“Would you mind it much if I kissed you?” he asked, leaning in, quoting a line from the play that we’d just seen together.
I imagine he thought it was pretty clever.
He’d grabbed at my bracelet and squeezed my hand the moment before and I knew what was coming next. I could smell it from the space between us slowly shrinking.
Instead of squeezing back and sliding closer to him, I leaned the other way, and unbuttoned the beaded chain from my wrist, unraveling it into one long chain, hoping his surprise at its construction would distract him from his intentions.
I could see his surprise and disappointment.
“Um, I have a rule about kissing on first dates!” I exclaimed disjointedly, as if I were creating the rule at that exact moment.
I kind of was.
If only I had that rule so many other times when I’d kissed someone. Which led to fucking someone. Which led to babies. Divorce.
Okay, it wasn’t always like that, exactly, but I had always associated a good first usually-drunk kiss with him being a good person, when really all it meant that he was a good kisser. Maybe good in bed.
Or more accurately, that I was wasted.
“I got strep throat one time after I kissed someone and now I’m paranoid.” I just threw the words up right there in the cab and looked down as if I could actually see them on the floor.
He chuckled nervously, then loudly, proceeding to explain the illogical nature of that statement.
“You’re just as likely to get it on a 2nd or 3rd date too, you know?”
He realized how ridiculous that sounded as he said it, as if his rationale would somehow convince me otherwise. The special moment that he had imagined, now replaced with a discussion about probability. Truth was, if I had wanted to kiss him I would have just kissed him.
And really, he would have just kissed me without a stupid line I’d just heard delivered better, on stage, by Michael Sera.
He would have kissed me like he kissed the woman he’d gone out with the week prior, a story he’d insisted on telling me over the phone to sound funny, though even he said to me “I’m not even sure why I’m telling you this” but then proceeded to tell me instead of changing the subject to anything but his dates with other women, a few of whose ex-husbands were gay thus rendering them incredibly deprived of male attention.
He’d held one woman’s hand and kissed her because he felt bad.
“How can I know you’re not just feeling sorry for me?” I asked, reminding him backhandedly about his pity “action,” desperately trying to divert from the whole strep throat debacle that made me sound more neurotic then I had hoped.
I leaned back in the seat now facing him, confidently. Gloating.
The guy who kisses a woman who complains on her first date that she hasn’t had her hand held or her lips kissed in ten years will not spurn my completely illogical and yes, completely fake reason for not wanting to kiss.
“I knew that would come back to bite me!” he laughed. “But c’mon, this is different, this is…” his voice trailed off as I turned to watch the city go by outside my taxi window.
I’d been sick a lot lately, these past few months, dating someone I knew wasn’t good for me and every time I’d seen him the last couple of times, I’d return home sick.
I tried not to read into but it was hard not to.
“I got strep throat in Hawaii. Then a UTI. Then strep throat again…” It was all true, all of it, except it wasn’t from kissing but from the airplane ride and all the sex and then the sex while I had an infection. Then a cold followed by a series of poorly-timed bloody noses —which is to say “Is there really a good time for a bloody nose?” and I have to say after having one at the Target checkout counter alone with four kids, “yes, yes there is” — was enough for me to call it quits and make me rethink my whole approach to sharing fluids and body parts and my life so willingly.
Lately, it was starting to feel reckless.
We slid out of the taxi in front of where I was staying, and I offered to walk him to his car parked in a garage a few blocks away, still hoping to convince him that I was just a rule follower. Instead, I decided to ride out the neuroses.
“Don’t you have any irrational fears?” I asked, insistent on him believing my strep throat story. “I once went to a restaurant that was completely covered in dollar bills. The ceiling. The walls. It was disgusting.”
He looked over at me suspiciously.
“Money’s dirty,” I reminded him, nodding my head knowingly. “It didn’t really make sense to me but every time I think about it, I feel a little ill.”
I kept talking about money and the wires in his car and anything I could think of as he drove me back around the block to where we’d been dropped by the taxi, the walk and return delivery only extending the awkwardness.
I kissed his cheek and hugged him goodbye, sliding out of the passenger side and clamoring up the steps into the doorway without even looking back.
I answered a few of his texts, that night then the next day. He was nice and funny and sweet, and if anything I appreciated not having to plan one damn thing about that evening except what to wear.
“Yeah, nice is good!” I texted my friend optimistically.
But nice is just nice and nothing else. And I want more. I want it all.
If I had minded that night, I’d still mind the next time. And the next time after that. Maybe not so much the kissing as much as the asking, which is the most telling thing of all.
I’ve given my fair share of second chances, believing that it was nerves or quirkiness or some sort of excuse for the lack of connection. That he had a great voice and boy, he was funny, and maybe it’ll turn into something at some point. When really, you just know.