Go to a bar with your co-workers. Worry about what they will say about how much make-up you’re wearing. Surreptitiously watch the men across the room as you take sips of your second beer. Pretend not to care when he walks over to you. Smell his cologne, pleasantly faint, as he leans over to brush away a piece of hair. Feel ashamed for letting his confidence rub off on you. Realize that you aren’t as drunk as you thought you were. Realize that he looks a little like your ex-boyfriend. Curse your girlfriends for being right about “your type.” Ignore your co-workers whispering in the corner. Place a hand on his jacket and watch desire spill out of his eyes. Decide that you’re going to let him take you home.
Let him pay your tab even though you’ve read The Feminine Mystique. Smile as he whispers how beautiful you look. Begin to believe him. Watch his feet clumsily lead you around the dance floor. Cherish the strength of his hand as it slides around your lower back. Think wistfully of your parents dancing at your sister’s wedding. Imagine that the dancing, the talking, the counting of mutual friends as the first sentences of your “how we met” story you’ll tell your friends and mom. Feel proud to be seen with him as he grips your hand and leans in. Hope against hope that he isn’t like all those other guys. Watch his lips form the words: “Let’s get out of here.”
Let him take you home. Cut off his apologies about the messy state of the apartment, but secretly be disappointed he didn’t think to clean up beforehand. At the same time, be comforted that he didn’t clean up beforehand — that he wasn’t planning to take anyone home tonight. Make sure to seem like you really want to be there. Focus your eyes like a flashlight, illuminating the hidden crevices of his apartment. Soak in all the details so you can tell your friends everything. Watch his half-drunk smile and realize that you are more sober than he is. Ignore the creeping feeling that you actually like him. Get mad at yourself for thinking that he might really like you.
Let him undress you. Whisper your typical “I never do this” line like your sister taught you. Let him sink to his knees and be surprised by how giving he is. Decide you want to make an impression. Decide you might want to see him again. Decide to give him a reason to. Give him everything he wants. Surprise him with your eagerness. Be thankful you wore your one fancy bra tonight. Think that you are blowing his mind. Wish he was louder. Wish he was more like your ex-boyfriend. Hate yourself for thinking that.
Be disappointed when he finishes since you didn’t. Curl up in his arms, excited to have a quiet place to talk. Look up at him to see his eyes flutter and close. Feel the anger well up inside you. Listen as he tells you he’s tired. Exaggerate your disappointment.
Dream of past lovers. Watch as they dance together at the bar. Feel both regret and shame at the sight of each one of them. In your dream, they all have the name of the man you went home with. Begin counting how many lovers you’ve had. Compare that number to how many times you’ve fallen in love. Stand still as all your lovers disappear. Begin to wake. Realize you’re in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room. Remember the night before. Turn to see him looking down at you.
Feel your cheeks rouge with embarrassed blush. Suddenly notice your nakedness. Pull the covers up to your chin and sit up. Remember the number of lovers in your dream. Protect your reputation by saying, “Wow, we really got carried away last night.” Watch as he gets up. Know that his is a pivotal moment: will he offer you breakfast or pretend to have work to do? Cringe under the weight of the silence. Blurt out, “Do you have any tea?” Convince yourself you’re looking for a salve for your sore throat and not making up reasons to stick around. Tilt your head in delight when he offers to go get breakfast.
Drag your feet to the bathroom. Grimace in disgust at your morning-after reflection. Splash water on your face, wiping away last night’s makeup. Run his comb through your hair. Imagine, for just a second, your own brush living in his bathroom. Wash away that thought with another splash of water. Open his medicine cabinet. Make a note to Google Ativan later. Quickly close it after spotting the Tinactin. Move to his closet and stare at his shirts, an endless parade of pastel polos. Rub the fabric between your fingers. Debate putting one on. Imagine putting on his dress shirt, unbuttoned, and waiting for him to come in. Imagine him walking in with a big grin, holding up the bag of pastries and saying, “I’m hungry, but not for these.” Imagine spending all day with him. Hear the front door open. Put on your dress from the night before and meet him in the kitchen. Trade jokes about the night before and admire his high cheekbones. Notice his repeated glances at his watch. Watch his eyes dance around the room. Realize that he doesn’t actually like you. Wish that he did. Try to hide your disappointment as you wave goodbye.
Go home, shower, take a nap.
Wake up and realize that you never gave him your number. Kick yourself. Put those feelings on a shelf, tucked away with ticket stubs and matchbooks. Let weeks pass, then months. Occasionally stalk the same bar looking for him. Go on dates with men that try too hard and never make the first move. Wish a stranger would try to pick you up in a bar. Remember the handsome man that did. Remember the feel of his shirt between your fingers. Question your abilities in bed. Question your weight. Question your fashion choices. Question every career choice you’ve ever made. Push all those questions away just as easily.
Go the same bar one more time. See him sitting in the corner, peeling labels off of beer bottles. Duck into a dark booth so that he doesn’t see you. Remember the way he gripped your hand too hard like you were his accessory. Remember how he didn’t offer to make you breakfast. Remember how fell asleep after. Remember how he didn’t ask for your number. Quietly walk out of the bar. Know that you should feel proud, but be no less disappointed when you don’t.