“Can I see you tonight?” he asked on the phone later that night after I had stopped puking.
“I’m going out for dinner with my sister tonight,” I lied. Truth was I was still reeling from my hangover and I didn’t feel like putting makeup on. Or showering like a normal person. “But I’m off Tuesday night. Why don’t we plan a movie night or something,” I suggested.
“That sounds great,” he said.
I had thought hard about this. In my mind, I wondered if I had spent two years trying to find a relationship with a guy that genuinely wanted to be around me, even if I were entirely clothed, and had I found one. I had the potential right in front of me, and I was balking. This guy not only wanted to be around me if I were clothed, he wanted to be around me if I smelled like I just rolled around in dog shit. If I was puking with no makeup on. If it were any other athlete I had fucked in the last two years asking me to hang out, I’d have been ready in an hour AND brought the condoms. And lube. WHAT? It's good to always be prepared you judgmental fuckers! Anyway, with Christian, at first, I just couldn’t get into it. I couldn't find the drive. I had flown to Europe and spent a lot of fucking money I didn't really have at the time to roll around naked with soccer hottie. The idea of driving to Queens Boulevard seemed honestly daunting.
“You don’t get it,” I tried explaining the situation to Jen, our other cocktail waitress that Monday at work. “He’s great, he’s nice, and I basically pulled a How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days situation where I did everything I possibly could to scare him away on the first date, and he still wants to hang out.”
“And why is this a bad thing?” she asked.
“For one, he works for the same bank as Josh,” I said, following her up the length of the bar as she put out cocktail napkins. Josh had fucked her over the year before in a totally shady way.
“Well we all know what that means,” she said.
“Exactly. Two, what guy wants to seriously continue to see a girl who puked twice in his bathroom the morning after the first date?”
“A guy that sees you are worth putting up with the puking?” she suggested.
“Third,” I ignored her, and I braced myself for the onslaught of disagreement she would throw at me with my next statement. “I mean, his hair,” I started.
“What about it?” she asked curiously.
“It’s thinning,” I said. “Really badly. I mean, he still has it, but he said by twenty seven it will be all gone and he’s going to shave it.”
Dude had admitted this to me in our first "Skype" session. I am so gay, I know, but he initiated it and then proceeded to ask me like, 30 questions about myself and somehow his hair sitch came up.
The tone of my voice made it sound like he was dying from some really gross, vile disease where pustules were involved.
“Yeah but can you see past it?” she asked.
"Yeah, like, you can see his scalp, it's there but kind of invisible." I explained.
"I meant see passed it as a whole," she laughed.
“I guess I can try,” I said, super unenthusiastic.
“I mean, you don’t have to, if you’re not attracted to him you’re not attracted to him, but he seems pretty nice. Give him a shot.”
“Ugh, no help,” I said.
I knew she was right. I knew I should stop being shallow. And I mean, the hair thing, okay, kind of a big deal to me, but he was pretty good looking otherwise. And he had a decently adorable southern accent. And it wasn’t like I was repulsed by him. Clearly there was some attraction to him that I could focus on –
"Hey,” I turned around at the bar, completely lost in my own attempt to talk myself into liking this kid when he was standing right in front of me. I dropped the bottle of beer I was opening.
“Hey,” I breathed, wiping the hair from my face and smiling, hand on the bar super casual like I hadn’t just broken a Bud Light because I was nervous he had heard my secret thoughts about his hair. NO BIG DEAL.
“You okay?” he asked, smiling.
“Yeah, just caught me off guard,” I insisted. “What are you doing here?”
“Thought I’d come over and say hi,” he said.
“That’s really nice of you,” I said, leaning over the bar and giving him a swift kiss. “Grab a seat, I’ll get you a drink.”
He was three Jack and cokes deep by the time I got out of work. He had sat with three of my friends for the entire hour and a half I had to work. He made an effort and seemed to legitimately be trying.
“Let’s go get a beer,” he said, grabbing my hand the second we walked out of my bar and back onto 50th Street.
“Sure, um,” I tried to think of any bars that wouldn’t be full of tourists. “Let’s go to Emmett’s,” I said, distractedly, focusing on the fact that he not only was holding my hand but had his other arm wrapped around my waist.
You have to understand something. After two years, I had grown complacent and comfortable with only showing any signs of physical affection inside a bedroom. I had become completely numb to the fact that guys are supposed to hold your hand and treat you this way. At that point in my life, I considered it romantic if one of the guys I was with let me stand within five feet of him on a street corner for fear of getting photographed (soccer hottie was the exception). I wasn’t used to the traditional shit. And I knew my body language was admitting that to him. I was tense. I squirmed. And when we got to the bar I left my fingers fall limp and slide out of his.
We sat on two bar stools, facing each other.
“Stop staring at his hair, stop staring at his hair, stop staring at his hair,” I was repeating this to myself over and over, trying to keep my eyes focused on his while he spoke, but I found them occasionally sliding up, examining the bit of skin the thinning allowed me to see. It must be like when a guy is with a chick with really enormous tits. Now, I get it.
“I’m thinking of going up to Harvard for a football game on Saturday,” he said.
“That’s pretty cool, first game?”
“Yeah, Harvard plays Holy Cross, so.”
“That’ll be fun, will a lot of your friends be up there?”
“Yeah,” he kind of dragged off now, looking at his beer.
“I feel bad that you have to get up so early tomorrow,” I said. “Don’t let me keep you out.”
“Do you want to go up to Boston with me?” he blurted it out.
“Sure,” I answered without even hesitating. Seriously, I know, I look totally bipolar.
“Of course,” I said. “Why not? I’m not doing anything. It’ll be fun.”
My inability to ever think things through makes me a great person to plan last minute vacations with. I’m spontaneous and I love people who are the same way. Overanalyzing ideas takes all the fun out of them. So while it went against my desire to keeping some of his advances at bay, this one had nothing to do with him as much as it did with my own personality.
“That’s awesome,” he said, smiling wide. “I can’t believe you said yes.”
“Why, should I have said no?”
“No it’s just…I dunno. I’m so happy you said yes.”
“Yeah, if you want I’ll drive. We can leave Saturday morning. It’ll be great. I need a good tailgate in my life.”
He was clearly a little buzzed, both on drinks and the prospect of introducing me to his former life in Boston. So when I sat across from him in some random pizza place on 47th Street, I remember thinking “oh my God, I’m going to marry this guy, and I will look back on this moment of realization in ten years and say “I knew then”.” It had nothing to do with my desire to be with him, or my desire to marry him. In fact, I was still struggling to keep my eyes off his hairline. And I felt super awkward because I was trying to talk about baseball and he just kept saying "God I can't wait to fuck you". It was SO awkward for some reason.
What it was I think was this serious feeling of defeat. That I was caving and giving in because it was the right thing to do.
In the next two weeks, he came in to visit me at work every night. We had movie dates, we finally got around to sober sex, which was just as awkward. “Stop, stop, I have a cramp in my leg,” I screamed.