I picked my head up off the black leather chair, my legs still sprawled helter-skelter every-which-way around him, and I looked straight into his eyes and laughed. It was a laugh as much out of incredulousness that this moment was actually happening as much as it was out of sheer joy. Through my laugh, I found myself saying, “I love you too!”, even though it felt completely weird and alien to say. Not because I didn’t mean it—but precisely because I DID mean it. And the weight of the fact that it had been almost six years since I said those words hit me as soon as I heard them, in my voice, hanging in the air.
Six years of meeting people out at bars/getting set up/going “people shopping” online…
….going for drinks, perhaps drunkenly snogging at my door if things go well….
….waiting for a phone call…
….carrying on a flirtation….
….going out for dinners/movies/parties/more bars…
….maybe having sex, maybe not, maybe having sex on more than one occasion….
….maybe bringing a couple of friends into the fold to meet him and start whispering about him and what they think of him when he innocently gets up from the brunch table to go pee….
….wondering if this is going somewhere, wondering what my family would think of him….
….wondering how his last name would sound with my first name…
….getting annoyed that his apartment constantly smells like bongwater or that his ex who was “so not in the picture” most definitely “was” the whole time….
….and then things either fizzling out naturally or blowing up explosively and maybe I get a guilty bouquet of flowers out of the deal, maybe not.
“I love you too.”
It felt *great*.
I wanted to say it a hundred times to make up for lost time.
This was day #3 of Catalan Man’s trip to NYC.
All was going swimmingly, evidently.
Day #4, we get invited to my South African married friends Carmen and Gus’ place (Carmen is my pro-getting-married-for-the-green-card friend, if you’ve read that far back) for an inpromptu dinner party at their humungous place in Chinatown. The four of us are fairly big drinkers, so Catalan Man and I arrive with a bottle of wine each, but it didn’t turn out to be nearly enough. I think I was more nervous for Catalan Man’s first “meeting the friends” encounter than he was.
But I needn’t have worried; he handled himself beautifully. He was courteous, charming, and, impressively, witty (Carmen told him later, “We’re so impressed that you’re able to be funny in a different language; that’s not easy!”) and most definitely holding his own.
But I have to admit, it was also a bit awkward, at least for me in my annoyingly overanalytic mind. This was our first public “foray” as a couple. What kind of couple were we? Were we the obnoxiously cute couple, exchanging furtive glances and kisses and caresses in front of our hosts? Were we the “let it all hang out couple”, full of wine-fueled debate and one-upmanship (like Carmen and Gus, when they really get going)? Or the “secret couple” that semi-ignored each other until we got home and ripped each other’s clothes off?
After a gorgeous, elegant lamb stew for dinner, exotic curried chocolate for dessert, and copious amounts of wine and dope and cigs as after-dinner delights, I soon found out what kind of couple we were: the “independent couple”; ie, we’d check in with each other with our eyes from time to time, and we’d have some side conversations with each other here and there, but other than that, we were most certainly two separate entities, doing our own thing, standing our own ground, asserting our own personalities.
I guess I kinda wanted a little more nuzzling and affection, but if I had to have it one way over another, I much prefer the “independent couple” to the “hanging all over each other like one person is a horny dog and one person is an innocent leg couple”. And I had to try to see it from Catalan Man’s perspective: I’m sure he needed to assert his existence in my world as his own person, not JoJoDancer’s “Catalan Man” from afar; isn’t he cuuuuute? Plus we had spent every waking moment with each other up ‘til this point….perhaps we were subconsciously just needing a little space. And perhaps I was guilty of it too.
All was fine until Catalan Man started dissing on my boots---the white faux-fur-trimmed ones with platform rubber soles and furry pompoms hanging from the tops. He laughed dismissively at them and indicated how useless and silly the pompoms were.
Visions came back in my head of my long-ago Cuban advertising executive boyfriend, who would tut-tut at me whenever I got a “wacky” idea or started acting too “silly”. It used to drive me absolutely batty.
So I wasn’t about to let this go without a fight.
I got up and pranced around, letting the pompoms bounce around gaily, much to Carmen and Gus’ delight (and relief---Carmen told me later that she and Gus gossiped about the “boots incident” after we left, and they both agreed that those boots were me, and if Catalan Man dissed on the boots, he was, in essence, dissing on me), and I asserted that just because something is useless doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its own value.
He eventually begrudgingly agreed and later I snapped a photo of him with the pompoms dangling from his mouth. All was well.
Catalan Man + Pompoms = Beautiful Friendship.
Some more frustration came when he started to make me beg for any little thing I asked of him (a cig, for him to pass me the wine, etc)---his idea of being playful; my idea of being obnoxious---and to keep the peace, I’d usually be the one to capitulate, which is decidedly not in my nature.
Even so, the rest of the night was lovely and we left in good spirits, thanked Carmen and Gus for a great time, and once we got in the cab, I yelled at him for making me lose face repeatedly in front of my friends; why can’t you just be a loving boyfriend and give me what I want?!
He apologized, we came to an agreement, we went to Angel Share (a gorgeous, candlelit bar that you have to walk through a shabby Korean BBQ place to get to), drank and nuzzled the rest of the night, walked home (him giggling at my pompoms with every step; a giggle that still makes me crack up to this day), and then promptly passed out on my bed; Catalan Man’s final words of the evening being (in a thick, slurred Catalan accent), “I think I drank too much!”
Not to nitpick. That was actually the only real “rough patch” in the 10 day trip, and easily gotten over. The rest of the time was fabulous---he took me to a insanely romantic dinner at The River Café, we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, went to the MoMA and made fun of all the student groups roaming around and trying to say “deep” things about each piece, lost our shirts in Atlantic City, went jogging in the completely deserted, snow-covered track by Ave D, went sex store shopping (his new glow-in-the-dark cockring proved to be a good investment), and fell in love. Not bad for 10 days.
Our last night together, we laid in bed, trying to avoid talking about the fact that it WAS our last night together (we had been dreading this night almost as soon as the trip began). We had skirted around the issue of dating other people and had promised to talk about it seriously at some point. The “at some point” was now.
We both agreed that while we didn’t like the idea of the other person tomcattin’ around with someone else in their respective city, we also didn’t like the idea of insisting the other person stay monogamous---I think both Catalan Man and I can have a recreational attitude towards sex, and just because you hook up with someone else, it doesn’t mean that feelings have diminished where they count. But we both agreed that we’d be totally, 100% honest with each other in our feelings with each other (except when we’re feeling gassy. We could probably be OK without discussing that), as that’s the only way this thing can work from afar.
But strangely enough, as I walk around this city and emit an “I’m In Love!” vibe (and therefore tend to get more appreciative looks from hot guys), I, in the immortal words of the love god himself, George Michael, “Don’t Want [His] Freedom”.
Now the only question is this: as he knows the URL for this column, and as I promised you, loyal readers, that I’d be 100% open and honest with my life, do I continue to write it? Do I risk the fact that one day, even though I can’t imagine it now, I may have a date with someone else, and therefore be forced to tell him about it and screw up everything? Or is that normal and healthy to let each other know we have our own lives?
Help me, O-B-1 Loyal Readers. You’re my only hope.