By Betty Underground © 2009
Around most men, I never really get nervous. And not because I'm uber-confident and get it all the time, no, it's really more that I'm oblivious to attention directed at me; pretty sure they are interested in someone else so I don't feel pressure and in turn, stay pretty cool headed. It's a mild case of social retardation I blame on never honing my dating skills at an early age. Being complacently tied to the same, and hot mind you, man for the span of my twenties, I never developed an ability to overtly flirt. Though I've been accused of it, I consider it a well-timed accident.
Not lacking in feminine wiles, I've successfully attracted a good lot of men; by accident. Lookers, most of them and despite a propensity for soaking themselves in cheap beer and preferring an evening of hootin 'n hollerin at some display of sports to a night with a hottie like me and some wildly intellectual conversation about reality TV, they were really good boyfriends. When you line those guys up tip-to-toe they don't amount to much more than a sitcom that is cancelled after the first season leaving my "action" full of enormous gaps of time; I'm pretty sure if you stood next to me and yelled at my last relationship, you'd get an echo. It's nothing I get terribly worked up over and certainly makes the chance encounter EVEN THAT MUCH BETTER.
It was a Wednesday and I had been busy cooking; preparing the quiche and scones, and frosting the cupcakes I made the night before. The kind of day when I wonder how I've ever found time for a job when there is so much involved in entertaining guests. Hollywood would be there later in the afternoon and since she'd been kind enough to hop a shuttle, the only effort required from me was picking her up in town; which didn't even involve putting on shoes. Before she arrived I had a little business to take care.
I had enlisted the help of a friend who specializes in all things aesthetic for a graphic design project I was stumped on. Certain people have a knack for being able to ignite creativity and since I'd long since been convinced we shared the same taste in nearly everything, I was confident that he was the right one to bounce ideas around with; or at least worth looking at across a table for a few hours. It's great to have the occasional loosy-goosy work week that affords an opportunity for an afternoon of conversational ping-pong, and we had both lucked out this week.
A gravel road is very unforgiving if you intend to creep your vehicle up it, so I knew when he had arrived. I'm a bouncy greeter; likening my enthusiasm to that of a child when she hears the ice cream truck coming, I'm frequently out the door and dancing around the drive-way before my guests roll to a stop like I have to pee; which I usually don't, or at least best I could recall this day I didn't.
Like some chariot of magic, as his car rolled down the driveway the morning clouds were given a stiff shove-off exposing blue skies and a summer sun. So we'd sit on the deck and sip iced tea and attempt a focused conversation. Impossible. Even with the span between visits requiring us to take mental notes of what things we want talk about next time, we never get to those things. One comment leads to another and like the winding road that brought him to that beach house, we are all over the mountain of topics that are just 'life'. The non-specific, yet charmed, lives of two souls who have a lot of blanks to fill in and it seemed this time I was doing a lot of the filling-in.
One of the first things I learned being a poker player was to become aware of my own "tells"; that might also be the only I learned as a poker player which is why I don't play so well. Or when I do, it's totally accidentally. Sitting at the felt, I have nerves of jello; I knock over stacks of chips, fold on the blind and hyper-ventilate waiting for an orbit. (btw: that is about all the poker lingo I know, and I'm sure it's not accurately used). But that's poker; I know I get nervous there, and like I said up there, with men, I don't really get nervous. This day we sat jabbering away like two Jewish sisters and on my part, there were some admissions and blanks that I was required to address in order to get to the brainstorming on the creative project. Ya know, I put stuff out on the internet and largely over-share my life with strangers and friends alike, but I remember looking down at my hand and having trouble steadying it as I told him. NERVES? Nah... I must be hungry. "Are you hungry? Quiche sound good? I made quiche. We'll have quiche," and I escaped to the kitchen to get us a nibble still rambling on.
Eating helped, but I still felt off center. Tapping my foot and fidgeting as I pushed the words out between a fissure of nerves. Nerves? I was nervous. Unnerved. Deliciously unnerved. I'd rationalize it away under the guise that it was the content of the discussion and not the presence of being. Shake myself loose from my awareness of the unsettled feeling and eventually find a pace to settle into that felt normal. And then time ran out. Snapping back to the responsibilities of life beyond the dirt drive-way and having to say our good-byes. Much like greeting guests, I'm always sending them off on their vehicles rather than the threshold of the door. I like that time you spend finishing the conversation: the last minutes of dialogue when neither wants the time to end, so you linger and fill the space between you with things of little importance.
And then you hug, or at least I always hug. I had friend once, Bonk. Bonk told a group she was introducing me to that I was not a hugger before I arrived. No idea where she got that idea; I might not have hugged her but mainly because I wasn't sure I ever trusted her and her hair smelled like patchouli - my least favorite smell. These people shook my hands, which is fine, and then said," we heard you were not a hugger." Bonk and I stopped being friends after that but I made-out with AND HUGGED at least one of the guys I met that night. So, I'm a hugger. Never got good at the European cheek-kiss thing because that is a risky move if someone doesn't know it's coming, but I've been known to get caught in the moment and plant a kiss on someone. I don't usually think about it and naturally land it with near perfect accuracy on the lips. It is a precursor to the hug though; the order is very important here. A kiss before a hug is just a "good-bye". A kiss after the hug is a "please don't leave, but if you must, here is something to remember and hopefully I'll see you again super soon."
I remember hating the moment standing by his car doing that thing I do where I stop being in the moment and I am lost in some endless rambling but in my head I am over-thinking. "Damn, really, this is it? You really have to leave? When will I see you again? Why can't we hang out like this everyday? Will you come back tomorrow?" all this while white-noise is pouring from my lips and I am so somewhere else I need an atmospheric reentry and a map to find my way back to the present. Or, he could kiss me. SNAP! back to reality and I finish off with a hug. Good-bye.
So what happened next is where dream and reality get completely muddled.
Giving what I'd describe as a perfect hug; aware of his palms pressed on my back and the linger that waits for an exhale before a dizzying recovery. Some hugs you just never want to end. Some you just want to lay down right there on the ground together a short period of forever and never let go. That's what a perfect hug leaves churning around in my head hours, even days after it's ended. I hadn't been more relaxed the entire afternoon than I was right there in that hug. It took a few seconds for me to realize we'd unwrapped but the air between us had disappeared once again and his lips were softly dusting across mine. I steadied myself, hands on his arms and eyes closed, imprinting the moment in my mind before opening and mirroring the smile across his face. I stepped back, fingers tucked into the back pockets of my frayed jean shorts and shooed him away with a flick of my head. "Go." I managed to utter through the grin. "Get out of here."
"I know what it's like to kiss you because we made-out in my dream last night."
Betty Underground is a writer from Northen California.