Post inspired by "The Lengths" by The Black Keys. Feel free to listen to it as you read if that's what you're into. - J
The bottles always mesmerized me. They came in all shapes and sizes, different colors, different labels with different words and images. They all rested next to one another in the spotlight, waiting to be picked up and poured into a variety of glasses. Did any liquid dream of being sipped on? Did they wait for their time to be picked up like I did?
It was eleven o'clock, and you were sitting only a seat away. You were casual and familiar with the bartender. I was not. You made her laugh; you were kind to her and used her name often. Your eyes were dark, kind, and lonely. I liked the way your hair rested on your head at the end of the day as it was clearly winning the long fought battle you had started with it earlier this morning with the gel.
People were constantly hugging, high fiving, and hand shaking each other. It was a room full of introductions between people who already knew each other, an exaggerated and, thus welcoming, way of counting the friends you knew in the limited space. I liked looking around, though I had no one to count. You didn’t look around too much. You only stared into your drink. And while everyone was busy having light and casual conversation with each other, you were having a most intense conversation with your own half-empty glass.
I knew the look. I had just finished a conversation with my own cocktail. My drink was a great listener, but it didn’t have much to say afterwards which was an inescapable disappointment. That’s why it was so nice when you stopped and looked up at me.
You smiled. I smiled and nodded. You nodded and lifted your drink. I lifted my drink and took a sip. You took a sip and smiled.
“How’s Friday night treating you?” you asked.
“Well, i’m treating myself right now,” I smiled. “I’ve learned to not wait for the days to treat me. You just gotta take the initiative.”
"Amen." You slid one seat over so you were next to me. Your elbows rested on the table, and your eyes rested on mine. I could have kissed you then.
I could have really kissed you.
But I didn’t. Instead we talked about work. Then we both confessed to not wanting to talk about work. You talked about your uncle. Your dad. Your brother. Your sister. I told you my sister was gay. And then we talked about gender norms. The long hair, the short hair. The men and their crewcuts and ties; the women and their curls and nail polish. Why did society draw such a strong line between what makes a man a man and a woman a woman?
You got the next round of drinks and I trusted you enough to tell you about my mom and dad. I thought you liked me enough to want to know about how smart my dog was. And I felt that you wouldn’t judge me when I told you that my breasts were my favorite part of my body. Sometimes our arms touched when we were bunched up as a couple when the bar filled up. Sometimes my knee glazed your knee with all of my nervous stuttering fidgeting. Sometimes my shoulder rubbed yours because our faces were so close when we spoke. And with every point of contact, the butterflies came out to play.
You confided your master plan of "taking a trip to Japan" and advertising your vacation on Instagram all while actually just staying at home in your apartment and living comfortably for a week off of Chinese take out and the Game of Thrones. You rightly assumed I would find it fascinating that your handwriting was nearly identical to that of your dad’s. And you even went so far as to show off your penmanship by turning the coaster on its other side to write something for me. I watched your hands carve the words into the material with such precision and focus that I began to wonder what else your hands could do. You finished your sentence, lifted your head, and slid the circular white paper towards me as you ran your fingers through your hair. I picked up the coaster and read the line in its inky curves and slender formations:
"Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other."
I looked up at you. My mind started spinning because, though I was only 23, I knew that the moment I was having with you now was the kind of moment I would only experience a few times in my lifetime. I could have kissed you then.
I could have really kissed you.
It was getting late, and the drinks had made me sleepy. And honestly if I would have stayed any longer, I was afraid I would allow my body to catch up to my brain when it came to getting to know you. I had been hurt enough before to know that I shouldn’t kiss strangers. That I shouldn’t touch strangers. That I shouldn’t let them walk me home. But when you offered to walk me home, that meant I’d have another few minutes with you. And all of the hurt that I had felt in the world, all of the lessons I had learned...Nothing mattered more than making this rare moment with you last a few minutes longer. So I said yes.
You walked next to me alongside your bike. There was no awkward movements between you and the contraption. I could tell you were familiar with your vehicle. That you had walked by its side for years. Your messenger bag was swung over your shoulder, and everything about you was quiet and comfortable. You had this effortless confidence about you that told the world you had no one to impress.
We were only a block away from my apartment when I realized that I really, really liked you. With like comes worry. I thought about my current state: working multiple jobs, living in a shabby apartment with a roommate off of Craigslist, always working on a book that many of my friends have questioned the very existence of. . .
When we made it to my front door, I wanted to invite you upstairs. Except I knew that I could only invite you upstairs if you wanted more than just a few hours with me. My heart, the shabby stubborn beating thing that you made rattle in my chest, couldn’t handle a night of hopes and dreams dashed by a casual, “Well, that was fun. See you around, I guess,” dismissal. I had learned that my heart only made long term investments, that short term investments were only excruciating and not worth the pain.
You stood in front of me. I was terrified and excited at the same time. I hoped to God that you couldn’t see how deeply and rapidly my chest was being pushed and pulled by the oxygen my lungs were panicking for. I took a deep breath and asked you my riddle:
“If I told you that everything I am is real but not always pretty, would you still have walked me home?”
And then you kissed me.
You really kissed me.