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About four or five dates in, Matlock and I finally made it to Matsuri. We had both been there at least once on other occasions and recalled it seemed pretty authentic, so we were game. (Of course, what a gal from Florida who has never even flown over Japan in a plane, let alone set foot in the country, would know about authenticity is anyone's guess. But let's argue that it was no fast-food sushi joint, and it wasn't decorated with dust-covered paper lanterns, so it seemed to be the genuine article.) Now that we had peeled back each other's shiny layers and he answered the Ten Most Important Questions favorably, we were really ready to start opening up. Well, at least he was ready.
"So this dating column you write... Do I have to be okay with you going out to dinner with other guys all the time?" he began. "Because, truthfully, that doesn't thrill me."
Oooh. Here I was expecting to hear the dulcet sounds of chopstick splinter removal and green tea flowing, but instead I was treated to the bong of a hammer to my head. For a while, I assumed I could continue to be wined and dined by every dude in the city so long as they knew they wouldn't be getting any post-dessert affection and Matlock would be cool with that. But I guess playtime in Rikiland was about to e-n-d.
In an effort to stretch the response time, I buried my nose in the menu and didn't come up for air until our server arrived to scribble down my request for salmon skin salad (highly recommended), tuna tataki, sautéed chicken livers (yes, that was a mistake in retrospect), and vegetable tempura. She skittered off, and I sensed the weight of his question still lingering in the air. The reality was, he knew I was dating someone else casually when we met. Wasn't it too soon for him to ask me to cut the poor guy off altogether?
What Matlock didn't know is that I had already decided to set the Contender free earlier that afternoon on a hunch. After nearly eight months of a fine romance with very little physical affection but lots and lots of amazing dinners, my previous partner still wasn't committing. To anything. He announced I was still "growing on him" even after all that time and blamed the space between us on everything from his financial challenges to my being too busy with work. I had never been likened to a spore before, but that's how his comment made me feel.
Yet over lunch at the Green Gables Café, when I calmly announced he was released from his tour of duty and free to find a gal to hold his heart captive, the guy acted as if he was a vegan told that his black bean veggie burger was really made from raw beef and frog leg purée. Pure shock. While he chewed and pondered, I quickly polished off a bowl of hot yellow lentil soup and a petite organic salad, waiting for the back-peddling to begin. And it did. He hit me with everything from, "You're not being patient," to "We just need more time," and, in a final desperate move, he closed with, "Geez, Riki, shouldn't you be concerned that some guy who barely knows you is head over heels and aiming for commitment after only a few dates?"
I had to sit with that comment for a second and let it steep alongside my cup of chai. In a way, the Contender was right. Matlock barely knew me. But if my new beau saw what he wanted in me after only a few dates, it was worth granting him the gift of exclusivity instead of someone who had enough time to watch this passion fruit seed germinate and then slowly dry up.
I played coy for a while as Matlock awaited my response, but by the time our sushi roll arrived -- the one named "Mr. Bush's 3:00 P.M." and described as "tuna tartar [sic], cucumber and avocado in wasabi mayo with [exact words here] something on top" -- the surrender had begun. "If you are willing to take me out to at least one different fancy-schmancy restaurant every week so I can write about it in my column, I'll promise to dine with only you going forward," I announced, and punctuated it with one eyebrow lifted for effect.
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He happily agreed, and we dug into the Bush roll with "something on top," smirking. Our relationship was moving forward and in the right direction. And, gladly, it didn't seem to have anything growing on it.
Hip Factor: 3/5