Monday, January 08, 2007

Frozen flirting

“That’s what you call a dye job.” Dave pointed out as we sat in an arena. I would have defended the woman in question had I not been able to see dark roots peeking out from her bleached hair from a good 50 yards away. So I shrugged instead.

“I’ve never dated a blonde.” He mused, and I leaned away to send a frown his direction.

“Jen.” I said, reminding him of the only long term girlfriend he’s had since I’ve known him.

“She wasn’t a natural blonde.” He said immediately, wiggling his eyebrows when I looked at him again. I sent him a firmly disapproving look and started to lecture.

“OK, no. One, ew. I do not require that information or that face you just made. Two, what color would you call her hair? It was blonde!”

“She had highlights put in. It was…kind of a dirty blonde, I guess. But those lighter strands were manufactured.” Then he nodded decisively. I rolled my eyes and shivered.

“Is it cold in here?” I had asked earlier as we wandered toward our seats at the live sporting event of the evening, folding my arms and nudging the zipper of my soft sweater up to my neck. I was glad we were finally there, having spent the afternoon downtown. One bar offered televised basketball and had an impressive beer list. The next place was fantastic – very pretty and relaxed – where we watched the first half of the Colts game. Well, sort of. I kept dragging my attention to the screen when he wanted me to be impressed with a person or play. I was thinking my thoughts. One more bar completed the football game and found us a few more snacks.

“Probably all that ice.” He said mildly, then looked down at me again. “Are you really cold?”

“It’s freezing!” I defended myself, looking around and wondering why I was the only one to notice. Then I gasped with a new realization. “The south has weakened me. Now it’s going to prove its power over my defenseless state by reminding me what moderately cool temperatures feel like.”

“Your blood has thinned.” He agreed. “Seems odd for you.”

“I know! I’m never cold!”

Deciding I was still chilly as we sat in our seats, I cuddled closer to him, under the arm he’d put on the back of my chair. He was being a bit of an ass about his ex, but he was also radiating heat that I needed. I took the bad with the good.

“Do you know where she went to get the highlights?” I finally asked. “They were really well done. Natural.”

“I’m sure I never cared.” He replied, rubbing my arm as I looked around and hoped people started to arrive soon. Perhaps as the seats filled, I’d warm up. “Would you like me to buy you a sweatshirt?”

I shook my head.

“You should have a sweatshirt.” He tried again. “Or a jersey!” He exclaimed, clearly warming to the idea.

At this I laughed. “Dave, my dear, I can’t see myself wearing a jersey. Ever.”

He looked offended as he motioned to his own.

“I know. You look lovely.” I soothed. “But it’s not something I’d personally feel comfortable wearing.”

“You’re just self-conscious.” He scoffed. “Wearing one makes you feel part of the team.”

“I’m not part of the team.” I scoffed right back. “I have no plans to play this evening, nor have I attended a single practice. They don’t consult me for strategy, nor did a single person stand and cheer when I walked in this place.”

“Well, how could they know to cheer if you’re not wearing the jersey?”

I could sense I wasn’t going to win this one, so I changed the subject. I remained curious anyway.

“Have you spoken to Jen since you moved? It’s been, what, four years? And you were together for almost two.”

“No. Yes, and yes.”

“Aren’t you curious?” I asked. “How she’s doing, what’s going on in her life, if she’s with someone else?”

“Eh.” We stood to let people slide by us to reach their seats.

“I’m still cold.” I offered, and he put his arm around me again when we sat down.

“She asked about you the last time I talked to her.” I guided the conversation back to Jen. “Wondered why you never called. That ‘just move away and let things die out’ plan was pretty lame.”

“It worked.” He said simply, then glanced at me and elaborated. “It…we weren’t right. She just didn’t want me to be happy. Not enough. And I was supposed to make up the difference – love her and accommodate her and always let her win. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. But she’d always been like that. Since we were moving to different places anyway, it just seemed easiest to stop talking. No argument or excuses – just an end.”

“And you won’t talk again?”

“I don’t see why we would.” He decided.

“It’s strange.” I mused. “You were closer to her than any of us. You ate together, worked together, slept together. And you can tell me any number of stories involving students whose names you barely remember. Yet of Jen? You know nothing. Don’t care to know anything. I think it’s sad.”

“It’s not that I don’t care, necessarily. But we tried to be together and we failed. Talking to her would be a little awkward considering how we ended, and wouldn’t serve any real purpose. We’re not going to be friends. So why deal with it?”

“Sad.” I repeated. “It’s like when you cross a certain threshold of love or intimacy, you can’t keep people in a real way. There’s always that wall of why you’re not still together. So you lose each other completely.”

I finally warmed up as fans arrived to watch the game begin. Watching large Canadian men move so quickly and gracefully has always been a favorite activity of mine – one in which I rarely indulge. I used to see a tremendous amount of hockey – in undergrad, then in grad school. But as I lost sports-crazy friends, I fell out of the habit of going. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen a game and I didn't notice that I really missed it. I wasn’t even that excited about going.

But somewhere between breathing in the smell of ice and watching the goalies score the space in front of their nets, I fell in love again. Remembered all the reasons I’d been drawn to the sport – the graceful motion and violent outbursts. The speed interrupted by whistles and buzzers and breaks.

