The last time we talked, I had taken fate in my own hands, risking rejection and abject humiliation, and asked a boy out. And he said yes. And then I ever so cruelly cut you off with a to be continued, right when it was getting good. And I hear you, loud and clear- you do not like to be continueds! So I am going to go ahead and warn you ahead of time, right now- this entry will probably end up to be continued too. But only because I want you to get the real-time feel of the story by drawing it out painfully over a series of weeks. There, now you feel like you're there! Also because, even ten years later, I have only a limited tolerance for recounting my teenage awkwardness, and after a few paragraphs or so I have to go breathe deeply into a paper bag until I remember that I'm twenty-nine, and much less stupid now. And also, I have better taste in guys. So there.
So, I asked him out, Jeff, my boss and pool manager, and after a painfully long hesitating moment, he said yes. And so we went to the movies, one of those cramped, multi-plex theaters that were just starting to be torn down in favor of hulking mega-plexes with valet parking and nose bleed-inducing stadium seating. After intending to see Star Wars, once the previews finally ended we realized within the first few seconds that unless George Lucas had decided to take things in a drastically different artistic direction, what were were watching was not in fact Star Wars, but rather a much inferior film called Wild, Wild West. You see, I had thought I was following him into the theater, and he had thought he was following me, a subject that caused quite a bit of contention and thinly-veiled finger-pointing, considering it was only our first date and we were technically supposed to still be polite to each other. But we decided to let bygones be bygones and afterwards took a walk around the man-made lake outside. We lapped around a second and then a third time, talking about life, our travels, and everything in between. Then, when we headed back to the parking lot he said, "Let's get one thing straight." My heart sank. Here it comes, I thought. The shoe falling. The speech: "This was fun, but we work together. We can't see each other again, or if we do it has to be a secret. We can't tell anyone about this."
But instead he said adamantly, like a drill seargeant barking out orders - "We're going to see another movie." I hadn't realized I was holding my breath, but suddenly it all came rushing out in a relieved sigh. "And we're sitting in comfortable seats."
"Ok," I said, giddily happy. "Ok!"
In the weeks that followed we went to another movie and then to an Orioles game, where he told me about a game he had come to with his uncle as a child. "And I remember we sat right over there- Your eyes really are pretty, you know- and I almost caught a foul ball." I glowed, replaying the moment over and over during the next few days. That compliment! And the way he slipped it right in there almost unnoticed- it was so like him. So blasé, so curmudgeonly. So adorable.
Next he said he would make me dinner. He was a really good cook, he said. And so I went with him to his parents' house one night after work. He rushed me from the front door to his bedroom and left me there while he did recon on his parents. "Do you want me to come with you?" I asked, thinking I should introduce myself. I didn't hear whether he said yeah or nah, and so I followed him cautiously down the hall where I saw him standing in the doorway, talking to someone in the kitchen. Without turning his head, he waved me quickly back to his room where I went, tail between my legs. He left me in his room again to take a shower, and I looked around at his books and his swimming trophies, trying to make sense of this bizarre little man. I immediately noticed a small notebook next to his bed, and I'll admit, I felt not the slightest bit of guilt picking it up and thumbing through it. His journal. Jackpot. I flipped to the last page. It said, "I've always said I would be happier if I had a girl. I may currently be testing that theory." I flipped back further: that was it, the one and only mention of me. The rest was filled with scribbled diagrams and sciencey ponderings: Einstein, light-years, and galaxies far, far away. But it was good enough for me. That's me! I thought. I'm "the girl!" He is testing his theory on me! He came back and we spent the rest of the night skirting around his parents as he made us a basic but serviceable dinner: broccoli, an overcooked chicken breast each doused in teriyaki, and Rice-a-roni. He seemed to think it was terribly good. "Oh yes," I nodded enthusiastically. "Delicious!"
The few times I returned to his house, I never once did see either of his parents, though they were always there, somewhere. But if they were in the family room, Jeff made sure we were in the kitchen. If they were upstairs, we were down. My only awareness of their existence was via a muffled, Peanut-esque wah waaah from the other room. That was pretty much fine with me, though, and was certainly preferable to the times we were at my house, my mother poking her head in my bedroom door to frown at us ever more insistently, and then "suggesting" that perhaps it was "getting late." And oh, that awkward return of adolescence when you come home after spending a year on your own at college, when you are clearly an adult, god, and not in need of baby-sitting. I narrowed my eyes and sent her my best "I hate you, die" glare, to no avail. If there was anyone less pleased than me, though, it was Jeff. "That was really not cool," he said.
"Er, yeah, I know. Sorry," I said, mortified.
The worst part was that we weren't even doing anything. After all the movies, and the Orioles game, and hours upon hours of late-night t.v.-watching, we still had yet to make physical contact of any kind. Not a hug. Not a shoulder punch, knee nudge or innocent arm brush. Not a thing. Every night as the news changed over to Leno and Letterman, I would wait in sweaty anxiety, hoping that tonight would be the night. Then I realized something: If I had waited for him to ask me out, I might have waited forever. Maybe he was just really, really shy. I had already done the near-impossible and asked him out. I would just have to make the first move here, too. And so I made my first, tentative, awkward overture. "So do you have something against being touched?" I asked him. (Smoooooth.)
"Well, you said before, in the movie theater when that guy bumped into you, that you don't like being touched by other people. Does that mean you don't like being touched by...girls?"
"Well," he said, "I've been sitting here on a girl's bed watching t.v. for hours. I guess I'm kind of looking to get touched," he said with an uncustomary chuckle.
"Oh," I said. "Oh." No one moved. "So... should we hold hands?" I asked.
"Ok," he said. I waited. Nothing happened. Seriously, like pulling teeth, I thought, and grabbed his hand. And then we sat there. Well, here we are, holding hands, I thought. Tum ti tum... I looked down and noticed his hands for the first time. Like a child's, I thought. Our thumbs lay alongside each other, and mine was easily twice his in length. I suddenly felt awkward, and also strangely maternal. We sat like that, sweatily, for an uncomfortably long time. Something had to give. "I'm going to get a drink of water," I said.
"Ok," he said. But I didn't move. "I thought you were going to get a drink of water," he said.
"Kiss me before I go," I said. (Kiss me before I go, I said!)
He let out a short, barking laugh. "Is this a sign?" he said to someone, not me, positioned somewhere near the ceiling. "I think this is a sign." And after all that arm-twisting and tooth-pulling, finally, we did, and it was, how to put it- not good. Bearing in mind I had only ever kissed one guy before and so didn't have much in the way of comparison, but this much I knew- it was not good. It could be described as hesitant, tentative, and half-hearted, but definitely not good. We stopped and I went to get that glass of water after all.
We cycled between each other's houses a couple more times, sharing more tentative, though not at all improved late-night kisses. And then all of a sudden, something shifted. We were sitting in his kitchen, eating ice cream sandwiches, watching Leno, and then just like that, it was over. He was thoughtful, contemplative. "What's wrong?" I asked. He shook his head as if physically shaking the pieces of a mind-puzzle into place.
"Nothing," he said. "I think it's getting late." I sat there un-moving for several more minutes. "I think you should go," he said.
"Really?" I said. He nodded.
Up until this point, the only person to suggest that someone should leave had been my mother. This was not a good sign. I said goodbye and left knowing that things were somehow different, but not knowing why. I went home and waited for him to call, but he didn't. Not the next day, or the next, or the next. Our schedules at work strangely didn't overlap, and I didn't see him or hear from him for three days. At the end of three days I couldn't take anymore, and so, with my heart in my throat, I called him.
To be continued... (with ominous dun dun dunnnnn overtones...)