kissing just for practice.

Our first real date is at a place off of Damen named Danny’s. Imagine a cute little house with a bar conveniently dropped into the living room. My friend Mike hosts an “experimental music” night there every Monday. I had dated Mike for months, but I never got up the gumption to make a move on him. And since he was also a big sissy, he never started anything either. Many nights we sat next to one another in movie theatres, restaurants, and even his own living room, nervously waiting for something to happen. Eventually I gave up, knowing that I would much rather see him go then face a possible rejected advance. Since I love irony, it seems entirely appropriate to introduce this failed non-conquest to the guy that had bedded me within hours of making my acquaintance.

Ryan describes him as “shy.” I think I already knew that.

I’ve decided–mostly because I seem to derive pleasure from denying myself pleasure–that I will not sleep with Ryan tonight. I’m imagining a hug accompanied by a chaste peck on the cheek. I won’t even invite him upstairs. We will part ways on the sidewalk. Somehow this will grant me some sort of upper hand. Yes, this seems like a pretty solid plan.

Of course, two whiskey sours later, I realize that Ryan is not only the most charming fellow in the history of mankind, but he also is the most desirable. I’m giggling at statements that aren’t even funny. I’m flipping imaginary hair off of my shoulders and batting my eyelashes in an attempt at hypnosis.

I can see that I am losing all sense. I make an escape to the restroom to give myself a stern lecture. “Oh, get a hold of yourself. He’s not coming home with you tonight.” And then a second later, I’m congratulating myself for remembering to shave my legs and wear cute underwear.

When I return to the table, Ryan says, “Tell me something weird about your family.”

Hmmm. This is a topic that I could discuss for hours, without ever repeating a story. I’m searching my files for something light-hearted yet interesting. When everything involving trauma and embarrassment is removed, only one folder remains.

“Well, my mom has been married five times. Not in a glamorous Elizabeth Taylor way, more like in an indecisive sort of way. Fickle, I guess. Or maybe more just impulsive.”

I can see his eyes widen when he hears “five.”

I continue, because there’s not enough time to explain all five of the husbands. After all, I have to work in the morning.

“My mother’s third husband was a real show stopper. When she left him, he decided to woo her back. Now some fellows might have tried flowers or jewelry. Maybe even offers of couple’s therapy and a relationship-renewing getaway weekend. But no, not this guy. He was a go-getter. ”

“Instead, he kidnapped his uncle. Yes, his OWN uncle. Perhaps a greater impact could have been made if he had chosen one of my mother’s actual relatives. I often wonder if he’s still kicking himself about that. But oh, this was not the last of his poor planning. You see, he took his uncle out to the woods and he tied him to a tree. Then he drove back to town, to a payphone. He called my mom. He said something like, ‘Listen, I have my uncle tied to a tree. And I’m going to kill him if you don’t give me another chance.'”

Ryan’s jaw is dropping.

“My mother stayed calm. ‘Oh, really? Well, where is he?’ AND THEN HE REVEALED THE EXACT LOCATION OF HIS UNCLE. He practically gave coordinates. My mom said, “Listen, call me back in a few minutes. I need to think about this.’ She hung up the phone and called the police. My stepfather was still in the phone booth, attempting to sweet talk my mom with a potential trip to the beach, when two police cars pulled up to arrest him.”

“It was all over the town paper. My grandma sent my mom to Southern California for a few months until it blew over and the ink on the divorce decree dried. Meanwhile, I stayed with my Grandma, eating lots of sugary circus-themed cereal and acquiring more stuffed animals. A happy ending for sure.”

Ryan is laughing. “Oh man, I really loved that circus cereal, too! So many marshmallows and red food coloring.”

And then. “Was that story true?”

I respond with a non-commital shoulder shrug. (Yes, the story is true.)

Now it is his turn.

“Well, my parents are divorced. And they just recently remarried, to the neighbors. The weddings were 24 hours apart.”

I am confused.

“Maybe this a better way to describe it: My stepfather and stepmother were once married to one another. And they lived next-door to us for most of my childhood.”

Whoa! I’m pretty impressed. “That’s so The Ice Storm!”

I’m filled with questions. Did they get together at the same time? Was this the product of some weird swinger thing? Were matching outfits somehow involved? Is everyone friends? Who lives in which house?

We decide to leave and he answers my questions as we walk back to my apartment. We’re smiling and chatting and holding hands and everything seems so great that I am moved to do a cartwheel. Somehow I miss the curb and I end up in the street, laughing hysterically. Maybe it’s the whiskey, but I’m not even embarrassed. He sits next to me, picking leaves and gravel out of my hair. He smells like coconut. I can feel my resolve weakening.

I lean forward and kiss him. It’s better than I remembered. He’s kissing me back and I’m about to melt into the ground…when I remember that we’re sitting in the middle of Paulina Street. A car is coming.

I stand up. “Listen…you might as well know that I am not sleeping with you tonight.” This is said in a very hands-on-my-hips, no-nonsense way.

I’m pretty sure he’s laughing at me. But then his face becomes serious. He jumps up. “Well, okay.”

I was hoping for a dissenting opinion. A sound argument to change my mind. Maybe a steady flow of flattery and positive body language. But instead we’re just walking in silence.

We stop outside my building. I swear he extends his hand to give me a nice, platonic handshake.

“Um. Wait…you’re not disappointed?” As I say this, I drop my jacket on the ground. For a moment, I wonder if someone else has taken control of my body and mind.
I take a few steps into the gangway, and I unzip my dress. “You know, I wasn’t really committed to that plan.” I’m not sure what I am doing.
Two paces. The dress hits the ground. So much for a good night’s sleep, I guess.
Three paces. I’m unlocking the door while I’m pulling my slip over my head.
Ryan is picking up my discarded clothes as I’m running up the stairs. My roommates are long asleep, so they don’t witness me running through the kitchen wearing only knee socks.

I promise to make breakfast for Ryan before I go to work in the morning.
I’m congratulating myself as I fall asleep.

P.S. A note from the future (ie, now, 2008)…Today I fell and cracked a rib and now I’m high on Vicodin. Go Amanda! This accident happened in broad daylight, in full view of my mom and Dylan. At least they both had the good sense to laugh at me. My incredible clumsiness, coupled with the slick soles of my riding boots, equals a hilarious slip/fall situation.

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