You realize in retrospect that there had been several warning signs. There was a moment at lunch, and some unaccountable trepidation while waiting for the phone call that afternoon. The thing in the car definitely should have clued you in. But your head was giddy, your boobs looked good, you were even wearing make-up, for Christ’s sake. Anyone who goes out with a new guy on New Year’s Eve would put some effort into ignoring a rapidly growing unease in the bottom of her stomach, right? Right?
New Year’s. Every damn time.
You met him at the climbing gym not five days earlier, and commenced the most bizarre, whirlwind, Hollywood little affair. Lunch with Jeff had turned into drinks, which lasted overnight. Within thirty hours you had a legitimate banter rhythm between the two of you. Keep in mind, my dear, that you are not the type of girl who does this sort of thing. This is not a flavor-of-the-week situation. You enjoy new people, and you’re not exactly a prude about your body, but… well, most people just don’t really get your vibe. You’re a bit of an odd duck, as it were. When this one had first started chatting with you, actually, you hadn’t given it a second thought. He was smoking hot, in this clean cut, carefully-maintained stubble shadow kind of way. Usually you like them a little scruffier than that, a little weirder. But you were bored with your love life, and the black t-shirt/biceps combination was pretty easy on the eyes, so you let him give you some climbing tips for a minute. When he said he was working on a math PhD, your ears perked up a little bit. You gave him your number and walked to the car thinking, “Huh. Cute boy. Cute boy.”
Your last relationship ended a few months ago. It was an undefined sort of affair, on and off for about two years. When you finally ended it for good, Dan was sad but not surprised. It was the right thing to do, ending it, and the right time, and you retain a tender respect for those memories. A bit of guilt about the whole thing. Which is why when the climbing hottie mentioned growing up in Dan’s town, going to his high school, knowing people at his old job, you had kept your trap shut. “We probably do know people in common,” you murmured casually. You naïve little bird, you.
When Jeff picks you up on New Year’s Eve, you’re wearing a dress. A dress dress, not your little punky denim thing, not the woven brown hippie one either. It’s a hand-me-down from an old housemate, and it’s peach and curvy with lace and straps and everything. The last few days have really messed with your head. As you’re getting ready for the date tonight, you’re realizing that you haven’t been legitimately crushed out on someone in a long damn time. In the last couple years you’ve dated some wonderful people, some attractive, some great in bed, but no one you were really excited about. No one for whom you had to try. And here you are adjusting your chest for the seventh time, waiting for your phone to blink, thinking, This is absurd. You’ve known this guy for what, three days? Four? Keep your damn head on, girl. I am a crazy person. It’s not about him, you tell yourself. It’s just that feeling, that chemical rush. Pheromones.
Smart and hot. Hot and smart. Both? Really? And he seems like a genuinely nice person, good vibes, respectful to you but with a rebellious little spark in his smile. And that face. Shut up. He’s leaving in a couple days anyway, just have a fun night and enjoy this for what it is.
So you get to the party, and you’re hanging out with him and his good friend. The friend is perfect: one of those big, loud, asshole-with-a-heart-of-gold types. They’re telling these stories about growing up riding bikes, this gang of them through middle school and high school causing all sorts of trouble. The stories are cute, then funny, then sort of familiar. Then sickeningly familiar. You’re blinking back and forth between them, wondering why your palms are suddenly sweaty. No, you think. There were 4,000 people at that high school. Whatever. You don’t really have time to pause, though. Jeff suddenly remembers something you said at lunch and turns to his friend.
“Ryan! She worked at Brook Springs Camp!! She might know Dan Miller!!”
There it is. The realization flies across the kitchen like a physical object, palpable on its way towards you. You want to smack it down out of the air before it reaches you. “Dan was our boy!That dude is crazy on a bike!!”
Yeah. I’m aware of his biking ability, actually.
They start eagerly interrupting each other to recount stories about him, excited that you might know their good friend. You stare, slack jawed, then excuse yourself. The series of frantic bathroom texts you momentarily send your best friend reads as follows:
“–Oh my fucking god he’s friends with Dan. They’re all Dan’s friends. I’m at a new year’s party with his friends in Kelowna and it’s literally Dan’s high school friends that he grew up with.—“
“–“What the motherfucking FUCK—“
“–(I am not making this up)–“
She lives several time zones away, and selfishly does not wake up at dawn on New Year’s morning to immediately respond. Some irritated-sounding knocking reminds you that you’re preventing other partygoers from using the bathroom for its more traditional purpose.
The next couple of minutes involve some twisted back and forth. You mumble and blurt, Jeff slowly quiets into embarrassed realization, and Ryan thinks it’s just about the funniest thing he’s ever heard. Ryan, at least, is having the time of his life.
“Wait, you were Dan’s first girlfriend ever?! You fuckin’ popped Dan’s cherry?! And you just met Jeff randomly, a couple of days ago?!? You gotta be kidding me!”
After awhile you step into the front room and find Jeff in a little heart-to-heart with another one of their good friends. Your eyes meet. The girl looks at you and gets up. Yup. Can I sit with you for a minute? You’re both perched on the back of the couch, facing away from the rest of the party. So. Then. Well.
You chat for a minute. Jeff is sweet, but has clearly made up his mind. This ends here. You sigh a lot. I suppose I’ll be needing a ride home.
To your increasing irritation, he is a perfect gentleman about the whole situation. While the majority of your brain is calculating the odds of such utter bullshit befalling you and screaming obscenities at the sky, the small portion of you which is focused on maintaining appearances is actually having a decent time at the party. Jeff continues to be nice, Ryan is hilarious, and the three of you even go on a late night hot dog mission with lots of yelling and jumping off things. When he drops you off at the end of the night, you allow yourself a melodramatic little moment before you get out of the car. You had spent an hour that afternoon making a cute present for him, a little gesture which was supposed to say, hey, that was a fun fling we just had, take this small and nerdy gift with you and smile when you think of me. It was going to be unexpected and adorable. The current circumstances, however, have instead left you awkwardly holding one hand towards him, stammering.
“Um. I made you this clay pterodactyl?”
You roll your eyes and sigh for the last time. Put the little guy on the dashboard. Start to get out of the car. Jeff says, wait, not yet, and pulls you in for a kiss. A hell of a kiss. A shirt grabbing, two-handed, smells-like-a-real-man good-bye kiss. The kind of kiss that makes your hips ache from wanting him so damn bad. The homemade dinosaur observes the whole exchange.
It’s over as soon as it starts. Before you know it, you’re inside the house peeling off boots and tights. Drinking a glass of water, staring at yourself in the mirror. Didn’t even get a chance to smudge your make up. You climb into bed, fold one arm behind your head, and reach for your vibrator. Happy fucking New Year.
~ Rachel Berrecloth (Who sincerely wishes the above anecdote was fictional)