You meet him by accident — in a smoke-filled bar in the middle of town that your friend dragged you to. She is a mutual friend and introduces you two somewhere at the beginning of the night, but you are too many rounds in already. Going out makes you nervous; you don’t like crowded spaces or music that reverberates your heart beat. You are perfectly complacent in the solace of your own apartment, a glass of wine in hand and your vibrator within reach.
At this point, meeting someone feels like a chore—like going out—but your friend is in town and you haven’t explored this city much since moving here in February, so you get dressed, and you go, and you laugh, and you drink and you stumble your way onto the dance floor. At twenty-six, you still haven’t managed to tame this part of you, but you are not confident enough with your dance moves so sometimes a little bit of liquid courage is needed…or necessary.
In the midst of sweaty, drunk humans and flickering neon lights, you feel him dancing with you. He is cute and tall but not the type who typically catches your attention. You know all about the brooding, artistic, Warby-Parker wearing type that is destined to make you suffer. Sometimes when you’re out, you even search for him — the smug-faced enigma who was categorically designed to ruin your life as fast as he ruins your sheets.
Who knows why you do it? Maybe it’s for the story. Maybe it’s because you don’t believe you deserve anything better.
You can tell he has had a few drinks too, and while you catch his stare, you realize you don’t even know where your friend went. But his hands feel nice, and the loudness is fading, and you feel at ease for once while you’re out. And then you feel him lean in — and with his face softened and his hands around your waist, he kisses you, and suddenly you don’t even remember a crowd or a dance floor or the foreboding hangover you’ll surely endure tomorrow.
Because at that moment, you feel yourself kiss him back.
The next time you see him, it’s on purpose. You meet for drinks on a Thursday in a less crowded bar. You like bars when they’re like this: silent, almost empty, charismatic to your arrival. He walks in, and you’re timid while you answer questions about yourself. It’s hard for you to be real sometimes — you have grown accustomed to masking your authenticity with alcohol or conversations that ultimately lead to nothing…or to the same thing. But he is attentive and apologetic for being so forward that night, and it catches you off guard.
It’s refreshing. It’s a breath of fresh air. You begin to see him regularly, but you’re in each other’s apartments, in quiet bars, in empty diners. He gets your love for solitude, and you get his. He tells you that you’re somewhat of a gypsy, a fantasy, a dream-girl. He has never met anyone like you. He buys tickets to a concert you were planning on going to solo. It’s harder to assert yourself to the front row when you have company, but secretly you don’t care.
You’re tired of doing everything alone and you don’t want to admit it.
Now and then, between conversations, you start to slip back into old habits — questioning his motives, his intentions. The past has a way of creeping itself back into your memory, reminding you of every little minuscule thing that can go painstakingly wrong, so you sabotage this the only way you know how.
You’re convinced it’s the only thing you’re good at in relationships.
You dodge every attempt he makes when he asks you to meet his family. You don’t even know how to talk to your own family, let alone someone else’s. But at night you stay up and wonder what it’s like to have both a mother and a father at the dinner table together and fabricate a million different versions of love stories that end well.
He is in them all.
His kind eyes flutter with admiration for all your different selves and for the first time, you are absolutely certain this is what you may have been searching for all along.
You just don’t think you’re ready for it.