spoon

He texts me at ten o'clock on Friday night, as I'm fixing something to eat. I think you gave me AIDS. Or a cold. Nope, wait, nope, yup. Yup, it's totally a cold. And I probably got it myself. Disregard. 

I feel myself smile, maybe bigger than I have all week. Maybe bigger than I should. I haven't spoken to him since Sunday, and wasn't sure I would again. I saw him only long enough to have a couple of drinks with he and a friend of his, the night following our first date a week ago - and something had seemed off then. I couldn't tell if it was distraction or disinterest or something else, but despite his having invited me to join him at the bar, he didn't seem overly excited to see me again. And our texts on Sunday had been few and short.

So I'd more or less written him off, assuming the fun I'd had on our date was because I'd had too much to drink. And that I was alone in having had that much fun.

All of this considered, I'm feeling cautious. I'd been surprised by the weird vibe on Saturday, and don't want to walk myself into...something. I text him back a picture of me on crutches. Don't talk to me about your "problems". That's my new Late Summer 2013 look.

What did you do? Oh, is that your apt. complex? I wouldn't remember what those are like because I'M HOMELESS. Sawyer problems > Ellie problems.

I explain how I sustained my injury and he explains how he caught a cold: overworking, lack of sleep, and the stress of couch surfing until he finds a new place to live. When I ask specifics about a fundraising event he's directing, he begs off. Too long to text about right now. I'm falling asleep. Must. Rest. Before. Drinking. Tomorrow. 

I spend most of Saturday dozing on and off, my foot throbbing. When I finally wake up around six pm, I've got a handful of missed texts from him, starting around noon. He's in Venice with friends. My drinking has cured my cold for a couple hours. I'm gonna crash hard tonight. ...in your bed. Beware. I can't tell if he's serious.

- I'll put on my sexiest Ace bandage. 

- Rawr. Tell me more.

- I"ll beat you with my crutches?

More tipsy, slightly incoherent banter, as his phone is dying. I have no idea if really intends to come downtown tonight, and can't get a straight answer. He's sick and been drinking but he wants to see me, but he probably shouldn't, but he'd like to, if I don't mind hanging out with a sick person, or he can go back to Hollywood for the night, he's losing battery power...

I bristle a little bit at the idea that this is some kind of drunken booty call, and debate between telling him to get back to me when he's sober and ignoring him completely, knowing that when his phone dies in a moment he won't be able to get permission/confirmation from me.

I choose the latter.

He finds an outlet and charges his phone enough to continue the conversation.

He wants to take a bus from Venice to downtown and come spoon with me, if I'll have him. "Spoon" momentarily disarms me like kryptonite, but I let him know in no uncertain terms that I am a bit of a mess with a jacked-up foot and there will be no messing around.

- I'm not asking for that!

- I didn't say you were! ...Just disclaiming. 

He gets to my place an hour later, and I'm mildly surprised that's he actually come. I know an hour bus ride sucks under any conditions, but is hellish when sick. I feel a little bit of my wariness melt away, seeing him walk into my apartment.

He laughs at my jerry-rigged rolling desk chair scooter and greets Chaucer, who is thrilled to have someone ambulatory to play with. He doesn't look sick, but he's clearly miserable, sniffling and coughing and pressing his palms against the sinus pressure points on his face. I announce that he needs Emergen-C, and hop one-legged into the kitchen to fix it for him. All of my glasses and mugs are in the running dishwasher, so I stir the powder into a small bowl, which he looks at with skepticism.

"Just pretend it's a cafe au lait," I instruct, handing it to him. "Like the Frawnch."

He's genuinely exhausted, and we don't stay awake for long. Rather, he doesn't. I spend most of the next five hours laying quietly awake beside him, knowing I should get up and work, but loathe to move away from the warmth of his body. When we face one another, I steal moonlit glances at his shoulders and chest, and at the tawny scruff along his jawline. When he feels me turn away, he wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me tight against him, careful not to bump my bad foot. He finds my fingers underneath my pillow and laces his own through them.

I may as well be strapped in with cables, for how able I feel to move.

I try to direct my thoughts to the inchoate storyline of my novel, but it doesn't stand a chance against the skin, the breath, and the hips of the man pressed to my back. Eventually I disentangle myself, hungry and restless. I fix cereal, tipping the box an inch at a time, not wanting to disturb the guest sleeping just feet from where I stand. I eat in the dark, sitting atop my kitchen island, Chaucer staring silently up at me. I hop back over to my desk, adjust the brightness on my laptop screen, and answer a few emails. He wakes periodically, sniffling, moaning exaggeratedly, and joking with me.

Daylight finds me tucked back in beside him, finally starting to get tired myself. He slumbers on. I reach down with one hand to pet Chaucer, who snoozes deeply on the rug beside the bed.

Late morning. We're both awake now, though diametrically opposed in sleepiness, with me entering the state he's passing out of. We spend an hour or two talking, lazing about, walking/crutching Chaucer, climbing back into bed, and rinse, lather, repeat. We decide to watch an episode of Orange is The New Black. One episode turns into three. We watch with my laptop propped on a tiny three-legged table we balance on the foot of the bed, pillows piled behind us, and his arm around my shoulders. He plays with my finger tips; I let my hand rest on his thigh. We doze in between the second and third episode, my head on his chest. When I wake to find myself still in that position an hour later, I'm amazed; very rarely can I fall asleep cuddled up like that.

At some point, he leaves to procure lunch, walking four blocks to the grocery store to get himself soup and me a sandwich. I text him my order. HELLO THIS IS MY SANDWICH ORDER PLEASE AND THANK YOU: turkey, cheese, tomato, onion, peppers, olives, oil and vinegar, and a Shetland pony.

- Pony meat is DELICIOUS.

- PONY FOR RIDING ONLY.

- Too late - shit's on the grill.

He returns with soup, a sandwich, heat-and-serve vegetable lasagna, beer, and a box of E.L. Fudge cookies. We eat and return to bed, where we watch a comedy special. We take turns playing favorite songs on Spotify. When I play this for him, he taps the beat on my back while I lay against him. I try but fail to recall the last time I spent an entire Sunday laying around like this, with someone else. I know it's been years.

My friend R. stops by around six with a load of groceries from Trader Joe's for me, a list of things his wife insisted upon my naming, when she found out about my foot. This is not an optional situation, she'd said. We deliver. Sawyer waits upstairs for me while I hobble down to the lobby to let my friend in. "Remember that guy I told you and K. about, that I'd met? I showed K. a picture of him, when we went to trivia?"

R. nods. "Yeah?"

"He's in my apartment," I say. "So when you walk in and see a dude, that's who that dude is." I'm strangely pleased about getting to introduce him to R., who has only heard tell of the guys I've dated over the past several months - none of whom ever made it to the meet-the-friends stage.

Sawyer doesn't leave until dark, and I fall asleep almost immediately after he goes. I don't move an inch until midnight, when an incoming text wakes me up. Spooning would be nice.

I smile and answer immediately, feeling sleepy and warm and glad for the disturbance.

Indeed, I start...

roachmate

To my new roommate:

Welcome to loft 712! I trust you're settling in nicely, and finding your new surroundings clean, comfortable, and cozy. I'm going to assume that this isn't your first experience with co-habitation; my understanding is that your species tends to reside in large numbers, typically in sewers, subways, and the dumpsters behind C-grade restaurants. I hope you find my apartment as agreeable as those quarters!

Anyway, I'm sure you're familiar with the need to establish some basic ground rules between roommates, for the sake of both parties. Which is why I took the liberty of drawing up a short list of "roomie requests" with which I hope you won't mind complying. And please - if you have a similar list for myself, I'd be happy to look it over, though I will ask that you write as large as possible.

1. I saw when you came in that you immediately gravitated to the area underneath my dishwasher and kitchen sink. I think that's an excellent place for you; you'll have plenty of space and privacy for reading, knitting, gaming, or whatever leisure activities you engage in. I only ask that if either myself or my dog enters the kitchen, that you not come scurrying out to greet us. We startle easily, and might accidentally step on you, or try to eat you, or drop whatever encyclopedia-sized book we're carrying on you. And since you left the emergency contact section of your lease application blank, I wouldn't know how to reach your loved ones should you get hurt.

