Hello, Handsome – Part II

 

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My first real cowboy hat!  2006

“Have you ever been to San Antonio?” Harry asked me on Tuesday during our nightly conversation.

“Why, yes.  Back in 2002 my friend Edward—the gorgeous black bodybuilder—took me to San Antonio to check out a club.  Turns out it was a swinger’s club.  I danced on a pole and chatted with a really cute, nice couple.  Edward sprang for a hotel room (for just the two of us; I don’t get into the swinger thing).”  That would have been the most honest answer, but may have been a little too much honesty, so I opted for a shorter answer.  “I’ve been there a couple of times, but haven’t been there for years.”

“Let’s go.  I’ll drive and get the hotel rooms.  What do you say?”

“Separate hotel rooms?” I was just seeking clarification; didn’t want him to think I was scared of him, but I didn’t want to make assumptions, either.

“Of course.  We can go this weekend if you like,” Harry said.

“Sounds great!” I answered.

I called Portia to let her know.  She was excited for me.  “If ya’ll are still dating in February,” She joked, “You’ll need to send candy to Dawn to say, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day and Thank you!’  What am I saying—ya’ll don’t need to send candy, Harry will!”

We giggled.

“I’ll be in Austin this weekend, too.  Ok if I stay at your house?”  Portia’s ex-husband still lived in Austin (she had just moved to San Angelo the year before) and so Portia dropped their son off every other weekend for visitation.  I had given Portia a key to my house long ago and told her that she was free to come and go as she pleased.

“Of course you’re welcome.  Mi casa es su casa,” I told her.

So Portia was there when Harry arrived.  I had her take pictures of us in front of Harry’s truck and the grin on my face was so goofy in love that it was my favorite picture for a long time after.

My house is about 1.5 hours from San Antonio, on the north side of Austin, which means that Harry and I had plenty of time to talk along the way.  I’ve never been shy, so I came right out with what was on my mind.

“What’s your definition of a girlfriend?  I mean, when can you call someone your girlfriend?”  I asked.

“I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it.”  He replied, pensively.  “What do you think?  Clearly you’ve had time to think about it.”

“Well, there are three main criteria,” I said.  “First, a couple has to agree to be exclusive, which means they aren’t dating anyone else.”

“Ok, I can agree to that.  I’m not dating anyone else; are you?”

“Nope,” I said, a little surprised that he was applying the list to us immediately.

“Ok, what else you got?”

“You’ve got to date a certain period of time.  I’m not sure how long—my friends and I talked about at least 2 dates, or at least a month, but we couldn’t really agree.  What do you think?”

“Well I think that if you like someone, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been dating,” Harry said, with conviction.  “What’s your third criteria?”

“That both people agree to use the titles.  I say that because I’ve known guys that just hate to be called ‘boyfriend.’ It scares them off, or they just don’t like titles.  What do you think?”

“I think,” Harry said, taking my hand while watching the road, and observing me with little glances to gage my mood, “That I know that I like you, I’m not dating anyone else, and I’m fine with calling you my girlfriend, if that’s what you want.”

I was a little surprised.  “Yes, of course!” I said.  Wow, what a great guy!

“Good.  Now that we’ve got that taken care of,” he said, “Do you want to stop at Cabella’s?”

Cabella’s is a new store located in Buda, just south of Austin.  It is a huge sports/hunting/fishing store featuring an indoor waterfall, stuffed animals (real ones, not the kids’ toys), and all the equipment a sports nut could dream up.  It was so huge that it had become a tourist attraction; the signs on the highway announced the exit.

“Sure,” I said.  Though not a hunter myself, I was curious to see this colossal superstore.  And it was everything that I expected it to be.  From the outside, it looked like a mall.  On the inside, it still reminded me of a mall; only, instead of stores, it had departments:   Fishing department, Gun department, Clothing department: different camouflage patterns, shirts with deer heads printed on them, hip waders, rubber boots, etc.  As we toured the testament to man’s love of nature, we chatted some more and held hands.

“Help me out here—I’m a little hazy on the dates.  When did you marry Jamie?” I asked.

“I knew this would come up,” Harry said, visibly nervous.  He looked around, trying to decide how to word his answer and said, “We got married in April 2003.  We were married just over two years.”

I tried to do the math in my head and it just didn’t sound right.  “That means you got divorced—when?”

“In May.”

“This past May?”  He nodded.  My mind was having trouble digesting this info.  That meant that he was married in April when we met.  Was he wearing a ring?  I couldn’t remember.  But it wouldn’t matter; lots of married people had bare hands.  The engineers that I worked with called rings a safety hazard.

Harry saw the confused look on my face and said, “I know you have a rule against dating guys within a year of their divorce,” Harry said, tensely, carefully, “That’s why I didn’t mention it before.”  Damn right, I have a rule, and for good reasons!  I’ve been bitten by this one before.  I struggled against the urge to run, scream, or both.  I took a deep breath.  I decided that given the opportunity to go home and wonder “What if” or spend the weekend in picturesque San Antonio with the handsome Mr. Handsome, I’d take the latter.

