Saturday, May 8, 2010

5. Perfect

I rounded the corner onto Metropolitan. My heart was beating so fast I thought I was going to choke on it. Screw butterflies—it felt more like 14 hummingbirds were throwing a party around a cape honeysuckle shrub that was the pit of my stomach. Awesome.
Cayden had texted me two minutes earlier saying he had just exited the L train, so to start heading that way and we'd run into each other. He was with his two mates, Topher and Drew. So I brought my "mates," Lea and Christian. I tried to gather a group of girls to make sure everyone had a good time, but it was Sunday night and everyone was still recovering from last night's Independence Day festivities. It took a little convincing to get Lea to come out, because she had to wake up for work at the ass crack of dawn. Christian came willingly. The only problem: Christian is a boy. Oh well, at least the numbers were even.
"Do you see them yet?" Lea asked.
I studied the faces of everyone walking toward us. Dirty musician-types with scraggly facial hair, girls with oversized sunglasses with headbands and cowboy boots, even though it was 9 pm and at least 75 degrees outside. Then I had an awful thought. What if he's not half as cute as I remember? It was pretty dark in the bar. And I'm sure that accent added attraction points. But then I had to remind myself, I kicked his ass before I heard his accent, and I was only under the influence of one rum and diet.
"Right there." I spotted them. I spotted him. The hummingbirds starting reproducing.
He was just as tall, tan, and handsome as I remembered. He caught my eyes and smiled.
This is where I need to pause to tell you I'm not one of the girls who goes goo-goo-gaga when a good-looking guy is around. When a girl says she "melted" or her heart stopped when she saw someone or anything cheesy like that, I stick my finger down my throat and pretend to dry heave. But I can't think of a better word to describe the effect his smile had on me.
He was wearing jeans and a white shirt, and looked even better than he looked the other night in his black pants and striped button down. I walked a little faster, and he did, too, until we were finally face to face again. He wrapped his arms around my waist as my arms encircled his neck. I breathed in his cologne as we were cheek to cheek. It brought me back to two nights ago. I wanted to ask what cologne he was wearing, but that sounded like a cheesy pick-up line.
After a round of introductions, we headed down Metropolitan to Spuyten Duyvil, a neighborhood bar known for its Belgian brews. I chose SD for the backyard, complete with antique patio furniture and twinkle lights. The weather was perfect for outdoor drinking. He walked with his hand on my lower back, Lea and Christian leading the way, Topher and Drew trailing behind. I could tell that's how it was going to be all night.
We got to the bar and Cayden bought me a beer. I'm usually a Bud Light drinker, so I told him to surprise me. Once we all had drinks in hand, we headed toward the patio.
"The patio is actually closing in 10 minutes," a waiter told us as we were about to step outside.
So much for my romantic night under the twinkle lights.
We grabbed a table near the front of the bar. The mismatched chairs and tables give the place a certain charm. But the lack of air conditioning, and any air circulation for that matter, took away from it. I sat at one end of the table, Cayden on my left, Drew on my right. Lea sat on the other side of Cayden, across from Topher, with Christian at the head of the table across from me. Seemed like a decent set up for optimum conversation flow. Cayden put his hand on my thigh under the table and I couldn't stop the smile that spread across my face. I knew if I got into a conversation with Cayden, the rest of the world would disappear again, and everyone would just feel awkward. So I tried to strike up a conversation with Drew and Topher. You can learn a lot about a guy by the crowd he hangs with. But I didn't learn a thing. I could only think about his hand on my leg. He squeeze it a little when he laughed in his conversation. I kept sneaking peeks at him because I wanted to watch his animated expression as he talked to my friends.
I felt a drip of sweat roll down my back. It was hot. So hot. I was suddenly very thankful I changed out of my jeans and into my white shorts last minute. But what if he touched my back again?
"Well, I think we're going to head out." Lea and Christian pushed their chairs back and started shaking hands with Cayden and his friends.
"I think we're going to head back to the hotel now, too," Drew said as he and Topher stood up as well. It was clear everyone had only come so Cayden and I could see each other. So now they were free to go. I panicked, thinking Cayden would leave with them, but he stayed planted in his chair, and his hand didn't leave my thigh.