2. My bed is completely off limits. Please do not come anywhere near it at any time of day or night, even if I am out. I cannot stress enough my need for you to respect this boundary. In fact, should you violate this very important rule, your security deposit will be immediately forfeited to help defray the cost of my subsequent therapy.

3. On those rare occasions that I have company, please please please stay completely out of sight. You seem like a really lovely arthropod, and please don't take my disinclination to socialize personally. It's just that some of my friends - while I love them! - are a little bit sanctimonious about dumb things like "sanitary living conditions" and "health codes." I wouldn't want any of them to say something in your presence that might hurt your feelings.

4. No parties allowed whatsoever. In fact, I'd prefer it if you didn't invite any of your friends over, ever.

5. No:
  • smoking
  • curtain climbing
  • swimming in the toilet
  • napping in my shoes
  • music after 10pm (NPR ok)
6. Finally, please do not download any porn onto my computer, which you are otherwise welcome to use (wifi password: NUCLEARFALLOUT). 

Okay, I think that about covers it! As I said above, if you have any requests of your own, just let me know. I'm confident that, despite being such very different creatures, we can peacefully coexist until the exterminator comes on Monday indefinitely.

Warmly, 

Your new flatmate, Ellie

the sum of my woe

A bit after midnight on Wednesday, Chaucer and I repaired to the kitchen to see whether any snacks had miraculously materialized in the refrigerator since the last time we'd checked, an hour before. There weren't a lot of lamps lit in the apartment, because I'm determined to destroy what's left of my vision before I hit forty. However, there was enough light that when I rounded the kitchen island, I could clearly see what looked like an anorexic rodent scurrying across the floor and under my dishwasher.

I may or may not have shrieked.

Chaucer may or may not have bolted for the relative safety of the far side of my bed.

I may or may not have joined him immediately.

I considered the situation. No Raid. No bug killing spray of any kind. Windex and other household cleaners under the sink...next to the dishwasher. The main thing that was bothering me, besides the fact that Chaucer and I suddenly had a new roommate who I doubted was going to cough up very much for rent, was the puzzle of where the hell it had come from. I live on the 7th floor of a fairly clean building. I occasionally open my windows, but there are no trees anywhere near them. And anyway, it's the seventh floor. What kind of crazy-ass overachieving roach starts climbing the outside of a building and finds it such an enjoyable stroll that he keeps going for seven storeys??

Then I remembered that earlier that night I'd taken Chaucer to the park, and while there, I'd left the small bag I keep his ball and brushes in on the bench inside the dog play area for a little while, while supervising his interaction with some other dogs. Could the roach have stowed away in my bag??

Deciding that this was a distinct possibility, I became concerned that there were possibly additional hitchhikers still in the bag. Because hello, I love me a doomsday scenario. So this is a thing that I, Elizabeth Baker, age 38, did: I climbed onto my kitchen island, reached into the top drawer, and pulled out a pair of large salad tongs. Next, leaning far over the counter, I used these same tongs to open the bottom drawer where I store Chaucer's walk bag. Then, using the tongs like one of those claws in a toy machine, I gently lifted the bag out onto the floor. I used the salad tongs to shake it empty of its contents: three plastic grocery sacks, one rubber ball, one Furminator, and one Zoom Groom.

Zero roaches.

I pulled myself back up on the island, temporarily consoled. That's when I saw it again, this time directly in front of me, climbing the cabinet opposite from where I sat. I don't want to use the word "taunting", I really don't. But this fucker was moving so slowly, and with such confidence, as if assured by the fact of its massive bulk that I'd be too scared to even attempt to deter it from its destination - that yes, I think it was taunting me. Bitch, please. Look at me. I'm the largest mothafuckin' roach you ever seen. Whatchu gonna do about it? Nothin'. You ain't gon' do nothin'.

And it was right you guys. It was absolutely right.

It was at this point that I briefly considered getting a room at the Biltmore down the street for the night, until an exterminator could come. I am 100% serious about this. Then I realized how ridiculous that would be, and so I did something that was not at all ridiculous, in any way: I texted my ex-boyfriend to see if he'd come kill the roach for me.

Hey, are you around? was all I said to start, because I am shrewd, and figured that if I opened with You have to come kill a roach for me that I might not get any the desired response from he, the other adult starring in this comedy. But you can be sure that the second I saw the little iMessage indicator ellipse pop up, I scrolled up and hit "Call." I hadn't taken my eyes off Frankenroach the whole time.

"Hey, what's up?"

"OHMYGODA.THERE'SAROACHTHESIZEOFASQUIRRELINMYAPARTMENTYOUHAVETOCOMEKILLITNOW,PLEASE,CANYOU?CANYOUCOME?OHMYGOD."

"Whoa, whoa. Calm down. I can't understand you. There's a squirrel in your apartment??"

"Yes! I mean no, there's a roach--hang on, it's getting away!"

At this point my crusty brown Amazonian houseguest had made its way over to the paneling that encloses my refrigerator, and was lazily ambling upwards to the shelf above. I realized that if I didn't stop it now, it was going to be impossible to find again, because there are storage boxes and suitcases and folders and posters and spare paper towels and all sorts of crap I stuff up there to keep it out of view.

I grabbed a small spiral notebook off my sideboard, knowing full well that this wasn't going to do the job. If I was going to bookslam the roach to death, it needed to be a tome at least the size of a college dictionary, though honestly, I suspect the OED would be the only thing that could adequately flatten it. I think my plan was to just dislodge it from the wall, hopefully stunning it into immobility long enough that I could then drop my favorite and largest coffee table book onto its back.

Foresight and planning like this are why I'd never make it past the first tribal council on Survivor.

Anyway, I jumped onto the couch with my projectile in one hand and the phone in the other. And I guess now would be a good time to explain that about a week ago, I decided to drape a couple of throw blankets over the couch, because they are easier to clean than Chaucer's drool, which doesn't come off very easily from my new(ish) sofa. These blankets make the sofa very cozy...but they also camouflage the division between the two main cushions. And it was into this division that, as I launched my missile fridge-wards at la cucaracha, my right foot slid, throwing me off balance.

In a matter of .07 seconds, two things happened: 1. the notebook came THIS CLOSE to hitting its target, which - and I'm not sure about this, because I was in the middle of spraining my foot - I believe paused momentarily in its journey, fractionally less confident about the wisdom of so brazenly traveling in broad apartment light, and 2. I fell backwards off the couch, landing in a twisted position on my left foot, which exploded into excruciating pain and gave out from under me.

I collapsed on the floor, howling in pain.

My ex-boyfriend, meanwhile, was listening to this whole scene on his phone, standing in his work studio, can of spray paint assuredly in hand, as he worked diligently through the night to prepare for his next show, wondering what the fuck was the matter with his crazy ex-girlfriend now, in her apartment some five blocks away from where he stood.

Over the din of my yelling/crying, I heard him say something about putting Chaucer in the hall. He'd tell me later he thought there was an actual squirrel loose in my apartment, and that all the mayhem he was hearing was Chaucer running around, tearing up my apartment in his efforts to catch and kill it.

LOL.

I finally calmed myself enough to very clearly annunciate the following message: "A. I just fell and broke my foot. I need help. Can you come take me to the hospital?"

And he did. And rather than drag that poor soul back into my blog when he so recently escaped it, I'll end his role in the story there. But I will say he was a lifesaver and awesomely patient and good-humored about the whole ordeal, which ended up being waaaaay longer and more awful because of my choice to go to LA County. It was, I will say, a long night.

Bottom line: I have a "severe" sprain off of which I need to stay for a minimum of six weeks, which dramatically changes (read: smashes to bits) my plans for the rest of the summer. And while that's a bummer, honestly? Seeing the things I did while waiting in the County ER for nine hours, I'm not going to complain. I'm going to take my knock and be grateful it's not worse.

I spoke with a woman - probably my age - who was there tending to both a husband (broken arm) and her baby girl (fever, rash, diarrhea), all while watching over a very miserable and sleepy ten year old boy. She told me that the last time she'd come to the ER was two years ago, for a miscarriage. She'd had to wait seven hours to be seen, while in the middle of having that miscarriage. She was alone at the time. This woman had hemorrhaged in the LA County Hospital waiting room and its adjoining restroom, with no one there to help, no friends or family to be with her, while she waited all night for a doctor. As she talked with me, her baby fussed and cried, and she gently rocked and cooed her, arranging and rearranging the folds of her blanket around her.

