No good deed goes unpunished
It was our third date. The first date was a little strange and uncomfortable. I don't remember the second ... it may not have even happened. And I was falling for her, despite the fact that I got the sense she was keeping a safe distance.
But the third date started out very well. She called me on my birthday, unexpectedly, saying, "You can't sit at home on your birthday!" So we went out for sushi. I experimented with freshwater shrimp. You know, the kind where they also bring you the tempura-battered and fried head of the arthropod? I took an experimental nibble from the head, and it was mealy. Nasty. I made faces. She joked, "You're going to make me sick."
Maybe that's how it started?
After dinner, we left my car at the Japanese restaurant and we took her brand-new car to my favorite dive bar -- the kind with a pile carpet so dirty and matted that for years I thought it was concrete. The kind that, even in Southern California, still allows you to chain-smoke at the bar, and serves Guinness on tap at nearly cost.
And the kind that, when your date tells the bartender, "It's his birthday," he mixes rum and Cokes for her that are mostly rum with a splash of Coke.
She knew what she was being served, but she swore that she could handle her liquor, and I believed her. Maybe the bartender was trying to help me get lucky. And I bet he thought it was working: She got tipsy, and she loosened up a bit. We started talking about sex, and I discovered she was very open-minded. I started imagining a future of wild animal passion with her. I drank more Guinness, she drank more Coke-flavored rum. We talked about more sex. We chain-smoked. We kissed. We fondled. It was promising to become the best birthday date of my life.
But at some point my date had become friendly-to-strangers, random-walk, double-visioned, incoherently drunk. In a moment of clarity, she suggested I take her home. She needed me to drive her and her car to her apartment. I was happy to oblige.
I went to college with a lot of men who would have seen a drunk and rationally disabled woman as an opportunity. I never conducted myself on that M.O, mainly because I seldom had the opportunity. Trying not to allow myself to think like that, I poured her into her passenger seat and got on the freeway, going east. Beyond the name of the community, I had no idea where she lived. That's when she got nauseated. I still don't know if it was the cheapness of the rum, the strength of the Camel Filters we started smoking, or both, or neither. But she was sick. Not just sick but miserably, uncontrollably so, and she wound up in the back seat, along with her dinner. Even worse, she was mortified. She got in the shower, embarrassed. I got in with her, confused and concerned. That's when she first said the words, "Don't look at me, I'm so embarrassed."
I soothed her, got her tucked into bed and she passed out. I sat with her until her erratic breathing became regular and steady. I soaked her soiled clothes. And then I cleaned out her car. I spent the night next to her, unable to sleep -- my desire for her hadn't lessened. It was one of the longest nights of my life.
The next morning, predictably, wasn't fun either. She woke up hung over, embarrassed, and with a near stranger in her bed. By 10 she drove me back to my car. "I can't bear for you to see me," she repeated as we reached the restaurant lot. A knot formed in my stomach. I tried to negotiate, tell her I wasn't revolted or disgusted by her, that I was concerned for her, attracted to her, charmed by her. But when she dropped me off, I could tell she was back to the safe distance.
That week, I sent her flowers. In reply, she told me she needed me to give her time to emotionally recover from the ordeal. I empathized, so I tried, but I couldn't. I was unable to think about anything but her the entire week. I rationed myself to sending her one encouraging note per day. A few days later, I chatted with her, reminding her of my feelings.
It didn't help. A week after that third date, she dumped me by e-mail. I called and left a stupid, incoherent, rambling message on her phone, and sent an angry reply to her mail. These acts are my only regrets.
But in the end, it turned out for the best. I think if we had actually established a steady relationship, one or both of us would have perished from the resulting debauchery. She already nearly had. And besides, a month later I met the woman I'll marry. I knew it by the third date.
Match made on the dining room table
Some friends of mine were planning an aphrodisiac party and were brainstorming for ideas about how to make the party a little more interesting. One friend suggested having a naked woman covered with food on a dais in the center of the table. Since she was too shy to be naked on the table herself, I found my arm shooting up into the air volunteering.
So there I was a few weeks later, naked but for a pareo strategically tucked to ward off overly prying fingers, with a beautiful tableau of food laid out appealingly on my body. Someone brought fresh roma tomatoes marinated in balsamic vinegar and kalamata olives, another person brought chicken wings, another person brought sweet baby pickles -- and all of my friends had much fun arranging food on me as it was brought to the party.
And then he walked in. Six feet tall, ice blue eyes radiating out of an olive-toned face. A little shyly he placed his offering of finger sandwiches on my body, all the while telling me that he had to call his mom for instructions about how to make them. He then asked if I needed anything and I told him I was thirsty and desperately needed a rum, but I couldn't move enough to drink it without disturbing all the food. He found me a drink and a straw and stayed near my head the rest of the night talking to me and offering me sips every few minutes.
And today he is still next to my side after almost three years of marriage. Occasionally, I make him finger sandwiches.
-- Persephone Clover