A year ago today, I walked into the theater. Did I walk behind you, or in front? I can’t remember.
I was wearing that simple, sleeveless black dress, the one with the high neckline and the flouncy skirt. Boots and tights and a light purple cardigan looked nice. My crystal wand, strung on a necklace, dangled just below my breasts. I like to think I wear it to look cool, but I actually wear it because the quartz and amethyst calm me down, and the glass and metal binding them feels cool to my palm when I start to be too anxious. That night my nerves were aflame. It was our first real date.
Only a few weeks before, I’d experienced the panic of finding that a casual acquaintance was actually a kindred spirit. We listened to Neutral Milk Hotel and leaned against each other as we sang along to every word. On the way home that night, after hours of drinks and conversation and laughter, I looked out over the city skyline from the back of Wheels’ car and realized that my hand felt funny. I looked down, and saw with not a small amount of shock that your fingers and mine were intertwined. Like they were supposed to be that way. Like it was OK. It was not OK. But I did not remove my hand, any more than I told you that it was wrong, that I was not yours to touch. I just let my mind linger on the sparks that flew between our fingers. It needed the energy.
But that was before a year ago today, and before anyone is invited into the story. Let us fast-forward back to the intended beginning.
We walked into the theater. I think maybe I was in front. Did we stop so you could smoke a cigarette first? The black dress and purple sweater and boots were a good choice. I felt hip and sophisticated. I felt like we matched. What did you wear? Probably your black hoodie. And those amazing Union Jack Doc Martens, the ones you wore the week before at the comedy show.
Oh man, the comedy show. It could have been a date, had I not attended with Wheels (who did not tell me that you were coming, by the way). I saw you and your friends hanging out before the show, and instead of walking to your table to say hi, I made a beeline for the bar. I was still there, back to your table, waiting for my drink and rehearsing the proper nonchalant opening line when you walked up behind me. Don’t worry, you said, I had to take a Xanax. I laughed, and was immediately OK.
I think that was the last time I felt truly anxious around you. From then on, your presence has set me at ease. Just the sight of you makes me take a deep breath, unknots stubborn solid muscles in my neck, gives me the urge to let a smile scrape its way past my scowl. A year ago today, walking into the theater with you, there was just one thing that kept buzzing around in my mind, though – we hadn’t kissed yet. When would that be? What would that be like? Would it be tonight? I felt like a teenager again.
I can’t remember the shoes, the coat, the first cigarette. I can’t remember what we were drinking, though I’m relatively sure that you had a Jameson and water, and I had a Jameson on the rocks. We’re so predictable. I remember the balcony. We were sitting way up high, almost at the very top, so that we could step over the backs of our chairs and into the balcony bar area (so handy, we said). The people sitting just to the right of you were a mother and her teenage son. This is only important because of how annoyed she got with us after we talked all the way through the first act, and into the headliner, Broken Bells. We couldn’t stop talking! We still can’t.
As soon as we sat down, drinks in hand, I started to feel self-conscious. What next? We’d held hands that one time, but ever since then, we’d played it by the book. I hadn’t wanted to cheat on my boyfriend, and I especially didn’t want you involved in any kind of drama of that sort. I just wanted out of that relationship, and was simultaneously realizing that, even though it was completely idiotic and totally not the right timing, I also wanted in on you. Badly.
So now, three weeks after attending one concert as friends, we sat in a different part of the same theater, at a different concert, nursing the same drinks, thinking about becoming lovers. In my memory, it’s the longest three weeks in the history of the world. I used it to end a long relationship, figure out where to live, and listen the Spotify playlist you made for me overandoverandoverandover. Dry the River, The Nationals, Amanda Palmer, †††, Chvrches…
At the time, though, this night seemed much longer than those three weeks had – mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to get you to hold my hand again.
I tried to remember how holding hands had happened as a kid. What do middle school girls do when they want their crushes to grab their sweaty little palms and caress them skill-lessly? We talked, the band played, and my mind wrapped itself around this conundrum. Your hands stayed firmly on your own lap, well away from me. It started to feel like some kind of statement, one I wasn’t keen on letting stand. Finally I decided it was now or never. I put my hand on my knee, then slid it down my leg a bit until the pinkie finger side of my hand was touching your leg. At first, nothing happened. Nothing. You drank your drink, I drank mine, my hand lingered awkwardly between our thighs, fingertips enjoying the subtle prickling of a few stray leg hairs as they poked through my tights. I’ll be so glad when they perfect laser hair removal.
At last, you shifted a bit and placed your hand next to mine, fingers dancing over mine ever so softly. There it was. The electricity from that night in the car. Then we were listening to music and letting our hands explore each other. It was PG, but also intimate. Every time you caressed my palm with your thumb, shivers ran up and down my spine.
That’s probably why the transition from holding hands to kissing was so subtle. I used our tangled fingers as an excuse to snuggle closer to you in those uncomfortable wooden theater seats, leaning my head on your shoulder and breathing in deep. Can I tell you one more time just how amazing it is to love the very smell of a person, sans stupid colognes and body sprays and stinky deodorants, just plain old deliciously-scented masculinity? I had to kiss you. And I did.
A year ago today, we went to see Broken Bells play at the Civic Theater. I didn’t know who they were before we went to the show – I just said yes because you were going to be there. But you knew that. The show was good, but honestly I don’t remember all that much. Because once we start talking, we can’t stop, and once we start kissing, that’s all we ever want to do. I’m fine with that.