June 21, 2011 by polishsnausage
I am driving down the interstate, the window cracked just enough so I can blow smoke from my cigarette out.
The radio is playing, but what song it is, I don’t know. I’m too nervous to pay attention.
I’m going to meet him, and my mind is busy focusing on “what are we going to do?” “What should I say?” “Do I look okay?” “I should have worn different pants…”
The interstate seems infinite, like it’s growing longer as I drive on it, never reaching my destination, just always driving. I’ve had dreams like that; constantly reaching for something that’s out of grasp. I have a dream dictionary, and the analysis of that dream means I want to communicate with whomever I’m reaching out for; I need their power, their strength, their stability. I just think it’s a dream.
Finally, the city looms before me, and if I thought I was nervous before, I don’t know what emotion I’m feeling now. I start chain smoking. I fiddle with the navigation on my phone to give me directions. I’m avoiding colliding with cars in front of me. I’m edgy. I’m also sweating profusely, and cursing purchasing a car with leather seats. I can feel trickles of sweat run down my back and collect on the waistband of my trousers. I quick sniff my armpits, hoping my deodorant is working, and thankfully, it is.
I maneuver my way around the city, looking at my phone for directions, looking at street signs, and looking for cops, because I’m sure if one saw me using my phone right now, I’d get pulled over, and I would be so embarrassed if I had to explain to him that the reason I was late was because a cop caught me on my phone.
Finally, his apartment appears on my left, I release the breath I didn’t know I had been holding, and I pull into the parking lot.
“I’m here,” I text him.
“I’ll be right down,” he replies.
Shit. Not too late to quickly back out and burn rubber out of here. The thought flirts with me, and I consider it, but then I see him step out from the building and stop on the sidewalk, phone in hand, and he’s searching for me.
“Where are you?”
“I’m hiding behind the red pickup truck.”
He scans the parking lot for this truck, see it, then starts walking over to me.
He appears in my rearview mirror. Objects in mirror really are closer than they appear.
Deep breath, quick look at myself in the mirror, and I wipe away a bit of smudged makeup with my index finger. “This is it,” I say to myself, and with that, I open the car door.
“Hey, you,” he has the car handle in his hand and swings it the rest of the way open for me.
“Hi,” I say, in a voice I don’t recognize as my own. It’s too high-pitched. Damn nerves.
“You made it!”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Okay then, let’s get a few drinks, shall we?”
I instantly loved him. I could use a few drinks.
I step out of my car, and he opens his arms for a hug. I walk towards him carefully, and before I hug him back, I warn, “careful; my back is a little sweaty.” I’m such a charmer. I bet that was an instant turn-on.
He chuckled softly, and said, “that’s okay,” and wrapped his skinny arms around me. First hugs are awkward, and this one was no exception. Our bodies were tense, I was self-conscious about my wet shirt, and it felt…weird. Forced.
We drove to a local bar. I was silent, he talked. I don’t recall what he said, as I was too busy thinking about how this was my first date since I’ve been on since my husband of eight years died the year before. I’m out of practice. I don’t know how to date. I don’t know the rules anymore.
We got to the bar, and walked inside. All eyes were on us as we entered, as if they were somehow given advance notice that this was our first date. I made a bee line for the bartender.
“Beer,” I said urgently. I realized how desperate I sounded, so I quickly added, “Please” to my request. The bartender looked me over, gave me a small, knowing smile, and handed me a tall pilsner glass of cold beer. I grabbed it, threw down some money and said, “keep the change. And keep ’em comin’.”
I walked over to a table, the beer already to my lips before I could even sit down. I took three long swallows, draining a quarter of the glass. He was soon sitting next to me and laughed.
“Damn, I guess you really did need a drink. Well, before you finish that, let’s toast. How about…to new endeavors?” He raised his own glass of dark amber ale and we clinked glasses.
“To new endeavors,” I echoed, and drank another quarter of the glass.
The music as too loud. The patrons in the bar were even louder, trying to compete for conversation over the music. He asked me a question, and I stared blankly at him, completely unaware of what he said.
He repeated himself louder, but I still didn’t hear him. I shook my head apologetically, still not knowing what he said. He leaned forward to say it again, and the music cut out at the exact moment, so he ended up yelling his question in the silent bar. More stares from the other customers, and I heard an old man wearing a leather vest and a Grateful Dead t-shirt chuckle.
I blushed, and in an effort to detract attention from him, I yelled my reply, as well.
