I was hitting my marks perfectly. Finding my light and delivering each line with grace and wit. I was being charming. I was being funny. And sexy at the right time. And smart at the right time. I was listening and reeling him in and saying the right thing, because that’s what I do.
And I was fucking exhausted.
Thirty minutes ago when he walked over to introduce himself, a bit of a smirk leading the way, I knew who he was immediately, even before he told me his name. I recognized the confidence in his stride. The way he found the perfect way to invade my space without being overbearing. I knew the tone of faux intimacy in his voice meant to disarm me. I recognized his easy charm and the privilege of his handsomeness that carved the room open before him. I know him. Because I date him all the time.
We do the things people our age do when they’re single and living in this city and trying to figure out if the person in front of them is someone they might one day see naked; we talk about where we work and where we live, where we’re from and where we went to school, and compare notes about who we might know in common, which is really code for have you fucked anyone in this too small city that would pose a problem for me if I fucked you too?
He’s telling me a story about a trip he recently took to serve as best man for his best friend and frat brother, and he’s hitting all the notes of the song and dance. Sure, he’s telling me the story. But what I’m supposed to be hearing is that perhaps he might be getting to the point where he’s ready to settle down too, though we both know that’s not true. And look how exciting my life is; don’t you wanna be a part of it?
He’s performing his monologue, and I’m listening and asking questions when I should and laughing when I should, and in my mind I’m saying to myself, “Six weeks. It would take me six weeks to break you.”
And how do I know this? Because I know. Because I know this guy. I date him all the time. He’s all young and handsome and full of swagger, drunk on the attention he gets from women and the success he’s no doubt finding at work. He’s smart and funny and charming as shit. He’s probably amazing in bed, and thoughtful in that way that you are not when it’s in your nature but because it’s a means to an end. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s not an asshole, but he’s emotionally unavailable for some reason or another that has nothing to do with me. And that would be convenient for me- for us both really, but definitely for me- because I wouldn’t have to invest. I wouldn’t have to be connected or responsible. It could be all fun and flirting and great sex until it wasn’t anymore.
Until one of us inevitably got bored or frustrated. Or started to wonder why the other wasn’t wanting more, and couldn’t handle what that might do to our ego. Or one of us wanting more and recognizing we’d never get it in this situation where we’ve wasted time building a bridge to nowhere.
I’ve just delivered a line that went over flawlessly. I pause and let it sink in. I time it perfectly. He reacts just like I knew he would. He and I have good chemistry and we play well off each other.
This shit is a disaster waiting to happen.
He asks for my number before he and the crew he’s abandoned to come flirt with me for the better part of an hour leave for the next spot. They’re much of the same; young and handsome and cocky in that mildly predatory way.
I want to give it to him. I do. Because he’s handsome and funny and charming. Because he’s probably a great lay. Because this- this predictable back and forth and it’s inevitable fall out- this I can manage.
“I can’t,” I say instead. I watch his face fall a bit.
“I, um…,” He falters and sputters. “Are you seeing someone? I guess I should have asked that.”
But of course he didn’t ask that. Because men like him don’t ask that. Because there’s some part of him that believes- in many cases probably rightly- that if he wants something, the answer is irrelevant.
“No, I’m single. But the problem is, I’ve dated you before. Dozens of times. I know how this goes. And I’m going to save us the trouble.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you came over here to talk to me because I’m pretty, yes, but also because I draw men like you to me all the time. If I had to guess I’d say you’re probably already casually dating,” I pause to decide on a figure, “two women. One of them is probably bad as fuck, but dumb as rocks. The other is probably a really good girl that you should be serious about, but you’re not because you aren’t really ready. But at your age, not wanting something serious is rapidly starting to feel less and less cool than it was in your twenties. Your friends are getting married and having babies and while you probably, maybe, want that too, you really don’t want it anytime soon. But you don’t wanna admit that because people judge you for it. Instead, you remain unavailable in every way for some reason- for you it was probably a heartbreak you don’t ever wanna feel again because you don’t seem like a predatory asshole- and pick women where you know deep down it will never be anything real. Because then you’re just a victim of your circumstances, you just haven’t found the right woman. Rather than it being what it really is; you just don’t want it. Any of that sound about right?”
“No, you’re wrong. It’s three women.”
We laugh, and it’s probably the first time in the whole conversation where we’ve laughed heartily and genuinely.
“I’m not judging you. I just… I know how this goes. I date you all the time. And I think,” I take a deep breath, “I’m ready to stop.”
He nods at me over and over, a smile spreading across his face.
“I get that. I do. It was nice to meet you, La.”
“It was nice to meet you, too.”
He heads back to his boys, no doubt lying about having exchanged information or spinning some story about how he didn’t ask me for my number because of some fake sin I didn’t commit. I turn my attention back to my Makers and sigh heavily.
I think I’m growing up. Sonofabitch.