I smiled at him and said, “Well, we’re here now, I’ll take my chances.”  He let out the breath he’d been holding and smiled back at me.  We walked around for a while talking about the various equipment.  He carried around some ammo for a while, but then thought better of having to transport it all the way back to San Angelo, and put it back.

We were walking through the clothes—thermal underwear for the cold mornings tracking deer—when I asked Harry, “Where would you live if you could live anywhere?”

“My sister is in Tennessee, so maybe there,” he began.  “Or Fort Worth.  I’ve done some job shopping online—nothing serious, just seeing what’s out there—and FW has some ME jobs in the medical manufacturing industry; I could live there.  San Antonio’s nice, too.  I’m vested at J&J; if I stay two more years, then I’ll be fully vested.  So I’m going to try to stick around until then.  What about you?” he countered.

“I love Texas and I want my kids to be around family, where are here.  If I could have any job, it would be working for NASA.  But the jobs I wants are in California or Colorado.  Since I don’t want to leave the state, I’d rather live in Austin, San Antonio, or Fort Worth.  San Angelo is nice, too.”  I smiled at him.

“Did they tell you when you’d find out if you have the job?” Harry had insider knowledge yet pretended that he didn’t.  I respected his strong ethics; a lesser man would have told me what the interviewers decided.

“The HR rep said two weeks,” I replied, “Which was over last week. I sent an email to Kathy and she responded that I should hear back from them next week.”

Harry shook his head.  “That human resources department is so slow.”

We had walked around most the store (though not seen everything, I’m sure, since it is so huge), so Harry asked, “Ready to go?”

From there we went to San Marcos, which is the next major city on I-35.  San Marcos is known for its outlet malls.  Buses of Mexicans arrive every weekend, since the border is only a couple of hours away, and Texans drive for miles for the chance to get a name brand outfit for a good price.  Harry and I decided to look around.  I wanted some cute tops and Harry wanted some sunglasses.

Harry bought me three different tops from three different stores.  He’s a very patient shopper.  Maybe because has four sisters.  He pointed out shirts that he thought were cute.  We stopped in the Sunglasses Hut to get shades.  He tried on one wrap around pair and said, “Look!  McFly!”  He would have been happy to shop longer, but I felt like I was taking advantage as it were.  So we stopped for lunch.  I had seen a Schlotski’s Deli on the way in and suggested that, but when we started driving to it, we realized that it was on the other side of the interstate.  “Never mind,” I said, “We can eat at Applebee’s, right here.”

“If you want to eat at Schlotski’s, I don’t mind driving over there,” my ultra-sweet Boyfriend (!!) offered.  He was sincere in wanting to make me happy; there was no spite or frustration in his voice or eyes.  I didn’t really care; I could eat at either restaurant (they’re both franchises).  So we went to Applebee’s.

While we were sitting at the table, Harry said, “There’s this girl that I like…”  I stiffened up.  Was he dating someone else?  No, he told me in the car that he wasn’t.  “I’m taking her to San Antonio.”  OH he was talking about ME!  Duh.  In third person, how cute!

“Yes?”  I encouraged him to continue.

“How do I know that she likes me?”  He asked.

I laughed.  I couldn’t help it!  Here I was, all goofy over this guy, and he wasn’t sure that I liked him?!  I began in a Socratic way.

“She agreed to go with you to San Antonio?”

“Yes,” he responded.

“Does she ever hold your hand?” like in Cabella’s, surrounded by stuffed dead things, while pretending to enjoy the scenery?

“Yes.”

“Then she likes you,” I concluded.  Maybe not the best or well-thought out argument, but it worked.  Harry beamed a pleased, slightly embarrassed smile.  He looked so boyish and young, he was just too adorable!

“What about you?  You seeing anyone?”  He prompted.

“Sure, I’m dating this guy,” I responded.  “But I’m not sure about when we should—you know—be physically intimate.  In my experience, guys quit liking a girl afterward.”

He looked confused.  “I think physical intimacy should bring two people closer together,” he said.

“Well it seems to me that beforehand, there’s romantic dinners and flowers and such, and none of that afterward.”

“I think there should be more romance after,” he said, confidently.  I hoped that he was right (despite my experience to the contrary).  I smiled flirtatiously.

The rest of the weekend was like a dream: so perfect.  We checked into the hotel, which was the Hilton on the Riverwalk.  Our rooms were on one of the high floors and were gorgeous; the hotel had recently renovated, so the paint was fresh and carpet was new.  The rooms were spacious, too.  From that and the location, I could tell that Harry had spent some cash and I appreciated it.

After checking in, we went down to the Riverwalk.  It is beautiful.  It’s below street level, with lots of trees and plants, so that its mostly cool and shady.  (Texas is hot, even in October.)  Restaurants and shops line the river and at one end there’s a mall.  The river is only four feet deep in most places.  Harry and I walked and talked and ducked into a few art shops just off the Riverwalk.

