We met at a gig recently and then connected online afterwards, when he began following me on IG.
He posted pics of some new art this week and I shot him a message about it, complimenting the design, the color scheme, and the 70s vibe. He said he had an extra one of these things lying around that he could give me and I was super excited about it, bringing a copy of Jinx (for his kid — single dad) as a trade. We met up in Crestwood, discovered the coffee shop was closing at eight, and then drove over to Church Street together in his car.
He ordered a boring coffee and I ordered a fun one and he insisted on paying for both, which was nice. We sat outside – his tall, lanky body filling the chair beside me – and he tore a page out of his journal, beginning to write down names of rappers and hip hop artists I needed to check out later.
He shared music right then too, handing his phone to me every time he switched artists. I felt special when he let me hold his phone, reading the artist’s bio and sneaking glances over at him and his beard while he wrote. Right-handed. Sometimes, his fingers brushed mine when he passed the phone over, and sometimes, they didn’t. I tried not to keep count. He said he hadn’t talked music like this with someone in years and I felt even more special then. I also wondered if that was true.
We talked about things other than music and art: stuff like houses, degrees, coffee shops, beliefs. I said I wanted to see his new studio sometime and he said someone was sleeping in it tonight (some touring band or artist) but that he’d take me by his house, that there was some artwork there I could see.
So we drove to his house around ten. He used his phone to cast light on the driveway, opened the front door, and then we climbed up a steep and narrow staircase together.
He lives in a renovated loft in the backyard of someone’s mansion (and this loft is adorable: compact, colorful, clean). He showed me friends’ artwork (hanging on walls, tucked into boxes) and some of his own artwork and I eagerly looked at all of his things: an old camera bag on top of the baker’s rack; a velvety green chair over by the window; orange, yellow, blue and gray stacks of crates in the kitchen, all full of records and books; and a single box of quinoa plus two of healthy cereal on one of the wooden shelves.
“Are you a vegetarian?” I asked, having the feeling that he was. He was.
So we talked about being vegetarians for a bit and then he pulled out a deck of cards. “Do you play?”
I nodded, smiling. I was glad he wanted me to stay. He couldn’t find a second chair (where we could play at the table) so we sat across from each other on his bed, playing three games of rummy. He won all of them.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “I always gamble with these high rollers…” I was referring to keeping high-scoring cards like aces, kings and the like in my deck.
“No you don’t,” he said. “Holding onto them is playing it safe. Discarding them would be risking it… you’re not gambling at all.”
This made some sense. I could certainly see his point but also knew what I was doing. And it was getting late now — twelve maybe. I’d normally be fast asleep by twelve, two hours into dreaming, probably.
“Scrabble?” he asked.
We did two games of that — I won both.
Then we were listening to Black Star and Sonic Youth and Nas and The Argument, lying side-by-side with our heads on pillows, and he was talking about carpentry and about art tours and asking about my tattoos. He stared over at my arms while I pointed and explained this one and then that one and then asked if he had any: one. He lifted his shirt and turned around to show me — more of his art.
I eventually asked him what his vices (his addictions) were because every guy I’ve ever been with has had them. One guy I fell in love with is stuck on cocaine right now, thinking after he gets his shit together he can be moderate with it although he’s never been able to be moderate with it or with any of the things he uses. And even using them, he’s unhappy. I wanted so badly to make him happy — to help him get over it and see him be happy…
Anyways, this guy answered that he didn’t have any addictions. I was hesitant to believe him and tried asking the question again in a way where he knew it was safe for him to say it, whatever the thing was.
“Every artist I know, every guy I’ve ever dated, has been on something,” I explained. He pointed to the art on his walls, works by probably a dozen folks.
“Three of these guys drink normally-to-heavily but none of them are on drugs.” I wondered at that — wondered if he thought he knew them that well but didn’t or if they really were making art in their right minds. Regardless, the second time he said it, I believed him. I was surprised, for sure, but could sense that he really wasn’t hiding anything.
It was two in the morning now and things were getting loopy. We decided I’d stay the night (neither of us wanted to drive) so he gave me some clothes to wear, a new toothbrush to use, and we got into bed. He put on OK Computer, turned out the light, and draped his arm over me, pulling me closer to him: his breath on my ear, his beard on my neck, his lips separating mine… I was getting dizzy.
“What are you after?” I asked suddenly, sitting upright. “I’m not having sex with you tonight and I can’t be intimate with ANYONE without getting super attached…” I asked if he was looking for an actual relationship and he said he wasn’t sure. His lips were on me and his hands were everywhere and he said wasn’t sure. Why are guys always so sure of where they want their hands to go but completely clueless when asked what their intentions are?
“Well then… NOT YET!” I said, laughing, and we fell asleep holding hands. He was respectful and cuddled with me all night: warm, cozy, strong. I woke up a few times and was surprised to find his arm still around me, his hand still holding mine. I wished he could be sure about me — at least sure that he wanted to date me.