Finally it was just me and him.
"I can't tell you how happy I was when you called." Something about the way he said it made me believe he was 100 percent genuine. For some reason, everything he'd said the other night sounded genuine as well. I'm usually pretty pessimistic and untrusting when it comes to meeting guys as bars. Actually when it comes to guys in general. They're usually all full of shit.
We started talking. We talked about NYC (he loved it; I only moved there because it was the only place that offered me a job), about our careers (me, an editorial assistant at a national leading women's magazine; him, a manager for a charity that hosts homeless shelters in London), and, finally, about how it was so god damn hot in there we could hardly breathe.
"Let's grab a 6-pack and go to my roof," I suggested.
"That sounds absolutely perfect."
He took my hand in his, and I was immediately thankful he didn't go for my back. My shirt was stuck to my skin, damp with sweat. That's so not cute.
We stopped at the bodega on the corner, and he grabbed a 6-pack of Leffe. I'd never had it, but I was up for trying new things. We walked the next two blocks back to my place without a pause in conversation. We got to my front door and I lead him four flights up, straight to the roof. His eyes lit up like a teenage boy in an adult video store. He walked to the railing, and for the first time all night, we were silent. He was in awe. It's a breathtaking view, yes, but I was used to it by now. So instead of enjoying the view with him, I watched him out of the corner of my eye. It was like he was trying to memorize every inch of what he saw so he could close his eyes at any time and be right back there. Back there on my roof, overlooking Manhattan, lit up in all its glory. The Empire State Building was still lit up red, white, and blue. While he was having his moment, I scooted two heavy wrought iron chairs to the railing and popped open two beers.
The first sip of beer tasted like honey. It was sweet and spicy and delicious. I knew I'd never enjoy Bud Light again.
We got back to talking, about anything and everything. There wasn't a topic we didn't broach. He learned about me, while I learned about him. He was 26, I was 23. He'd spent six years in the Royal Air Force. I'd spent four years studying journalism at a Big 12 university. We talked and talked and talked and talked, all the while, the stars lit our faces. Usually when I meet a guy, there's an awkward silence every now and then, and that's when someone usually initiates the kiss. That's just how it goes for me. Not true with Cayden. There wasn't one awkward silence. So he'd lean over and kiss me in the middle of a sentence and pick up where he left off. I'd never connected with anyone like this. It was a longer conversation than I'd had with most of my close friends, and all of my past boyfriends. It was deep, it was light, it was serious, it was funny. By the time we'd exhausted the whole range of emotions, the sun was coming up behind us. How could it possibly be morning?? We'd each only killed two beers. Our mouths were too busy talking and kissing, we forgot to drink. It's very rare that I forget to drink. I'm just throwing that out there.
Everything was perfect. I didn't want the night to end. He's perfect, the night was perfect. The stars, the conversation, the Empire State Building, the sunrise, his lips. I'd never experience a night like that again with anyone else. I knew that deep down to be true. I wanted to beg the sun to go back down, give me another few hours with Cayden. If the sun was up, that meant he'd be getting on a plane that day, going back to London. Before he left, I had to know what it was like to have him in my bed. To lie on his chest while I fell asleep. And let's be honest, I was dying to know if he looked as perfect without all that clothing.
"So... you can stay the night. But we're ONLY making out."
"That's fine by me."
I led him down the stairway and into my apartment. I pointed him to my room while I took off for the bathroom to assess the situation.
I stared at myself in the mirror. My long curly hair was piled on top of my head ala messy bun, and my face looked a little red. Not sure if I was flushed or wind blown. I quickly brushed my teeth and washed my face (Didn't want to lose any more lashes), took out my contacts and then gave myself a pep talk in the mirror.
"Whitney, Yes, you have a beautiful boy in your bed, but that doesn't mean you have to have sex with him. You've never had a one-night stand, and you're proud of that. Why ruin that now? He's leaving tomorrow anyway, you'll probably never see him again. But then again, he IS leaving tomorrow... and maybe I won't see him again..."
A devilish smile crossed my face.

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