That night we had dinner at a great TexMex restaurant.  At least, I think it was great; the margarita certainly was!  Then we walked over to Howl at the Moon, a piano bar.  We had fun watching the Aggie vs. UT Fight Song war!  He’s an Aggie (graduated from Texas A&M) and I’m a Longhorn (I attend the University of Texas at Austin.)  One piano player would start playing the A&M fight song, then someone would tip the other piano player and he would play the Longhorn’s Eyes of Texas Are Upon You.  This would go back and forth, as the crowd got more worked up and the tips piled up, until finally a winner was pronounced to much cheering and booing.  This night, the Longhorns were more generous than the Aggies.

We stayed for a couple of hours watching the piano players perform, then walked back to the hotel.  Harry was a perfect gentleman.

I was not the perfect lady.  I kissed him, letting him know that I wanted more.  We really could have gotten just one hotel room; but I’m glad that it was a choice.

Cheers!

********

This was part II of the story of Harry and I dating.  We were together for another month before it ended; that story isn’t as fun.  If you missed Part I, it’s here.

Come back next week; I hope to share some life-altering good news with you.

May your dates be hot, if you want them to be 😉

Cheers!

 

Hello, Handsome

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Jules & Portia, 2004

San Angelo is a typical west Texas town: dry, dusty, small.  Most of the occupants work for Johnson & Johnson, like Portia.  They hang out at the bar, church, or go to San Antonio (the closest big city) for fun.  So special events are exciting and get big crowds.

The Texas Wine & Food Festival was at the Coliseum, which was an all-purpose building; even the rodeo was held there.  The vendors set up along the perimeter of the oval and tables filled the middle.  The dirt floor was uncovered.

*************

This story is set in 2005, the last semester of my undergrad degree.  I needed to find a job before I graduated, because I had two little mouths to feed (well, three if you count mine).  I couldn’t afford time to look around for a job.  I didn’t expect to find a lover, too.

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As we walked in, Portia remarked, “They have a live band!”

“Of course, this is Austin, Texas—Live Music Capitol of the World.”  I looked at Portia’s questioning face and burst out laughing.  “I’m not in Austin, am I?!”

“Nope.”

“Well, I have my best friend from Austin with me, so I feel at home, I guess!” I told her.  She smiled at the compliment.

As we walked around, Portia introduced me to the people she knew.  Which meant that every three feet we stopped to say hello to one of her coworkers.  I didn’t mind; they were all friendly Texans.

At the Capstone Wine booth, one of her friends begged her to help.  “Just for an hour, then Jamie will be here,” the woman said.

Portia apologized to me, “Sorry.  I volunteered to help with this a month ago, and then they said that they had it covered; anyway, I need to help them.”

“No worries, I can amuse myself,” I said.

Harry

I wandered over to the cars that were parked nearby.  A car salesman was getting people to register for a drawing and advertising the cars at the same time.

A handsome man about my age was looking the cars over, too.  I said, “Yep, looks like a car.”

He replied, “Four doors, windshield, tires…yep, looks like the cars that I’ve seen, too.  What a coincidence!”

I laughed and introduced myself.  “I’m Jules.  I’m a friend of Portia,” I pointed at Portia, who was pouring wine about 20 feet away.  “I’m from Austin.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he said, “I’m Harry Handsome. I work with Portia.”

Yes, you are, I thought, and shook his hand.  “Everyone here works with Portia.”

He returned the smile and nodded, “This is J&J Country.”

We continued our perusal of the vehicles.  Harry is about 5’7”, brown hair, brown eyes, and a wedding ring on his left hand.  Sigh.  He’s married.  Oh, well, at least I had someone to laugh with for a little while.  I almost wish that I didn’t have a date; I could hang with him all night.

Harry and I joked around some more, then he wandered off to get some food.  I wouldn’t see him again until October; but that’s another story for another time.

Girl Talk

“Dawn said that Harry really liked you,” Portia told me.  Dawn is her best friend in San Angelo.

“How does she know?  Did he tell her?”

“No, Dawn said that she could tell by the way he looked at you at the Texas Wine and Food Festival.”  I thought back to April and the funny guy that I enjoyed talking to by the car on display.

“I liked him, too.  Tell me about him.”

“Harry is about Pirate Boy’s height and build.”  Pirate Boy is 5’7” and petite (that’s a nice way of saying he’s skinny and small for a guy).  Since I dated him for over two years, Portia knew that I didn’t need a tall guy.  “Brown hair, brown eyes.  He’s a mechanical engineer and well liked.”

“And single, right?”  I asked.

“As far as I know.  Since you’re interested, I’ll make sure.”

I was visiting San Angelo for a job interview with Johnson & Johnson (Ethicon), the company that Portia worked for.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to live in West Texas, but since Portia was like a sister to me, I’d have “family” there.  Also, Austin (my current hometown) was only 4 hours away.  That’s close enough for a weekend visit.  With nothing to lose, I accepted the interview.  At worst, I’d get an all-expenses-paid visit to see Portia.  At best, I’d get a job, and not have to worry about interviewing/job hunting –I could concentrate on finishing school.

