My parents always ask me if I’m dating anybody. They’re worried that I won’t meet any “suitable” guys because (a) I’m a music theatre major and most of the guys in my program are gay and (b) because they think I don’t get asked out on enough dates. I feel so redundantly as I respond, “Nope, I’m not dating anyone right now.” But the truth is, I don’t have the heart to explain to them that people today don’t date. We text and meet up for drinks. Then maybe we’ll end up spending the night together. Sometimes we’ll text the next day, but generally, there is no dating. There is no candle lit dinner, no romance. I hate to sound cynical, but I’ve found that “dating” in Manhattan is not like quite as picturesque as my parents believe. In their minds, there are millions of men in New York– why can’t I find one? Well Mom and Dad, it’s maybe because I don’t want a relationship.
I feel a little ridiculous making that statement. Of course I should want a relationship! Right?! Of course I should want someone to share my happiness with! Well no, believe it or not, that’s not exactly what I’m looking for.
I don’t want you to think I’m cynical- I believe in love and romance. I think that these ideas are completely possible. For absolutely everyone. But for me, right now at this time and place, a boyfriend doesn’t fit into my routine of eating a bowl of Cheerios in bed while I rewatch “Breaking Bad.” For the fourth time. I like being alone. This is the first time in years where I haven’t been in a relationship, and I’ve got to say, I’m enjoying myself.
Now, what I’m about to tell you might sound a bit contradictory to my whole “I don’t want a relationship” thing. But it’s true– I don’t. I just needed someone to watch my cat, Sasha, for the holiday.
So, the search began. None of my roommates could keep her, everyone seemed too busy or too far away to take care of the kitty. After weeks of wracking my brain, the answer finally came to me. Kevin.
Kevin and I met the Saturday before Halloween this year. I was headed back home for the pre- Halloween party my roommates and I were having. I was dressed up like Sandy from the movie “Grease.” I’m not talking about the poodle skirt version, but instead, I was rocking the red lipstick, the leather pants, and the stomach showing version. As I was walking with a couple of friends, I thought to myself, “You know, this outfit really calls for a cigarette.” Something about that item would make my whole “Tell me about it, stud” aura much more convincing.
We passed the bar right next to our apartment building.
“Hold on, guys. I’ll be right back.”
Without really thinking, I pulled open the door and found who I was hoping would be there. Kevin is a bartender at this homey, neighborhood establishment and I had seen him outside the bar a couple of times smoking his cigarette. We hadn’t even said hello, but something about those leather pants gave me the push to approach him.
“Hey. Kind of random question, but do you have a cigarette I can buy from you?”
He looked up from wiping a table and said, “Yeah, of course. Let me go get one.”
He walked back over to me, hands behind his back.
“Here you go,” he said, handing her the cigarette.
“Thank you so much. Here’s a dollar.” I said, offering to pay him. “You keep it,” He said, handing it back to me, “Just take my number.”
I stared at the folded piece of paper with the name KEVIN and his phone number scrolled along the bottom.
“I was kind of hoping you’d give me your number. I’ll give you a call sometime.”And with that, I walked out.
I waited the semi- obligatory three days to send him a text message saying something along the time lines of:
Hey, this is Myers, we met the other night when you gave me a cigarette. I was just wondering if you’re free at any point this week to go get a drink?
Kevin responded immediately, letting me know that he was free in a couple of days.
We met up at the bar where he worked and we started walking and talking, heading in the direction of a bar where he said he celebrated his 21st birthday a couple years ago. A couple years ago. Well, I figured this guy was older than me, but I hadn’t even celebrated my 21st birthday yet….
We arrived at the bar, this place that was beneath another bar. I think it was called Under Jimmy’s.
After a couple of drinks, conversation was running smoothly. Like we were the best of friends. Thank you, alcohol, for bridging that sometimes uneasy gap between strangers. We talked about everything from our childhoods to our families, our dreams and our favorite philosophers. It was an intelligent and interesting first real conversation, and I was surprisingly happy to have met this guy. Of course, I didn’t consider him boyfriend material. He is seven years older than me, we’re in completely different places in our lives. But, for the night, he would do. Or so I thought.