I’d told him, when we were awkwardly discussing those damn intentions, that I had two dates scheduled for this week: a 26-year-old banker guy wanted to watch the new Tarantino film together and a 29-year-old IT guy wanted to play pool and get drinks. I told him I wanted to cancel both dates, that guys my age just aren’t on the same wavelength as me, that I’d rather be with someone 15 years older who knew who they were and what they wanted…
But even he doesn’t know. Maybe 42 still isn’t old enough and I should try finding my lover at the nursing home! Perhaps some snazzy senior gentleman will have a frickin clue and we can play cards and eat grits together or maybe age matters very little and every person is just different — sure of different things at different times: sooner, later, never.
I woke up before he did and was wondering about my car — if it had been towed or vandalized or was still sitting there in front of the closed coffee shop. My stomach was also making funny noises that I was afraid might wake him; I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before.
I changed into yesterday’s clothes (noticing I smelled bad and feeling a liiiiiittle self-conscious about it) and slipped out of the house quietly. I walked down the street (bunch of mansion homes, not my style), pulling up Uber and seeing that a short ride to the cafe would cause 10ish bucks. I’m broke now because of school so I opted to walk the projected 47 minutes (and it only took me 40 — I move quickly).
It felt a little like fall this morning — something cool in the air. It also felt a little like a walk of shame except instead of heels, I was wearing these black sandals, and instead of a sexy dress I was wearing baggy jeans with a smelly green T, and instead of doing the damn thing I fucking hadn’t. Go me! I may not be feeling better but I am at least doing better. Still haven’t eaten but I will eat something this evening.
And when I made it to the parking lot, my car and bike were still there.
I’ll share something else: My 42-year-old heartbreaker said that my habit of dating addicts was a red flag for him and he asked me why I did it.
“I’ve always liked fixing things,” I said.
“Fix things then,” he said. “You can even try to fix some people but it shouldn’t be the person you’re dating. They should mostly have their shit together, should mostly be your equal.” I’m paraphrasing a little but this is the gist of what he said.
I know he’s right. I’ve been told this before. And I admitted to him what I realized a year or so ago: I like feeling needed. If someone’s broken and needs me, I feel safe, like they aren’t going to forget me and they aren’t going to leave me. But if they’re 42 and not on drugs and stable — generally doing well — all they have to do is like me, and that’s really intimidating. I think I maybe don’t feel good enough for that.
Before meeting up with this guy yesterday, I went on a solo adventure. Got up at four, got dressed, and drove down to the beach. Four-hour trip but the time passed quickly. Sunrise was gorgeous and I watched it come in from the east, colored deep blue and light blue and pink and orange.
Once in Pensacola, I rolled out a towel, put on a sunhat, and read my book… got in the water, read my book… sat by the water, read my book… and secretly listened in while the old folks beside me reminisced.
“Eric ALWAYS took pot from his dad,” one guy said of his childhood pal. “And his dad, man — he had hundred dollar bills just hanging out of his pockets. It was crazy. He also always had a Great Dane — one. It would die and then he’d get the next one. Anyways,” he shook his head, returning to what he was trying to say, “one day, Eric’s dad was so high when we went into his room that he was trying to change the TV channel with the dog’s bone and was throwing the remote to the dog!” Dude lost it then, laughing laughing laughing.
I tried not to laugh because I didn’t want them to know I was listening. I coughed lightly and continued wearing my hat over my face, smiling underneath.
When I left the water this one time, I turned around, plopped down onto the sand and saw a black fin maybe twenty feet in front of me. I blinked, sure that I was just seeing shit, but fixed my eyes on where I thought I’d seen it…
IT REAPPEARED (even closer to where I was) less than ten seconds later.
Holy shit, I breathed. The shark, dolphin, whatever was swimming right where I’d just been swimming. Nuts.
I followed the creature along the beach for a few minutes as it moved left about twenty feet and then right forty. I lost track of it eventually and wished I hadn’t because I thought it was very interesting. Dangerous things have always intrigued me.
Later on in the morning, before getting Indian food with my best friend and then driving home and then sleeping in bed with a man I hardly knew, I returned to the water, hoping I’d see it again.
I went in up to my knees, and then waist, and then shoulders, heart racing a little as I continued stepping forward. I kept my eyes trained on the water constantly, waiting, and I think I wasn’t afraid to die at all and was maybe even hoping to a little. I waited for a few minutes and saw and felt nothing so I turned back around, dunked underneath the water, and swam to the shore.
Don’t let me saying these things scare you — it’s good that I say them. What WOULD be scary is me thinking them and not sharing them at all, with myself OR you. We can trick even ourselves sometimes and I’m always trying to be real.
Still here (without a shark AND without a man),