I didn’t know that Harry was going to be one of my interviewers.  I was a little taken aback when I saw his name on the agenda that Kathy, the Human Resources (HR) representative, handed me the morning of my interview.  My mind raced; I could tell Portia not to invite him out with us.  ‘Cause I didn’t want him to think that I was hitting on him to get the job.  Then again, he was one of a dozen people that I talked to that day, and they all voted on whether to extend a job offer; so he didn’t have much pull as to whether I got hired.  Jeez, I hate being in this situation!

I put it out of my mind and concentrated on the interviews.  The whole day was packed from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Harry was part of my second interview, along with Ed, the HR manager.  When Harry shook my hand, he said, “Good to see you again.”  Shocked, I was momentarily at a loss for words.  He remembered meeting me in April, 6 months ago?  Cool!

I pulled it together and smiled at my interviewers.  Now was not the time to flirt, it was time to be charming, intelligent, and dazzling.

Harry said, “One of the advantages of working with J&J, is that they have different locations.  I could transfer to Tennessee if I wanted.”

I hope he didn’t want to move; I was looking forward to getting to know him.  Shifting my focus, I concentrated on the human resources rep, because my thought about Harry were too distracting.

After the interview was over (I nailed it, btw), Harry walked me to the next interviewer.  At the door, he shook my hand formally, but smiled warmly and winked.  I blushed and totally wished that it was time for happy hour.

The rest of the interviews went well.  The last interview was the most challenging.  Three interviewers (two engineers and one HR rep) sat with me in a small room and asked me more behavioral questions.  The last question they asked was, “Describe a time where you failed and how you handled it.”

I said the only thing that came to mind.  “My divorce signaled the failure of my marriage.  The root cause, I believe, was communication.  So after the divorce, I studied communicating.  The most helpful books were How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, and How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber.  The last is a parenting book, but it helped me to talk to other adults as well.”

The interviewers seemed to appreciate my answer and thanked me whole-heartedly for my time.  A couple looked like they wanted to hug me.

I was done and thoroughly exhausted at 2 p.m.  Went to the library to check email, called Mom.  I told her, “They have some cool machines, but I don’t want to work there.  Manufacturing is not what I want to do.”

Mom said, “That’s why you do these on-site interviews, to find out that you don’t want to work there.  That’s not a wasted trip.”

“You’re right,” I said, because Mom usually is.  “Still, I felt guilty, especially because Portia was so excited about the possibility of us being neighbors and coworkers.  We wouldn’t work directly together, we’d be in different departments in different parts of the complex, but we could still have lunch together.”

Mom sympathized with me, “Yes, that would’ve been fun, but you’ll find friends to have lunch with, at a job that you like better.”

“I guess.  Thanks, Mom.  I love you,” I said.  She echoed the phrase and we ended the call.

Happy Hour

The pool hall was the next stop.  Portia said that she invited several people, including Harry.  We drank, played pool.

An old man flirted with me, half-heartedly.  “We don’t see too many pretty women in here,” he said.  “You must be new in town.”

I laughed.  “You may be old enough to be my grandfather, but you just made my night!  Thank you!”

Harry showed up with two friends (Jeff and Mack).  Jeff was a hunk: tall (~6’0”, muscular (obviously worked out).  I was tempted, but stayed focused on Harry.  After all, Jeff wasn’t an engineer.  I’ve dated guys without college degrees and they just don’t understand my nerdiness.  I couldn’t talk to Mike the Plumber about physics class and the disparity in our educations made him a little defensive.  So now I’m looking for a guy as nerdy as me.  With a little sigh of regret, I tore my eyes away from Jeff’s pectorals and concentrated on Harry.

He seemed surprised by the attention.

Jeff was miffed that I wasn’t more interested, evidenced by how much he teased Harry.  “Come on, Harry!  Have a drink!”  Then to me he said, “Harry gets drunk after 2 beers.  Once, we drove to the edge of town and drank in the park.  He was falling down after 2 and a half cold ones!”

I just rolled my eyes; like I cared whether a man could hold his liquor.

Portia let her boyfriend Frank lead her onto the dance floor (the open area by the juke box).

“Wanna?” I asked, and nodded in that direction.

“Nope, I don’t dance,” Harry answered.  “But I like watching.”

So I went on the floor by myself.  I’ve never been very shy, and I love to dance, and so I did.

Later, we exchanged numbers and hugged goodnight.  I didn’t have a good read on how well the night had gone.  Sure, he had stuck around until Portia and I said it was time to go; but was he just being a gentleman, so that I wouldn’t be a third wheel?

Saturday

I didn’t have long to wonder.  The next morning, Harry called me about 9 a.m.  I took it as a good sign that he didn’t wait a day or two to call me.  I agreed to lunch and he picked me up promptly at 11:30 a.m.

After the usual, “Where do you want to go,” conversation, we wound up at Chili’s.

“I love Chili’s,” I told him, “It’s a good, American restaurant with a variety of foods.  You can a hamburger or fajitas, a salad or flatbread pizza – which means that you can decide while you look at the menu.  It’s a great place to bring kids, too.”

“So you have kids,” he said.

