***Originally Written January 2014***
Jesus Christ, here I am today. We’re almost to January and that spot of distant motivation is sparking in my eyes. I’m house-sitting this week – lounging on a purple, leather couch, yes it’s purple, maroon almost, next to ninety pound eight month old Great Dane. She’s groaning in her sleep. This couch isn’t big enough for the two of us, and her head and paws are flopping off the edge. It’s motherfucking freezing. I feel like I’m perched on a tiny rock in a hollow cave next to a hibernating bear.
Max is home. I’ve texted him twenty-five times, or around that much. He responds every eighth message or so. It’s all so nonchalant. He’s on our new leather sectional – a splurge for us. I know what’s happening – his long legs are stretched out in front of him, LED candles are flickering around the corners of the room,he’s cloaked in blankets with little dogs tucked underneath, personal little space heaters. Seven years in and we’re at that stage when any sense of propriety has gone out the door. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go into some bullshit about how love will reign victorious or some other creepy shit, but you get it. We’re comfortable. We’re warm. We’re lazy. But it wasn’t always this way.
At the end of 2006, I was probably having a nervous breakdown, not the first and not the last. I wasn’t eating, I was sleeping until 3 p.m., and I was meeting a stranger at Alterra Coffee off of Lincoln Memorial Drive in the middle of the day. I was wearing a white lace bra that I bought with an ex-boyfriend, white tank, jeans, and mauve heels. I was not dressed correctly, but it was the mid aughts and we didn’t know any better.
Here’s the story:
I see Max sitting at a table outside, and I know very little about him. We’ve been online dating for three weeks, a fact that I find particularly uncomfortable. He’s wearing a black button down, jeans that I hate, red reeboks, and his nose is huge. It’s really huge, or it is in my memory of it, but it has since seem to have shrunk in more recent times. He sees me. He lifts his glass – he’s drinking Sports Tea. I wonder if he’s a creep. I pull up a chair next to him and cross my legs in a way that I hope is ambiguous because I think that’s how I feel about him – ambiguous, but bodies are known to tell the truth.
We make the general niceties.
“Do I look like you expected?” I ask, smiling. Aren’t I just so damned cute? “Do my pictures do me justice?”
Max touches his hand to his mouth, and gives a thoughtful pause. “I thought your hair would be darker.”
It’s really a perfect answer. He says it in a way that lets me know he’s on to me; I am probably fishing for a compliment, and he easily navigated his way around it. I like that. But I’m not finished.
“So.” I needle. “What kinds of drugs have you done?” This isn’t the next thing I ask him, but nearly. We’ve been sitting on one of the outside tables under the blazing sun. I’m feeling a little sweaty and probably getting a sunburn, but I’m too young to worry about wrinkles. I don’t think I get anything to drink because I’m far too nervous. I’m fishing him out – trying to push his limits. I don’t like people who won’t play ball. I’m gonna need at least a swing.
I can see that he’s taken aback and something inside of me jumps with joy. But he spills.
He gives a smirk. “Well.” He says and makes this back and forth kind of gesture with his hands towards me. For some reasons, his lids are so low I wonder if he’s actually talking in his sleep, like he’s making the most gentle eye contact in the world. “Quid quo pro.” He waits expectantly.
I don’t know what “Quid quo pro” means, but hey, context. I don’t tell him. Or maybe I do, it’s been a long fucking time.
We move on to a bar down town right by his apartment – I drive us – because I’m sober at the moment and fresh out of college and cleaving desperately to my party girl days.
We’re at a college bar, it’s a bar which we will never return. Max orders a Mandarin Press. A what?
“My friend Sarah turned me on to them. I order them all the time now.” He leans an arm back around the edge of my bar stool. I can feel his forearm brush against my long hair. It feels familiar.
I order the same. We never order them ever again after this night.
Max pulls a cigarette out of a pack because this was a time in my life where smoking didn’t make me want to projectile vomit, and I hadn’t developed any kind of weird late set asthma yet. I show off and bum two off of some dudes in polos when we run out. He thinks I’m flirting. (Seven smoke-free years later, and I’ll be pulling used nicotine patches off my dog’s forehead after having shared a pillow with Max from the night before.)
And finally, we’re drunk, so drunk. Drunk, drunk! I’m just out of college and stupid, so stupid. It dawns on me that I’m about to spend the night in a stranger’s apartment because there we are and where else do I go? A brief cold wave of stranger danger washes over me for the first time because I know that I won’t sleep with him. In practice, I am a prude. This isn’t college anymore. Is this dangerous? Yes? Maybe.
He doesn’t even try to kiss me though. I sleep on the couch because I’m too drunk to drive home, clutching my phone in my hand just in case he tries anything funny (he doesn’t).
The next morning I wake up bright and early with an unforgiving hangover. I shield my eyes against the sun cracking through the curtains. His apartment is on the fifth floor and it overlooks a Taco Bell parking lot, which I find distasteful but, really, who am I to judge? I suddenly start sneezing uncontrollably and I can’t stop the sniffles.
I see his lanky, long frame appear through the bedroom doorway overlooking the living room where I’m currently losing my shit. He’s wearing a pair of black and white Adidas track pants from the mid-nineties and it makes me eerily uncomfortable because all I can think of is sixth grade boys running the mile. He scratches his head and yawns.
“Are you crying?” He asks. He seems put off.
“No.” sniff “Just sneezing.” I scramble to collect my things. The night is over; I am convinced I will never speak to this person ever again.
“But you weren’t wearing a bra.” Max clarifies when I send him this piece while I’m still sitting on the purple, leather couch.
“Yes, I was.” I say. “I even specified which bra. That’s how well I remember. I know which bra I wore almost a decade ago.”
“And you were crying.” He adds.
“No. I was not crying. What would I be crying about?”.
Max shakes his head. “Ok, but still. No bra.”