After a bout of illness and cancellations on both our parts, I at last had another date with Evan. The plan was we would go out to dinner, and then rent a movie and canoodle on the couch, like a couple of long-standing. I didn’t feel like part of a couple of long standing with Evan, but of all my recent dates, I had decided he was Most Likely to be Boyfriend Material. And Caroline said she thought I wanted a boyfriend; maybe I did.
I had some qualms about Evan: as I noted on our first and then second dates, he struck me as depressive. He lived with two older women, which made me wonder if he had many friends his own age. And then there was something else, which I will get to later.
We were to meet near the place we’d had drinks on our last, surprisingly successful date. As I walked down the street I saw a man in a coat loitering. I squinted: Was this Evan? I have a strange terror of not recognizing people I’ve met. Mostly it applies to men I’m involved with. I tried to determine if it was Evan while continuing mt stride. The man in the coat lifted an eyebrow at me: Oh. It was him.
“Hi!” I was so relieved I hadn’t walked past him. I kissed him.
It was cold. We started to walk and talk. “Evan,” I interrupted, suddenly, taking in his bare head, “Do you have a hat?”
“Put it on, OK?”
He obeyed, smiling. I liked this! Was that boyfriend behavior? Or perhaps he liked being bossed around by a –
My musing were interruppted by Evan, who started to ask me about my day.
We ended up at a diner, not a New York City-type Greek diner, but more of a small town diner, without twenty page leatherette bound menus. With gimmicks: there were cartons of old Trivial Pursuit cards on the table, and we amused ourselves by reading out the questions. I knew a good number of the answers. My parents bought had this very edition (Genus) – I’d been playing it since 1985.
Other things about Evan I’d noticed: in his room he had a book titled How to Shit in the Woods, which was about just that, as well as one called The Single Vegan, which struck me as depressingly austere. On his wall had been a sticky note which read: Go without hate, not without rage, which, upon reflection, I liked. As I answered the Trivial Pursuit questions I wondered, how much rage does Evan have? After he ordered his veggie burger and I my hamburger (ordering meat in front of male vegetarians and vegans – I’ve dated a few – always makes me feel frivolous), it occurred to me that Evan did nothing by halves. “I’m so glad to see you,” he was saying, and he reached across the formica table to grab my hands.
“I’m glad to see you, too.”
After dinner we walked to a video rental shop, and again, I felt pretty frivolous when Evan suggested Running With Scissors, since I'd been hoping for one of those movies that star former members of the cast of Saturday Night Live. Running with Scissors didn’t really strike me as the feel good date movie of the year. But what the hell. So he rented it and we walked back to his apartment arm in arm.
His place was empty – I was relieved. I was curious but not that eager to meet his fortysomething psychotherapist roommates. He made us both cups of tea and spent a while on the phone with one of his roommate’s boyfriends. Then, promising me he wasn’t going to check his email, he disappeared for a moment while I waited for my tea to cool down.
“I just lied to you,” Evan admitted when he returned. I was startled, because he didn’t have that rueful grimace, just a sorrowful look. What?
Oh, he’d checked his work email. “You can check it if you want,” I said. “Really, I don’t mind.”
At last he turned on the movie. We sat next to one another on the sofa, and I moved close to him. Our thighs touched, and he put an arm around me. Better, I thought.
We cuddled up closer as the movie went by, and at one point he paused the film and whispered to me, “You’ll stay with me tonight, even if I don’t put out?”
This is girl behavior, I thought. Which I was then ashamed of. “That was my plan,” I whispered back. “You don’t have to put out.”
The movie ended after midnight and we went into his bedroom, off the kitchen. I was pretty tired. I was ready to start fooling around, but Evan had other ideas: “Don’t you think I’m weird?” he said to me.
“What?” He repeated himself. I was flummoxed. How could I answer this? Because yes, I thought he was pretty weird. “Like how?” I asked cautiously.
“I don’t know, don’t you just think … I’m weird?” he asked again. “That I live with two older women, for example?”
“Well,” I said, because I had given this some thought: “I mean, they’re your colleagues, and with the cost of living in New York being what it is, real estate makes strange bedfellows…”
“Louise and Annie are good friends of mine. They’re not just housemates; they’re very important to me,” he said rather stiffly.