“Yes.  Jack is 11 and Sally is 8.  They are blonde-haired, blue-eyed little angels—though I may be a little biased,” I said, and we laughed.

“When did you get divorced?” he asked.

“We separated in August 2000 and our divorce was official in October 2001.  We waited over a year to give the kids time to get used to the idea.  What about you, ever been married?”  I always hold my breath when waiting for someone to answer that question, ever since one guy told me that marriage was forever and he was only doing it once.  Well, duh, don’t we all hope for that?!

“Yes, I was married for just over two years.  She was young and we rushed into it.  We just weren’t compatible,” he said, then quickly changed the subject.  I’m glad; I didn’t want to spend the entire meal commiserating about failed marriages.  “So you went out with Joe back in April, is that right?” he asked.

“Yes.  We got along fine, had a good time.  Talked on the phone once or twice since then.  Guess we just didn’t like each other well enough to have a long distance relationship.”

“That happens,” Harry acknowledged.

“We’re friends now.  Had dinner last night, even.  It was nice.”  I paused, not really knowing where to go from there.  So I did what I always do when I’m nervous and don’t know what to say: I babbled.  “Portia set me up a couple of times before that.  Once was a plumber who left me on my 30th birthday.”

“No!  On your birthday?!” Harry exclaimed, shocked.  He was so animated that, had it been anyone else, I would’ve thought that he was being sarcastic.

“Ya.  And then there was the guy that bought me jewelry and poetry after our first date.”

“What?!”

“I know I’m beautiful, but he went a little overboard.” I rolled my eyes.  “Of course, I was the first person that he dated after his divorce.  Now I have a rule that I don’t date a guy within a year of his divorce.”

“Really?” Harry seemed interested.  I swear his ears perked up.

“Ya.  Guys—girls, too—go a little crazy after a divorce.  They aren’t centered.  Even people like me, who were separated for a long time before the actual divorce, need time to get their heads together.  You know Portia; she really went wild.  She hadn’t been with anyone but her husband, and was kinda of a prude.  Since the divorce, she’s been with three different guys.  She’s like a new person.  I’m ready for her to calm down and go back to normal!”

“You’re right, she has been different since her divorce.  I didn’t know that she was that wild.”

We paused for a minute while he struggled with what to say next.  He surprised me by changing the subject entirely.  “What do you think about San Angelo?”

“Well, I like what I’ve seen so far, which isn’t much!  Are there any parks where we can go hiking?  Or at least go for a walk?”

“Parks, yes—but they’re not big enough for hiking.  I can show you, if you like.”

The park was representative of domestic West Texas: mostly grass, some trees, with an unexpected garden oasis.  We talked and walked for a couple of hours.  The flowers delighted us, we swung on the swings, and in a magical moment under a canopy of green trees, he kissed me.  It was a perfect moment.

“What do you think about joint checking accounts?” Harry asked.

“I had one when I was married.  Not at first; in the beginning, I was writing checks out of two checkbooks and balancing two checkbooks.  That seemed silly; it was just extra work; so we combined our accounts.  Why do you ask?”

“When I got married, I wanted to keep our accounts separate, but Dad said that married people should have joint accounts.  He talked me into it.”  Harry made a face like he just tasted a sour pickle.

“What about the kids?” he asked.

“What about them?  They have a father and a father figure (in my father).  I’m their mother.  They’re good.”

He thought about that for a moment.

“I’m not looking for a dad for them.  I’m looking for a partner for me.”  He accepted that and looked a bit relieved.  I can only imagine that going from single with no kids to being a step dad of two half-grown children would be intimidating.

That night he had a prior engagement and invited me along.  His friend Tanya was in a beauty pageant.  Tanya is a beautiful 20-year-old college student intern at J&J.  She’s about 5’6” with shoulder-length brown hair, brown eyes, and dark that skin implied a Mexican ancestry so common to Texas.

The pageant was interesting: besides Tanya, the contestants included a large girl who barely concealed her nervousness as her family and friends cheered her on and a couple of professional contestants who (we later learned from Tanya) traveled to different pageants.  One of these last women won.  She was a bleached blonde, tanned beauty who looked more like Ms. Santa Monica than Ms. San Angelo.  Afterward we went to a restaurant for dinner with Harry’s family and friends.  She confided how the new Ms. SA had stretch marks and cottage cheese fat that looked awful up close, but weren’t visible in the audience.  Plus it didn’t seem fair that residency wasn’t a requirement; the winner was from Houston, an 8-hour drive away!

Harry dropped me off at Portia’s house with a kiss good night.  I floated in with hearts in my eyes.  I might have to rethink whether I’d accept the job, if I were offered it; San Angelo just got a lot more attractive.

**************

What a great memory!  Come back next week for the second half of this flashback.

Cheers!

Conner the Computer Geek, Pt. 3

Sunday 

2001-07-07-ryan-kids-me

2001: Brother Ryan, me, Jack, Sally. Look at their personalities shining through!

Sunday night, my friend Jose was in town from New York, visiting his parents.  Jose and I had been friends for years.  I had worked with his wife Kate, who didn’t come with him this trip; she planned to come down later in the month.  We had double dated when I was married, and even though I was now single and they had moved, we had kept in touch.

