The Addict and Me, Part IV
Never Trust a Sailor on Dry Land
Back to the romance, as it were.
We arrived in town. I was smitten. S. stood in the blazing sunlight outside the bus station in his suit jacket and jeans, a cigarette dangling, backpack slung to one side, joking with his mom on his cell, smoky blue shades over his brown eyes, just the right combination of urbane and offbeat.
Mom held court at a local coffee house and we went to meet her there.
She got up from her table that held a small pile of Smithsonian’s and newspapers and other journals. She took off her reading glasses and gave me a warm hug. I liked her immediately. Mom was lively and chatty and I watched as S. brought his energy up to match hers. But she was a mountain stream in spring, a freight on the open rails; she kept rolling. S. began to flail his hands in agitation as he tried vainly to interject. I instinctively reached my hands across the table to hold his, to calm him. His mother had about a hundred suggestions on what we should do. I hadn’t eaten anything but a scrap of a donut for about six or seven hours and was famished. This brought approbation from her. What was S. doing? Here his guest was about to faint from hunger. Mom described a few places nearby and their menus, at least what she would order. There was a nice deli down the street. The ice cream parlor on the corner also had sandwiches and soup, perhaps. Didn’t they have soup? Would I like some soup? We could also go to her place in the foothills and have fresh Colorado peaches and ice cream. S. and I finally decided to go to the deli.
At the deli I ordered an Eggplant Parmesan sandwich and S. got a Rueben. We sat on a bench outside as I inhaled my sandwich and S. called his sister. She had just recently had a baby, her first, the first grandchild for both families, and they were all getting together at a restaurant for dinner. S. was too nervous to eat his sandwich. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was nervous about my meeting the baby. He thought that since I didn’t want children of my own that I hated them. It wasn’t true. In party situations, pets and babies are practically safety nets for the socially awkward. At the restaurant, I politely said hello to everyone and then got down to cooing over the baby. She didn’t or wouldn’t judge me or ask me any embarrassing questions. I could just smile and hold her little fingers while the grown-ups talked. Since we had just eaten, we didn’t stay for dinner and as quick as we were in, we were out. All was well in my eyes. I was entering S.’s world and I wanted to know everything about him. There was so much I didn’t know, so much which would take a long time to understand.
S. and I had planned to go hiking in the Rockies the next day, so we had to make a grocery run to get gorp and such. I love grocery stores, especially in new places. I find fruit and vegetable displays mesmerizing, even if I’m not buying any. Here was a large bin of peaches for less than a dollar a pound! The butter had a picture of an elk on it! I needed some coffee and yogurt and granola for breakfast. We picked up some gorp, but I also wanted chèvre and crackers. We needed to buy a knife if we were going to get cheese. I had promised to call in to a friend back home who was worried about me flying off to see some guy I had met on the internet. So, while S. was off hunting for a small paring knife, I called my friend and told him everything was fine, S. was just off looking for a knife, ha-ha-ha.
In my mind, everything was fine. I was having a good time. But as I started to look at dried fruits and nuts, I could see that S. was getting fidgety. “I just can’t stand fluorescent lights for too long.” he said. OK, we could go. He apologized again in the parking lot, “I needed to get out of there; it was taking too long.” As we drove back to his place, I wanted to put my hand on his thigh, his knee, something; but I felt a wall had gone up. He was silent.
He had a small room in a house with space enough for a desk and a bed. We put groceries away and climbed on the bed to watch a movie. There we were, inches apart on top of the covers, but those inches felt like a wide gulf. I saw his eyes start to flutter shut and I thought, “Now! I could just lean over now and quickly kiss him.” But he soon opened his eyes and kept stiffly far away. I didn’t dare breach this gap between us. He looked almost fearful. When the movie ended, I left to go to my motel room and sleep.