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On Dating : Finally - kale & cigarettes
On Dating : Finally

On Dating : Finally

We got into some more serious talks. She had been drinking. I could tell when I saw her face come up on my phone. Everything she did took half a second too long. Her grin lingered. 

She wanted to tell me some things about her past. People I’ve dated always think that is important. That I must know every detail and be okay with all of it in order to truly love them.  

A difficult past is not something that disqualifies a person from being able to have a meaningful relationship. But the attachment to the sadness and idea that they are only composed of the things that happened to them in the past can make it difficult to feel loved and secure. 

“This is the real me. Not just Sweet Maddy that you like.” 

We started talking about how it’s impossible to truly know another person. Mostly, because we are incapable of accurately sharing things about ourselves that aren’t heavily diluted in our own personal narratives. We end up sharing a representation of what we’ve comfortably rehearsed. It doesn’t help that our partners also typically only see what they want to see. 

“I’ve told you some stuff, but not the real stuff,” she continued, with a new draw in her voice. 

I wanted to be supportive. But it wasn’t even about what she would say. It was how it attached itself to her skin and made her someone else. How she put so much weight on its existence that no matter what it was I was going to have no choice but to consider it too much to deal with and see her as an unlovable person. 

Then her phone died. The screen went black. 

I sat thinking. It was getting heavy. Which, by itself, was fine. I enjoyed a monumental blow to the emotional field. But the heaviness was coming from a different place. From being drunk and thinking that was the best time to blurt out traumas. From having things inside her she hadn’t yet shared with people who could help her. She was was gearing up to scare me away.

This used to be my calling card. The wounded. Because I could be such a good listener. Make someone feel so heard. Even if I would eventually be consumed with fear and judgment. But I was happy to notice some alarms going off in my brain that said perhaps this person wasn’t quite ready for a relationship. Or, at least, the kind of relationship I was hoping for.

Ten minutes later she FT’d back and was only wearing a bra when the picture came through. 

Suddenly, I saw a future for us again. 

“Tilt the phone down a little. I want to see your boobs.” 

She laughed. Then obliged. 

“Wow! You have big boobs.”

“I hide them well.” 

Dating in NYC in the winter was like physical attraction roulette. There was really no way to know what was under all the layers until you were quite far down the trail. 

Then my shirt was off and we were looking at each other. 

“It’s a great relief that you have nice boobs,” I said with a smile.

“I’m glad you think so. But if you didn’t that would be fine too. I don’t care either way.”

“What kind of thing is that to say? Of course you care. You would absolutely prefer that I liked them.”

“Okay fine. I suppose you’re right.” 

Then she told me about being 11 and seeing her mom in the hospital after her diagnosis. She was crying. Her granpda leaned down and said, “You’re an adult now, stop crying.” 

The appetizer had been served. 

I told her I was sorry and that must’ve been so difficult. I asked a little more about the situation and then changed the subject and asked if she was planning on being at my place when I got back in a couple days. We talked about walking around in East Village together.

“You have zero records. But you have a record player” she said.

“I know, I know. We need to get some.”

In the end, I told her that I would prefer to have some time to myself when I first got back to NYC. Instead of having her waiting in my apartment it would feel nice and clean if she went home the night before and then met me back later in the day.

“I feel like the easy thing would be for you to just stay and be there. Of course I want to see you right away. But, in all reality, I would be more proud of us if we did it a little differently. I’m coming in on a red eye and would love to be able to rest for a few before we met up,” I said.

I’m not sure how this came off but it was my attempt at putting up some boundaries and not just melting into the thing that was easiest. Not that easy is bad. Easy can be really nice. This felt more like giving in too soon. I actually did want to come back to an empty apartment that felt like my own and then meet up with the girl I was dating.

Thankfully, she agreed.

I sit on the couch writing in my journal.

She sits on the floor peeling stickers off the records we just bought. 

Jackson Browne plays on the record player. 

She’s wearing a beige colored loose blouse with gold buttons sewn to the top. Her hair is half up in a bun with the rest down across her shoulders and upper back. She looks like she’s from another era. Like she came to my house in a horse and carriage.

She couldn’t get the plastic cover back on the Moscow Jazz album she picked out and pushed it away abruptly and moved on to CCR.

“Can I try?” I asked.

I put the sleeve back on and handed her the record and she smiled. 

We walked through Tribeca and saw a gallery and then walked to the pier along the Hudson. We held hands some but she was wearing boots with a small heel which made her about 1 inch too tall for my arm to relax at the proper angle. I tried putting my arm around shoulders but her purse kept hitting us in the legs. 

We were comfortable enough at this point where sitting down to dinner at a restaurant was a reasonably safe experience. In the beginning, it can be jarring to be set up in an interview style across from a person watching how they use silverware and chew on certain foods. 

We looked through the menu in the dimly lit restaurant and talked to each other with eager smiles. It was cute. We were cute. Everything was more exciting. For a moment, I actually thought it was an important thing to eat food that was brazed and pan-seared and marinaded in seasonal herbs and spices.

Then I asked if she likes cuddling and she said yes with the same expression as if I asked if she liked the coverings on the light fixtures. There was judgment in her that scared me. That was the cold side of her I didn’t like acknowledging so much. There was probably judgment in me that scared her. I wondered if we had undeniable chemistry. Or if maybe chemistry was only a justification for being drawn to something familiar in another person, even if it could turn into a much different feeling later. 

We are back at my apartment and she is going to stay. The day was always leading up to this.

She brushes her teeth and then she is in my bed under the covers.

“Are you naked?” I ask from the bathroom.

“Not completely,” she says.

“Okay, I’m going to get equally not completely naked, too.” 

I brush my teeth and get under the covers and we kiss and the rest is what they call history. 

The Next Morning.

She is lying in my bed checking emails in her underwear.

I am in the kitchen making tea naked and worrying about burning my penis. 

She is standing in the doorway with her oversized button-down shirt draped open.

I am scrambling eggs in my boxers. 

She is fully dressed with wild hair opening my window and leaning her body out to see the day. 

The night before I was on top of her and then she was on top of me. She was loud. I came inside her. It wasn’t the plan, she just didn’t lift her hips up and I didn’t push her off, either. She was on the pill and we had both gotten STD tests before so I wasn’t worried about that. Still, what a precedent to set.  

This morning, we scratched each other’s arms and I played with her hair. The light was quiet. The sky grey and wet. The sheers hung down into the comforter. Everything was white. Everything soft. I ran my thumb across her shoulder. I wondered what changed between us. Would I open up and flood towards her? Would I panic and pull back? Then, she was on top of me again and then on her side facing away. She came and I stayed in for a while and wrapped arm around her chest and pulled her into me until I stopped without finishing because I wanted to work out later.  

This was a thing now. 

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