I asked Conner to come out with us to happy hour.  He wasn’t interested, so I decided it was just as well: Jose and I might reminisce, and Conner would be bored.

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This is part 3 of the Conner story.  I wrote most of it in 2002, while in the thrall of infatuation and added more just this week.  Can you tell the difference in styles?  Enjoy!

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We met at PF Chang’s China Bistro, one of my favorite restaurants.

“You look great!  So great to see you!  Order anything you want, I am picking up the tab,” he said.

I laughed and hugged him.  “It’s great to see you, too!”

We snacked on vegetarian dumplings while we discussed what was going on in our lives.

“Kate and I aren’t getting along very well,” he said.  “She doesn’t like the cold of New York, and complains that I mess up the kitchen, or I work too much, or I get in her way.”  He shrugged it off.  “We’ll get over it.  It’s just a rough time, that’s all.”

Then we talked on & off about Conner for the next three hours.  When I told him about the Circus Sex, Jose replied, “I call it Wild Jungle Monkey Love.”  I laughed!  Jose made monkey noises and I almost fell off my barstool!

After we had talked about Conner more seriously, Jose said, “I can see a twinkle in your eyes when you talk about him.  It’s like you light up.  I can tell he makes you happy.  That is bad ass.”

As the night went on and we got drunker, Jose wanted to meet the esteem Conner Jeffers, so we called him up.  He didn’t answer, so Jose decided to prank call him.  He left a message in a fake accent that went something like this, “Yo, this is Jose, and I’m here with your woman.”  Then he thought better of it, and said in his regular voice, “No, seriously, this is Jose, and we’re out having drinks.  We’d like you to join us, so call Julie’s cell phone, okay?  Bye.”

I laughed.  So much for a bad ass prank call!

“Hey, I don’t want this night to end.  Is there a bar where we can hang?” Jose asked.

I smiled.  “Sure!  We can drive down to the Strip,” I said, referring to Guadalupe Street, near the University of Texas at Austin campus.

We left my car at the restaurant, taking Jose’s truck to the Alamo Draft House, then walking to Trudy’s (south), and the Spider House.  The last is a coffee house; we went there to hang out for a while so that I could trust Jose to drive.  He’d had one of Trudy’s famous Mexican martinis and I wanted to make sure that he was ok.

Over cappuccinos, we discussed Neitche and Hitler’s interpretation of his work; it was very intellectual and I loved it.  Jose is working on his master’s degree in Chemistry, so he’s got a college student’s mind.  I’m an intellectual, too, and a college student part-time, so I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion.

“There is one thing that I don’t like so much about Conner,” I confided.  It was the somber, sober part of the night where I set aside my overwhelming infatuation and bring up the things that really bother me.  “He asked me to go shopping with him, you know, to help him pick out clothes.”

“That’s a girlfriend thing, alright!  One of the first things that Kate did was taking me shopping and then, later, throw out my ratty t-shirts,” Jose said with a grin.  “I miss my old Captain America t!”

I smiled back, thinly, and continued on with my serious thoughts.  “Sure, and I did the same thing with Alan, too.  I couldn’t WAIT to throw out his Hunting Beaver t-shirt.”

“WHAT?!  He really had a t-shirt that said…”  Jose broke off, laughing.

As I was thinking that we might need a second coffee to allow him more time to sober up, he cleared his throat and motioned for me to continue.  I said, “Lisa showed up and disagreed with everything I picked out.  I finally quit trying, because Conner sided with her and tried on every faded, second-hand-looking t-shirt that Lisa handed him.  He didn’t even TRY ON one of the shirts that I picked out.”

“Burn!  I mean, well, why did he invite you along at all, if he wasn’t going to listen to you?”  Jose said, puzzled.

“Right!  I don’t know!  I was completely useless.”  I pouted.  Then I noticed that patrons were leaving, and even though the place was open ‘til 2 a.m. (a good two hours away), the crowd was thinning.  “Well, I guess it’s time to say goodnight,” I said, yawning.  “Drive me back to my car?”

“If I must,” Jose said, winking.

We walked back to Jose’s truck.  Jose would drive me to PF Chang’s to get my car, then I’d drive home.  Under the moonlight, walking by friend, I was happy.  I had a good boyfriend, I had good friends, and it had been a wonderful evening.

Jose grabbed me and kissed me passionately.  I pushed him away.  He told me, “I’ve wanted you for a long time now.  Damn, you look good in those jeans.”  He grabbed me again.

“Jose, I’m with Conner.  I don’t want to do this.”  I avoided saying the obvious, that he was married.  And his wife was a really good friend of mine!

“I know, and I totally respect what you two have, and I wouldn’t want to ruin that.  I just want to eat you out.  I want to masturbate in the same room with you.”  Again, he tried to kiss me.

My mind was working overtime.  I could call a cab, but I didn’t have any cash to pay one.  I could walk back to Trudy’s and call somebody.  Damn, I wasn’t sure what street we were on!

