“Do you know how late Red Cat serves tea?”
“They close at 8:00,” I replied quickly, proud that I knew the answer.
“Ah. Thought we could drink some tea and talk about Ecuador,” he continued, his voice trailing off…
“Awwwww — but they’re closed!” I repeated, and then it dawned on me what was happening; Audio was asking me out! FINALLY! Or at least asking me to drink tea with him — whatever that meant.
“But Good People is open!” I added quickly. “We could grab a few beers?”
“You wanna go… now?”
“Going to say goodbye to some people first.”
“Okay! I’ll head that way in approximately a minute and a half, then,” I said, and then sighed inwardly. I could have just said “See ya in two” or “I’ll be there in like five, dude” and sounded 800% more normal, but whatever. My bike was securely fastened to the back of my car and I was officially going to have drinks with Audio.
Audio laughed at where I parked — in a dark-ish alley a good ways down the street from the brewery.
“I thought maybe you were planning on us fooling around in your car later or something?” he teased as we walked toward the building (and this was before the beer).
“Oh my god! You’re so STUPID,” I exclaimed, laughing at him. But that’s yet another indicator that he likes you, I complimented myself.
We grabbed drinks and took them outside, talking about our jobs, our art, our shared intrinsic sadness, and my recent trip to Ecuador. He put his hand on my leg three times — I love math — and kept staring into my eyes. Yep; it was definitely a first date.
The more sips I took of that raspberry ale, the easier it was to talk with Audio, my three-month-long crush. I gushed about the cows I saw in Ecuador and showed him, on my phone, a pretty pattern of pink tiles I’d found while walking in Las Salinas.
“Sometimes, simple stuff like this is just so beautiful that it makes me want to cry,” I whispered, staring down at the picture. I felt him looking at me.
I showed him all of the pictures from my trip — from fresh fruits and vegetables and pretty cups of coffee to rushing waterfalls and me in a swimsuit.
“Look at how blue the water is,” I exclaimed, suddenly self-conscious.
“Yeah… the ocean is totally what I’m looking at right now,” he said, enlarging the photo.
“You are RIDICULOUS!” I laughed, shoving him with my elbow.
He talked about his health — his chronic pain; knees, wrists, back, ribs… he broke a rib once, he said, and felt it fall all the way down into his stomach.
“NO WAY!” I cried. “How the heck did that happen?!”
“Man… you’re a dangerous thing,” I mumbled out loud. You’re a dangerous thing TO LOVE, I cautioned myself.
There were lots of people sitting outside of the brewery with us: individuals, couples, groups of friends… a pair of girls, to our left….
“The brunette works at blah blah blah,” he remarked — I can’t remember the name of the place, so I’m putting blah blah blah.
I turned to look at her. “Huh… she is very beautiful,” I whispered. “Just stunning!”
“There are things I’d like to do to her,” he agreed, grinning.
“AUDIO!” I chided, suddenly feeling sad.
By the time he’d finished his beer, I’d almost drank half of mine. We were talking about family and relationships now.
“When was the last time you dated someone?” I asked.
“Am,” he said, and at first, it didn’t click — but then, it did.
“Am?” I repeated, stunned.
He nodded. “It’s an open relationship,” he reassured me, smiling cutely.
My jaw dropped. Nooooooooo… fuck!
“Well dammit, Audio — I wish you’d have told me sooner! I wouldn’t have told you that I liked you so much,” I exhaled, staring over into the dark… eyes following the grass and leaves in their windblown mayhem. I felt tangible heartbreak and a strange sense of guilt engulfing me on either side.
He was confused; it was an open relationship, he explained. I don’t do open relationships, I explained.
“The guy I was with for five years was co-dependent… possessive… we both were; it was my first BIG relationship as an adult, so it was a real learning experience… and our obsession with each other caused us to push all other friendships aside. Bad move,” I shook my head. “So while I think that having deep, meaningful relationships OUTSIDE of your intimate life partner relationship is SUPER great and VERY important, I am NOT okay with having multiple intimate relationships. It’s just… intuitively… not right,” I stammered, feeling light headed and heavy hearted.
We talked more about why. He understood where I was coming from. I respected his thoughts on the matter, too. But he said I’d hurt his feelings, assuming he was okay with (and wanted) an open relationship. I eventually gathered that it was his girlfriend’s (would you call an open-relationship girlfriend a girlfriend?) preference — but still.
“I don’t wanna keep you, Audio… just — stand up when you’re ready to go and I’ll follow suit,” I offered awkwardly.
He hesitated. “Are you saying that you’re ready to go?”
“No,” I answered quickly. “When I turn my head, I don’t see things right away, so I know it’s not time to drive yet.”
“What?!” he laughed.
I shook my head sadly. “I don’t care if I hurt myself, but I don’t want to hurt anyone else.”
A little while later, Audio stood up. I could turn my head and see things right away now… in real time.
He stepped over to the table of cute girls to say hi. I greeted them also and then we walked back to my car in darkness, our faces turning yellow underneath the streetlights. He hummed a silly tune and laughed. I smiled down at the concrete, fiddling with the rings on my hand.
Then we hugged goodbye for a little while. I asked him to let me know if his circumstances, his preferences, ever changed.
“What does your intuition tell you?” he whispered, dropping his hand down, down, down my waist…
“Nope,” I said, grabbing his hand. “You don’t get the butt,” I shook my head solemnly. “It tells me maybe, Audio. But that’s hope…” I looked up at his beautiful grey eyes, wishing he had a freakin clue. I’d love you forever, you dummy. “And hope’s a dangerous thing. You’re a dangerous thing, Audio.”
He kissed me on the cheek.
“That’s fine,” I said, “but you don’t get my lips unless they’re the only ones you’re kissin’,” I smiled sadly, pulling myself back to look at him again. I still wasn’t completely in my right mind and he was holding me way too closely for me to entirely trust myself, so I kissed him on the cheek and then drew completely away.
“Goodbye, Audio. Be safe on that bike.”
He winked at me and rolled away.
I cried in my car for a minute and then blinked my eyes several times, hard. I turned on the ignition and then turned to leave… I could navigate right, towards the interstate, or left, towards highway 280. I don’t like traveling on the interstate — it’s too fast, too dangerous. I wondered if Audio had started biking home or had stopped back by the table of cute girls. Turning left would tell me. I didn’t want to know — I wanted to hope, instead…
But I turned left. There he was.
Still freakin here but now entirely without a boyfriend,