Are you coming tonight?
The text had been sent twenty minutes ago and I was left on read.
He had seen the text and not responded. What was worse was that he was already half an hour late, and I was extremely excited about this second date. We had been out once before, and we both seemed to have a genuinely good time. However, this date was to the fair. Walking side by side at the annual Shelby County Fair was like announcing your relationship on Facebook. Everyone and his mom, quite literally, would know who were dating in a matter of one afternoon. A couple just needed one quick walk down the midway for one person to see them and then that person tells a friend, texts another, and so on.
Maybe I am not ready for this kind of commitment.
The thought flashed and then it was gone. I just wanted to go and eat ridiculously fried food, drink large amounts of sweetened iced tea, and walk around among people again. Quarantine cancelled the fair last year and everyone I knew was excited about the fair being relatively “normal” this year. Kids and teens prepped animals as part of their 4-H projects, food trucks started filling the air with wafting advertisements, and the energy of this small town increased every day until the fair opened its gates. It was a fun place to see life and I grew up here a summer at a time. Now I was going to be a guide to a very handsome guy who had no idea what the fair was about. For now though, I was sitting on the porch of my duplex staring down at my phone.
I could just go by myself. Maybe he didn’t have a good time hiking. If I leave now, I could still walk around the entire fair before it got dark. I’m sure I will see someone I know as I walk around.
My phone buzzed and vibrated, and I saw I had a new message from Harris.
I am sorry.
I read the entire message four times and every time I got angrier and more confused.
What was he sorry about? Is he sick, does he hate crowds, is he worried that a chicken might get loose and peck his eyes out?
I calmed myself down. The last thought was a stretch, but I was frustrated without any clue as to why he wasn’t here yet. It made me smile as I imagined Harris running past the rides at the fair with a massively large chicken chasing him. It eased my rage a bit imagining his six-foot muscular frame being challenged by frenzied poultry.
Then my phone buzzed again.
It’s not you, it’s me.
Seriously? How cliché could this day get? Besides, it is obviously him. I have been ready for awhile, and he is nowhere to be seen.
I knew I should text back something at this point, but I was at a complete loss for words. Then, I typed a simple message.
I am sorry too. I had fun last Saturday. It was nice meeting you.
As I hit send, I could feel my chest tighten. I really liked him, and I thought we connected. I mean I did save him from stepping on a dead raccoon on the trail and he slapped a giant spider off my arm. We also held hands as we ran through a creek from a skunk that made a midday appearance. It was an adventure and probably the worst first date I ever had. Nonetheless, I was so excited to show him around a place from my childhood. After moving back to my hometown, I realized that there were not many people my age around anymore. Many moved away and fewer stayed here after graduation. Then about two weeks ago, I met Harris at a Dunkin’ Donuts while travelling through a nearby larger city and we shared a thirty-minute coffee wait due to a machine malfunction. I thought my prospects were improving. We laughed about not realizing the time had passed quickly and decided to meet up for a hike later the next week.
My phone vibrated again.
WHAT?! That is not what I meant. I just don’t know what to wear to a fair. I didn’t want to embarrass you. I know these will all be people you know. I am not a farm guy. No cowboy boots. No cowboy hat.
He’s worried about embarrassing me? That is so sweet in a ridiculously, almost unbelievable, sort of way.
Oh. It’s super casual. I wear jeans and a t-shirt to the fair. I wear old shoes too. You never know what you might step in. We can reschedule if you want. I know it was supposed to take you an hour to drive up here.
I hadn’t considered prepping Harris for the fair. He said he grew up in the city, but I figured they would still have fairs there. It would be strange to try and figure out what sort of date attire this evening needed. Admittedly, there are girls walking around the fair in dresses and tiaras, guys dressed in dirty boots and pants straight from the barn, and everything else in-between. I felt bad that I had not considered this when I invited him.
My phone vibrated again.
No need to reschedule. Come around the side of your house.
I rose from my chair and walked around the bushes. Standing on the sidewalk was Harris wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and his work boots. I smiled at him as he grinned at me. I waved for him to wait a second while I ran back to grab my wallet and lock my front door.
While I was locking the door, my phone buzzed.
I’m sorry I’m late. I just had some fair concerns.
The joke made me laugh out loud. I was so relieved that Harris was here, but I did wonder how long he had been sitting outside in his car.
It’s totally fine. Have you been in your car this entire time?
I finished locking the door and started walking down the sidewalk when my phone vibrated.
Yup. Your dog is cute, and those jeans fit you well.
I felt my cheeks flush a little and my smile grew. As I opened the car door, I could see he was laughing slightly. It was going to be a great night, and I started thinking about what to show Harris first as he drove us to the fair.