I convinced Jose to get in the truck, and he kissed me again, and tried to get me to touch him.  I told him, “No, Jose, no more kisses.  Take me to my car.”  He pulled himself together.

“I am a rat bastard.”  I didn’t argue with him.  I just wanted to get back to my car and get home.  And probably take a hot shower, too, because I suddenly felt dirty.

“You put me in a precarious position.  What do I tell Conner?”  That phrase, over all the others, sobered him up.  Maybe he was wondering if I’d talk to Kate.

“You can’t tell him anything.  If you do, he’ll ask more questions, and suspect more than you’re telling him.  Don’t tell him anything.”  Jose said.

“But a relationship should be based on trust and truth, and I should be able to share everything with him.”  I said.  But would Conner think that I had led Jose on?  Would he?

We finally got to my car and I drove myself home.   When I got there, I called my best friend Renee.  “Oh My God!  Jose kissed me!”  I gave her a brief overview of how Jose had attacked me.  “Should I call Conner?  I don’t need to wake him up; he’s so busy with work; but will he get upset if I don’t tell him?!”

“Don’t call Conner.  He doesn’t need to hear it tonight.  We’ll talk tomorrow.”  I guess she didn’t realize that it was 12:30 a.m.

“Okay; sorry I woke you up!  Goodbye.”  I was a little calmer after talking to Renee, but I was still upset.

Later that day, after some restless sleep, I called Renee again.  She sagely advised me, “Don’t tell him.  Men want to fix things.  If you tell him, he’ll just try to fix it, and there’s nothing to fix.”

I pondered this, and realized that she was right.  What could Conner do, punch Jose?  Call him and chew him out?  That wouldn’t change anything or help anyone.  But even if I had decided to tell Conner, I didn’t have the chance.  He was so busy with work that I scarcely talked to him.  I didn’t see him for several days.

We talked on the phone occasionally, and on Thursday I told him, “Happy three weeks.”

“Has it been that long?” he said, with wonder in his voice.

“Ah, yes.  That’s good, right?  Time flies and all that?”  I answered, uncertain how to take his response.  “Would you like to make it three more?”

“We can try,” he said.

I wasn’t very optimistic.

That night Lisa and the gang got together for happy hour.  I saw Conner there, but he was distant.  He talked to me, but I didn’t feel like he heard me.  It was like talking to someone who was watching TV: I got answers, but I wasn’t sure if he’d remember the conversation later.  He answered every cell phone call that he got, interrupting our conversation and making me feel unimportant.  After two hours of talking to our friends and trying to talk to him, I got fed up and left.

He seemed almost relieved to see me go.  By way of apology (I suppose) told me, “I told you that when I’m in the game, I’m in the game.”  His mind was on business.  I had looked forward to seeing him for almost a week, and as a result of his behavior I was very disappointed and hurt.  He didn’t even walk me out.

His friend Troy held my hand longer than necessary.  He had hugged me closer & longer than necessary at the last happy hour, too, come to think of it.  At least someone was sorry to see me go.

On the drive home, I tried to make sense of it in my mind.  Then I ran a mile to get out the anger I felt.  I walked another mile.  I tried to sleep.  Then I did something I shouldn’t have done: I left a voicemail for him.  “Conner, your priorities seemed to be business first, friends second, Mike’s cat third, and then me.  I don’t appreciate it, ok?”  I hung up the phone, pouting.

Then I came to my senses.  Mike’s cat?!  Did I really just put his roommate’s cat on that list?!  Okay, that’s my fruitcake side talking!

But what I was I really angry about?  I didn’t feel like I was his friend.  On GNO night, he called Lisa, not me.  At happy hour, he leaned around me to ask Troy to help him come up with a business name.  I felt like less than a friend.  I felt like a fuck buddy.  But if that was all that he wanted, why did he say he wanted something more serious?

The next morning I called and apologized for leaving an angry voicemail.  But I didn’t talk to Conner; I talked to his voicemail again.  Later that day, to let him know that I was (more or less) over it, I left him a voicemail asking if he needed help with his work.  He hasn’t called me back.

And that, my friend, is how the story ends.  What started out as a fine romance has ended, as so many relationships do, without a climax.

Renee tells me that it’s not over yet.  She optimistically pointed out that he could still call me.  He may be working.  But if it is over, then I like to believe that all things do happen for a reason.  Conner did help me through a difficult period in my life.  I only hope that I gave him something in return, that he has fond memories of me as well.

Two Weeks Later

“Hey, Jules, this is Lisa,” she said over the phone.

I almost dropped it.  “Uh, hi?” I said, making it sound like a question, because I hadn’t expected to hear from her again.

“Hey, wondered if you wanted to get together and watch a movie?” she asked.  Her tone sounded forced, like she was trying really hard to be peppy and casual.

“Ok, sure?” I said, again making a statement into a question.  I mentally kicked myself.  “Which movie?  Where?”  Ok, I promised myself that I would make at least one statement—without a question mark—in this conversation.  Eventually.

