The more we walked through the fountains and gardens and woods lit in hypnotizing and artful ways, the more playful we became. He dared me to push him up against a tree and I giggled at first and then shoved him with all my strength. He exhaled sharply, pulled my arms up so they were around his shoulders, and gave me a kiss that made me feel as if I was flying and falling at once.
We made out on many benches in that garden, but the last and best was on an unlit path behind the trees where a lightshow of birds taking flight was being projected. (I have to be awesome at life to have lived that sentence.)
He kept trying to feel me up, even though I pushed his hands away over and over—we may have been in a secluded spot, but it was still a family park. I may have been ridiculously, dizzily turned on, but I still wanted respect. I told him about wanting to be valued for my whole self, and he said, don’t you notice me enjoying every inch of you? Charming and clueless at once.
We wrestled a little, and he caught my wrists behind my back with one hand, bent me forward by the hair with the other hand, and had his rough way with my nipples though my pretty satin floral dress. I let out a groan and a “Huh!”—it was spot-on and not-okay at once. After just a moment, a deep “Stop.” came up from my belly and he let me gather myself. “Good boy,” I said, and patted him on the head.
As we walked out of the woods, chemistry-drunk and holding hands, the lights, the music, the flowers, it all became too much. I couldn’t take any more sensations. I was hungry and in need of coffee, so we got directions to a nearby diner and I agreed to follow him.
I put on The National’s High Violet and was prepared for more dreaminess, but also was headachey and having trouble concentrating. We got lost on the way to the diner and I ended up following him down dark country roads. The sky was full of stars and it was the week of the Perseid Meteor Shower, and I hoped to see one, but didn’t. We did see some leaping deer. We were lost for a long while, a good forty-five minutes. My headache got worse and I had the sensation that I was following someone who did not know where he was going. I found out later it was a while before he even checked his GPS—why didn’t I check mine?
When we made it to the main road, the only thing we could find open was a Hooters. I had the thought that if we ever became a thing, this would be a funny part of the story of how we got together. I am utterly amazed by my brain’s ability to hope, to let romance bloom, and I hope that doesn’t change.
I ordered cake as an appetizer and he had Key Lime pie. We fed each other and I drank weak coffee and we both felt sad that the waitress felt compelled to address us in a baby voice.
He asked me out for a fortnight from then (He has the kids every other weekend and had apparently not yet discovered the existence of babysitters…) and I agreed that that should be when I come to his house and jump in his pool. And then, alas, we got onto the subject of our exes. His divorce was fresher than mine and he talked about her in such a demeaning way. He told me she was depressed and I immediately suspected that he had made her that way. He even called her “dense.” I said, “I don’t like this. You can’t talk about her this way.” I kind of accused him of gaslighting her, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t wrong.
We left the restaurant and sat in my car to talk. “I really like you, but you’re scaring me.” I said, and he kept talking, about money and housework and the ins and outs of insurance. I’m not a small talk person so I do tend to learn all kinds of things about people, but I laid down the law and said this was by no means second-date talk. I said that I could just see her, trying so hard to please him and never getting it right, I said I could see the same thing happening to me and I never wanted to be in that position again. We kissed gently and hugged for a long time. I was horrified and put off but I also didn’t want to let go. He was very hard to let go of.
He got in his car and we headed toward our respective homes. There was no reason for me to follow him anymore. I turned Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait” the way up, sped up in as tough a way as a Yaris can manage, and passed him. I was pretty sure that was it.
Next time: And yet.