“There was a goalie,” I told Dave, smiling as I remembered, “who played in my undergrad city a long time ago. He was young – from somewhere in Eastern Europe – and would dance around when the music played. He was adorable – peppy and smiling and sweet. But he would panic when there was a breakaway. So he would burrow into the net, put his shoulders underneath the crossbar, then lift and shove the net out of position. Like a little turtle with his shell.”

“You can’t do that.” Dave noted, his attention on the game.

“No.” I agreed solemnly. “He’d get in trouble. But he couldn’t help himself. And it was so cute to watch! Burrow, lift, shove. At least twice a game. Always taking the easy way out. Once it became such an ingrained habit, they had to kick him out of games.”

Pleased with my story, remembering games when I’d sat between my parents, with Rachel or another friend, humming over the cutest of the hockey boys, and thrilling when we’d actually get to meet one, I sat happily to watch the game. I patted Dave’s knee when his goalie let a goal go in. I gripped the sleeve of his jersey in my hand and twisted when I watched two of the hockey boys pound on each other for far too long. I looked at him expectantly and announced my need for a soda – I was growing sleepy again - in the second intermission. We talked and teased and laughed.

“Turn left up here.” He advised when we reached an intersection after the game and I navigated my way out of the parking lot.

“Into the masses of people? I don’t want to turn left!”

“Right. I meant right. Sorry.”

“Oh. Good! I want to turn right.”

“Right again.” This at the next corner, said confidently, so I moved to the appropriate lane.

“I don’t know where this goes.” I warned as I made the turn anyway. He started listing street names as we proceeded away from the arena and I rolled my eyes. “I don’t know where we are.” I said. “You can name all the streets you want. I haven’t been here before.”

“We’ll get there.” He promised. “Get in the other lane so you can turn left.”

“How much did you drink?! Do you know what you’re doing?”

“I know we’re turning left.” He said and sounded certain enough that I did as he ordered. We made it home just fine.

We arrived relatively early, though I was quite tired from my sports-filled day.

“Oh,” I remembered as he sat on the floor, his back to the couch as he wrestled with Chienne, “you were going to show me your trip information.”

Handing him my laptop, I laid on the couch so I could peer over his shoulder as he read me the relevant pages. Nifty trip to get an amazing car. I was suitably impressed and asked questions and listened to him talk. I rested my head on a pillow and let my eyes droop heavily as I started to murmur responses to his long statements.

“OK there, sleepy?” He asked with an affectionate tickle of my ankle. I blinked my eyes open to smile at him. Nodded and pushed myself into a sitting position. I patted his shoulder, stretching my toes toward the floor next to him. I tucked my hands back in my lap when he put his hand on the back of my leg – below the knee, but above the ankle. As I paused to consider the situation – aware of the shift in energy that had occurred sometime in the evening. I didn’t really mean to issue an invitation, I knew. Had just been flirting mildly and enjoying the comfort of having company and feeling loved and appreciated.

For me, loneliness isn’t a good reason for sex. Perhaps had I enjoyed the quantity of alcohol he had… Well, no, then I would have been unconscious somewhere. He’d been drinking beer all afternoon. And while he showed no blatant effects – not even droopy eyes or slurred speech – he was likely feeling pretty good. He hadn’t dated anyone seriously since this summer. We’ve covered my romantic past and it’s hardly pretty. But I was completely sober and very aware that while his touch wasn’t repellent, it was not overly tempting.

He started to slip his hand slowly higher and I decided that as far as seduction styles go, it wasn’t bad. If I didn’t view sex as sharing a part of my very soul or if I was slightly less inhibited or a bit more attracted or a touch more isolated or lonely, I would have permitted more touching. Seen where things went. How I felt. Been with someone I love and trust and enjoy.

But, well, I know when I like someone. Want someone. And I didn’t. I’m also pretty sure he wasn’t feeling what one should be feeling in moments such as these either. So I patted his shoulder twice more and rose, retreating to the safety of my loveseat while he remained on the floor. We each went to separate bedrooms to sleep, waking to shower at different times and drove to breakfast in our own cars so he could reach the interstate more quickly and attend yet another sporting event on his way home. I hugged him tightly before he left and find myself missing him a little this evening. All was normal and lovely.

Though I could list a bunch of reasons – I didn’t want to alter our friendship and lose someone I really do love, I didn’t want someone who used the phrase “man slave” in a cell phone conversation to have carnal knowledge of me, it wasn’t an event that would fit in my book – the truth is that the feeling wasn’t there. The one I get when I smell ice and know hockey is coming. Or when I’m with someone I just want to watch or hear speak or be near. When my heart or brain or something says, “Oh, yes. More of that.” And the absence of that feeling – that phrase – is enough for me to stay alone. I have a feeling that will always be the case.

Which leaves me very much hoping I get to think that – feel that – again. Because this inability to settle and enjoy what is instead of hoping for what might never be is getting old.


phd me said...

"Because this inability to settle and enjoy what is instead of hoping for what might never be is getting old." Amen, sister.

Estrella said...

I sincerely hope that you find that someday too (and I hold that same wish for myself!) ... but in the meantime, I pray that we'll both find the contentment we're seeking. (Thanks for your comment!)

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