“I WORK IN RETAIL.”
He laughed at me, and raised his glass in salute.
The rest of the evening, we sat and drank, and my nerves calmed down, thanks to the beer. We tried to hold conversation over the juke box, which we somehow managed. He kept looking at his watch, and I took that as a bad sign. Great, I’m boring this guy to death. The bartender made her way over to our table and asked if we needed more drinks, and just as I was about to order another, he interrupted and said, “no, we’ll take the tab, please.”
He turned to me and smiled. “About time we got out of here, I think.”
The bartender came over with our bill, and he handed her a fat stack of bills.
“Keep the change.”
The bartender raised an eyebrow, and said, “that’s very kind. You two have a good night,” and she turned to me and winked.
The drive back to his apartment was more lively, thanks to the power of liquid courage. He must have been feeling bold, as well, because he reached over and placed his hand on my knee. I looked down at it for a second, my mind suddenly taken back to the last time a man has touched my leg. My husband. We were driving to see his family for Thanksgiving. I always drove, because I insisted. He wasn’t a very good driver.
I then looked over at him, half expecting to see my husband looking back at me, but instead, it was him. I was rattled back to reality. I turned my head to look out the window and the passing cars, trying to hide the water welling up in my eyes.
The moment passed, and before I knew it, we were in the parking lot of his apartment again.
“So…want to come up for some…coffee?” he joked.
I gave a small laugh. “Yeah. Coffee. Sure, let’s go.”
I began to have a small panic attack. What did he expect from me? Goddamn it, I should have left when I had the chance earlier. My utter lack of inexperience is going to blind this man. And what was I doing going up to some strange man’s apartment? I could end up a lamp shade in his bedroom, for chrissake. But I followed him up the stairs and down the hall to his apartment. He inserted the key in the lock and turned the handle, and we were greeted by a very large, very enthusiastic German Shepard.
“Whoa, killer, down!” he said, laughing as the dog jumped up on me. I hate dogs. I’m more of a cat person. Filthy, smelly, flea-ridden mongrels. I tried to shove the beast away with my hands, but he jumped up higher, licking my neck. I flinched, and turned away, letting a small surprised yelp escape me.
“Okay, Buster, that’s enough,” he said, and grabbed the dog by his collar, yanking him off me. He drug the animal through the apartment, much to its protest, and shut him in the guest bedroom, and the dog immediately began barking and clawing at the door. I was certain it was going to break the door down.
He went to the kitchen and grabbed two beers out of the fridge.
“Here,” he said handing me a bottle, “I think you could use this.”
I unscrewed the cap and chugged. Goddamn dog. The cold beer hit the back of my tongue and trailed down my throat. I could feel the chill spreading through my abdomen. The dog scared some of the drunk out of me, but this beer was going to rejuvenate it.
“Let’s get more comfortable,” and he walked toward the couch. He sat down and patted the cushion next to him. I followed and sat down, perhaps a little too close, but he then wrapped his arm around me, and to my surprise, I leaned in, my head now resting on his shoulder.
We sat in silence for a moment, each of us taking drinks of our beers, when the urge to kiss him overwhelmed me. I sat up, put my empty beer bottle on the coffee table, and as I sat back, I grabbed his face in my hand, which was damp from the condensation on the bottle. I pulled him to me and kissed him. Hard. This is not how polite girls kiss. He kissed back with as much force as I did, and before I could register what was happening, he was pushing me back on the couch and climbing on top of me, his hands dumbly fumbling.
I was again rocked back to the last time I was in this situation. My husband and I were on the couch, watching a movie on a Sunday afternoon, our weekend ritual. More often than not, we’d never finish the movie, but end up having lazy Sunday sex. I then replaced this man with my husband in my mind. I pictured my husband kissing me, my husband’s hands searching me. I traveled to those Sunday afternoons in my mind, I took a vacation in my memories of him and the things we used to do.
I wanted to be anywhere at this moment. I didn’t want to be with this man. Before things got too out of control, I turned my head away from his mouth, and he sloppily kissed my cheek. I put my hands against his thin chest, and gently pushed him away from me.
He looked at me quizzically. “Something wrong, babe?”
“I’m not your babe. And yes. I’m leaving. Thanks for the nice time. I have to go.” I got up, grabbed my purse from the hook by the door, and let myself out.
I couldn’t bear to look back at the man I left sitting alone on the couch, because it wouldn’t be my husband.