Friday, June 29, 2012

A Second Look

This is also a true story.

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My jealous fingers slam the number keys on my phone.
Pick up, I growl to myself.
“Hey,” John’s voice comes through after two rings.
“Dood, she’s dating someone ten years old than her!  The hell’s up with that?”  I sounded almost exasperated as I ended the sentence.  John heard it, and I could very nearly hear him scheming behind his phone.
“Come over this weekend, I’ll introduce you to my boss, Gwen.”
“Ok, done.” I pause. “How old?”
“39.” He replies and this time I can most certainly hear the smile that appears on his face.
“Perfect.” I say, smiling right back.

That weekend, I drive up to John’s house on Saturday morning.  We chat for a time, then he ushers me to his car so we can run an errand – and pass right by the dog grooming business where he works.  His boss will be there.  A good plan, I think.

The windows are down and the wind spins through the car.  I feel it all the way down the hair on my legs.  We pull into parking lot of the grooming business.  A big blue façade with a pun for a name: Purrfect Pet Cleaners, or Barking Mad.

A woman walks out of the front door toward our car.  Exceptionally straight black hair sit above a face that could pass for 30.  No make up, no blemishes either.  Slightly pointed nose, and a smile that hides some of her bottom teeth, but exposes all of her upper.  She’s not curvy but definitely enough to know where her butt and boobs are.

“That’s her,” John whispers out the side of his mouth, and he turns to her.  She’s just approaching the car.  They exchange playful banter, as John so normally does, and she takes in most of his flirting.  He introduces me.

I have a faint nagging somewhere behind my stomach that seems to tell me not to go through with pursuing her.  It’s almost like I don’t want to. But I don’t indulge that feeling for long and push it aside and resolve to court this woman.  That’s what she is: a woman.  I’m a kid, barely pushing 22.  I only think about the age gap.

In the following two weeks I manage to get her number, call her and set up a date.  We have some preliminary dates: to Sitting Pond or Steelhead Lake for public outings..  One of these times, she met me at my house, but did not come in.  I did not expect her to since she’s no more than four years younger than my mother.  Instead, she plays outside with my dogs offering them treats.  In the house I’m getting a few items.  My mother doesn’t say much, but does say to have a good time. It doesn’t seem that she’s really “into” this.  I know why, but I push that feeling away and be on my way.  This woman is only five years younger than my mother.

We soon move into more intimate dates, dinners and later nights.  The most intimate date comes during mid August.  We decide to go to The Great State Park on a whim, and we meet half way in a plaza.  We load up on sandwiches and drink, and we’re on our way.  The beach air is cool when we arrive, the sun is just beginning its decent past the far horizon.  We stroll down the beach, I reach for her hand, she accepts.

We find a place on the beach to watch the sunset, take out our sandwiches, and I make her laugh with some of my beach stories.  We finish and luckily, the sun has a long way to go before it’s fully down.

I feel romantic, but not outwardly so.  If any a time there was to have a first kiss, this would be it.  We are close to each other, she leans on me, her shoulder on my chest.  She turns to me.  She knows.  I know. Our first kiss.

We pull back.  We’re smiling.  We should do that again, I think.  She thinks the same thing.

Our first second ki—

My phone rings.  I’m almost mortified, but chuckle it off.  She chuckles too, I think she’s a good sport about it.

I look at my phone. “Oh no,” I say, incredulously.  “You’ll never guess.”
“John,” she said, and rolled her eyes.
Shortly after, we finished our second first kiss and packed up.  I hit the bathroom on the way out and as I pee, I call John.

“Yeah, you called?”
“How’s it going?” John asks, with zeal.
“Good, fine.  We kissed, almost twice when you called.  Great timing, by the way.”
“Ha! I knew it.”
“I’ll call you later.”  I hang up, chuckling more and as I leave the bathroom, I’m met a sight that very nearly stops me in my tracks.  Gwen is standing outside the stall, eyebrow raised, mouth turned up on one side.  She doesn’t have to say anything for me to know what she saying. I ask anyway.

“What’s wrong?” I have a cold feeling in my gut.
“Were you reporting back to John?” She fires at me.
“No, but he did ask how things were going.”
She has her arms crossed and walks slightly in front of me.  We’re silent for a time.  We also have a long car ride ahead of us.

We get in the car and I start to wriggle out of the situation.  I regale her with how I like her and compliments, and moderately self-depreciating comments.  I’m aware of how I’m manipulating her.  I have a growing awareness of how much power I have over her – how easily she can be manipulated.
“You’re good,” she says, with a smile that tells me I’ve won.
“Eh,” I say, putting the icing on the cake, and smile back.  Landslide victory.

Two weekends later, Gwen invites me to her house.  I offer to make dinner, and she obliges.  When I arrive, I’m certain she doesn’t use her kitchen that often – it’s much too clean.  Her grey rugs compliment the white walls and the sporadic decorations.  A vase.  A picture.  The TV is on the stair wall to my left, and the couches sit opposite them.  I bring in my materials and get to work.  Spaghetti, meat sauce, garlic bread.  Gwen digs it, she doesn’t have to cook, and it tastes good anyway.  The bread is a bit too crispy but I don’t let on that I feel this way.

She sits on the couch watching TV.

We eat in front of the television, small talk is barely present; only a passing comment on the show we’re watching.  I’m not sure if I like that or not.

Cleaning up.  It’s rather late now, surprisingly.  She’s going upstairs to get ready for bed, I remain downstairs watching TV, my nerves staring to gear up.  I feel them in my legs, slightly jittery, in my fingers which I squeeze to ease the pressure.  I wait.

I feel the silence very loud in my ears.

“You want to come up?” she finally calls down.
I pause for a moment, then slowly, “Yeah”.  This was new ground for me. I’d never been upstairs.  My feet tread softly on the gray carpet that continues up her stairs.  She’s in her bathroom, tank top and comfy sweats, not heavy though.

We enter her bedroom.  Bed is immaculate.  I suppress most of my emotion now.  It’s as if I’m going to bed to sleep, not with a woman.  A considerable difference from a few moments ago, waiting downstairs.  I don’t’ think about that long, just pull the blankets back and hop in.

Sheets are cool, somewhat stiff.  I don’t miss my sheets, but I think about them briefly.  She gets into bed.  I fall asleep instantly.

Next morning is Sunday.  I’m supposed to head to New Jersey to meet with Julia, someone I was trying to convince I liked.  I flirted with Julia heavily on and off for years.  This was to be the time that tied us together: we were getting tattoos.  This was planned for some time too, she even paid the deposit for me.

After breakfast, I send a text to Julia,
Can’t make it today, mom’s sick
Utter lie.
“What’s going on?” Gwen asks
“Nothin’, supposed to be going somewhere today but don’t feel like it, so I’m not going.”
A half truth, but that seems to satisfy Gwen.
Not this shit again, Julia replies
Wait, what, mom got stomach bug, throwing up everywhere. Jesus, I wasn’t sure if that was god awful or awfully good.  I guffaw under my breath and decide that the lie is gawd-awful.
Julia: Fuck you, you did this again to me. Second time! Fuck you.
I’m almost angry, but only because Julia is not buying my lies.  I thought they were so bad, they’d be believable.
Me: fuck you too, my mother is sick, I’m staying  here.  Three times. If I say the lie the three times to her, she’ll believe me.  I don’t hear back from her this time.
I stay at Gwen’s house not much longer after that.

I try to call her Tuesday of the following week, but she doesn’t answer. I leave a message.  She doesn’t call me back after a week of waiting. Then 10 days.

I’ve already moved on – there was never anything for me there anyway.  And I already knew that.

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