Warning: rather longish (for this format) short story ahead. Enjoy!
Again. Yet again. At least this one admits readily to his attraction to you. You don’t have to decipher signals and signs and tell him point blank you’d love to seduce him for him to admit an attraction.
No, this one says to you that he would love to take you to Lake Arrowhead for a weekend, get a little cabin, play in the snow (whatever that may involve). That he would enjoy spending time with you, perhaps even love you as much as he is able. But the chances are you wouldn’t like it much if he wanted to do the same with other women. Because this isn’t the different world he wishes it were. If it were a different world he could be with you and with other women and no one would get hurt. Or if this were that different world, he could be very happy with just you.
This is the only world there is, you tell him. He nods and agrees and says unfortunately people get hurt in this world. And he doesn’t want to hurt you. Or anyone else. Because he’s just looking for a casual relationship and none of the women he’s dated in the last several years – since his ex-girlfriend of many years left, left the state – have been able to handle such a relationship. Or have measured up to the ghost of the ex that he says he’s still in love with. The woman that he’s still friends with. The ex that has someone new.
So he says he really isn’t in the dating scene, that he’s willing to wait until he finds the right woman, the next woman he might want to spend the next twenty years of his life with, perhaps even marry, because it seems to him that women aren’t capable of a casual relationship.
You disagree with him, tell him you’re capable, because you’ve had a couple in the past. That there is a trick to it, that the woman just needs to be with someone who is attractive enough for her to sleep with, but should ideally drive her murderously crazy in one respect so that she knows too much time spent with said guy would be too stressful. As you tell him this – and he interrupts with innuendo that clearly isn’t helping you – you wonder if it would be possible to be that casual relationship for him. Because it’s been a year since you last had sex and you’re mighty horny. And he looks so good, so handsome, sitting across the lunch table from you.
The first time you saw him you couldn’t take your eyes off him during the several hours you were both in that large room, filled with over one hundred people. You spoke to him briefly later in the day, as the meeting attendees had split into brainstorming groups and he happened to lead yours and took e-mail addresses. He figured out what your mish-mash of letters stood for and smiled and you were impressed by his perspicacity. Several months later, when you saw him again at another meeting, you spoke to him briefly a couple of times near the beginning of the day, then, when the long election meeting was over, with most of the crowd gone, you found the courage to walk up to him and congratulate him for being elected. He shook your hand and held it while you talked about why you were there. He encouraged you to check out another meeting the next day and you agreed, all the while looking into his dark eyes, feeling a heart-pounding thrill not even the last person you loved gave you even though you had frequently wanted to jump his bones.
The subsequent meetings, with frequent exchanged glances and occasional swapped grins. The rare phone calls where just listening to his voice got your nipples hard and your underwear wet. Surely you could just spend a weekend or two in bed, pleasuring each other with no strings attached.
But you know yourself too well, know that it’s not just a strong physical attraction. That you admire his passion and compassion, appreciate his humor, enjoy the way you can talk to each other and the way he keeps you on your toes. He can match you joke for joke, quip for quip, and you like the challenge. He’s better at debating than you are, which you also like, and has a memory for detail (if not always names) and an agile mind that excites you. And he knows when to stop and think, that life isn’t always about the quick, easy and perfect answer. You admire that about him as well.
Thing is, he thinks highly of you too. He’s told you so. He thinks you’re beautiful and interesting and intelligent and nice. You’re such a nice person. And that you seem much more of a New Yorker than a person from Los Angeles. The ultimate compliment from a New York boy.
And you know, much as you would like to just fuck like bunnies for as long as you both can stand it, your emotions will just get in the way. You’ll be hurt again and you don’t know if you can take it. Not so soon after the last time. You tell him, while you can and have done casual before – which he doesn’t believe – and are sorely tempted, you know this time you couldn’t do it. Not with him.
He nods and understands, shifts in the booth from his former half-reclining position to leaning forward on the table. You joke with him about how, when reclining, he appeared to be just taking in your words in sort of a “Uh huh” manner. He cocks his head to the side with a slight knitting of the eyebrows, then slides out of the booth, stands up and moves over to your side of the lunch table, slipping in next to you. You’re looking up at him but still leaning forward on the table. He reaches his left hand over and strokes the back of your neck. Your eyes close. He continues to stroke the back of your neck, you head dropping forward, enjoying the attention, relaxing just a little bit, wanting to lean back against him, into the crook of his arm.
