As usual, Dean and I were eating dinner and sharing a bottle of wine. His knee was sandwiched between my legs. We had just finished comparing parent horror stories (sexy!). He swallowed some linguini. “Anyway,” he concluded, “I’ve decided that I won’t have children…”
I looked at my plate. And then I sipped my wine. I stared at Dean, and then I looked at my plate again.
“You look really displeased,” said Dean. “I guess this isn’t something you want to hear about.”
I hadn’t realized I looked displeased. My policy is to maintain a totally noncommittal expression whenever Dean says something that flummoxes me. After all, it’s none of my business. We’re not a couple. Also, I don’t want him to know that when he says, for instance, “I’m not having kids,” that I think, “Oh, yeah? Well, I’ve picked out the names for mine!” I mean, I’m sentimental and dreamy, and I feel this is a character flaw. So I make a big effort to appear normal.
But my emotions had been detectable! I gulped down some more wine. “Well,” I said, and my voice sounded belligerent. “Are you saying this, or are you saying this to me?” Meaning, was he trying to tell me something?
“I’m just saying this. I’m just talking.” He clasped my hand. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No, you didn’t –” He hadn’t upset me, had he? Oh. He had.
I narrowed my eyes. “I mean, what are you saying to me, Dean?”
On our first date I had given Dean this blog address, and I’d regretted it mightily ever since. To compensate, I’d been pretty close-mouthed about my feelings both in person and online. But now, thanks to a bottle of wine, I was about to precipitate a discussion I didn’t want to have. That is, I was going to be honest.
It got a little convoluted, but this is the upshot:
- I blurted out that I really, really liked him, and wanted us to date exclusively.
- He said, “I didn’t know you felt that way; I had no idea.”
- I thought, Oh, thank God and then said, “Well, how do you feel?”
- He said, “I like you a lot.”
- Note the lack of enthusiastic Yes! on the idea of us dating exclusively. Something in me collapsed a little. So I said, “Listen, I like you tons, but dating you is very stressful for me.” No joke. I would wonder, Hmmm, who else is Dean seeing? Is she prettier than me? She can’t possibly give more enthusiastic head – though admittedly that last insight did provide some comfort. I had started to think I’d developed an anxiety disorder, but now I realized it was just romantic neuroses.
- He said, “Lily, I don’t even know if I’m capable of being in a relationship,” and took my hand.
- I swallowed and half-whispered, “Dean, this isn’t going to end well for me.” Then I pushed my chair back. “I think I should go,” I said, melodramatically.
- He said, “Sweetie -- sweetie. Don’t go. I’m so sorry I upset you.”
- I said, “Excuse me,” and flounced off to the bathroom. Unfortunately it was occupied so I could not fling myself in there in sulky outrage. Instead I fidgeted in full view of Dean until the bathroom was free. Once inside, I cursed myself for being such a drunken moron. I’d been honest and if Dean wasn’t interested, I was going to have to dump his ass. I mean, I couldn’t go on dating him casually, knowing he didn’t want a relationship with me. For the past few weeks I’d suspected this discussion was only a matter of time. But now I’d gone and done it. Apparently my nerves couldn’t handle the limbo of wondering how (if at all) Dean felt about me.
- I sheepishly returned to the table, and Dean, after ascertaining that I hadn’t been sick, paid the bill.
- We left the restaurant and, outside, Dean wrapped his arms around me and stroked my hair, “I’m so sorry,” he said. “Please don’t be upset. Don’t go. Come home with me.”
- “Why?” (I was fishing.)
- “Because I want to be close to you and lie next to you.…”
- And I whined into his leather jacket, “You knew I would say yes.”
So then he took my hand and we went for drinks and didn’t say any more about it. I drank two glasses of dessert wine but did not touch Dean’s passion fruit sorbet, which as a rule I make pretty quick work of. I was mortified and thought I might as well go the whole hog and get really wrecked. I was going to have to break up with him.
Walking home, he reminded me that I’d agreed to visit him in Atlantic City, where he was planning a 10-day poker trip in a few weeks. “OK,” I lied.
I appreciated the gesture, and he might have meant it, but I’d just told him I wanted us to be a couple and he’d not given me a terribly enthusiastic response. We weren’t going anywhere together; there was no way my ego would allow me to hang around him after this. I had forced my own hand. Damn you, pinot grigio!
Back at his place I hurriedly drank a glass of port, which I hate, and joked with him like everything was fine. We went upstairs, curled up on his bed and watched most of an old Fawlty Towers episode. When Dean smoked a bowl I joined him, which I never do. Like I said, I was determined to get really ploughed.
Then he kissed me and I went at him with a ferocious longing. I gave him a very ardent blow job and then he fucked me. I thought: This is the last time he’ll be inside me. He fucked me quickly and steadily. I couldn’t look at him. He breathed heavily in my ear and said my name.
Afterwards he clasped me close and I breathed him in, thinking, I’ll never lie here next to him again, because I am very self indulgent. When I shifted away he wrapped his arms around me and pressed my head to his chest and stroked my hair. I craved the comfort of him, the physical closeness he initiated. Maybe that is what I like best about Dean – how physically affectionate he is, how easy it is for him to take my hand and tell me I’m pretty and cuddle me.
I didn’t sleep well, but instead concentrated on the intangibles I anticipated missing: Dean’s scent, the way his fingers felt in my hair and the funny chirps he made when he snored.
In the morning I was wide awake and overtired, examining my broken-out complexion in his mirror as I applied my makeup.
“Want to see a movie on Thursday night?” Dean asked after I’d said, “I’m headed out,” and waited for him to kiss me goodbye.
“OK,” I lied again. I slipped out of the apartment. Dean, clad in his boxer shorts, peered at me from behind the front door as I clopped off down the stairs. I was going to have to do the rest of my truth-telling via email.