When I tend to think about myself, I tend to think that I am okay. My hair is fairly soft, and I have very tiny hands. I don’t necessarily imagine men fantasize about me, but maybe they fantasize about me in certain situations. I can make a good, hearty chili, for example, and my oven-baked layered nachos have been called “better than those at Applebee’s.” Sometimes on Sundays I watch football, and while I don’t fart, I can handle a man who does. I once spent six hours in a car beside a man who did, off and on the entire way, and I made it out of there pretty okay.
This is all to say: I think I am a pretty good catch. If you were to put me in a line with ten other women, I like to think I would be among the top five. If you let the judges smell me, I would make the top three. I have been told, on several occasions, that my scent can be “suffocating” in a way that is good. I know because I asked, because that adjective can go both ways.
So when I went to the party the other night, I imagined I would have a good time. Maybe I would do some flirting, and I most certainly would do some dancing. I didn’t know how to flirt, but I knew it involved laughing at things that were said and leaning in close, pretending I hadn’t heard a man who spoke perfectly clearly. I knew it was important to talk quietly, too, so he couldn’t really hear me, and then he would have to lean in, and that’s when he would smell my fancy papaya-mango soap.
I had been single at that point for some time then for no good reason, as far as I could tell, and what with summer quickly approaching, I was in need of a good spider-killer. The bugs crawl under the crack beneath my door and sometimes I find them in my kitchen in the morning, quarter-sized and dark. They move fast, these spiders, and there’s only so many I can put in my vacuum before it’s full and I’m too scared to unload it. I have Googled, on several occasions, Can spiders survive a vacuum’s suction and Can spiders survive coated in dust and I can’t tell you what it said, because of the photos that got loaded, but it didn’t look too good for me.
My friend who threw the party had a house on the corner of town. She strung a line of neon Christmas lights and hung a disco ball, and the idea was that we were all to get very drunk and then begin to dance. I didn’t like dancing, but knew I could lure a man in much easier by gyrating my hips than with conversation on a couch. I was all about efficiency.
The basement had a make-out room, too—a division furnished with a shower curtain hung along a rod along a doorframe. There were red Christmas lights inside and when my friend first pulled back the curtain, she said she doubted anyone would use the room, but if they wanted to, there it was.
“Because it’s the worst when they do it on the dance floor,” she said, and it seemed a logical argument.
I brought two bottles of wine with me to this party, one for me and one for the sort of man who looked unafraid of bugs, and it was as much a test as anything else because if he partook in the wine then it meant maybe he offered other talents, as well. For example: I always thought it would be handy to have someone around who knew how to make a quality red sauce. I like spaghetti quite a bit, especially when paired with wine, and in the simplest terms it seems a safe bet that a man who drinks wine is a good, good man.
But the problem with the party presented itself immediately: it was full with people I already knew. I hadn’t slept with these people for a handful of good reasons, or I had slept with them and I didn’t wish to sleep with them again. There were two who I had slept with and who had slept with me and who did not wish to sleep with me again, for reasons I find unfathomable, but they would be taken care of when they saw me go into the make-out room with a man with very strong forearms.
The friend who owned the house did have a friend, however, one I didn’t know, and she told me in the kitchen that he built houses for a living.
“A construction worker?” I asked, because that seemed not only promising but sexy.
“Habitat for Humanity,” she said, and that was all she needed to say. A man who builds homes for people who do not have them was as good as gold, and plus I bet he’d feel heavy and strong as he pressed against me, smelling my suffocation.
It was all very promising.
So I went up to the man and said hello. Then I disappeared into the bathroom like planned so my friend could tell him I found him attractive.
When I came back, he was smirking at me, so we finished our drinks and went to the basement. No one else was drunk yet, so we danced alone for a good long while. There was one other person down there—a girl who looked lost—but she went upstairs after a while and it was just the two of us.
“This is the make-out room,” I said, pulling the curtain back as if it was something of my construction.“This is where the people go to make-out.”
He smiled at me, and when it felt good and weird, I pulled the curtain closed again and we resumed dancing. Michael Jackson came on and then Tina Turner, and when R. Kelly’s “Ignition” began to play, I resigned myself to the fact that he would not be coming home with me at all but instead I would have to buy a new vacuum.
Instead, the man put his hands on my hips sort of weirdly, and I pressed my body into his in a way I would later describe to friends as “ballsy.” I pushed him against the wall and put my own hands along his torso, and he was a good kisser, this one. The grip was good—the lip grip—and it seemed likely he could do many things, not the least of which was help a nice girl out with some stinking bugs.
“In here?” he asked, and I let him lead me into the make-out room as if it had been his idea all along. We kissed and kissed and it was beginning to feel good—not scary anymore or helpful but really just pretty darn good. The curtain was open and the only thing I wanted was for someone to come down to see us, maybe one of those guys for whom my affection was not returned, but either way I was pretty happy and either way I was being a really big fucking badass.
I felt his hands go lower and lower so I said, “Should we go?” and he said, “No.” I wasn’t certain I was the type of person to hook up in someone’s basement, even though I always wanted to be that type of person, but his hands kept going lower and I decided it couldn’t hurt to try. He lifted my dress and put his lips against me, and then I felt not awesome but kind of creepy, kind of like a little too easy.
The thing about all of this, I should say, is that generally I’m really into it. Really. Like I said, I am a woman of the twenty-first century, and among the many things I do, I take pleasure in taking pleasure. But this was all wrong, all of it, because this man did not know my name and I did not know his name and if he was to stand in my kitchen and make me red sauce, how in the world would we communicate? Or that’s not what it was about at all—not really, anyway—and instead what it was about was that this man did not know me and he was going down on me anyway, regardless, with a fair amount of fervor. His eagerness and relaxed demeanor suggested this was something he did often, like how a person can untangle a necklace while watching television.
“Um?” I said, because to be in that situation is to not know what to say. “Um,” I said, and then again, “Um?”
“I just want to do this,” he said, and then for no good reason that I can see, I pushed him away and pulled down my dress. I said something coy and smiled real big, then went upstairs and when he joined me on the couch I looked over again and smiled. I gave him this impression like we would resume everything later, and I tried to will myself to do it, thinking, Spiders and strong men and houses, but that still didn’t stop me when twenty minutes later I got up for a drink and never came back. I walked myself home and whacked a spider with a Wiffle ball bat.
I felt guilty and mean, and when I retell the story to friends, I feel guiltier and meaner with each new telling. They laugh and call me a badass, say, “That’s a really badass story,” but really it just feels cruel. And worse yet, the guilt is not the good kind, because what kind of liberated women turns down anonymous oral sex? What kind of reasonably-average women leaves a cute, strong man waiting? He builds houses, for fuck’s sake.
But there are people we want to be and the people we are. And when I next saw my friend, she said the man was hurt, and that he’d really liked me, and that he told her that the next morning over breakfast, which he made.
“Omelets,” she said, “with gruyere and sautéed mushrooms.”
Summer did come, and the spiders came, too, each one bigger and faster than the last. But I am a girl of the twenty-first century, and now I own a Hoover, and last month that guy went down on me, and what the fuck ever, I seriously don’t know.
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