“Well, if you’re ok with Conner joining us, we could meet at his place.  Mike might be there, too.  We’d just be some friends, getting together, hanging out,” she said, again with the casual tone.

“Uh, ok.  Conner’s place, sure,” I said, not really understanding where this conversation was going.

“Ok, I’ll text you the time.  Bye!” she said, and hung up.

I stared at the phone.  What was that?  We’re all going to be friends now?  FRIENDS?!  Conner hadn’t called me after my crazy voicemails.  I had talked to Lisa briefly, and she had made it clear that she didn’t want to be in the middle.  What had changed?  Did they miss me?  Ok, that’s reasonable, but why ask me to a movie at Conner’s house – why not meet a bar or some other neutral location?  I sure as hell wouldn’t invite an ex over to my house, if I wasn’t sure how it would go.

I shrugged.  I didn’t know, so I decided to go.  I dressed in a very casual t-shirt and blue jeans, with minimal makeup and no accessories, to go see my friends (?!).

Movies with Friends

“Hi!  So good to see you!” Lisa said, opening the door and hugging me warmly.

Surprised that she was opening the door to his house, and surprised that her greeting was so enthusiastic.

Conner sat on the couch, cautiously watching me.  “Hello?” he said, with just a touch of question in his voice.

“Hi!” I said, too brightly, infected by Lisa’s generous greeting.  “Which movies did you rent?”

“Comedies,” he said, handing me the boxes.  “Which one do you want to start with?”

Lisa handed me a glass of wine.

“Oh, thanks,” I said, a little surprised.  I chose a movie and handed it to Conner, “Why don’t we watch this one first?”

“Ok,” he said, and put it in the VCR.

We settled on the couch, with Lisa in the middle.  At some point, she got up to fill our glasses, then sat on the other end, forcing Conner to move closer to me.

“Well, I have to go!” Lisa declared.

I jumped at the sudden proclamation.  The movie had only been playing for 30 minutes or so.  “Really?” I asked.

“Yep.  See ya!” she smiled brightly at me, then left.

I stared at the door for a minute, wondering what that was all about.  Why invite me over, then take off?

Conner stretched out on the couch, lying down face down with his head in my lap, stretching his arms out like he was Superman.  “More room for me!” he said.

I laughed.  “What, so now I’m part of the couch?!”

He smiled up at me, and for a minute, it was like we were back to three weeks ago, before he had stopped calling me.  He sat up and reached for me, pulling me into a kiss.  I went with it; I had missed him so much.

When he started to pull up my shirt, I stopped him.  “Conner, what’s going on?  Did you invite me over to act like nothing happened?  Because, I’m pretty sure that we broke up.”

Dumbfounded, he stared a minute.  “We did.  I invited you over because I missed this,” he said, kissing my neck.  “We’re good together.”

I pulled away.  “Do you want to get back together?” I asked.  The whole situation was surreal; suddenly, he wanted me again?

“I didn’t say that.  I just wanted to—you know—have some fun,” he said.  “People do that after they break up, you know, hang out.”

It clicked; I got it.  “Fuck buddy.  You want me to be your fuck buddy,” I said.

He shrugged sheepishly, “Ya, and?”

“Not interested,” I said.  I grabbed my purse and was out the door before he could move.  Because I did miss his kisses; we were good together.  And if I had stayed, I may have caved.  I worked up a good anger; who the hell did he think he was?  Did he really think that I wanted to be his fuck buddy?! I have too much self-respect to be someone’s toy.  If Conner or anyone else wants me, he’ll have to take the whole, crazy, voicemail-leaving package.

Next!

Cheers!

Jules Rules

  1. I don’t do Friends with Benefits.  It’s all or nothing, buddy!
  2. If you’re out with a guy whom you are not dating, take your own car, if for no other reason than to avoid awkward rides like the one I had with Jose.
  3. You can leave one voicemail or text.  One.  Think carefully before leaving it, because you can’t take it back or erase it.  I know, from firsthand experience!  “Conner, just ignore the last two voicemails, ‘k?  Call me.”  (Shudder.  I’m embarrassed for the girl in this story.  Can we just pretend like she was someone else?  Like, Lulie or Kulie.)
  4. If the guy’s friend (male or female) is invited to almost every date, then you might want to ask yourself whether you’re willing to date both of them.  Lisa was great, but she kinda harshed my jam.  That is, she made me feel like a 3rd wheel, when she was the one without a date.  How wrong is that?!
  5. If a girl invites her friends to join you on a first date, it’s probably not going well.  If she talks to her girlfriend more than she talks to you, then it’s REALLY not going well!
  6. Married men should not hit on people other than their wives.  Period.
  7. If a person is going on and on about how wonderful her boyfriend is, then DO NOT HIT ON HER.  She is NOT going to fuck you!

Um, that last one – ok, the last two – should kinda go without saying, right?

Here’s to having a good time and a sexy romance, however short the time.  The rug burn and heart break was worth it.

Well, almost.

Cheers!

This was part 3 of the Conner Story, which I hope you enjoyed it!  Next week I’ve got another throwback story for you, from 2005: two engineers in love.  Expect puns and much nerdiness!