About seven months ago…
I sent Chi-guy’s birthday gift off with a card that let him know what a great time I’d had on our day together. I wrote that I’d appreciated getting to know him better and thought he had a sexy brain. Then I added, “p.s. Next time, more touch!” I enclosed a little something for his daughter, as well, as her birthday was later in the week.
We continued to text each other throughout the week, and he thanked me for the thoughtful gift and my kind words.
Meanwhile, I had rattled off the story of my tragically sexless weekend to anyone who would listen — my girlfriends, my sister and even my mother, who said, “So you finally met a decent man!”
Just more than a week had gone by when we were able to talk again. He had just gotten home from a shopping trip to IKEA and recounted his purchases: a full-length mirror, a dresser and lamp for his daughter’s room, a cinnamon roll and a cookie cutter.
“Cookie cutter?” I inquired.
“Yeah. I was reading the paper yesterday and well, you know, it’s back to school season, and there was an article with ideas for packing school lunches…”
The knowing mother, I chimed in, “so you’re going to make sandwiches in fun shapes for your daughter’s lunch . . .”
“Yeah, I thought that would be fun,” he affirmed. I swooned.
We chatted casually a bit and then I took a deep breath and began:
“So last time I saw you, I really enjoyed the time we spent together, until the end of the evening, which was very confusing for me…so I wanted to talk about that and try to understand what you were thinking?”
Him: “Hmm…what were you thinking?” Coward!
Me: “Well…do you remember when we had coffee last summer and you told me you were getting a divorce? …My heart went out to you because I know (even if we’re approaching this from different angles) how much it hurts and how difficult it is, and I felt so bad for you, because I could see that you were hurting. But somewhere inside, there was this little part of me that was screaming ‘YES!!!!’…
“Aw, that’s sweet,” he replied.
“…And I started thinking that there’s always been a kind of energy between us, and that we seem to have an attraction for one another, and we’re both recently single at the same time and – what an opportunity! I rarely travel to Chicago, and I’ve got three trips schedule for Chicago this autumn…I thought, you seemed in such a bad place last summer, that I would help you get your mojo back…”
“I know, isn’t that noble of me? My intentions were soooo altruistic!” I giggled.
“Wow. I guess I just thought that we were flirting and that it didn’t really mean anything and I thought, ‘she couldn’t possibly want me.’ Besides, I think I’m falling for you…”
Now this is where a smarter woman, a woman who is more fully present, who understands how to communicate in a relationship would have stopped to savor the moment and, perhaps, to investigate. To this day, I wish I could go back and ask him to tell me more or explain what he meant. Or even just ask, “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?”
But I was not that smarter woman. No; I rambled on, intent on advocating my case that we should go to bed together. Me: “Even if we were flirting, I was being very genuine about what I felt and what I wanted. When I told you that you have a sexy voice, I wasn’t just stroking you, I really dig your voice. There’s something about the resonance that drives me wild. And when I asked what it was going to take to get into your CKs, it’s because I genuinely wanted to get in your CKs!”
Him: “But wouldn’t it just have been meaningless?”
Me: “I think there’s a difference between casual and meaningless. We seem to have some concern for each other, and I think we could give ourselves a free pass, and share something really beautiful that doesn’t have to be about our future or anything. I think because we’re in a very similar place right now, we’d have a lot to offer one another – and it would be really fun!”
Him: “That’s a good distinction. I wouldn’t have thought about it like that…”
I asked him about other things he had said to me that night, about The Road Less Traveled and his moral compass — did he truly intend to be celibate until his divorce was final?
“No. I’m a guy,” he said, “I’d like to sleep with any woman who I’ll never have to see or talk to again.”
We laughed; I admired him all the more for his candor. I went on to argue (again) that we were adults, we didn’t have to play games, we could be friends and lovers, too, and that the similar timing and situations made our circumstances all the more ideal.
By the time we finally said goodnight, I had spent the better part of an hour convincing him — I thought successfully — that it would be fine for us to sleep together. And before I’d even hung up the phone, I regretted it.
We were expressing our gratitude for one another when, suddenly, I realized there may be something special about Chi-guy, something worth holding out for. I didn’t want to be his rebound girl, after all. Rebounds never last. Here was a guy I loved talking with, who had genuine companionship potential, who was a loving father and making thoughtful changes in himself. And I no longer wanted to share myself with him for a cheap thrill.
I had no plans, no future in mind. We still lived in different cities and were likely to for some time, given the bonds of parenthood. But — and maybe this has to do with my seeing Eat, Pray, Love in the movie theater around that time — if ever I were to share something with Chi-guy, I wanted it to be when he had forgiven his ex, had forgiven himself and could believe in love again. And I would have to leap those hurdles myself, too.
I later recounted our conversation to a girlfriend. I told her, “I basically spent the majority of the time we talked trying to convince him that it was okay to go to bed with me. And now I don’t want to. I don’t want to be his rebound girl. I like him. He had me at ‘cookie cutter.’ And I think he said something resembling, ‘I’m falling for you.’”
“It sounds as though you two have something special,” she said. “You’ve been incredibly honest with each other. I think you need to tell him how you feel before you see him again.”
I meant to. As it turned out, I didn’t…