When those letters to Penthouse start out "I never thought that this would happen to me", I always thought that they showed a distinct lack of imagination or self esteem. Honestly, I'd expected or hoped for this particular knock on the door for quite a while. Still, I never thought that this would happen to me. At least not this way.
When I opened the door, she stood there with a bottle of wine and two glasses in one hand, the ever present sketch book in the other. "You want to talk?". I turned off the CD player and locked the door behind me.
We walked down the steps and sat in the grass, saying nothing, both trying to make sense of what we'd just done. I took the wine from her and poured it as we made small talk: "How have you been doing?", "How is work?", all while looking for the real communication in how our bodies reacted.
She opened her sketch book and started drawing something; knowing it was better that I didn't see what, I picked up a glass and sipped, waiting in silence.
Her pencil moved rapidly across the paper, making hissing noises as she drew some demon, or flower, or person for that matter. I never could make sense of the images and how they related to her. I supposed now that it didn't matter.
The pencil stopped, suddenly, as though something was at the surface but not quite ready to break through. I leaned back in the grass and said "And?".
She took a deep breath. "I'm moving in with Mark."
Somewhere in me this struck a chord, but, thinking I was beyond that, I replied "That's hardly unexpected."
"So why don't I feel good about it."
I laughed, almost mockingly. "If I could tell you that, you'd be moving in with me." She closed up the pad and lifted her glass. I continued: "I can name several reasons...."
She interrupted: "Do you find me attractive?"
"No," I thought, "I've just foolishly devoted the last 8 months or so of my life to trying to impress you and capture your heart in some manner, and if this evening continues, I'm probably going to do the same thing for another 8 months." In keeping with the way we communicated, I responded with a carefully planned sentence, something like: "I think you're an incredibly interesting person."
"No, I mean physically."
Actually, she was as close to my ideal as I'd ever met. I answered as honestly as I could: "That isn't what matters to me." Of course I had a lot with which to back this statement up, but even if I couldn't see it then, we both knew it was a lie.
On the other hand, she had attracted my interest as soon as I'd seen her, and kept running back and forth across my life in the strangest places. I'd come off a climb, she'd be bouldering around the bottom; I'd be 50 miles away, mildly stoned after a day of whitewater and singing around a camp fire, she'd wander in with a guitar. Of course she managed to attract every one else's interest too, and my friends had started to refer to her as my girlfriend, even though she was obviously dating others.
"That's why I like Mark, he knows I need to feel needed physically."
I didn't have an answer. We sat, for a while, neither speaking, both slowly sipping our wine and pretending interest in things that weren't there.
She broke the silence: "So, where are you?"
I pointed to a blade of grass that I'd been focusing on. "See that bend there? And how the grass is ridged lengthwise? About the third ridge from the left on the bend. Surely as an artist you'd see that."
She leaned close as if to see, then said quietly: "That's not what I meant."
I smiled that sad smile and replied "I know."
"So why the lack of reaction? What have you done?"
"I gave you up three months ago."
"Yeah, right. And then moved in to the apartment below mine. Somehow I refuse to believe that that was just to improve apartments."
Since she put it like that, I could see her point. "Yeah. But since when has that been one sided... or is that why we're out here."
It was growing dark, but I didn't notice it until she spoke next, her tone a complete change from the conversation. "You don't look like Tom Cruise or Mel Gibson. You aren't the world's greatest housekeeper..."
"No", I paused. "I'm a lousy housekeeper. So what else is wrong with me."
"You aren't physically agressive sexually."
I'm sure that whatever mask of a face I was wearing at that point totally disappeared, and for a brief short moment, we both saw utter confusion and honesty.
She saw my question and continued. "That's what Mark does for me. He never mentions my abilities or interests. I'm beautiful, and that makes him agressive."
"So it's a power thing?"
"Maybe. But isn't it that way with us? You don't miss that much."
"You mean the way all of our sentences are carefully plotted out? That we pause before we speak, but rarely ever stutter when talking with each other?" I paused. "So, who's really in control?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you've managed to warp my life for the past year or so, while now you're confiding in me on the eve of moving in with your boyfriend. Which one of us is in control."
I let a long pause go by before I continued. "An author once wrote that a woman likes to be wanted but needs to be needed."
"That's true." She took a breath. "And that's part of the physical agression thing. My control comes from the fact that a man needs me in a primal sense. You don't."
"And that's where Mark is different."
"Yes. I want a man to grab me, throw me against a wall and kiss me. I'd like all of those other things, like a friend and a climbing partner and all, but they aren't my primary concern."
The night went on, we finished the wine and eventually lapsed in to a long silence, probably twenty or thirty minutes of thinking. Finally, I said "So what are you waiting for?"
"You. And what are you waiting for?"
"Waiting for you to say 'let's go in'."
"Is that all?"
"Yes." I picked up the glasses and stood up, offering her a hand. We stopped by my apartment door. For a moment I considered grabbing her, throwing her roughly against the wall and kissing her, but I settled for handing her the wineglasses, saying a quiet "Good night" and stepping back.
As I watched her back retreat up the stairs I cleared my throat. She said "Don't make me look back or I'll turn in to a pillar of salt." Not knowing what I'd done, I turned to my door and let myself in.