I saw a grey-haired elderly man in tattered clothing, hunched over in an ancient hospital wheelchair, mumbling to himself as he slowly wheeled loops around the room. When he struggled with his shoe, attempting to put it on the wrong foot, A. jumped up to help him. Later, the man wheeled himself over to me, to ask in a barely audible whisper whether I was in pain. After I lied and said not much and thanked him for his concern, he moved off a polite distance from us before spending five minutes putting disposable blue latex gloves on his shaking hands. He saw me watching and explained that they were to protect his palms from getting calloused by the wheelchair wheels. He did this with a few mumbled words and gestures, rather than full sentences.

The gloves were the same ones that A. had earlier blown into balloons to make me laugh, while we waited in the radiology wing for the x-ray technician.

Later, that same old man and I came face to face alone in a hallway, me hobbling along on my crutches, coming from the bathroom, him still inching along with only his hands to propel him. He pointed at my foot and asked what happened. I couldn't understand his words but the tone and his face made it clear what he was trying to say.

"I fell on it," I said. "I'm waiting to find out whether it's broken." He nodded a nod that said Yeah, the wait here is a bitch. Something about his expression reminded me of my dad. He gave off an air of being an intelligent, thoughtful man trapped in the broken down body - and the broken down circumstance - of someone much worse off than he should have been.

"Neither of us are doing so good, huh?" I asked, and grinned sympathetically at him. The smile and slight laugh he gave back broke my heart. "Wanna race?" I challenged, pointing one of my crutches down the hall behind me. He chuckled again, his head still hanging low, and my heart broke all over again.

I have a sprained fucking foot. Getting around is going to be a bitch for a while. I'm going to have to teeter around town on a ridiculous-looking knee scooter, and it will take me three times as long to run simple errands. I can get Chaucer downstairs and to the curb for quick potty trips, but I'm going to have to hire a dog walker so he can in a good walk every day, plus exercise and socialization so he doesn't get depressed. I'm going to miss some festivals (Burning Man and HardFest), some parties, some nights out with friends. I can't run for a couple of months. I'll probably gain ten pounds. I'm going to be bored and go stir crazy, and I'll have to find ways to divert my energy and stay positive, so I don't get too low and lonely, which I know I will. But that's about the sum of my woe.

It could be much worse.

genesis

Guess what, weirdos? I started writing a novel. I know, I fully expect me to fail, too. I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

I have nothing to lose, and I'm feeling, in spite of still struggling with depression almost on the daily, weirdly flush with creativity lately. So I'm going for it. Because while I love blogging, I'm no Dooce. I will never be a professional blogger. I just can't do it. I'd be okay with monetizing my own experiences, but I wouldn't ever want my loved ones to feel like they're material for me to bank on. That wouldn't feel right to me. I don't want to collect a paycheck for telling stories about my friends, or my boyfriends, or any of the people that come and go here on Elliequent. This is not meant to be a judgment of bloggers with monetized/sponsored blogs. This is just a personal statement of what's best for me.

Anyway, every most days I have a good dose of creative energy - even though half the time it never goes anywhere. Sometimes some of it goes here. And that feels really, really good. Sometimes some of it ends up on Instagram. Also good, though in a different way. But neither of those spaces, while they are fun and emotionally and intellectually rewarding, are putting Merrick Grain Free Buffalo in Chaucer's bowl. And guys, that shit is expensive.

Of course, I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. I'm writing notes and creating an outline. That seems as good a method as any. To, you know, write a novel. Which, did I mention I'm trying to do that? Sorry, it's still a little surreal to me. The other thing that seems like a good method is to just fucking start writing. Hence the two paragraphs below. A tiny little sliver of proof that I'm doing that.

I don't know how much I'm going to share, or even how much I should share. I know jack-all about copyright law, etc. But I do know I want to share some, occasionally, at least at first. I just want to get in the habit of putting it out there, in the world. A bit of accountability I guess? The excitement of seeing it looking back up at me? I don't know. If all goes well and the writing takes off, at some point I know I'll have to stop publishing it here. But for now, I feel like want to introduce you to some of the characters that have been milling around in my head, in one form or another, for years now. You guys have been so amazingly supportive and encouraging of my efforts, I honestly couldn't imagine taking a crack at this without inviting you along for the first few miles of the ride.

I'm extremely, incredibly, nauseatingly excited. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can really do it. It doesn't even make sense to me, considering a) how low I still feel, in general, and b) the fact that I've never written any fiction longer than a few pages. But for whatever reason, I feel ready to try anyway.

What the hell, right?

So this is where and how it starts, because it has to start somewhere. Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, Ellie created Caper...

---

It wasn't boredom that sent Caper to St. Lucius Public Library the day she first engaged in bibliovandalism, and it wasn't curiosity. It wasn't teenage angst, and it wasn't misdirected anger. None of the motives usually attributed to the bad behavior of a high school sophomore applied, in the Case of the Fake Dedications. It was, in fact, empathy - or something like it. At least, that was the term the school psychologist would use later, in her defense. She didn't see her actions as destructive, he'd explain to her father, her teachers, her perpetually perky guidance counselor. She thought she was helping people. She saw herself as a benefactor.

But these terms - empathy, benefactor - these had no place in Caper's thoughts that drizzly afternoon, as she stole quietly down the slate blue Berber of aisle KF 3423 - KF 5987. She was too busy worrying whether she'd made the right choice to bring her Pentel Lancelot .5 mm (and a spare pack of Super Hi-Polymer pencil leads, naturally), or if she should have brought the .7 mm. The .5 made for a pleasingly light hand, and was particularly suited to the cursive script on which she prided herself. But the .7 was just so satisfyingly thick. More permanent-seeming. Caper chewed her lip nervously, second guessing not her decision to commit a crime, but her weapon of choice for committing it.

25 thoughts closer to sleep

1. It's almost six a.m. Chaucer is snoring beside me, and the city is waking up.
2. Sometimes the desire to write is so strong it's intoxicating, like the anticipation of a kiss. Sometimes I like to just hold onto that feeling for several minutes while I stare at a blank page and consider the different things I could write about.
3. I like thinking in lists, like this. Bit stream of consciousness. Maybe I'll make it a "feature."
4. I always feel ridiculous using the term "feature", when talking about my blog.
5. Another "feature" I think about starting is something I'd call "sticky moments." Tiny snippets of conversation, or scenes from my day, or memories that for whatever reason have stayed with me, and are asking to be written about.
6. I just anthropomorphized my own writing. I'm sorry.
7. Sometimes I wonder what percentage of the 6 million blogs on the internet are written by former English majors.
8. Geographer is playing this weekend at The Getty Center, and I very much wish I had a date to take me.
9. My You are now running on reserve battery power warning just popped up. I get really panicky when that happens, like I'm going to lose everything I've ever written.
10. I've read Allie Brosh's latest post about a dozen times. Her bit about the dead fish is the perfect metaphor for my own experience of depression. When I saw the panel of her in the stained grey hoodie, slumped on the couch, I found out that you really can lolsob. That's been me much more often than you'd think by looking at #lobbyellie.
11. Chaucer has taken to randomly approaching (in a friendly way) men my age that we pass on the street. Just men. Not women. I don't really stop him, because I find it hilarious and fascinating.
12. Sometimes I miss having a pet house rabbit. The smell of hay was so delicious, and having a tiny bunny jump into bed to cuddle against you is like nothing else.
13. It's hard to be friends with an ex-boyfriend unless, before you fell in love with him, you had a baseline of genuine friendship that you can then return to.
14. This past Saturday night, I met and had drinks with a finalist from a reality show I used to be obsessed with. One of my favorite seasons of the show, too.
15. The idea that anyone would be jealous of me makes me extremely uncomfortable. I think because deep down I feel myself to be very undeserving of my blessings.
16. There are some small little organizational touches I've added to my apartment that I am inordinately proud of, but I would feel silly blogging about them.
17. I've realized that the only people I'm truly envious of are also those who deeply inspire me, because what I want of theirs isn't stuff, or money - it's talent and education and creativity: things I can cultivate and achieve and work for myself, if I choose. So the envy and inspiration co-mingle in this bittersweet mixture that I never know quite what to do with.
18. Ataulfo mangos are my absolute favorite fruit. I could eat them by the case.
19. Sometimes it makes me sad that my marriage ended, but then I think about all the personal growth I've experienced because of it. I wish I was better at remembering the strengths I've gained, and forgiving my failures.
20. There is nothing to me quite like curling up against strong male shoulders.
21. I confessed to a friend lately that my dad wasn't as wonderful as I sometimes think of him being, now that he's gone. Phantom love, I called it. Creating a perfect ghost in lieu of an imperfect person. The friend said, "Yeah, but isn't that the reward they get, for having died? That they get to be built up better in our memories?" I think that's fair.
22. Chaucer has callouses on his elbows, from laying on the ground. It's nothing bad; lots of big dogs get them. I call them his professor patches.
23. Overcast and dreary weather days make me happier than sunshine. I should probably move.
24. I try to think of my media consumption in terms of curation. I like the idea that I can "curate" my experience of it, like a gallery owner collecting pieces that please her, and trading off those that don't. I find that thought empowering, when I start to feel addicted to toxic, time-wasting stuff.
25. In some ways, you guys know me better than my meatspace friends.

