Thursday afternoon, as I was looking over a printout of eye shadow selections and shooting the shit with my favorite godmom , I received a lovely text message from the guy that’s now stood me up not once, not twice, but (as of Wednesday night) three times. “Hey. Sorry about last night. I had a rough night.”
I thought to myself, “Self, you should really hear him out. He could have been gang raped by a group of bikers and be in the hospital recovering from reconstructive asshole surgery.” Then I smiled and typed “No biggie.”
“I got a job offer in a ‘big far away’ city and I was thinking about it. I need to walk and clear my head.”
I couldn’t help myself – I snorted. It was definitely not one I’m familiar with, and I pride myself on having an excellent repertoire of excuses. He went on to say how he hadn’t slept the previous night and had to make a decision by Friday evening. Really? I admit I went into a mini tantrum - ranting to my godmom about what a dickface he is and how it must be so hard to text someone and say “I can’t go” because you’re too busy thinking.
While she went to help a customer and I sat silently stewing, glaring at my text messages, up popped a new one from someone unexpected. The original online dating candidate – Mr. 39 year old (whom we will from here on out refer to as Sam). I wasn’t necessarily surprised to hear from him because he’d been texting me sporadically over the past few weeks, trying to set up a dinner date, but I’d been so wrapped up in trying to get things off the ground with dickface that he’d slipped my mind.
“Have dinner with me tonight.”
It was last minute and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t accept a date on those terms. However, weak and irritated at being stuck in a constant cancellation rut, I immediately agreed. I moved around a few things, got a sitter for the kid, rushed around the makeup store fixing myself up, and off I went.
That’s when the nerves hit.
The closer I got to my destination, the more nervous I became. I have no idea where it came from or why, because I’m not usually like that. By the time I was in the home stretch, about two miles from the restaurant, I’d resorted to talking to myself.
“You’re going to be fine. Just be yourself. But not too much like yourself! Don’t say vagina...or masturbate...and definitely don’t call him a menstrual chunk. He’s not your friend – nasty name calling is not appropriate. Unless he really insults you...then it might be ok. Shit. Deep breaths, deep breaths.”
I sent him a text letting him know that I arrived and without waiting for his response, got out of the car, straightened my skirt, and walked purposefully toward the door. We were meeting in a popular Mexican restaurant that is usually filled to the brim with people I know and would rather not run into – especially on a blind first date. Seating is by choice, so I hoped to see him as soon as I walked in the door rather than standing there awkwardly or walking from section to section, inviting people to ask me what I was up to.
Two Mexican men smiled at me as I clacked across the tiles, looking left and right. “Sit anywhere”, one said. “How many”, said the other. Still glancing around, now getting a bit more nervous because no one was coming forth to claim me, I mumbled that I was meeting someone. My phone buzzed in my hand. “Had to stop for gas. Five minutes.”
I had a tiny flash of annoyance since I’d driven all the way from downtown and managed to make it on time, yet he lived virtually next door and was late. But I quickly reminded myself that tardiness was not something I could fault anyone else for, and made my way to a booth visible from the reception area. The waitress dropped menus on the table and asked for my drink order. I needed alcohol, that much was clear, but I didn’t want to order anything strong or expensive. I settled on a Mic Ultra in a bottle and leaned back to wait.
I felt awkward, sitting there sipping my beer and staring at the door, so I started texting my sister. “My hands are shaking”, I wrote. (She has been oddly supportive about my foray into the world of online dating and has spent several evenings stretched out across my bed, listening and chiming in with words of encouragement.) “You’ll be fine. Relax.”
I glanced up from my phone, a half smile on my face over the fact that my 17 year old sister was giving me dating advice, and there he was. Infinitely better looking than his pictures, which I hadn’t expected, and with a grin on his face that immediately put me more at ease. “Hi”, he said, sinking into the opposite seat, “I wasn’t sure whether you’d decide to wait in the car or not.” I reached across the table to shake his hand, which seemed to surprise and amuse him. He ordered a sweet tea from the waitress and I briefly regretted the beer, then inwardly shrugged. At least I hadn’t ordered Jack.