“OK.” Were we done?
“I mean,” and he went back to his previous theme, “Don’t you think I’m weird?”
“Well, OK,” I said, goaded. “Yes, I do think you’re weird. I saw a lot of very disturbing information about Group X on the Internet and it freaked me out and I really don’t want to have this discussion with you yet. I’m not ready to talk about it.”
“Oh,” said Evan. “That wasn’t what I meant.”
What is Group X? Well, I can’t be too explicit about this, but basically Evan had mentioned a project that he’s heavily involved with, which I will term Group X. I looked it up online, and was horrified to discover that a number of people consider it a cult. It is affiliated with various left wing causes (I can’t disapprove of that) and programs for disadvantaged youth (ditto). Group X is headed by the movement’s founder, whom I will call John Smith. And John Smith, according to the articles I’d read on the Internet, is a cultist with some unsavory characteristics, which again, for purposes of anonymity, I will not elaborate on.
Mostly the cult accusations have come from, naturally, former members. There were complaints about how much time members were expected to put into Group X, the way they were treated, etc. There was no talk of being locked in underground bunkers or denied access to loved ones, but still.
“I really don’t want to discuss this with you yet,” I said again, and my voice held the tang of panic. Because it was clear to me that Group X was a big, big part of Evan’s life and, although I am an alarmist, I don’t actually believe everything I read on the Internet. I wanted to know more about him before I decided that Evan was, in fact, the sort of person who was drawn to cults. Or if indeed a politically radical New York non-profit organization that funds summer programs for poor kids could actually be termed a cult.
I sat on the edge of his bed. I was close to tears. I’d gone and accused someone I barely knew of being in a cult. I sighed and stared at my shoes.
After a moment, Evan said, “Lily, I am Group X, and Group X is me.” This disturbed, but did not surprise me. “And John Smith is very important to me. I was at his house just the other night.” I nodded. “And tonight’s discussion might end things between you and me, but I’m not unkind. We can talk about this.”
I relaxed because of course he wasn’t unkind, was he? We could discuss this, couldn’t we? “OK,” I said. “Tell me about Group X.”
We talked – or mostly Evan talked – for several hours. He told me about how, as a child, he’d always been political, always aware of and angered by injustice and poverty. As an eleven year old, he’d volunteered at a local political campaign, taking the bus into the center of the city everyday by himself. He talked about how he’d gotten involved with Group X while at grad school, and how impressed he was by the work they did. He talked about several significant figures in the movement, who were admired by him and notorious to me.
After a long time I said, “Most of the criticism I’ve seen of Group X has been of John Smith rather than the work of the group itself. I don’t know very much about it, which is why I didn’t really want to talk about it with you yet; I wanted to know you better before we talked about it.” I went on, “I know it’s easy to be misled. I hope that while I’m skeptical, I’m not cynical; I don’t believe everything I read on the Internet.”
It was 4:00 am by this time. Even if we were finished, I was not going anywhere.
But we weren’t finished, because eventually our bodies moved closer and closer together. I didn’t reach out to touch him, but I moved my whole body so that our limbs were next to one another. We smiled at one another, and then we kissed.
When we were naked and the lights were out he said to me, “When you were walking towards me earlier I didn’t call out to you, I just wanted to watch you walk. You have an honest walk.”
I slipped my arms around him and ran my fingers along his spine. “That’s a lovely thing to say,” I whispered back. We kissed, and stretched against one another.
“You know I’m not monogamous,” I went on, anxiously. If he thought I was honest, I felt obliged to be. After the plea that I stay the night earlier, it hit me that it wasn’t that Evan was weird that worried me; it was his intensity. He was drawn to extremes. His passion made me think he had boyfriend potential, but I wasn't sure if I wanted him to be my boyfriend. Or if my passion could meet his own -- of late all my passion had been spent on unrequited longing for Jeremy.
Evan straddled me; his skin was smooth. “That’s OK,” he said, “I don’t need that from you now.”
We kissed and kissed again, lying facing one another. My skin seemed to hum. “I want to live up to your idea of me,” I said, because Evan’s admiration seemed so unsentimental and pure.
Then we fucked, and by the time we fell asleep I convinced myself that the sky was starting to pale.