serves two

Ingredients
  • 1 female, 38 years of age
  • 1 male, 30 years of age
  • 1 English Mastiff, 6 years of age
  • several servings of sushi
  • several ounces of alcohol
  • 1 premium Spotify subscription
  • 1 teaspoon optimism (if not in season, substitute with additional alcohol) 
  • 1 surprise kiss
Directions

1. Arrange sober, unfed humans on opposing barstools in neighborhood tavern. Slowly mix in six to eight ounces of alcoholic beverages, pausing occasionally for casual conversation, sustained eye contact, and laughter. 

2. When thoroughly toasted, remove from tavern and allow to cool momentarily on city streets before placing in nearby Japanese restaurant. Pour in roughly 3/4 of remaining alcohol. 

3. In separate room, allow Mastiff to slumber undisturbed for two to three hours. 

4. Divide sushi into three portions: what male will eat, what female will eat, and what female will leave behind on the plate for male to eat even though she really wants to eat it herself. Stuff humans accordingly. 

5. Carefully combine male and Mastiff in pre-cleaned apartment, using a dog treat to unstick Mastiff from female if necessary. 

6. Add surprise kiss.

7. Quickly, while kiss is still warm, sprinkle female with optimism.

8. Transfer humans to overly crowded scenester bar. Add remaining alcohol.

9. Return pair to apartment and add Spotify at maximum volume. Keep music on high until a loud pounding on adjoining neighbor's wall is heard; then adjust volume to low. Allow male to rest while whipping female and Mastiff into music-induced frenzy. 

10. Marinate overnight in separate zip codes.

Reviews

★★★★☆
Delicious! I thoroughly enjoyed this recipe, but I would probably use less alcohol next time. - Ellie, 7/20/13

★★★☆☆
The leftovers were a little lacking in flavor, so I just added a few tablespoons of perspective. Changed the taste completely though. - Ellie, 7/21/13 

★★☆☆☆
Hmmm, I don't know. Seemed pretty good at the time, but I'm not sure I'd make this one again. - Ellie, 7/22/13

★★☆☆☆
Needs moar treets. - Chaucer, 7/21/13

part the first (?)

People, I'd planned to flesh this out with more detail and context, and more snippets of our chat, which has been very lolzy. But I wanted to get it published before I left for the actual date,and be, like, all chronological for once. So I'm sorry it's not my finest and it's very sloppy and abbreviated and such, but you get the idea. 

Okay, gotta jet. Happy weekend you guys!


---

Sunday

Closing my tab at the bar. My friends are waiting outside. I'm fairly tipsy. "I like your boots." I look up to see a tall, dark-haired guy beside me, smiling and gesturing towards my feet. I hold up a finger: just wait. I reach down and grab my right ankle, then fold the back half of the rubberized heel of my combat boot nearly ninety degrees. Tall guy laughs. 

"See that?" I say, pointing at what looks like a glob of dried honey on the edge of the heel. "That's rubber cement. I've already Superglued them twice." Tall guy nods with mock seriousness. Says something I don't remember. I say something I don't remember back. This continues for another minute, while the bartender retrieves and then runs my debit card. As I'm signing my receipt, tall guy says something else that makes me laugh. I don't remember what it is. 

The important part is what I say: "Okay, this is what's happening now. My friends are waiting for me, so I have to go, but you're very cute, and I wish I'd met you earlier. So," I continue, tearing off the bottom half of my receipt, "here's my number. Use it." Tall guy holds the slip of paper up to the light. The digits are not very legible. 

"Here," he says, and pulls a business card from his wallet. "Just in case." We make solid, smiling eye contact for a moment before I say goodbye and leave.

I join my friends outside, triumphantly waving the card in the air. "I got a number! I got a number!" D. and I get bacon-wrapped hot dogs from a street cart vendor and compare notes.

"I saw him," he verifies to the others. "He was cute." 

"Ooooh," says L., "What does he do?" I read the card aloud. He shares a surname with a character from a novel I read and loved. His occupation is listed as "Executive Director" of what I gather is a non-profit. 

We'll call him Sawyer. 

Monday

I wake up to a missed text. Nice meeting you last night. You're going in my phone as "Ellie Boots". ...(This is Sawyer ___ btw...)

I Google him. There is a Linked In, which backs up the information on the business card. There is also an IMDb listing for someone of the same name. I glance back at the Linked In, compare photos. It's the same person. Director of a non-profit and an actor. The profile photo appears to be from some kind of awards ceremony, or possibly an opening. I Google some more. There are professional head shots. Classy, cute, not overly cheesy. There is a Twitter, similar to mine in spirit and popularity: snarky one-liners and the occasional personal tweet. There is a private Instagram. There is a sketch comedy video on a popular website, which I watch, biting back a smile. He's undeniably cute and funny, in a John Krasinski sort of way. Exceptionally blue eyes. Great hair. I do some quick math, based on his graduation date. Early thirties.

I text back. In that case it's a good thing I didn't wear clogs. ...Nice meeting you as well. I'm glad my hastily scribbled receipt survived. 

- If I lost it, I would have just searched "Ellie Boots" on FB and found you.

- Good thinking. Though you'd have to wade through thousands of comments on my fan page to find any dirt.

- All boot-related comments I'm sure.

- Yes. I'm like a meme. Ellie Boots. You should see my Reddit presence.

He texts a photo of a billboard. A blonde in a skimpy halter top, cut-offs, and Timberlands. The heading reads WORK BOOT WAREHOUSE. This is you, isn't it?

- BRB, calling my publicist.

We text on and off over the next few hours, some banter, some genuine questions. He sends me a photo of himself in a suit, seated at a desk with multiple computer monitors visible behind him, mugging with an exaggerated pout. Look at me in my monkey suit! All official up in hea!

- Well this is awkward. I thought I gave my number to a middle-aged black man. 

He tells me he lived in Malibu until recently, that his landlord died and he lost his place, that he's been couch surfing and housesitting until he gets settled. I have tons of friends still in Malibu, though.

- I met a really cool seagull in Malibu a few months ago. ...Maybe you know him? Frank.

- Frank Ramone or Frank Arnell? ...Did you get his number?

- Fassbender. Of the PCH Fassbenders. ...Don't be ridiculous. Seagulls don't have phones. 

And so on and so forth, here and there, all week, until Thursday night, when we make plans to get together Friday night.

And oh look, it's Friday night. I better go find some boots. :)

cliffhanger

Hi, weirdos.

You guys know that when I call you weirdos I mean it in the most affectionate way, right? As in, you crazy weirdos who care about me, don't you know you should be off reading Salon or Mother Jones or anything more educational and enlightening than this dumb blog? That's all I mean. I don't mean it in a pejorative sense. I don't even think of "weird" as an insult. All the best people are weird.

Anyway, I thought I'd just get down a boring, fourth-wall breaking sort of hello post, because I've gotten a few nudges over the past few days from friends online and off, making sure I'm okay. I'm totes okay. And I feel more than a little bit guilty that the cut-vein-bleed-all-over-page sort of posts I occasionally write make people worry. I'm not sure how to handle that. If I should stop writing those sorts of posts, or if I should just try to make a better effort towards staying in touch with this space, or IG/Twitter or whatever, so people don't get anxious when I'm silent for days at a time. I don't mean to be a drama queen or an attention whore, though I can see how it would look that way.