The conversation was comfortable, normal, at first. We covered the usual topics – work, family, geography, and kids. Contrary to my earlier belief, he hadn’t been scared away by the single mom stigma. He asked questions and relayed stories about his nephew who is around the same age.
Then it moved into hilarious territory. We somehow got on the subject of gay men, which turned into me relaying the story of the 40 something man in women’s underwear that was online stalking me, which turned into him telling a story and so on. We covered a wide variety of topics – from homosexuals to bums, go-cart racing, books and movies. The only part that gave me a minute’s pause was when the story of my amorous drag queen turned into a discussion on men that wear their wives underwear, which turned into a discussion on violence in the bedroom.
“Sex is like...vanilla ice cream. It’s already good. All that other stuff is just toppings, nice to have sometimes but not really necessary. A little chocolate syrup – alright. Some whipped cream – ok, yeah. Sprinkle on a few chopped nuts – alright, but that’s probably enough...let’s not get too crazy. This hitting shit, I don’t know. A little slap on the ass and tug on the hair occasionally should be good enough, but not every time.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to say, “If you won’t bruise me, you can’t use me”, but I refrained. I was, however, a little worried about all this vanilla sex talk. I happen to like toppings. But we continued to laugh and I wiped that part of the conversation from my mind for the time being. I told myself that I shouldn’t be concerned with his sexual prowess at the moment anyway. Besides, he fascinated me. He was so confident and relaxed. When our eyes met there was undeniable chemistry. We would periodically lean across the table toward each other and every now and then, though I wasn’t certain if it was purposeful or not, his foot would brush mine.
We sat there long after the waitress placed the bill on the table (which he snatched up immediately) and I was so loathe to end our time together that I’d been delaying a visit to the bathroom for a good thirty minutes. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore; I excused myself and he went to pay. When I returned he was sitting on the edge of his seat and I was disappointed. It was time to call it a night. I perched on the edge of mine and gathered my things.
“Are you in a hurry? Do you have anywhere to be”, he asked.
“Not really”, I replied nonchalantly.
“Do you want to hang out some more...do something else?”
“What do you want to do?”
I shrugged, assuming we’d just go to a bar and have a few drinks. “Doesn’t matter.”
“Do you want to come over and watch that movie we were talking about?”
I paused to consider my answer, my thoughts going back and forth, weighing the good and the bad: “I shouldn’t – I don’t know him. But I like him. But I shouldn’t because I’ll be tempted to sleep with him. What if he puts the moves on me? What if he doesn’t put the moves on me? I’d be an idiot to go. But I want to go. But an invitation to “come over and watch a movie” is an invitation for sex. Or at least in my experience it’s usually been that way.”
I smiled and said, “Ok.” Adding in my head, “I’m not fucking you...even if your green eyes are making me all tingly. Damn it.”
I followed Sam around the corner and into a neighboring subdivision that, coincidentally, I take the kid to every Halloween for trick-or-treating. I wondered if I stood on his doorstep and smiled at him last year, without even noticing him at all.
Pulling into the driveway of a simple brick house, I cut the engine. I was nervous all over again as I stepped out of the car and walked toward him, my heels tapping on the pavement and echoing down the dark, quiet street. He smiled and turned to lead me up the steps. “It’s a little messy”, he said as he unlocked the door.
It wasn’t messy at all. It was lovely. The kitchen was light and airy with a breakfast nook and a tall, two-seater table. A large wine rack was stocked with glasses and bottles next to a high backed wooden bench with hooks for hats. I followed him down a short flight of stairs into the living room. A huge, squishy looking white sofa was in the center of the room, one corner angled out like a chaise lounge. Black and white photos decorated the wall, along with an astounding array of movies and pictures on a wide black shelf. There was some sort of contraption in a corner that’s point swirled designs in a plate of sand. It was comfortable, yet modern...and exactly the sort of thing I’d do in my own home (should I ever again have the chance).
