694: Romance Is in the Air

694: Romance Is in the Air

694: Romance Is in the Air


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

There’s something so ache-inducing about remembering those early dates when I was too young to know what a date even was. The awkward movie date in high school where you weren’t sure if you were supposed to hold hands or just eat popcorn in silence. Do you touch knees? What about the tips of your shoes? Who pays for the snacks? What movie isn’t awkward to watch when you’re a teenager and everything is awkward to watch? When everything at all is awkward?

I remember on one of my very first dates we bought pints of ice cream from the 7-Eleven and climbed on top of an old train in Depot Park and ate our separate pints of ice cream and looked at the stars. It was actually a pretty good date when I think about it. Ice cream and a train and stars.

There wasn’t much to do as teenagers in my small town. Mainly we sat in one park or another and ate something or just sat on the swings and talked. No one had money to go to a fancy restaurant on the plaza, so we existed on cheap snacks from 7-Eleven or ice cream from The Creamery and free, public spaces.

What strikes me now, all these years later, is how young we were to think we knew enough to even go on a date. Of course, back then I thought I knew more than I did. I probably thought eating ice cream on top of a stationary train in the park at night was what everyone did on dates.

When we finally got cars we’d go down to the Denny’s or Lyons (which was … sort of like Denny’s) and eat pancakes for dinner and drink coffee as if life hadn’t wired us tight enough already. To think of it now, I miss those moments, those times when we didn’t know if it was a date or a new friendship or just an excuse to eat sugar and laugh.

Today’s poem recalls an early date with all its awkward insecurities and how often what we remember about those early years is not the person we were with, but the person we were becoming.

Romance Is in the Air
by Danny Caine

		Romance is in the air.
		And in this cup.
		Taste for yourself…
		– @DairyQueen · 6:30 PM · Jan 29, 2019

How we decided on a date eating Dairy Queen
in the park behind the high school
I don’t remember. I do remember bag boys
were supposed to ask cashiers on dates, so I did.
It took forever to find Anna’s house in the labyrinth
of her subdivision. Smith Dr., Smith Ct., Smith St..
She lived on one of them. Maybe the ad I saw
for the DQ Chicken Finger box was the hunger
GPS guiding me to the drive-through and then
the park. Or, every date that summer was eating
fast food in a park behind a school. I do remember
this: Anna ate a dipped cone but finished it in the car
before we got to the park. She wasn’t impressed
with me and I don’t blame her. I do remember:
I opened that cardboard box of food and realized,
holy shit, everything in there—
fries, Texas Toast, tenders—
was the same color.

"Romance Is in the Air" by Danny Caine, from FLAVORTOWN, copyright © 2022 Danny Caine. Used by permission of Harpoon Books.