Both Sides Now

There are two sides to every story. My boyfriend, Paulie, wrote a story about the night we met on his blog. It is mostly accurate, though he threw in some adventure and fiction because he likes to play around with stories more than I do.  But now it’s my turn.

It’s true that he and I met on OkCupid, but not for the reasons one would expect. I was only there to gather fodder for a couple of mock-based blog posts; he was there attempting to stalk his ex. He found me instead.

While on OkCupid I’d received messages from several men, none of which I responded to because I wasn’t interested in dating. With only one day to go in the website’s required minimum seven day membership period, I received a message from Paulie. Awkwardness and humor go a long way with me. Also I’d just come in from celebrating a new job for a friend, and I was mildly drunk. In the message Paulie wrote “okay here goes – you are adorable,” and said he’d created his profile just so he could write to me. Giving it the once-over, I found very little information, and a few pictures with captions that referenced subtle details within my own profile. Instead of being guarded against what appeared to be a possible stalker, I wrote him back.

We messaged back and forth the next day, and I decided to give him my real email address, as I was finally able to cancel my membership.  I found his messages delightful and funny, and looked forward to his emails. I finally admitted that I’d rather meet sooner than later, to “get it over with.” I explained that I was technically ‘off men’, and I didn’t want to put all the time and energy and excited anticipation into corresponding over the next week or so before meeting, only to not really click in person. Basically I was telling him that I didn’t want to waste my time. We made a late afternoon coffee date for the next day. We both had to arrange around other plans, leaving us with about 20 minutes to meet.

When I arrived at Aroma Roasters I glanced around before ordering, catching sight of Paulie sitting in profile against the the back wall. He was bent over a notebook, the long sleeves of his t-shirt pushed up to his elbows. Something in my stomach fluttered and I blushed, thinking “oh, shit.” I texted him that I could see him. He texted back that I was lying. I said “long sleeve tee, bent pensively over a notebook.” My order arrived and I walked over to put sugar into my cup. I looked over my shoulder to see if he’d found me yet, and he caught my eye, smiling. I blushed again. I was dressed for the city in a long fitted charcoal grey wool coat and tall black boots over slim jeans. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but when I saw him watching me, I felt gorgeous.

I walked over to him and said hello. We may have shaken hands. I piled my coat and purse and scarf onto the table behind us, saying “don’t let anyone steal that.” He had his elbow on the table with his right hand curled in front of his mouth, he was watching me carefully and said, “okay.” I knew that he was going to a writing workshop when we parted, he’d told me he wanted to brainstorm some ideas beforehand in one of his emails to me. I immediately pointed to the notebook he’d put away and said “so, isn’t it kind of cheating to brainstorm writing ideas before a writing workshop? Isn’t the point to be given prompters and then write spontaneously based on those?” He took to being gently teased like a duck to water.

We made small but easy conversation. He stared at me a lot and seemed nervous and slightly dumbstruck, which put me more at ease than I’d felt when I first saw him. Despite my immediate and visceral attraction to him, I was still skeptical and unwilling to let go of my pessimism about men and dating completely. It served as a useful tool for me, as it kept me relaxed and aloof while talking to this striking, dryly witty man, rather than making me stutter and laugh too loud at my own embarrassingly terrible jokes.

He had to leave. As he stood, I said “oh, listen, I just wanted to tell you something before you go.” I made it sound serious and important, and he stopped to give it the attention it demanded. “I, um, I don’t usually wear my jeans tucked into boots like this. It’s just because I’m going to the city, and I’m trying to pull off that look.” He laughed, looked at my legs and said “thank god you said something.” He put on his coat and a hat with tiny bear ears and buttons for eyes on it, and started to walk away after we’d said goodbye, but paused and looked down at me. He said, “you’re…much more attractive than Tina Fey,” referencing a comment in my blog, then smiled sheepishly and walked away.

On my way back from San Francisco several hours later, he texted me and asked if I’d like to hang out again – that night. I said yes, and we met at Jack & Tony’s. I got there first and stood against the wall, because it was packed and I didn’t know what else to do. He came in wearing that ridiculous hat again, and suggested we go someplace quieter. We walked around the corner to Jackson’s, where he ordered us two champagne cocktails. He then questioned this decision, saying he wasn’t sure why he’d ordered one for himself since he’d been drinking whiskey all night. I told him to go ahead and order the whiskey, that I’d drink both cocktails. He was impressed.

We talked, and drank, and became comfortable with each other. We walked back over to Jack & Tony’s, where it was considerably quieter than earlier, and sat at the bar. As we talked our heads moved incrementally closer, and toward the end of the second round I looked up at him and he kissed me, slowly, for several seconds. When our heads moved apart I just stared at him. He said, “hi.” I smiled and said “wow. Hi.”

He admitted that he’d thought he would never see me again. That he hadn’t made a good enough impression and I wouldn’t be interested in meeting up another time. I admitted that I would have agreed to another date after simply seeing him from across the coffee shop.

He said “I don’t want to let you go. I want to take you home with me tonight.” I hesitated, and he said “I’m sorry, was that too forward?” and laughed at himself. I said “no, not at all. I want to come home with you tonight.” He smiled at me, chuckled softly and said “really?” I now recognize this as his ‘I can’t believe my luck’ reaction. On that night I said “Yes, I do. It’s just that I’m on my period, so, you know, we can’t have sex. I don’t know if that still interests you.” He leaned in and kissed me again, just as breathtakingly, and said “that still interests me.”

His bed was warm and huge, with a thick down comforter and a half-dozen pillows in mismatched cases. He loaned me a t-shirt and we climbed under the covers, both tentative and humming with the desire to be closer. We snuggled and kissed and touched each other’s bodies. And we slept. In the morning he looked over at me while I slowly blinked myself awake. “Hi,” he said. I answered, “hi.”

We lay in bed for a long time, talking, entwined. He told me that he was going to cancel his OkCupid account, because he only liked to date one person at a time, and he’d like that person to be me, if I was willing. I pretended to think about it, finally saying “well, my account is already closed, and I’m off men right now.  So, you win by default.”

I didn’t say “holy mother, I can tell I’m in trouble here.” And I didn’t say,  “I’m pretty sure you’ve already ruined me for anyone else.”


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