When I asked if he was a “techie” because of the seemingly large amount of equipment around the entertainment center he smiled and said, “I like gadgets. C’mon...I’ll show you.” I followed him back through the kitchen and into a side room. There were glass patio doors on one wall, a computer desk filled with monitors on another, and what looked like a lot of high tech audio equipment and huge speakers on the remaining wall. I thought of asking if he was in a band, but didn’t because I couldn’t remember if it was on his profile or not. I didn’t want him to know that I might have confused his stats with another’s.
Through another doorway I caught a glimpse of a big, gleaming black piano with the lid propped open. I’m ashamed to say that on our trek back to the living room I may have had a mini Pretty Woman fantasy.
We chatted about the house while he grabbed me a beer and squatted in front of the TV to find the movie. “Make yourself at home”, he said over his shoulder. The couch was so big that I had to wiggle back into it, my feet lifted awkwardly off the floor. I decided to angle myself on the chaise portion, stretching out my legs and crossing them. “Those are hot shoes, by the way”, he said, smiling as he walked toward me. “You can take them off if you want.”
“I’m alright.” They were black, caged high heels; I don’t know why I didn’t want to take them off. He flicked the light and settled down next to me, but not too close.
We watched the movie. I’m not even kidding. Occasionally one of us would make a comment about what was going on, but for the most part there was contented silence. About halfway through he told me I could take off my shoes again and I couldn’t find a reason not to. It seemed silly by then that I hadn’t. I had to scoot all the way to the edge of the couch to unzip the back of them and slip them off. I could feel him watching me, but I ignored it and wiggled back into place.
A short while later he stretched out and pulled me to him, put his arm and a pillow under my head, and spooned with me, his hand stroking my hip. But he didn’t try anything else and I relaxed, leaning back into him and feeling his chest rise and fall against my spine. I was entirely too content when the end credits rolled and he excitedly asked if I’d liked the movie. “I wasn’t sure you would”, he said, “but I hoped...”
I rolled over onto my back and propped up on my elbows, his arm draped casually over my waist. “Yes, I liked it.” We smiled at each other and discussed all the clues that led up to the surprise ending. I was charmed that he’d not only behaved throughout the whole thing, but that he’d wanted me to like it so much that when he asked, his face had been creased with something akin to worry.
Movie rehashing over, we stared at each other. He shifted a bit, half sitting up, and drew me toward him. I closed my eyes as his lips softly touched mine.
And for a long time he kept that soft, sedate pace, brushing his lips across my neck and back to my lips again, just barely teasing my tongue with his, until my mouth was begging for more pressure. I don’t know if I’ve ever been kissed quite that way. It was delicious.
A few minutes later we became more urgent and he pressed me down into the couch. My skirt was twisted around my hips, my legs wrapped around his waist. My phone buzzed on the seat by my head as his hands wound themselves in my hair and his lips found my ear. I sighed, knowing exactly who it was. Mom had been texting me all evening, wanting to know when I was planning on coming home.
“Sam”, I said reluctantly.
“Mmm”, he replied, still nuzzling my neck and pressing closer.
“I can’t stay long. I mean...I can’t...I don’t want you to think that I...”
He chuckled and kissed me again. “It’s ok, I understand.”
“Good”, I said, relieved, kissing him back.
He leaned back and sat up, pulling me with him so hard that I tumbled into his lap. We laughed. And then we were at it again, his hands pressing down on my hips and my hands clutched in his hair. I pulled away a few minutes later, breathless, and he flopped back onto the couch with a sigh, leaving me straddling him and grinning. “You’re killing me”, I said with a laugh.
I reached over and picked up my beer from the table, taking a huge swallow while he laughed underneath me. I clambered off of him, tugging my skirt down and perching on the edge of the couch to put on my shoes. While I slipped a foot in one and zipped the back, he picked up the other and turned it over in his hand. “Yeah...I really like these. You were killing me by not taking them off.” We laughed and he handed it over.