I've had a pretty good week, actually. I've been in a much more positive and calm space than I've inhabited in months. A sort of transitional space, I think.

On Friday I went and listened to some trance music, which was even more fun than I'd hoped it would be. That afternoon I'd made a very difficult phone call that I'd been putting off, and it was kind of stressful for me. As in, my hands were shaking when I hung up. So after that I wanted to blow off some steam. Not even that, really - that's a bad way to put it. I wanted to check out for a little while. And I felt like I deserved to, after that phone call. So I ate some mushrooms and went trancing. I got there way too early and was way, way too high too soon, so there was some comedy with that. Near-empty dance floor, scattered pairs of (mostly male) kids, and yr blogmistress, trying to stay upright and anonymous, off to the side by the speakers. Eventually the club filled up enough to where I could close my eyes and just float away in my head. Every so often someone would tap me on the shoulder, wanting to dance or talk to me or whatever, which, if you've ever gone trancing, you know is incredibly annoying. At one point I felt someone tug my shirt and I opened my eyes to see a teenaged boy holding his iPhone up to my face, with "I think you're cute" typed on the notepad. He could not have been more than nineteen years old.

I put my hand on heart, tilted my head, and made an Awww face that I knew would give me away for much, much older than him. Then I cupped my hand against his ear and said as kindly as I could, "That's very sweet, thank you. But you can tell I'm pretty dialed in, right?" He nodded, chastised. I asked him his name, told him mine, and shook his hand. Then I explained that I was just here for the music, but that he should have a good night. By the time we were done speaking, the poor kid looked like he just wanted to flee. A lecture from mom was not what he'd been expecting.

The visuals were incredible. There was a beautiful garden, that was the main thing. And some kind of crazy tribal dance thing going on - very sexual. All these dancers, positioned around me, dancing for me. Very bizarre. When the lights started, it was all over. Crazy, pulsing geometrical patterns that looked like...sound. It's hard to explain. I was smiling and laughing, my eyes completely shut, a total outsider in a crowd of micro dress-wearing twenty-somethings. Okay, I exaggerate slightly. There were some older people. But not many. Anyway, it was fantastic. Every so often I'd take a break and go downstairs, where there's a smaller room with another DJ, and couches lining the walls. I'd sit for a while, catching my breath, taking it all in. Some kid in head-to-toe neon came up to me while I was curled up in the corner and asked if I was okay. "I'm great," I smiled, and looked at him as levelly as I could. I knew I looked high as hell and that he'd probably seen me dancing alone upstairs.

"You look like you're having an amazing time," he laughed. "I just wanted to make sure."

Mushrooms do crazy, crazy things to the passage of time. They make tiny folds in it, so that a five minute period can feel like five seconds. Or they'll take long, slow drinks of it, sucking all the minutes out of an hour and then spitting them back out all at once. It's incredibly disorienting, but not in an uncomfortable or scary way. There's also some of that with, like, my spatial awareness. I'll just blank out for a few seconds at a time, and "come to" again, and it takes a moment to realize where - and when - I am. Like waking up from a dream, only you lose track of which is dreaming and which is waking.

I stayed until a little bit after two am, then walked the four blocks back to my apartment, feeling amazing: uplifted, independent, free, happy, optimistic. And no crash the next day - that's the best part of shrooms.

So that was Friday.

On Saturday I felt like walking around outside, in a crowd, so I took the bus to Glendale and just wandered around The Americana for a couple of hours. I tried on $1000 dresses in Barney's, just for fun, and ate an overpriced and under filled prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich for lunch. The cashier who sold me the sandwich and I had a three minute conversation about what flavor of San Pelegrino is the best. I was excited to be trying grapefruit for the first time that day, and he was promising me it would be my new favorite, even over lemon. He was kind of cute, so after I finished eating, I sort of lingered around the counter hoping he'd pop back out from the kitchen and see what I'd thought of it. But he didn't. Instead, another employee who didn't speak English very well asked me if I needed anything else. When I tried to tell him to tell the other cashier that he was right about the grapefruit, he just looked at me blankly. "Never mind," I said, and left.

I tried on some Chanel frames at an eyeglasses store, then went back later to try them on again, then went back a third time. I took a picture of them in my hand to post to Instagram, but when I saw the state of my fingernails I realized I couldn't post it. Instead I asked an employee if she would mind cleaning the lenses for me. She frowned and stared at the frames I was holding. "Well, you do know you'd replace the lenses, right? With your own prescription?"

"Yes," I explained. "But I'd like to see how they look without smudges, before I buy them. They're kind of expensive, you know?" She didn't say anything, but she took them from me and wiped them down with a rag behind the counter. I didn't buy them, but I can't stop thinking about them. Instead I bought a pair of baggy, roll-up khakis on sale at Free People, which was very exciting for me, because they are exactly what I've been looking for. I also really, really wanted to buy these, but I resisted. I have decided that women's underwear is some of the most ridiculous stuff on the planet. I plan on writing a post about it.

I missed my bus on the way back, and had a half an hour wait for the next one. My phone battery was nearly dead, and I sat on the bench watching the power percentage drop down to single digits, listening to music and scrolling quickly through Instagram. A guy I drunkenly gave my phone number to at Coachella texted to see if I was free that night, as he'd be downtown to see some band. I lied and said I had plans, and my screen blanked out before I could read his reply. I had a forty-five minute ride back home, and pretty much crashed after walking Chaucer.

That was Saturday.

On Sunday night I went out to Hollywood with friends. And met someone. With whom I have a date tomorrow. Oh boy, I can hear the squeals of excitement pouring forth from all quarters. SETTLE DOWN, PEOPLE.

I suppose I should back up and tell that story, because that's been The Most Interesting Thing of The Week - and I will, but Chaucer needs a walk, so gimme a bit and I'll come back and finish, because cliffhanger posts are dumb and annoying.

act your age

Act your age, won't you?

Why?

Because you should.

Yes, but why?

Because you look ridiculous.

You're probably right. But what if I told you I'm still having fun, even while knowing I look ridiculous? What would be your argument then?

(pause)

Here, wait. Have some truth serum first. Now tell me why it bothers you that I don't act my age.

Because you had your time in the sun. Now you're supposed to move into the shade, so I can have more sun on me. I don't like you sharing my sunshine. It doesn't seem fair. It's my turn. You had yours.

Ah, okay. Well, what if I told you there's an endless amount of sunshine, and that there's no amount of it I can use up that will ever, ever rob you of a single ray of your own?

I still don't like it. I'm going to make fun of you.

It's okay, I expect it. When I was your age, I did the same thing. That's just sort of how it goes. But you can still be kind and empathetic. Life can be pretty rough, you know? Bad things happen. Loss. Divorce. Death. Depression. Disease. Joblessness. Heartbreak. You'll see - as you accumulate years, you accumulate pain. Maybe cut me some slack, huh? We all just want to be happy, no matter how old we are.

I'll think about it.

That's all I ask. 

1/365

Face down on the bed, fingers gripping the edge tightly. Holding on for dear life. It's changing again. Whoosh. Sliding down away from familiar things, hoping there's a soft landing somewhere there in the dark. No choice but to jump. 11th hour. Time to go, time to leave the safe house.

What can I control? Very little. Accept the powerlessness. Identify other ways in which control can be gained. Baby steps. You can't do everything at once. 

Stop ingesting poison. Stop internalizing hate. Stop watching train wrecks. Stop counting bodies.

A reckoning, but not. Doesn't need to be. Minimize the drama. Laugh, as always. Oh, this life. Dumb and funny, funny and dumb. Cynicism is a lead apron that's grown strangely lightweight and comfortable. Okay then. Be that for now. It's a different path from hopelessness, where there is no grass. 

Here at least there's grass. Sure, it's dead, but it might grow back.

Fingerprints all over the one way mirror. What are you looking at? Are you smiling? Did you bring others to watch? You know I don't care, right? I'm the one over here with the Windex and rag. It's freeing, do you understand that? Nothing more liberating than saying, Hey, my shell is cracked. The meat might still be good, but I don't know. It could be rotten. How hungry are you?

Cling to the people that accept and support. Gather them around, tell them. I love you. And you. And you. All of you. I wouldn't be here if you it weren't for you.

I would not be here if it were not for you.

Don't go anywhere yet, okay? 

