*Note: This is an updated version of a post from July 17th 2015 that I decided to come back to and re-work.*
(A Tragicomic in 10 acts)
He was one of those rare, mythical creatures everyone’s heard of but nobody’s actually seen — like unicorns, or people who know how to fold fitted sheets — the Cinderella of Tinder profiles, a 1000 yard stare and an ass to write home about.
Despite showing up 15 minutes early (a rookie mistake wherein the desire for control trumps that of any possible dignity) I hadn’t seen him walk through the door. He was camouflaged by the bobo decor of the bar like one of those employees at over-priced specialty-stores wherein their sheer level of aloof-yet-cool is somehow enough to convince people of the appropriateness of spending a month’s salary on that “must-have” silk skirt. Europe excused the monotone of his look, set off by a turquoise ring that matched mine and a tattoo that desperately wanted closer examination. He was done but not overdone in a way that screamed ‘don’t even think about it.’ But I make a habit of never taking my own advice. Something about the way he walked over, offered me the requisite “bise” and arranged himself in the chair across from mine made my mouth dry.
In the span of hellos I conclude he must be one of these people who always finds themselves asking what’s wrong — there’s never anything wrong, of course, it’s just that you constantly have the impression around them that there’s something in your teeth, that your smile is screwed on crooked, or that you’ve committed some egregious faux pas while ordering your wine. Meanwhile, it seems my legs and hands have somehow forgotten how to sit or hold a glass. Not something I’m used to, but the phrase ‘out of my league’ was 1000 under the sea with a fish like this and colloquialisms don’t translate well. I’m watching from the outside, subway-struggling to breathe, looks sliding off him like water on scales and scales breaking under the weight of his stare until I catch myself looking away just to break the tension.
Happily, alcohol winds all inhibitions and some time later after my third mojito and a 20 minute mental detour I find myself ready and willing to cash out. Turns out ‘out of my league’ bites hard in the rain and one slow grinding song topped with a licked-lip-stare finds us holding hands in a taxi cab listening to the driver chat away about his ex-wife’s seemingly egregious shortcomings to god-knows-who at 4am. Romance is dead, I think, but I feel his fingers rubbing mine and I realized that 29 stands its ground on the scale of take your wins where you can get them. So I do. Sensibilities swallowed like a #tobedeleted hashtag, I’m envisioning myself a liberated-liberal-lady-luck with requisite flaming torch and toga. Fuck it, it’s a Thursday and I’m painted into these jeans like a mainstay attraction complete with lipstick stained teeth and a doe eyed grin. What do you want? He tastes like a 14 dollar whiskey, decadent if over-priced, and I make a mental note to congratulate myself in the morning.
My heels are too high and he has hands softer than anything I’ve never felt on my skin, the combination of which helps me forget how to walk, reading like an invitation or a warning.
“Are you inviting me up?” he asks in the hallway, and I want to smile or respond but somehow my face feels angled all wrong. Words are slippery things– like peeled grapes or spaghetti without a fork they’re best enjoyed cold, alone, and without the pretense of good manners required by someone else’s presence. In any case, what comes out must have resembled “sure” because I quickly find myself pushed up against the wall in the stairwell with his hands in my pants.
Romance is dead, I think. ‘Who cares,’ chorus two glassed of wine, three mojitos, and a forgotten dinner.
“I really can’t see you again,” I warn him the next day after acquiescing to an ill-advised whatsapp exchange, but I got the impression neither of us were entirely convinced of my sincerity. An army of half-baked protests ranging from hair-washing to grocery-shopping later he shows up at my door with a Nick Cave record and a dozen roses stapled with awkward and three of those little packets that keep the water fresh.
“The florist asked me if I wanted to add a card that said ‘I love you’ but I told her it was a bit early for that.”
I choke on my gum, or my tongue, and go to the kitchen for a glass of water under the guise of looking for a vase. Desperate times, or measured ones, call for eventually cutting the stems short enough to shove them in a rinsed spaghetti jar. It occurs to me that I feel less moved by this trite little display of good faith than I probably should, it seems the only thing that can move me to tears or heartstrings of any sort is the carriage scene in Lady and the Tramp.
But hell, I’m nobody’s fool. Love always starts with roses but frequently it seems to end with bloody lips or lost bets and belt-wrapped wrists. I’ve been reading this book by the guy that won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year, he thinks love often ends with Gillette special blues and, at the risk of bandwagoning, I’m inclined to agree.
Still, he’s standing by the window and I think he must be perfect.
He seems a bit disappointed about my lack of reaction to the flowers, but honestly not as much as you might expect. I’d like to find the words to explain to him that people both horrify and enthrall me. I sometimes imagine I’d be better off if I could watch them interacting as one does at a zoo, preferably with soundproof glass or a script of some sort indicating entrances, exits, and X’s where I’m meant to stand at certain moments, complete with stage directions to elucidate appropriate responses to such boy-meets-girl offerings. Words continue to elude me so I shrug instead and silently hand over the spaghetti jar stuffed to the gills with its strange cargo. Problem solved.
Having relocated the flowers we walk and sit in a cafe. I want to smile but I’m feeling sure I have chocolate on my teeth. “What?” I say, accusingly, when he looks at me. “Nothing, you’re beautiful,” he replies.
I stare at a dog on the other side of the street hoping my feigned interest will negate my awkward as I digest the compliment. I think this may be a good time to introduce some fun fact about myself, such as the fact that I have double jointed thumbs or that I always wanted to be a truck driver as a kid. Instead, I go to the bathroom and checked my face for signs of “beautiful.”
Turns out I’d been wrong about the chocolate.
When I get home the roses stare at me. A rose is such a horribly stuck up flower, I immediately regret having poured the three little packets into their water. I put them in the bathroom and feel satisfied when they looked a little surprised.
The next day I think about baking him a cake or doing his laundry. I go with the former, decorated with blue frosting that reads “how about a blowjob?” I’ve always wanted to make a cake with something horribly inappropriate written on it, probably motivated by the same appealing juxtaposition of the cross-stitch patterns that sometimes pop up on my Pinterest — perfectly demure tiny pastel threads arranged to read: “Fuck the patriarchy” or “Cunt.”
In the end, unimpressed or just plain underwhelmed by the results, I swirl the blue and white into a tornado instead.
Romance is dead.
I gave the cake to a homeless man outside my apartment, my teeth stained blue from the frosting. I go back up the five flights of stairs and get the roses. I give him those too.
I’m on my way back up to my apartment, two stairs at a time, when my phone buzzes in my pocket.
“I really can’t see you any more,” I text.
“I know, I know” he replies, “but let’s just get a drink.”