Part 3, Chapter 15
“Finally,” I thought, as I leaned in to kiss her.
I specifically remember this particular kiss as being the first time I realized how much I like to draw out those brief intermediary moments when there’s a pause and your faces, eyes still closed, remain micrometers away but yet fully connected by the warmth and breath and anticipation, stretching those quick quarter-second kiss-intermissions that punctuate any normal makeout to ten seconds or more, until both of you are wound up so much that you’re unable to delay gratification any longer without being so full of adrenaline you burst.
It’s tough to describe without physically coming over and puckering up. Plus, the previous paragraph is guaranteed to be awkward or your money back. Who cares? I thought the kiss was spectacular, and I’m pretty sure she liked it, because, when I finally wrapped it up and stepped back, she whispered, eyes still closed, “Please, could you do that again?”
“Finally,” I repeated in my head. “This new girl is great. Who needs Hot Copy Editor when I’ve got someone else to kiss?”
Rewind a few weeks, to a nervewracking day after the poetry and pineapple had been delivered. My phone rang.
“Evil birds? That’s the best you could come up with?”
That isn’t how I imagined this going. “I mean, I thought it was a pretty powerful image.”
“I love your movie reviews. But evil birds? Really?”
“So you, uh, you don’t have any other thoughts about the poetry you’d like to share?”
“Yes, mostly related to word choice. For example: respect? How dreadfully romantic. What was that all about?”
No, it’s fine. Yeah, no, I think it’s broken, but don’t worry. I’m pretty sure I can just take my heart back to the store, and they’ll mend it there.
“I mean, it seemed like the right word to me.”
“Yep. But come over tonight! One of the suitemates sliced up the pineapple and it’s the juiciest. Come have some. Ooh! Then we could go out!”
I wasn’t really devastated, though. It seems like I would be. I wouldn’t have written poetry like that unless there was a seriously inhibited emotional outburst that needed some alternate avenue of expression. Hearing her indirectly reject me ought to have caused me to confront the idea that I might just fail. She might not love me. I might not win her over in the end. Faced with such a confrontation of emotions, wouldn’t any rational person crumble and retreat?
I didn’t deal with it rationally. Because I wouldn’t just come out and tell her that I loved her and wanted her to be my girl, I didn’t have to face and deal with the fact that she wasn’t. I was wounded, but I figured I’d have my chance to try again when she was single.
I’m convinced that being freshly hurt makes me approximately as attractive to girls as if I were walking a puppy while holding a baby, playing guitar, and wearing a pink shirt.
A few days later, I attended an 80’s themed party dressed as John Bender. I went all-out, too. I rented the movie and studied the costume: the shaggy hair I already had at the time, but I went thrifting for the rest. When I was decked out, I felt like Danny Zuko punching Fonzie while stealing Rocky’s girlfriend. I felt cool.
That’s where I met Art School Girl. I was the least awkward I’ve ever been in my entire life. I don’t know if it was the cut off short sleeve plaid flannel button down, or the fingerless gloves, or the beer, but I couldn’t have said an awkward thing if you had put a gun to my head.
“Have I met you somewhere before?” I asked.
“Sure seems like it.” she said.
Fast forward twenty minutes. We’re dancing to the Go-Go’s. I couldn’t have said anything awkward if you had held Tina Fey to my head and forced me to. One of her tiny hands was on my bicep.
“I think it’s a good idea to work out.” I said. It’s true, I do think it’s a good idea. I also think it’s a good idea to get plenty of sleep and eat a balanced diet. I’m telling you, I was on fire. I could say no wrong.
“Let’s do some shots.” She pulled me into a dormroom where there was liquor and shot glasses. “Here, let me pour you one.” I did three quick shots, each of which were the approximate size of the Great Salt Lake.
I don’t remember much else about the night except for a lot of kissing and a ride home much, much later. As in, it was getting light outside later.
She was different and exotic and interesting. So I decided, hey – who needs Hot Copy Editor anyway? Finally I can move past her and be with someone else.
But, after a first real date and the first real goodnight kiss I described above, as I was thinking about how nice it was to focus my emotions on someone new who was not then and had never been a copy editor for a newspaper, somewhere deep inside myself I knew it wouldn’t last.
There was only one girl I wanted.