate it if you just told me to my face if this isn't going anywhere," Mads said, having clearly missed the couple of mildly flirtatious glances and gestures G had been making, wanting to test the waters. But she wasn't surprised - not everybody had done their most recent paper on flirtatious body language.

"I'm... ," G began, having been caught a little off guard by his straightforwardness. Essentially she just wanted to say that she hadn't made up her mind, which was the truth - but she couldn't quite formulate that at the time. But she recognized the no-bullshit openness the guy had, which was very much different from most Americans she'd met. In Europe most people didn't even inquire "how are you?" just for smalltalk, they actually wanted to know how you were doing, unlike in the US.

"Maybe I'd better go," he began, before G had had a chance to formulate a response.

"No, wait," G replied, grabbing his forearm. It was in part his straightforwardness, his un-Americanness and her curiosity, and perhaps a tiny bit of sympathy that made her say it. He was genuinely a nice guy that didn't deserve to be just cast to the corner because a few extra pounds.

He didn't end up to be half bad, about 7 out of 10, when it came to sex, G needing to help herself a little too by taking control of her own orgasm at some point. But he'd kissed well and actually given a pretty decent oral for warm up. But after texting a few more times and going to see a movie once, the excitement had sort of died out. G didn't miss him when he wasn't around, rather feeling like he was a friend more than anything. But the image of travelling the world had stuck with her, her dream of trying to experience some place other than New York staying amongst her goals. What she was a little unsure about, however, was her slight concern about travelling alone. She'd had enough bad expeirences to not like the idea of not knowing where she was going to sleep the next day, hence transforming her initial idea of backpacking into something more similar to high class travel, which didn't seem all that adventurous. She wasn't sure whether she should just push herself out of her comfort zone or embrace her wealth. Travelling aimlessly would've been so much more fun with a friend, a partner or even a parent, just like Rory had travelled with Lorelai, making her a little envious.

AN: G related chapter to be continued tomorrow.

It's been a little slow in the review section - would love to hear what your thoughts are on any of this.