Not yet. Please.

Yeahhh she abuses hashtags

Me: Your moment of Instazen:




Me: Every pic is captioned thusly.

M: I'm already a fan on Facebook, lol. And Yeahhh She Benches. I scroll through mouth agape. The comments are priceless.

Me: Yeahhh She Benches lololol. All new selfies from me will be captioned "Yeahhh She Run/Walks."

M: Yeahhh She Reads. Yeahhh She Formulates Interesting, Cohesive Thoughts.

Me: AHAHAHA

dichotomy

I know a man who mistakes arrogance for confidence.

Every morning, he dresses himself in his accomplishments. One by one, he lovingly pulls them on like beribboned medals, pinning them across his shoulders, checking the mirror to see how they reflect on him. He's quite satisfied with what he sees.

He walks out into the world, clinking and clanging, proudly announcing to anyone within earshot what each token represents. Everyone he meets already knows, though, because he's a record on repeat. They nod politely, abiding his conceit with patience, wishing he'd stop making so much noise.

He fancies himself an expert in the art of achievement.

He's happy to tell you what you're doing wrong, because it's an opportunity to talk about what he does right. He is his own favorite example of success.

He is the master of the humble brag, and he never met a buzzword that didn't get him hard.

Women exist as an abstraction to him. He'll talk all day about how much he "values" them, but that's because he thinks he's supposed to say that. But listen to him speak about them and you can sense his misogyny. Women have hurt him, and he's out to hurt them back. He views them as challenges, as objects to be conquered. Beauty is their only selling point. The more attractive a woman he can place on his arm, the more impressive he deems himself.

He belongs to several dating sites, because he thinks he looks irresistible on paper.

He is incredibly, devastatingly, transparently insecure. Validation is heroin to him. The envy of others, crack cocaine. He is exhausted by the need to prove his worth to others.

He is extremely passive aggressive. When he cannot have something, he immediately and loudly dismisses it. He finds ways to subtly criticize the choices and lifestyles of those who threaten him, because he cannot stomach coming in second in any of life's competitions. And that's what life is to him: a series of competitions.

---

I know a man who has no idea how sexy his humility is.

He places his achievements deep in his pockets, assured of their existence, but with no need to put them on display. He makes me dig to find them, and when I do, they are like treasures unearthed. I unwrap the details of his life with delight, while he quietly watches. He doesn't need to say anything, because they speak for themselves.

He accepts praise with modesty, often deflecting it. And when he does, I am moved by a need to make him understand how impressive he is. I want to cup his face, look into his eyes, and tell him that he's amazing. I want to kiss him, utterly charmed by the secrets he's too modest to wear on his sleeve.

He's outgrown the need tick off boxes on a public bucket list. He either does things or he doesn't, but he doesn't parade his privilege in front of others, tone deaf to how entitled and boastful he appears.

If you asked him about the woman he loves, he'll tell you how smart, funny, and talented she is. "And she's pretty," he'll add as an afterthought.

I know a man who makes me feel like there's room for me in his life, because it isn't already too full of himself.

youth and beauty

Haha, only I could turn three hours into three million words...
---

Sure enough, there are two floral love seats in the sitting area of his bedroom. They face one another across a coffee table littered with cards and crumpled wrapping paper. Two foil balloons on their last breath of helium hover just above the table.

"Birthday?" I ask.

"Graduation. Did I tell you that? I thought I told you that." He did. I'd forgotten in the space of an hour.  He walks to the further sofa and stands behind it, running his hand across the back to showcase the print: cabbage roses the size of his palm, strewn across an optic white background. Designed by a friend of his, using vintage fabric from the UK. She's amazing, so talented. They're one-of-a-kind. Cool, right? I suspect that the friend he's describing is a current or former lover. There seems to be no other excuse for these couches, which sit there embarrassedly, like a pair of lace hankies left in the men's locker room. 

I turn to take in the rest of the room, but when I sense Matthew approaching me, I bound across the bed, pretending to inspect the stack of books on the opposite nightstand. The top one is a collection of Matisse prints. I touch it absently, as if admiring the texture of the jacket's paper. "That's nice," I say, pointing towards a painting on the wall. I'm kneeling on his bed, turned completely away from him, still in my heels. "Who did that?" I'm given a short speech about the artist, a local woman who's "about to blow up", according to my host, who has now rounded the bed to stand in front of me. He tries to push me backwards, but the position I'm in prevents this from working very well, and instead I just sort of tip over awkwardly onto my side, in the way Chaucer does when he finishes a particularly arduous side scratch.

"Hang on," I say, aware that a passive-aggressive primness has crept into my voice. I take my time pulling the jewelry from my fingers and wrist before setting it delicately on top of the Matisse book. "Don't let me forget those." Rolling over to sit back up on the edge of the bed, I reach down to unbuckle my shoe straps. I hear myself sigh with genuine difficulty at the maneuver and wonder what interest this paragon of youth and beauty could possibly have in me, and how many minutes I have before he sobers up and I see the desire evaporate from his perfect face.

As if to answer my question, Mathew, still standing beside the bed, pulls off his shirt. He has the sort of physique that comes from natural athleticism vs. long hours logged in the weight room. Proportionate and muscled, but not unnaturally defined or bulky. I can see the yoga; the football is long gone. It's a delightful sight that I can certainly appreciate, though that's about the extent of my response, mental or physical. But even bad pizza is still pizza, and this is a delicious slice of localganic deep dish that any foodie would scold me for not, at the very least, trying a bite of. So I place a napkin on my lap and pick up my knife and fork. 

Five minutes of disastrously bad making out ensue, during which I alternately deflect, unsuccessfully attempt to redirect, and just plain suffer through more of the weird chin biting, some alarmingly rough handling, and general ineptitude of touch. When I can't stand it any more, I launch myself out of the bed, claiming a need to use the bathroom. I pad back down the main hallway in the dark, unsure of where I'm going. I sense more than I see an open doorway beside me, reach in to fumble for the light switch, and stand gaping at a room that I instantly decide I could happily reside in. 

The master bathroom is about a third the size of my loft, with a toilet room, a walk-in shower, and a massive, gleaming, stand alone bathtub at which I stare for a good minute. Nearly as long as my sofa, the smooth white lip of it reaches to my mid-thigh. An impressive network of chrome hoses and four-pronged faucet nobs anchored to the wall beside it promise unfailing efficiency. And the sheer, egregious size of the thing promises relaxation on a level I don't reach unless Vicodin is involved. It looks brand new, but I know it's not. I know the housekeepers just want me to think it is.

"That tub," I say, walking back into the dark bedroom.

"Yeah, you like it? You want to take a bath?" Before I can answer, he springs from the bed, injected with purpose and, I suspect, hope for amplified interest from me. "Let's take a bath!" Despite my better instincts, I follow him wordlessly back down the hall and into the bathroom.  

I watch as Mathew expertly wrenches faucet dials left and right, calibrating the temperature with his bare feet as water pools quickly around them. I shed the last of my clothes, silently cursing my cheap underwear, and climb in beside him, feeling childlike in the oversized tub. He uncaps a bottle sitting on the ledge beside the tub and tips it carefully into the stream of water. Creamy white suds form around my ankles, and an unmistakable scent fills the room. "Lavender," I say.

"Lavender," he echoes. "Lots of lavender. Be right back." Mathew steps nimbly onto a crisp white bathmat and then disappears back down the hall. I sit down in the bubble-filled water and look at my surroundings. A shelf behind me is lined with various bath and grooming products, mostly Kiehl's. There are fluffy white towels stacked on a built in shelf below twin sinks. I can't tell if the walls are painted the same icy blue as some of the other rooms, or if they're greener. A small silver square has been pressed into the edge of the tub's enamel: the manufacturer's seal. I run my fingertip across the single, cursive script "m". 

When Mathew returns, he hands me a highball filled with some pungent, amber liquid and lights a candle on the vanity. I sniff the glass, but cannot determine the contents. I set it on the ledge behind me and watch the man I've known less than two hours join me, naked, in his tub.

Several minutes of tragically comic fumbling follow.

