“Hey, how’s it going?” I ask my newest neighbor as I arrive home from work in the early evening. She is strikingly beautiful. Her wild curly hair frames a heart –shaped face, her pale green eyes are fringed with thick, long lashes. She is 30, maybe 35.
She draws on a Marlboro light. “Well,” she says, glancing up at me from her perch on the outside steps that lead to our adjacent second floor units, “Considering I don’t smoke and I’m out here smoking, and I’ve already had two glasses of wine, not so great.”
“You?” She asks, seemingly interested despite her obvious melancholy.
“Not terrible,” I answer, then add, “You going to be out here for another few minutes? I just need to ditch these shoes for flip flops.”
“Yeah, I could use some girl talk.”
“About a boy?” I ask, but I already know.
“I only smoke when it’s about a boy,” she laughs, but the laugh doesn’t quite touch her eyes that are bright with tears.
“Give me two minutes,” I tell her.
It takes me less than a minute to change into shorts and a T-shirt, pour myself a glass of wine, clip the leash on Rouletta’s collar and head outside. My neighbor is lighting another cigarette.
“So, what happened?” I ask her as I take a sip of wine. Rouletta settles down beside me. We are three girls side-by-side on the steps.
“Too much p—y too soon,” she says in a blunt, matter-of-fact tone that should sound vulgar but doesn’t. “I broke the six-month rule big time. What was I thinking?” She shakes her head.
“I mean I know that a guy likes the hunt. I know that! If you make them wait six months and they are still around, then they’re into YOU, not just your p—y.” She pauses. “Why, why did I forget that?”
Does everyone know this rule?
“So, how long has it been since, you know, you heard from him?” I ask my neighbor. I know I am treading on tentative ground here, and I don’t really know her well enough to ask, but she seems desperate to talk.
It’s funny, sometimes yesterday can seem like a long time ago when you are used to texts and quick calls multiple times in a morning and more again that afternoon, before you can’t wait to see each other that evening. Sometimes, silence since yesterday can feel almost final.
“Do you know why he hasn’t called or anything?”
“Like I said, too much, too soon. And the real problem? I actually really like this guy. He kind of swept me off my feet out of nowhere. It was amazing,” says my neighbor, bending to grind out her cigarette on the step below. “But now, I just know. A girl just knows when she knows. And I don’t think I will hear from him again.”
“No, no. I have a feeling you have not heard the last from him,” I tell her, meaning it.
She shakes her head, and we sit in silence for a moment.
“What about your boy?” she asks, lighting another cigarette. “You two seem to be doing pretty well.”
When we first met five weeks ago, I too was amazed at how quickly everything unfolded. Being swept off my feet–that’s the phrase that repeatedly came to mind. As did, ‘Careful, you’re playing with fire.’
“Yes, going okay, I guess. I don’t know.”
Yet, in five weeks, we’ve only been out on one planned, pick-you-up-at-eight date for dinner. Oh, sure, I know he’s busy with clients, always. He has had family come to town. He is continually beat from 12-hour work days. But he always calls or texts at least once every day. I mean, not like that first week when it was text and text and text, but we have at least one exchange of communication a day. I never really know, though, is tonight the night we go out, meet for dinner, go to his place to listen to music and he’ll cook–anything resembling a planned get-together before a 10 p.m. “U still up?” text?
My neighbor squints through the smoke of her cigarette at me. “Trouble in paradise? But he seemed so nice that one time he just showed up and we were all hanging out outside your place. You were so surprised, I’ll never forget that.”
“Yeah, that was really wonderful, that night he surprised me,” I agree.
Was that also the night I felt the balance tip from his eager pursuit to my hopeful expectation for something more? Was that the night I wondered if it all wasn’t happening too fast and how this being swept off one’s feet–as fun as it felt–was blurring my sense of me and my ideals and what I really wanted, if anything, from this boy? From anything?
My neighbor sighs, and I can tell she is thinking again about her own unhappy situation.
“Anyway, I still think you haven’t heard the last from your guy.” I tell her. “Mark my words, okay?”
She looks at me for a moment. “I hope you’re right. And if you are, I have got to slow it all down! Just so ridiculous, you know?”
Rouletta tugs on her leash and lunges after a tiny lizard. I pull her back and seat her on my lap. My neighbor laughs. I am glad to see her smile again.
“But back to your boy. So all good or no?” she asks me, taking a sip of wine from my glass.
“No, all good, pretty much,” I say, determined to sound like it is. “It’s just that he doesn’t really call to make any plans. I mean, not that you have to always have plans, but, you know.”
“You mean he only calls or texts when he wants some, right?” My neighbor is not known for dancing around a topic, no matter how personal.
I want to put my hands over my ears and sing, “La La La,” as she makes this stark comment. Instead, I smile and then I laugh, “No, no. Not like that.”
Although last night wasn’t so great, last night when my friend and I were having dinner at the bar and he came in on his own after a dinner out with clients, a dinner he said was the reason we couldn’t plan to have dinner together. “If it’s not too late, I’ll call you when we’re done.” And here it was, before 9 p.m., and the dinner had clearly ended early enough so that it wasn’t too late to call. Except he hadn’t.
And it was awkward for me to see him wander in so handsome and confident, into the place where my friend and I were eating. I felt unsure and literally in the way as I watched him greet his guy friends. It was as difficult for me to watch his entrance as it was easy for him to brush a warm kiss on my lips when he walked over to say hello to me, as if we’d planned to meet there at this time all along. Except we hadn’t. Because he hadn’t called when it wasn’t too late.
My neighbor doesn’t buy my determined cheeriness. “Okay, spill it, girl. What’s up?”
“Really, all good,” I tell her. Because I am not positive it isn’t.
He left me to go to the other side of the bar to talk with his guy friends. And my friend said she was headed home. I stood with my half full glass of wine, hugged her goodnight, and walked over to the boy and his friends. I listened as he regaled us about how he had been right in this very bar the night before and something strange and funny had happened with his ex-girlfriend. Except didn’t he tell me the reason we couldn’t get together last night was because he was with family up north? But he was here? Too? What? “Wait, you were here last night?” I asked him, and he laughed and nodded. At least I think he nodded in response to my question, but maybe he was just nodding at something one of his guy friends said. At that moment I kind of panicked and realized, duh, he didn’t call tonight. He didn’t call last night, but he came here to this place we both love on both nights.
I was immediately overcome by the real, but more likely imagined, reality with this boy. In the predictable and inevitable fit of extreme insecurity that followed that thought, I decided: Maybe I am too shy, too inexperienced, too stupid in the ways of dating a handsome, confident man. No wonder he hasn’t called to make plans. He wasn’t even planning on calling me tonight when his client dinner ended. At which point I put my glass of unfinished wine on the bar in front of the boy and said with too much drama, “I need to go home.” And I turned and left before he could say a word.
“If you say it’s all good, then all good,” says my skeptical neighbor.
I did not cry on way home, although I thought I wanted to. I felt too defeated to cry when I later curled up on my sofa with my pup and dragged the throw over both of us and fell asleep still wearing my cute work dress after an exchange of texts that signaled bewilderment on the boy’s part, but that resolved nothing—-the last words from me indicating how I really liked the boy who’d shown up at Mr. Fabulous so soon after we had met, and how I would so enjoy spending time with that boy someday, and his last text saying, “That boy is still around.”
“Hey, I gotta go in,” says my neighbor. “You okay?”
“Then, here. Catch,” says my neighbor as she stands up while Rouletta and I stay seated.
It’s a cigarette and her tiny lighter.
“But I don’t smoke,” I tell her.
“Neither do I,” she says.