The thing is, he was really sexy.
I mean, he was the kind of sexy that made me thank my lucky stars that I had an IUD because otherwise I would have spontaneously ovulated. And while I do not have a specific “type”, every second I spent near this man convinced me that if I had to choose one, he would be it.
He had this deep, rumbling kind of voice with the slightest hint of a Canadian accent, heavily tattooed forearms, and about four days worth of a dark beard. His grin provoked two perfectly symmetrical dimples and crinkled up the corners of his blue eyes which, as Vera the South Central Oracle would be happy to see, had a very mischievous twinkle. He was taller than me wearing my highest heels, so he must have been about six feet tall. He was built like a lumberjack; and he had the hands of a man who worked for a living. He was also the lead singer of the band, wrote music reviews for the city paper, and had a particular interest in vintage pin-ups.
So. Intensely. Sexy.
He was also completely, unabashedly interested in me. So when he suggested that we go back to his place, of course I said yes.
Back it up for a second:
I was in The North visiting Alejandro. Well, except I don’t think I was much of a visitor. I mainly spent a lot of time up in The Tower, the guest room located on the fourth floor of Alejandro’s city townhouse, or as Alejandro calls it, "My Room", since I’m the only one who stays there.
And it was really nice being back at Alejandro's place, and seeing him and his partner Andrew, and Kathleen, their fabulous Irish neighbor, and our friend Philip, all smiles and laughs and high energy. Of course, as nice as it was, I still couldn't sleep at night to save my life, and I still spent a bunch of time alone up in The Tower, sitting of the big, fluffy bed and enjoying
the peaceful silence. And it was a bit like being locked in a fairy tale tower—solitary to be sure, but also safe. And I could gaze out my little window down the sunny patio four stories below me, with potted herbs and flower boxes with bright gerbera daisies, or look out onto the skyline of the huge city surrounding me.
It was…tranquil. The difference between solitude and loneliness. Because I when I couldn’t handle, you know, having people look at me, I could sit in The Tower by myself, but I still knew Alejandro and Andrew were nearby. I could hear them milling about the house, living their lives, and when Alejandro decided it was time, he’d climb up the 100 stairs to The Tower, stick a glass of water or a cocktail in my hand and decree, “It’s time to come downstairs, gurl.” Or he’d hand me my purse and say, “We have to take Cuchulain to puppy class, and he says that Aunt Lulu can’t miss it,” knowing that I can never say no to a puppy.
And Alejandro, who is just about as different from me as you can get, personality-wise, has this method of normalizing my crazies in such a low-pressure way that I actually started to relax. He’d let me hide when I needed to, but then he’d tell me what to do when he decided it was time for me to stop. We drank sangria on his lovely, safe patio on the breezy summer nights, and he brought me out into the bustle of the city just enough to challenge me. Alejandro was beautifully nurturing in the most understated way that I felt some of the tension slowly releasing inside of me. Just a little bit of the tension, but I had so much that even just a little bit made a difference.
So on my last night there, I don’t know. When I got to chatting with this awesome, charming, sexy stranger...for the first time in months, I almost forgot that I was broken. Almost. So when he asked me back to his place, I thought sure, you know? We’ll go back to his place, and we’ll have a drink, and he’ll tell me I’m pretty, and we’ll make out on his couch. That would be really great. And then I’ll figure out if it will go any farther during the Waffle Window.
You all know the Waffle Window. It’s that first 30-90 minutes when you first get back to someone’s place after an evening—or when you first take them back to yours—when you have a drink and relax and chat so you can at least pretend that you didn’t just bring them back because you were hoping to hook up. And you take the Waffle Window to assess the situation, your level of sobriety, how awkward the Morning After might be. The Waffle Window is your safety net. And a single girl’s best friend. But it’s also a good 30-90 minutes for flirtation and flattery, which is always fun whether or not you decide to stick around. And I was really looking forward to some more intense flirting with this man and having him tell me that I’m pretty.
