I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
I don’t remember exactly which website it was, but I do recall how intriguing I found her profile. She was personable and more importantly, could handle my adolescent humor that I like to believe is so charming. We exchanged emails and eventually moved on to texting. After a few hours she confessed that she wasn’t from Chicago but had changed the location on her profile because she was in town from upstate New York on business for a couple weeks. I asked her what it was that she was looking for and she said something a little more casual since she would be leaving soon.
We met at a Starbucks close to where she was working. It was a seasonably warm afternoon and I rode my bike so it made for an awkward and slightly damp hug. I was running late and she was already half way through one of those disgusting Starbucks sandwiches they warm up in that little oven that makes the place stink like straight cancer. I got my usual cup of decaf and sat down and started in with the “getting to know you” questions that I have recited so many times. Her responses were short, almost to the point of disinterest. I did my best to keep up the conversation but it felt like the most awkward interview of all time. I mean, I had been on plenty of rough dates in the past and had my eject move down to a science but she she seemed so interested over text that I found it odd. Maybe I wasn’t what she was expecting. While you can easily establish physical attraction with a few strategic pictures, it is significantly more difficult to determine compatibility until you hear the inflections in someone’s voice. To see their enthusiasm and read their initial responses. The pictures we use are in the best light with the most flattering angles because we like to give off the best impression. I thought maybe I gave off the wrong impression. Maybe I was too damp. Maybe my jokes about her cancer sandwich fell flat. But just as I started to doubt myself she said, “Hey, do you want to see the hotel I’m working with?”
We stepped outside and headed east on Division. I try to not ask people what they do for a living in the beginning because I don’t like to have my perception subconsciously skewed by what they do to put food on their table but I was curious at to what I was getting myself into.
“So if you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing here?”
“Well I’m a consultant for hotels.”
“Consultant” usually means they do well for themselves and from her over-priced Chanel flats, I could assume as much.
“Basically I’m here to make sure the launch of this new boutique hotel goes smoothly then I will be on to the next project.” She said as she unlocked a side door of the building.
We walked up the back service stairs until we got to a security door.
“Okay, you have to be quiet and walk fast through this hallway until we get to the guest elevator.”
It felt like some secret mission, but then I remembered we were adults. Well, at least one professional woman and a slightly sweaty grown boy who rode his bike to a first date.
I fast walked my way to the elevator and she hopped in behind me looking down the hall making sure no one saw us. She pushed a button and we rode up to the 15th floor. The doors opened, she popped her head out of the doors and looked left and right and said, “Okay, follow me.”
We fast walked to a door where she pulled a key card from her front pocket and unlocked the door. Clearly she had thought ahead. We walked in and the room was immaculate and dressed in all white. I felt like I should take off my shoes and go take a shower before I chose a place to sit down, that was until she sat down on the bed and told me to come sit next to her.
We had amazing sex. The kind that made me want to try to convince her to stay in Chicago a little longer. And afterward, as I washed up and baptized the pristine white sink with my genitals, I thought maybe we could stay in touch. Sex or no sex, she seemed a fun and adventurous and you can’t have enough of those kinds of people in your life. Maybe I would be able to break down that icy demeanor.
I walked back into the room and she was already dressed with her purse on her shoulder and her head out of the door looking down the hallway. “Okay, follow me.”
I paused for a beat and thought, oh, I had a few more questions to ask her. I wanted to see if she would be into the idea of grabbing coffee again in a few days but I guess we we’re leaving.
We shuffled down the hallway to the elevator, to the back service stairs, and to the side door. I walked through and she stayed behind, holding on to the frame, leaning forward – her long blonde hair dangling down in front of her.
“You know your way back, right?”
“Okay, well thank you again.”
Without waiting for a response or a goodbye hug, the security door closed behind her.
I walked back down Division to where my bike was locked up against the stop sign. I rode home thinking, so this is what it feels like. I guess I was just under the impression that we would at least hang out a bit. I mean, I was under no false pretense that it would be anything more significant – she was, after-all, leaving in two weeks. She did tell me that she wanted something a little more casual but I just didn’t expect to feel so… used.
Okay, sure. I know women go through this more often than I realize and whoa is the poor little guy who finally felt the way he left plenty of women in his past, but it was that first time was a little heavy. I know, suck it up, Chris. People go through this all the time, but as I rode through the red lights back up Clark Street, I told myself to remember what this felt like. To smell the disappointment and the deflating blow of crushed expectation. The truth was, she didn’t care about my writing or my travels or accomplishments. She didn’t care about my struggles and victories, all she wanted was to use me for an afternoon. And sure, I was more than happy to oblige but it almost felt like a service. Like I should have been handed a receipt as I walked out of the side door.
I have had one-night stands since, and after I finish and feel the urge to jump ship, I remind myself to stick around for a little bit. Even if we agreed that it would be light and casual, I guess I just don’t want to leave someone feeling like they were a customer or a transaction. While it might not be my job to fix everyone or babysit the feelings of strangers, I just remember the dismissive “thank you” from that women whose name I never got. And sure, I guess I technically don’t have any obligations to anyone but myself – but like I have always said, your character is judged upon what you put back out into this world and I guess I just don’t like the idea of knowing I left someone feeling disappointed with their interaction. One-night stand or marriage, it’s about feeling good about our investment. That our time meant something. And your character is how well you hold up the end of your bargain.