“I’m not going to lean back, I’m not going to lean back,” you silently chant, a mantra meant to keep you on the straight and narrow.
It doesn’t work. How can it work when he takes his free right hand and places it against your right shoulder, gently but firmly pressing you back in the booth? Against him. Nestling you in the crook of his arm, where you wanted to be anyway.
You don’t resist. You can’t resist. You can’t resist when his hand moves up into you hair and he caresses your scalp. You can’t resist when his other hand runs along the side of your neck and your jaw. Your head tilts back, your eyes still closed, and you feel his lips brush your eyelids. You melt further into him. Your breath catches and again he graces your eyelids with feather light touches of his mouth.
His face moves away and you open your eyes, look into his, smiling and dark. He looks back at you, into your own dark eyes, his face so close, so close, closer still. And he kisses your lips.
Inevitable really, this long, deep, slow, gentle kiss that you return right there in Greenblatts, facing the front door so that anyone who walks in can see you and him and that sweet lengthy kiss.
Your lips part and you look at each other again. You map out his face with your fingertips as his fingers take a trip across your hair and your neck and your jaw. He takes a moment to taste your fingers every time they venture near his mouth. It’s almost a game – stroke his nose, caress his cheeks, travel near his lips and watch them part and his tongue dart out. Swirl the pads of your fingers around his ear, move them to his strong chin, once again near his lips. Open and dart. You do this a few times, your focus on those lips and that tongue, then you glance up, your eyes lock again and he moves in for another kiss, just as sweet and tender and tantalizing as before.
This time your hand grazes his hair, your sensitive fingers running through the short dark wavy locks. So soft. So soft you’re almost miffed because why isn’t your hair that soft? But you don’t think about that until later. How can you? All higher thought functions have fled, leaving you drowning in his smell and his touch and his taste.
Again, after the brevity of eternity, you part and you look at one another. Four dark eyes searching, studying. Despite the softness in his eyes, their deep intensity, you know that he has not changed his mind about you and him. Thought returns and you wonder aloud why life has to be so complicated. He tenderly replies that he doesn’t know. He moves his head, his breath lightly skipping across your ear, threatening to drive away thought again as he whispers, “I just wanted to prove to you that I wasn’t being distant.”
You nod and say nothing, unsure about what to say, and he leans his head back slightly so that he can look at you again. And you know that he didn’t sit next to you with the intention of kissing you, that it just happened, the natural outcome of being so near one another. You see no regret in his eyes, just that soft intensity that you fall into.
You stay that way, his arm still around you, one hand still lightly resting on your hair while you study his other hand, liking the look and the feel of it – not a large hand, but still strong and manly. You know how gentle it can be. You talk about various subjects, including astrology and stories with psychics. Somehow logic comes up and he says that he had been trying to think about your relationship logically, but for once he decided to go with the flow. And you think to yourself, “Relationship? Huh?” Later you wish you had responded, “Be careful about using the word ‘relationship’ around women who are attracted to you,” but for now you just let it go.
So you sit for a while longer, enjoying just the nearness of him, thinking how wonderful and needed just cuddling is, how you could happily sit like that indefinitely, how sometimes it’s better than sex. Who knows how long you would have stayed like that, chatting and cuddling for all the world to see? If the waitress had not apologetically interrupted you, needing to close out the check so that she could go home, perhaps you would have sat there well into the evening. Perhaps not.
He pulls away, using the hand that had previously been stroking your hair to burrow into his pocket and pull out his wallet. Because you have a fear of appearing to assume men will always pay for you, you ask if he’d like some cash for the check. He waves your offer away, as you suspected he might, but at least you didn’t take him paying for granted.
You still remain seated next to each other for a while longer, talking about who remembers what, no longer touching as you were, and you miss it. Funny how quickly the body grows accustomed to touch, only to feel bereft when that touch is gone, even if the touch is brand new. But his knee is still lightly pressed against yours and you enjoy that little bit left.