Now a note of clarification here: I’ve never gone in for that whole having-sex-for-validation thing, because it has never seemed logical to me. I mean, to have sex just for validation, that has to mean that you didn’t really want to have it in the first place, right? But in my head, that would be like saying that I’m going snorkeling in St. Thomas for validation, or accepting this free pair of fabulous new Fluevogs for validation. It just doesn’t make sense. You have sex because sex is awesome. Flattery, on the other hand, is another kettle of fish.
Back when I was living in South Central, I spent a lot of time with Jeb “Tin Cup” Clements. And as I’ve said before, times were pretty rough in the SC, and one day, I was completely, impossibly overwhelmed when ol’ Tin Cup popped by, and as I recited my laundry list of stressors, I got more and more worked up, and as my little breakdown hit its crescendo, I just turned my face to the heavens and wailed, “Oh god, I just want someone to tell me I’m pretty!” And since then, a hysterical outcry of “Tell me I’m pretty!!!!” became a sort of signal between Tin Cup and me, a shorthand of sorts. I mean, on one hand, we were mocking our own desperate emotions regarding our lives in South Central. So by shouting out something even more heightened and hysterical than we felt, we were able to give ourselves a little relief through laughter.
But on the other hand, we both recognized that there was something really genuine there. Because when it comes down to it, you can be having the Worst Day Ever—and I’m taking into consideration all the possibilities for a Worst Day Ever; I’m not talking just a case of the grumpies—I mean, it can be the holy-shittiest-all-I-want-to-do-is-crawl-into-bed-and-never-get-out-again kind of Worst Day Ever, and one little, “You look pretty today” can cut through that. Now, it doesn’t solve the problems or end the bad day, but somehow one little “Aren’t you pretty?” makes you do an emotional double take, and you can’t help but have a moment of “Wha—aw, thanks!” Like a tiny little break from the badness. And it’s the only thing that really cuts through it—something about the innocence of it, the unexpectedness, the tininess of the gesture. Nothing is quite as sweetly surprising as an unsolicited “You’re pretty.”
“Hey, you’re really pretty”…it does the trick every time.
So I was looking forward to a little Pretty Action to cut through all the Horrible Horribleness of the summer. Just a little bit, to give me a second of innocent sweetness and relief. And I had a really good feeling about the rest of the evening as he leads me up the driveway to the side door of his house. He holds the door open, and I step on to a little landing with a staircase going up and one going down. Both stairways are dark. He instructs me to take the staircase leading down.
“Just a warning—it’s going to be totally dark, but I have to go upstairs to hit the lights,” he says. This seems a little unusual to me, but I do as he says, making my way down the staircase into the pitch blackness. From the size of the house, I know I must be in a basement, but it doesn’t smell like a basement at all. The air smells cool and sweet and kind of grassy. No basement in the world smells this beautiful..
Just as I’m thinking this, all the lights burst on, and I see that I’m standing in the middle of a florist shop. Or at least a silk florist shop. The walls are lined to the ceiling with an organized system of baskets overflowing with huge silk flowers suitable for ostentatious arrangements appropriate for the huge, flashy, bourgeois homes in the neighborhood, and as I try to take it all in—all the wicker baskets and little decorative doo-dads and stalks of gladiolas and orchids and bells of Ireland taking over this basement, I start to laugh. And laugh and laugh and laugh. He shrugs and smiles and says, “It’s a business,” and I think that this character is far more interesting than I ever could have suspected.
He tells me to exit the shop by walking to the end of the hall and hanging a right, and that he has to stay behind to hit the lights again. Laughing my way to the end of the corridor, I feel kind of like myself again—young and alive and adventurous and ready for the wonderfully strange things life may throw my way. At the end of the hall, I hang a right, just like he instructed me to, wondering how his apartment is going to be decorated now that I know it’s connected to a flower shop. Will it be total musician bachelor pad? Or will it have coasters and matching towels and air fresheners? And as I step through the doorway and see his place, my mouth blurts out exactly what pops into my brain:
It’s not an apartment at all. I stepped through the doorway into maybe a 10’ by 10’ bedroom, with a little bathroom attached. It’s not an apartment at all. It’s just a bedroom. Oh shit. This means there will be no drinks and flirting and telling me that I’m pretty and making out on the couch. Because there is no couch—just a bed. There will be no Waffle Window. There is no room for the Waffle Window in a bedroom. Because a bedroom means business.