I clacked across the living room and up the three stairs to the kitchen, with him hot on my heels. Picking up my purse from a chair, I turned to tell him goodbye. He wrapped me in a tight hug and held me up on my tiptoes. “I had a really good time”, he said.
“When can I see you again?”
“I don’t know”, I replied a bit glumly. “I have a wedding this weekend that’s going to keep me busy.”
“I’ll be around. Let me know when you have some time.”
It took forever for me to get out of there –because my resolve was crumbling and every time he put his lips on me, I forgot where I was for a moment. Finally, pressed up against the wall next to the front door, I found the willpower. “I have to go. Really.” I dunked under his arm and backed out smiling. He grinned back at me and waited until I was in the car to close the door.
I drove out of the neighborhood in a state of barely suppressed agitation. My arms were covered in goose bumps and tingles ran up and down my spine. I lit a cigarette and attempted to calm down, but nothing could stop the squeal that came out of my mouth. “I’m like a fucking teenager”, I thought. But I didn’t care. My face was started to hurt from the grin that wouldn’t move.
My phone buzzed in my lap and I jumped. It was a text message from Sam. “That was really hot.”
My grin stretched even wider and I knew I was in serious danger of cracking my face in half.
“I agree”, I replied. “Though now I am incredibly frustrated.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way”, he said, “but I kind of like the idea of you going home all hot and bothered.”
Sleep did not come easy that night, but I was bright eyed and ready to go Friday morning. And luckily, I get off early on Fridays, because I was very distracted. I was home by 3:30 that afternoon and in the shower to get ready for the rehearsal and dinner. I had to be at the church by 6.
Arriving right on time, I stood around and waited for things to begin. The wedding was outside on a point overlooking the water and it was still quite hot outside. I was chatting with the bridesmaids when my phone buzzed. It was Sam.
We texted back and forth for awhile before I told him I’d get in touch with him after the rehearsal. I knew I was going to try to sneak out early to see him and it was making me antsy.
Around 8:30, after I’d socialized at the dinner for an hour and had a few drinks, I sent him a message.
“What are you up to?”
“Just finished dinner. Headed back home I guess. You?”
“Finishing up at this rehearsal dinner.”
I grinned as I typed, “No plans.”
“Not the right answer”, he said.
“I’ll be there shortly.”
After several high fives from the bridesmaids and one “No more ‘Since January’ for you!” cat call, I was on my way to the car. There were tons of people there and I wouldn’t be missed. Besides, there was always the reception the following night.
I realized on the drive to his place that I was a little more tipsy than I originally thought and I had to be extra careful. I was relieved when I finally pulled up in his driveway. For about half a second. Then I saw him sitting on the steps, talking on the phone, and it hit me. I was there for one reason and one reason only. He knew and I knew it. And it had been such a long time...I was suddenly nervous.
There was a heavy night breeze as I got out of the car and my dress sucked to my legs as I walked toward him. He smiled and reached out his hand, still on the phone, and I took it. He squeezed my fingers and rolled his eyes in the direction of the phone.
“Where’s your bathroom”, I whispered.
He pointed to one side and mouthed, “Hallway.”
I went inside, dropped my purse in a kitchen chair, and walked to the bathroom, closing the door softly behind me. I stared at myself in the mirror – a mass of curls around my face and eyes wide. I turned the water on and rinsed my suddenly dry mouth, then took a deep breath and went back outside.
He was still on the phone and made an apologetic motion at me. I felt awkward standing there, listening to his conversation, but I didn’t want to sit in his house either. Instead I leaned on the railing and looked up at the sky, tuning him out. The moon and the stars looked particularly bright, but I imagine that had more to do with the closest street lamp being out and my level of inebriation, rather than anything else.
Finally he said goodbye, stood up and came toward me. “Hi”, he said smiling.
He gathered me in his arms and kissed me, right there on the front steps. And as I kissed him back, as his hands stroked my shoulders and my hair, I realized I wasn’t nervous anymore. Not at all.
Sunny Side of the Street
3 days ago