Eventually you both look at the time. You swear you’d been there for hours, but in truth perhaps an hour and a half had passed since you sat down. Still, you both have places to be and realize it really is time to get going. So you do.
He asks if he can take you somewhere, to the subway station perhaps, then as you say sure he asks where you live. You tell him the area and he says, “I should drive you home. I should really drive you home.”
“You’re sure?” you ask.
“Yeah. I’ll take you home.” You thank him and he says no problem – after all, the places where he had to go for his errands are closed now (you apologize for keeping him and he says not to worry) and he doesn’t live too far from you.
Soon enough you’re driving over the hill, still talking. Somehow you don’t run out of things to say. About politics – which is pretty much a gimme, considering how you met – his music that is issuing from his stereo after you expressed an interest in it (you realize there’s an excellent reason he’s a professional composer – he’s really, really very good) and strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.
He turns on the radio briefly, news reports on NPR telling of political issues that anger the both of you, though he turns the station away for a moment so that he doesn’t get too furious. Then he flips back and you hear about something being pulled by the current administration that truly infuriates you, something that speaks to your childhood experiences as a family on a limited income provided to your father by the government. You rant and rail, relating the reason behind your fury, ending with, “Support the troops, my ass. He doesn’t give a shit.” Then you take a deep breath, splay your fingers in front of you, and tell yourself aloud to calm down.
He repeats your words. “Calm down, it’s okay.” You look at him and smile and nod, then he reaches over and strokes the back of your head. Instantly your eyes close and you lean back into his hand, your back arching like cat, then straightening up, chest out, shoulders back. You think it’ll just be a few strokes, to placate you, but he caresses your hair for at least a minute, if not longer, and like the earlier kissing and caressing and cuddling, you don’t want it to end.
It does end, of course, and you take a deep breath, look at him, smile yet again and say, “I don’t know if I’ve quite calmed down yet.” He returns your smile and says nothing, looking out over the road.
The rest of the all too short ride passes uneventfully enough, except for the stretch Hummer you pass when he accidentally gets on the freeway – he has to go in that direction to get your home anyway, so it doesn’t matter much. You both see the Hummer monstrosity at the same time and make noises of disgust and scorn. An evil grin spreads across his handsome face and he rolls down his window and pulls up alongside the thing. As he passes it slowly (the piece of ostentatious, environment destroying crap is huge – the only way to pass it is slowly), his arm snakes out and he raises his hand. You can’t see what he’s doing with his hand, but knowing as you do that he’s not afraid of confrontation and that he can be rather “in-your-face” at times, you have a pretty good idea.
Part of you thinks it’s a little on the juvenile side, especially for a man at least ten years your senior, but a larger part of you loves it, finds it funny and salutes him for doing what you would love to do, and so you giggle.
The Hummer’s windows are shaded, so you have no idea if there is anyone in the abomination to even see his salute to their idiocy and crassness. As you finally pass the driver you notice that he is looking straight ahead. A little disappointing, perhaps, that his actions may have had no impact, but oh well.
Soon enough you’re off the freeway, listening to one of his compositions, a lovely song done in a traditional Greek fashion. He tells you the story behind the song – it was written for a play – and you love the sound of it, the Greek words which he loosely translates for you, lovely in Greek and even more lovely in English (no, he doesn’t speak Greek, but he wrote the words in English and had them translated for the play). You give him the remaining directions to your place. Less than five minutes later he pulls up in front of your building. You smile at each other, say your goodbyes and see yas as you stifle the urge to reach over and kiss his cheek. Or his lips. Because you both know that you should try to maintain your distance, much as you may not want to.
Instead you gather your belongings, open the car door and get out, shutting the door behind you. You walk off to your apartment and he drives off to go home. You spare a glance at his retreating red taillights, knowing you’ll see him again because of your mutual meetings. Hell, you’ll see him in less than a week. And though you swear to yourself that you’re strong, you’re not going to travel the same road with him that you’ve traveled with others, the same road you traveled fairly recently, you still wonder what the next chapter of your story will be. Because this story isn’t over. Not by a long shot.