Yes, we spent the night together. I won’t share all of those glorious details, but I can assure you this: they were glorious.
We woke the next morning. With a slightly throbbing hang over, I told him I had to go to class. Together, we walked to Washington Square Park to grab some coffee before my 11:00 class. He kissed me goodbye, right there on the corner of 4th and Mercer, and it surprised me. I don’t know why. I suppose I didn’t’ expect it, a kiss that came so casually followed by the phrase “We’ll talk soon.”
I’m coming to realize that I think most guys are pretty horrible to girls. They say they’ll return phone calls, they say they’ll be faithful. In my experience, it isn’t always the case. Regardless, Kevin DID call me. He texted me often, wanting to get together for drinks. He asked questions about my life. He asked about my classes and my auditions. I hate to admit this– but I didn’t quite know what to do with his kindness and curiosity.
Honestly, I felt like I total bitch because here was this really great guy who wanted to know about my life, like genuinely cared. And all I could do was ride it off as “He just wants to fuck again.” And maybe he did! And that’s fine, too. But at least he texted me before midnight. That’s saying something.
The second time he stayed the night, he met my cat, Sasha.
“I think I’m in love” is what he said about her.
I remember that. I need to remember that I was frantically searching for someone to watch Sasha over the holiday. I felt a little strange about asking someone who was technically a one night stand to feed my cat, even stay in my apartment if he wanted to. Since my apartment building is literally next door to where he works, I figured staying in the apartment would be a pretty good deal for him.
So I went to the bar the next day and asked him wouldn’t mind taking care of Sasha for a week while my roommates and I went home for Christmas.
“You’d be all alone in the apartment. No one would be there so feel free to stay. Sasha’s really easy to take care of. If you’re going to be gone for a couple of days, just leave her extra food and water.” I continued to ramble until Kevin interrupted me and said, “I’d love to. Thanks for the opportunity.”
Thanks for the opportunity. This guy was too nice. He was thanking me for asking him to watch Sasha and house sit. I was incredibly thankful and blown away by his immediate response.
That night, I invited Kevin to stay over again. It was around 3:00 AM when all of the glorious action stopped and we were just lying in bed. We were talking quietly, coming in and out of silence and I was just about to fall asleep when Kevin said, “Hey, you awake?”
“Yeah, yeah” I turned over slightly. “What’s up?”
“I think I’m just going to head home if that’s okay.”
“Are you sure? You don’t have to go.”
“No, I know. I feel so wired though. I know myself, I’m not going to be able to fall asleep and I’m just going to be lying here the whole night tossing and turning and keeping you awake.”
Part of me wanted to say something charming and along the lines of “Well, we could stay up and talk,” but my response was simply, “Okay, okay.” I wasn’t offended that he wanted to go home – he had no obligation to stay here and hold me.
As he started to redress, I asked him, “Do you like working at the bar?” I had asked him this before, but for some reason, I felt like his answer would be different this time around.
“I do,” he said. “It’s definitely fun.”
“It’s just… I was traveling around for the past 6 years. And now that I’m back in one place, I’m giving myself permission to be a 27 year old. And not expect too much of myself. It’s just hard working there sometimes because I work so late. And it’s hard to establish any type of… relationship or friendship with anyone.”
I was silent for a moment, just absorbing the words he had spoken. I admired the vulnerability he had just shown. He could have just left his job at “fun,” but instead, he chose to be honest with me. Part of me wanted to reach out, be as vulnerable and tell him that he shouldn’t feel so alone because I wanted to be his friend. I wanted to get to know him like he had made an effort to do with me.
Instead, I didn’t do any of that. I held myself back because I was scared of what might happen. I was scared that he would agree to stay and talk with me the whole night. And then, by doing that, I would have to reveal my own insecurities and fears, I would have to let him get to know me. Kevin would become more than the guy I occasionally have sex with or the guy who’s keeping my cat over Christmas break. He would become a real person. And all I wanted was to be alone.