At some point we move to the shower, which is large enough for me to lay completely flat in, with my arms extended straight above my head. But the change of location doesn't improve things, and after what feels like a polite amount of time has passed, I announce that I need to go home. When Mathew expresses surprise and disappointment, I am genuinely befuddled. Our complete lack of chemistry and physical incompatibility could not be more glaring. But his objections seem sincere, and I reject offers of breakfast in bed and an early morning ride home as kindly as I can. "I'm sorry. I really need to go now. My dog has a small bladder," I lie. 

"Okay, but you have to come for yoga on Tuesday," he says, reaching for his phone to arrange a ride home for me.

"What, like, here? Private instruction, at your house?"

"Yeah."

"Fancy!" I exclaim teasingly. I don't actually respond to the invitation. Instead I inquire about the car service. "So, this isn't a taxi then? I don't have much cash..."

"No no, don't worry about it. It's taken care of." I thank him, feeling guilty as I gather my things. But he doesn't seem fazed or upset or hurt, just mildly surprised by my abrupt departure. He walks me as far as his door, slipping on a pair of seersucker shorts he grabs along the way. He thanks me for coming over, for the dancing, etc, and I thank him once again for providing a car for me. I close the door gently behind me and walk to the elevator, glancing at my phone to check the time. It's just after four am.

When I reach the lobby, the first thing I see is Doc, his hand on the backseat door handle of a shiny black Lincoln MKT. The lobby doors have already been propped open in preparation for my departure. I'll tell Mason about this moment later, too. It was like an invisible red carpet leading me straight to my Ride Home of Shame. I walk the ten steps to my waiting chariot and Doc bids me good evening with a tired but neutral expression. 

I feel pretty tired and neutral myself. 

I tell the driver my cross streets and he nods quietly before asking me if I'd like some water, or gum, or a change in the temperature. I decline all of these and relax into the cool leather, grateful that the sun hasn't yet risen. When we reach my building, I unzip my clutch to look for cash to tip the driver. "No, is payed for," he says, shaking his head. I hand him a ten anyway.

The next morning there's a missed text from Mathew on my phone: a picture of the two rings and the bracelet I left sitting on his Matisse book, captioned Perfect for a still life. I mentally kick myself, hard, before replying.

- Gah! I knew I'd forget those. 

- I take it as a lovely reason for us to hang out again this week. 

I have no idea what to say to this. I finally settle on Yeah? What do you have in mind?, mostly because I'm curious.

- Hmm, putting me on the spot for an adventure... Picnic in the park? Reflexology in side by side chairs?

- Wow. Those are some graduate level activities right there.

- Haha, I also cook dinner and watch movies.

I don't answer. Instead I text my best friend. Are you around? I had an adventure last night...

---

Mathew texts a couple more times over the next few days with invitations that I decline. On Friday, I take a break from writing the final lines of a blog post about him to ask if he'd mind dropping my jewelry in the mail. No rush, just whenever you have a chance. He answers immediately.

- Boo! No hanging out for us? 

I tell him that he's awesome and very fun, etc., but that I don't have a car and he lives hecka far, blah blah blah. I put the phone down and return to writing my post.

He counters right away with an offer for a "subway date" - meeting me somewhere I can easily take the train to, like Hollywood. I also bike downtown all the time, he adds. I stare at his text, reflecting back on the evening, wondering if it was really as bad as I've since made it out to be. His enthusiasm for wanting to see me again is, after all, really nice, and not something I've experienced very much in the past year. I think of what L. and I discussed that night, about the attentiveness of younger men. 

I look at my phone. 

I look at my computer screen.

I don't know what to type in either place.

I don't know how either story should end, or when.

senators

Alright you pervs. Here's part two of this

---

Once outside, we spend several minutes confusedly trying to coordinate plans with his friends, all of whom have scattered into smaller groups and couples, and none of whom seem to know where any of the others are going. Some are trying to flag taxis, which are in high demand. Some are waiting for the valet to retrieve their cars. Let's go to McNare's, someone says. Hearing his name, McNare joins the conversation. No, not my place. I don't have any liquor. Frowns. Shrugs. I get the feeling Matthew's friends are gamely trying to accommodate his desire to keep the evening going for our sake. I also get the feeling that what they really want to do is go home.

We walk up and down the sidewalk, milling with faces familiar from the past few hours, trying to put together some kind of plan with a quickly vaporizing group of people. One of the men I'd spoken to earlier, Alexis, is standing on the curb with a pair of his friends, waiting for his car. I can sense him staring at me as we walk past, Matthew leading me by the hand. I don't look up.

After a few more moments of chaos, he finally stops and turns to me. "Okay, look. Do you want to just go to my place, maybe open a bottle of wine and talk or something? I can take you home whenever you'd like." The trepidation in his face makes me laugh.

"That sounds great," I say.

A moment later, we find ourselves in the backseat of a cab. He's incredibly polite to the driver, apologizing profusely when there's confusion about the address of his condo, which is just a few blocks away. As soon as that's settled, Matthew leans close to me. He puts both of his hands on my legs, just under the hem of my dress, and squeezes, hard. Too hard.

Ow. It takes a second for me to register why I'm in pain: fingernails.

I don't really have time to adequately process this fact, however, because now I'm being kissed. His kiss isn't particularly aggressive or forceful - certainly nothing to match the attack on my thighs - but it isn't exactly skilled, either. The word for it, really, is immature.

I have the first stirrings of a thought, floating to me from a familiar place: This is why we decided to stop dating so much younger, remember Ellie? It's been our experience, says my brain dryly, that the under thirty-five set has some learnin' to do in this arena, yes yes? 

Chastising myself for not feeling more gratitude for the gift sitting beside me, chatting me up about law school and writing and the Los Angeles light rail system and how nice my "energy" is, I try to get my head in the game. But I can already tell that even if I bully my brain into submission, my body wants nothing to do with this scene. My body, in fact, is making some brutal calculations and comparisons.

We head down one winding street, then up another, onto what appears to be a private drive. Seconds later we're parked on a semi-circular drop off in front of his building. Plate glass windows frame a small, minimalist lobby, manned by a single, suited employee, who opens the taxi door, greets Matthew by name, and hands him a bundle of pressed white shirts shrouded in cellophane. "Thanks, Doc," he says jovially, taking his dry cleaning and stepping to the elevator, me quietly in tow. Doc reaches in, hits 17, and nods goodnight to both of us. I haven't said a word since we exited the cab, though once the elevator doors close, I ask if the doorman's name is really Doc.

Matthew shakes his head no. "Long story," he smiles.

The lobby, Doc, and the sheer proprietorial air with which Matthew entered the building have all prepared me, so I'm not surprised when we exit the elevator into a lush hallway lined with tasteful carpet, textured jacquard wallpaper, and glinting, mirror-finished tables. Still, I'm not expecting what comes next.

He slips his key into the lock of a door a few paces away from the elevator. After you, he gestures. The first, slightly echoing footfalls of my heels on the hardwood floor give it away: his place is large. Exactly how large I won't realize until a few minutes later, but just walking into the kitchen, which opens to a grand living room, connected to a full dining area, which is lined by an entire wall of floor-to-celing windows, is enough for me to realize that, three years into my residence here, I'm about to have my first glimpse of Serious LA Money.

I do my best to take it in stride. I don't stare in the way I would have, had I been even five years younger. But details are popping out at me left and right, and I'm frantically cataloguing them for my memory. Oh yes. This will be blogged. 

His home is astonishingly beautiful, in the way that would make me sigh with envy and delight, had I seen it in a magazine, or on a Pinterest board. Immaculate. Stylish. Youthful. Stunningly decorated and accessorized. Every last inch of it has had, if not love, plenty of consideration poured into it - and plenty of cash. I'm already strategizing how I can sneak a few photos for my friends. I note random things. The wall-mounted rack of radiant copper cookware. The kitchen cabinetry, which is white, but manages to be everything unexpected about white kitchen cabinetry. It's fresh and pretty, the cut and hardware like something out of Restoration Hardware, but still somehow nontraditional. A crystal chandelier above the dining table, the prisms of which bear not a speck of dust.

Crown moulding lines the entire apartment, which has several built-ins filled with books and framed photos. Walls of a pale blue the exact shade I can't make out in the dimmish light. Two giant midnight blue velvet chesterfield sofas face one another across a flat file that I suspect was commissioned. And the piece de resistance: a giant glass-framed vintage American flag, spanning an entire wall. It's easily fifteen feet wide and ten feet high. I step over to examine it, marveling at both the flag itself and the frame, which is a solid, chocolatey wood, a good six inches thick. I cannot fathom how something like this could be framed, much less transported up to the 17th floor and through a standard doorway. I want to ask how old the flag is, but I'm afraid the question's subtext (how much it cost), will be too obvious. Instead I point at the velvet chesterfields.