I turn around to see him filling up the doorway. “You’re so nervous,” he says with a little half-grin, the mischievous twinkle still in his eye. And as soon as he says it, I realize that my whole body is shaking like a rabbit caught in a snare. Because I am…petrified. I am so overwhelmingly scared that I can’t move or speak. I’m completely frozen in the center of the room, and all I can do is look at him.
It only takes him a few steps to cross the room to stand right in front of me. He buries one hand deep into my hair, which I love, and leans in close. He lowers his voice to just above a whisper and says, “Why are you so nervous?”, but I’m still too scared to speak. And my thoughts start to race at an impossible speed when my Touch o’ the Shine tells me I have exactly 35 seconds before he kisses me. And the countdown begins.
Oh my god, what is happening to me? Sex doesn’t scare me. At all. I mean, it’s practically the only thing in the world that doesn’t scare me, for chrissakes. Sex and fluffy clouds and candy and puppies and kittens and little fuzzy baby chicks—those pretty much the only things that don’t scare me at all. So what the fuck is going on? Why am I standing here frozen and terrified? Shit, I wasn’t even like this when I was a virgin. So what the hell am I so scared of? It’s not him—it’s definitely not him—he doesn’t give off a bad vibe at all. He’s not going to kill me or rape me or hurt me or anything. He’s harmless. Okay, Touch o’ the Shine tells me that he will be very sexually aggressive and that it will be a little difficult to extricate myself from his grasp if any kissing actually starts, but he’d let me go after the third or fourth we-have-to-stop. So I’ll be able to get out fine. Still, I should go now before any extrication is necessary. But I still can’t move. Oh my god, what the fuck is going on?
This is absolutely fucking ridiculous, O’Brien. You need to get your shit together. I mean seriously, girl, what is there to be afraid of? He’s a super nice guy, and he’s really, really sexy, and you’re crazy attracted to him, and there are no complications, and you want to, so what's up with this ultimate flight-or-flight response cock block? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Is he going to film it and post it on YouTube? Is he going to steal your wallet while you’re sleeping? Is he just going to throw you away and stop talking to you afterwards?
Holy crap. That’s it. I know what this is. This is Trash Baggage. Some evolutionary instinct in me has adopted the new equation:
I Think He’s Great + Hooking Up With Him = He Throws Me Away Like Garbage
And every last ounce of survival instinct I have is fighting to keep that from happening. Again. Oh my god, that’s it. This is totally Trash Baggage.
Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Fuck. This.
Not this. Please, please, Little Bitty Baby Jesus—anything but this. I don’t have baggage when it comes to sex. If you’re talking dating or courting or relationships or whatever, then sure. I need a fucking wheelbarrow to carry all of my baggage with me. But I always drop all baggage at the end of the bed…or the couch, or the kitchen floor, or wherever. Because if ya bring the baggage to the bed, then where ya gonna lay? So please, please, please, don’t take away this one place where I feel completely and totally happy and free and comfortable with vulnerability and connection. There’s gotta be one place where I can feel totally safe and content just letting go and being myself—and sex was it. So whoever this chick is standing in this basement florist shop bedroom, shaking in her shoes like she’s about to be executed and about two clicks away from bursting out into tears—I don’t know who the hell she is because she ain’ me. I don’t have sex baggage. I have never had sex baggage.
Or at least I didn’t used to have any sex baggage. Until now.
Because now I can’t do it. I can’t do it.
Because it’s the sex that makes me disposable.
Oh god, I’ve got to get out of here. Now.
He smells so good, though.
Okay, I’ve really got to get out of here.