Seventy Years of First Dates
Jeannette – 1952
“I do not know how I’ll survive dancing in these shoes tonight,” I say, crouching down to rub the back of my ankle with my thumb. The backs of my brand-new blue kitten heels dig into my skin with each step. Amelia, my best friend, laughs and pulls me inside the Gimli Recreation Centre. Streamers and balloons decorate the main hall for this month’s community dance—an event I always look forward to.
Amelia points to a table in the corner. There is a line of people waiting to get drinks and snacks. We make our way to the end of the line, knowing that if we don’t get there soon, there won’t be anything left for us. I look around at everyone in attendance. Gimli is a small town, so I can pretty well name everyone in the room.
A young man I don’t recognize flashes his teeth at me from a table at the other end of the room. His dark brown hair parts perfectly to the left, and his grin is so wide it fills the whole dance hall. I feel my cheeks go red as I turn to Amelia.
“Who’s that over there?”
“Who?” Amelia stretches up on her tiptoes to get a better view.
“Blue suit, nice smile.” I look in his general direction, hoping Amelia will take the hint. She peers over shoulders and cranes her neck to the side. I know she’s seen him when her eyes go wide.
“Him? That’s George Stacey. He’s here with the army—drives the service bus out to Winnipeg Beach for the summer.”
I catch his eye one more time and smile.
“Huh. He’s pretty good-looking, isn’t he?”
“I’ll let him know right away. Thank you, General. You have a nice day now.” I put the phone back on the receiver and finish up with my notes, making sure to write the date in the top righthand corner. The RCMP office is always busy, but today feels as though I’ve been answering a call every 30 seconds. I’m not the only one though; everyone in the office is scrambling to get their paperwork in, being a Friday afternoon and all.
“Jeannette?” My boss, Mr. Sanderson, stops at my desk. He wears a navy-blue suit with gold cufflinks, the kind you find in the expensive section of Eaton’s catalogue.
I straighten my back, smooth out my blouse, and look up at him with a smile.
“I have a friend that I think you would do well to meet. He’s been in the army for the past couple years. Maybe I could arrange for the two of you to get together?”
“Sure, thank you sir.” I nod.
“Great! He’ll pick you up tomorrow and take you to Winnipeg Beach on the service bus.” He strolls over to his office.
“Jeannette, we simply must have a tea party before you leave,” Janie whines, pulling the sleeve of my top and dragging me toward the backyard. It’s 8:45 p.m. on a Friday—15 minutes after Janie’s bedtime, to be exact—and I’m 15 minutes away from finishing my babysitting shift. Janie tugs harder on my blouse, stretching my sleeve as far as it can go.
“No, Janie, we have to get you in bed before your parents get home. You know the rules: you can stay up late, as long as it doesn’t get me in trouble. The RCMP dinner is over by now, they’re bound to be back any minute.” I point to the stairs. Janie pouts, folding her bottom lip over itself in preparation for the greatest display of crocodile tears she’s performed since last week.
“None of that,” I say, picking her up and whisking her into her bedroom. I make my way back to the living room, where a mess of crayons and dolls awaits me. I begin to tidy the room, careful to put everything in its rightful place; Mrs. Holloway is the kind of woman who would notice if a vase were on the wrong side of the table, or if a blanket had been moved to the other chesterfield.
Keys jingle on the other side of the front door. I speed through the rest of my cleaning, managing to straighten up the sofa cushions and sit down just as Sergeant and Mrs. Holloway walk in.
“Jeannette, the place is spotless! I can always count on you to keep Janie in line.” Mrs. Holloway beams. She throws her arms back and lets her coat slide into her husband’s arms.
“It’s no trouble, really. Janie’s a real swell girl,” I say, nudging a stray crayon under the couch with my foot.
“We sat at the table across from your cousin and her husband tonight,” Mrs. Holloway says, glancing over at my left hand, which I shimmy up into my sleeve. “Really sweet couple, and good-looking too.”
“Yes, the two of them are quite happy.” I smile once more, this time turning away from her gaze.
“You know, Jeanette, I also ran into one of my friends at the dinner tonight. Quite the strapping young fellow. You really ought to meet him sometime. I can arrange a time for the two of you to meet, but only if you’d like.” Sergeant Holloway says, hanging his wife’s coat on the rack.
“I appreciate that, sir, but I’ve already got plans to meet someone that my boss at the RCMP telephone office suggested. He’s actually taking me to Winnipeg Beach in the morning. Thank you though.” I gather my things and put on my flats. Sergeant Holloway hands me an envelope with my stipend for the night.
When the RCMP service bus rolls up and I see the driver’s face, I know exactly who he is; I remember those eyes from the dance a couple weeks ago. I spend the whole bus ride to Winnipeg Beach staring at my shoes. George Stacey sits next to me, whistling, humming, and tapping the steering wheel the entire drive down from the military base in Gimli.
We drive straight down the route to Winnipeg Beach, stopping periodically to let passengers on or off and never staying in one place for very long. George keeps his hands steady on the wheel, 10 and two at all times, his gaze fixed on the road ahead. I try to think of something to say, but every time I muster up the courage to speak, the doors to the bus open, and George takes the time to greet each new passenger.
