We're just two Indigenous hopeless romantics falling in love all over St. Louis.
She hadn’t had a single oyster her entire life.
“Are you ready to try some, then?” I asked.
“Yes. With you, yes,” she said, softly.
I had flown to St. Louis, Missouri, earlier that day out of Denver International, the haunted airport with its underground tunnels for the Illuminati lizard people.
When I landed, Veronica, an enrolled citizen of the Wichita Tribe in Oklahoma, who’d relocated to St. Louis, picked me up at the airport; this was our first time meeting face-to-face. We’d been talking for weeks, over the phone, via text and FaceTime, but now here we were, in the flesh, sitting side-by-side in her car about to go on our first date in the middle of the day, and because I would only be in town for the weekend, we didn’t waste any time getting into the romance.
This being my first time in the city, Veronica knew exactly where she wanted to take me. We’d talked about how much I love seafood, and especially a fine iced plate of chilled oysters. It was around 4 p.m. when we pulled up to Broadway Oyster Bar, a charming, narrow, jazzy joint that looks like it belongs on the banks of Maine where grizzled fisherman quaff gin after gin and tell tales of the sea monster spotted that one time during a massive storm.
After a day of only downing coffee and water, I was excited to have a decent meal, but I couldn’t stop staring at Veronica. She has the kind of smile that’ll make any man forget he hasn’t eaten a thing since yesterday; her striking brown eyes turned my knees completely to jelly. Jeezus, I thought, can I make it this whole weekend without any knees?
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We ordered a round of drinks, crab cakes, and a half-dozen oysters. When the oysters arrived, I prepared the plate of Blue Points from Connecticut and Gulfs from Louisiana with lemon and the house-made spicy gin cocktail sauce. Veronica, nervous to have her first experience with oysters, still knocked each one back like a pro as if she grew up on the beach and not in Oklahoma, on the rez, riding horses with her dad until sunset.
After we quaffed the drinks and killed the dish of oysters and the plate of crab cakes, we decided to go and relax, maybe babysit a wine at a wine joint. A couple miles west of Broadway Oyster Bar is Scarlett’s Wine Bar and Restaurant in the Midtown district. This would be where we’d have our first kiss, outside on the sidewalk, the butterflies kind; the kind that makes you damn the gods for taking so long while praising them too for bringing her to you.
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We strolled in the packed place and noticed we were the only two brown people there. Forty-something white men and women wearing Polos and Patagonia vests lined the bar. Servers held steaming pizzas above their heads and weaved through the wobbly crowd to get them to the vested folks on the verge of hanger.
I had my hand on the back of Veronica’s beautiful head and was gently caressing it when a woman turned to us and said, “Are we crowding you?” Her tone was genuine. She had a smile of both envy and encouragement. I think she could tell we were on part two of our first date. The lady gestured toward a crowd of men at the other end of the bar and said, “let me know if those guys bother you.”
And that kind of kindness kept rolling all weekend long from everyone we encountered–bartenders, baristas, waiters, Uber drivers, and obviously random women at wine joints who miss having that kind of affection and attention from a lover, and especially in public.
“All right,” I said. “Do you want to play some arcade games? Is there a place in town?”
After a little Googling, we came upon Parlor in The Grove neighborhood of St. Louis. It’s an old-school joint that still accepts quarters and not arcade coins. Skee-Ball is in the back near the only pool table in the place. There were only a few folks there, which gave us free reign to play almost anything we wanted right away, but we chose pool. There’s something innately romantic about playing pool on a first date, or any date for that matter. You eye each other when it’s their turn to shoot, and you laugh when you scratch for the third time. And then, for a moment, your eyes lock. And it’s butterflies all over again.
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Parlor isn’t a rowdy joint. It’s a great spot for a date or, possibly for the locals. It’s the kind of place that takes your attention away from the pains and perils of the day, if only for an hour or two.
A bit peckish, we cruised down the block and sauntered into Sanctuaria Wild Tapas, a posh joint, bedecked with art and a huge metal sculpture behind the bar. They were just about to shut down the kitchen when we sat at the bar. “If you want something to eat, you’ll have to order in the next five minutes,” the bartender said.
We ended up ordering the surf and turf, which was a filet mignon, cooked medium rare, topped with two grilled jumbo shrimp. We wolfed those down, tipped the bartender handsomely, and made our way back outside into the night air, together.
It was a night of firsts–oysters, kisses, cuddling, my first jaunt to the city–just two Indigenous hopeless romantics falling in love all over St. Louis. And that’s what the town is, a place for new love and dates you wish would never end. It’s a lover’s town, brimming with good eats and drinks, and now, it’s minus one stunning Indigenous woman on the market.
Right. St. Louis, a city of love, where, in fact, the date never ends.