George and I exchange quick glances and closed-lip smiles, but nothing more. Silence sits between us, even as the bus fills with chatter from the RCMP members in the back. At Winnipeg Beach, we drop off our passengers and welcome new ones. We don’t stop to take a look at the water or spend time on the dock. George turns around and gets on the road right back to Gimli. Our silence is uninterrupted on the way home.
The next day, just as I sit down to read, the telephone on the kitchen wall rings. I race to pick it up before my father does, getting there just as he puts his hand on the receiver.
“It’s George. I wanted to call and ask if you want to come to the dance with me tomorrow night.”
I pause for a moment, trying to remember if I’d already agreed to babysit.
“Sure. That sounds fun,” I say. I hang up the phone, turning my head to hide my grin from my father’s gaze.
Over two years later, George and Jeannette Stacey were married on December 18, 1954. In 2021, they celebrated their sixty-seventh wedding anniversary.
Cassidy – 2019
“I can’t do this anymore,” I sigh. After three hours of excruciatingly boring reading, I’m nowhere closer to finishing the chapter than when I first sat down. I close my economics textbook and lean back in my desk chair. Its wheels wobble under my weight, sending the chair, and me, backward into a pile of laundry sitting at the foot of my bed. I get up, stopping to remove a stray sock from the wheel, and collapse onto my bed face first.
Another Friday night and I’m sitting here alone. Again. Great.
I groan as I roll onto my back. The fairy lights I taped to my ceiling last week have come loose, spilling onto my pillow and tangling in my hair. As I reach up to free myself from the mess of strands and strings, my hand meets my phone, which rests on the pillow next to me. I punch in my passcode and scroll through all four of my notifications.
Being a Friday night at the beginning of the semester, most of my friends have probably found the nearest house party—not that I would know. They’ve stopped inviting me to those things because I always say no. It’s always the same routine—they all file into someone’s living room, crack open a bottle of Grey Goose or two, and end up passed out on the bathroom floor. I’ve decided that spending my Friday nights studying was much more productive than nursing a hangover every Saturday morning.
While I’ve managed to dodge their Friday night endeavours, I couldn’t escape my best friend’s matchmaking attempts. Two of the notifications on my phone are from Tinder, the account she set up under the guise of a personality quiz.
I should have seen it coming when she snuck my phone out of my bag and began to quiz me on things she’s known for years, like my favourite colour and whether I like dogs.
One week and about 25 notifications later, I still can’t figure out how she found the time to swipe through so many guys. Most of the ones she picked are clearly not looking for a long-term relationship, especially with bios like “Here for a good time, not a long time.”
I open the app and look through my conversations, hoping for a laugh more than anything else. Two profile pictures greet me—one of a blonde guy holding a golden retriever with a matching haircut, and the other of an iPhone selfie. I tap that one to get a closer look.
His profile picture is one of those mirror flash photos, the kind that blinds the camera to the point where the only recognizable thing in the picture is the phone itself.
Nice pick, Erika. She had obviously swiped right on every guy that popped up on the screen.
Both conversations start with the same message:
I decide to match their unoriginality with my own, giving them both the same tired line in reply:
Nothing much, how about you?
I cast my phone to the side and wait, not expecting to get any answer. I’m almost asleep when my phone buzzes. It’s iPhone—his name is Brendon, but all I can think of when I talk to him is that awful profile picture.
Stuck at home on a Friday night?
What’s going on with that?
You didn’t answer my question
Answer mine first
But I asked first
But your answer will be more interesting
How do you know?
Trust me, I just do
How about you answer me and then I’ll let you know which one is more interesting?
How about you meet me for brunch tomorrow and I’ll tell you then?
UH, slow down.
How do I know you’re not a serial killer?
I invited you to brunch.
Point taken, but I still know nothing about you
Well come to brunch tomorrow and find out
Meet me at Denny’s, the one on Dixie and Matheson. I’ll be in a blue sweater
I turn off my phone and slink under the covers.
There’s no way I’m going to do this.
The next morning, I spend two hours trying to pick an outfit, only to settle on the same grey cardigan and faded jeans I gravitate to for every social outing. I show up at the nearest Denny’s for brunch. I enter the building, scanning the room for the blue sweater. The waitress at the front points me in the direction of a dark-haired boy in a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey, who’s sitting at a table by the window.
I slide into the booth so that I’m facing him. He looks up from his phone, his blue eyes wide.
“Yup. You’re not wearing a sweater.”
So tomorrow then?
Not Denny’s again. Please
My stomach can’t take it
It wasn’t that bad
For you, sure
Okay fine. What do you want to do then?
You know what?
Tomorrow’s supposed to be really nice. Why don’t we drive out to the beach?
Managing Editor (Volume 49); Senior Copy Editor (July–November, Volume 49); Copy Editor (Volume 48) — Juliana is a fourth-year student completing a double major in English and Professional Writing and Communication. She previously worked as a Copy Editor for Volume 48 and briefly as Senior Copy Editor for Volume 49. When she isn’t adding commas or splitting up run-on sentences, Juliana loves to read, play violin, sing, fangirl over multiple TV shows, and completely spoil her two dogs.