"Those aren't floral," I say.

"Those ones are in my room. I'll show you in sec. Come here, help me pick out music." Matthew rounds the corner of the living room into the adjacent room. I follow, and find myself walking into a space about the size of my apartment, divided clearly into office/workspace, and den/library. I bite my lip lest I laugh. I'm standing in a residential library. An honest to goodness home library. I pivot on my heels and take it in, less concerned with reading the titles on the shelves than getting a good impression of the whole room, before we open the wine and my short term memory gets drowned. I suppress a hilarious urge to twirl in my dress and sing Little Town.

Meanwhile, my host is leaning over his desk, clicking through his music library. When I join him, he sinks into a leather office chair, spreading his knees to invite me between them. "Your home is beautiful," I say softly, telling myself to leave it at that. He knows, after all. But he smiles in acceptance of the compliment.

"I did it myself. Gutted the place. Picked out everything, all the furniture, the fixtures, the art. The floor was parquet. It was a disaster. Do you like art?"

"I do, but I'm not all that educated about it, I'm afraid." I watch him select a playlist, his face bathed in light from a desktop monitor roughly the size of my desk. "How long have you lived here?"

"Three years." He rises and takes my hand, leading me out of the room through a different entrance. I realize the apartment is even bigger than I'd thought. "Do you want anything?"

I ignore him momentarily, thrown off by my realization that we're now walking through an entirely separate wing. Before I can stop myself, I ask how many square feet the place is, my voice almost accusatory in tone. I can't help it. It's one of the biggest apartments I've ever set foot in.

"Little over thirty-five hundred," he says lightly. There's no arrogance, no boastfulness. He's matter-of-fact about it. Matthew walks back down a hallway lined with built-in shelves towards the kitchen. I trail him like a puppy, glancing as I pass them at the dozens of framed photos that line the walls. Many are black and white. In the kitchen, we contemplate the contents of his fridge. "Do you want wine?" he asks.

"Not really," I say truthfully. He pulls out a large blue glass bottle of water and walks backwards out of the kitchen, grinning and pulling me to him for a kiss. He dips his head slightly to kiss my chin, which he then bites. Hard. And it hurts. And not in a good way. I wince and pull away and laugh a laugh that I hope communicates Slow down. I'm starting to second guess my decision to come. It's the second time I've been in actual pain since he laid hands on me.

As we're making our way through the room I suddenly realize there's a massive sliding glass door next to the dining room table. "May I?" I ask, letting myself out onto a balcony with a small contained garden and a few teak lounge chairs. Matthew is saying something about the food he's trying to grow but I'm not paying attention. Instead I'm staring out across the glittering city lights, at the cluster of high rises in the distance that denote my own neighborhood. I sigh. I feel arms wrap around me, again, too tight, too rough, and I realize that if I'm going to leave, I need to do it now.

"You look amazing in this dress," he says, the fabric pulling under his weird, pinching grip. "Oh yeah, let me show you those sofas," I'm taken by the hand and led back through the photo gallery hallway, where he stops and pulls a frame off a shelf. Black and white. A football team. {Ivy League University} football team. He isn't bragging. He's only showing me because when he'd earlier mentioned having played, I'd been skeptical, due to his lithe frame. "See? Thirty pounds heavier."

I skim the picture politely but my eyes flit almost immediately to another on the bookcase before us. A family photo, which, when Matthew follows my gaze, he lifts down wordlessly to let me examine close up. Later I'll tell Mason about it. You should have seen these people, I'll say. They all looked like senators.  

LOL, he'll reply. My family photos everyone looks like bank robbers.

I hear myself saying something inane about the photo but now it's my companion's turn to ignore me, because he's busy pulling me down the hall, toward his bedroom and the two floral sofas that constituted our initial talking point about an hour ago.

---

Ok kids, I gotta get ready for a BBQ, so I'm stopping there for now. I've been charged with preparing and bringing the all-important potato salad, which is lolzy because I'm such a lousy cook and should have just offered to bring more liquor. In fact I'm half tempted to just throw some sliced potatoes on top of a garden salad, just to fuck with my girlfriend.

Hope my American friends are having a gorgeous Independence Day filled with sunshine and sulfate-laden grillin' meats! Merica, fuck yeah!

- ellzebub

frenchie

with someone with whom I was discussing sex, yesterday:

him: [redacted]

me: I've realized that my sex life to date has been a lot like getting the mail. Much of it is junk, expected and boring. Rarely have I gotten something I was really excited about, and that I hoped to get more of. 

him: [redacted]

---

with Wally:

him: (sends pic of a mall brow bar)

me: My fifth circle of Hell. Interestingly, the ones inside of that are related to hair removal, too.

him: Guess you won't be getting a franchise. (sends snippet of promotional video playing at brow bar)

me: I read that too quickly and saw "frenchies." I was all, What god awful new way to torture women in the name of beauty is THAT? 

him: Frenchie? Is that like a Brazilian?

me: That's what I was guessing. More curl, though (ew).

him; So after a Frenchie would your lady parts start being rude to Americans?

me: HAHAHA

him: Or just surrender to aggressors?

me: OH SNAP.

hmm

Hmm.

"If you are not kind on the internet, then you are not kind."

Well that's tidy. And it may even be true. The problem, however, is that some bloggers are very good at conflating what is justified, measured criticism - delivered respectfully - and what is an objectively cruel and dismissible attack.

Also, time and again I've seen bloggers take a piece of hateful or mean-spirited criticism they've received, hoist it up like a flag above their head, and wave it back and forth for all to see. Look! Look how mean they are! Then they lower that flag and proceed to hide behind it, using it as an excuse to ignore ALL criticism - even that which merits consideration and response.

Or they just let their fans/readers/friends raise the flag for them.

If bloggers are genuinely interested in "truth-telling", they have to be willing to examine the nuance of the criticism that's coming their way, and a bit slower to categorically dismiss it as "cruelty" or "bullying." And they have to be honest in their representation and characterization of that criticism.

The vitriolic and senseless attack of the reader sitting to my left does not invalidate the insightful, measured observation of the reader sitting to my right. Go ahead and write off the entire table, if you want, but don't be surprised when you lose my respect.

Because if you are not intellectually honest on the internet, then you are not intellectually honest.

same team

I wake up around 7:45 pm, my forehead pounding. I've been unsuccessfully trying to sleep my way through what I've come to realize must be a sinus infection, because my symptoms are worsening by the day. I have a couple of missed texts and a missed voicemail; invitations from friends to hang out that evening. One is from someone I haven't seen in some weeks and am keen to. But I feel like hell and want to be in better form when I do.

The second invite is from a girlfriend who lives in West Hollywood. Ellie! I'm heading out with D. to Pink Taco on Sunset around 8. Come!! I haven't seen you!! 

I take inventory of my body. Headache. Stuffy nose. Dry throat. Stomach still stuffed from the two slices of pizza I scarfed down that afternoon before falling asleep. Definitely an empire waist kind of night if I do go out, which I know I probably shouldn't, but I really want to see my friends. It's one thing to stay in when there's nothing going on, but I hate the feeling of missing out. 

I listen to the voicemail. L. reiterating her invitation, making sure I get the details in case I want to join them. I glance at the clock before calling her back. She tells me the plan: swing by Pink Taco for a drink and to say hi to some friends of D's, then Bagatelle, then some club in Beverly Hills. D has the hookup and we won't have to wait in line or pay a cover. Also - and this is pitched as selling point - the club is straight. I laugh and tell her I'm in, but that they should go on ahead of me. I'll get ready, take the train to Hollywood, then cab it the rest of the way and be there as soon as I can. 

It's been gorgeous out at night, and I'd love to wear something tight, black, and stylish, but my earlier lunch plus a nap immediately afterward has ruled that out. I guzzle water while I'm getting ready, telling myself futilely that I shouldn't drink tonight. Knowing that I will anyway. I pull on a sundress with a forgiving waistline. It's cute, but not the right look for where I'm headed. I stare at my dress rack for half a minute, trying to envision what I can get away with comfortably, then decide not to worry about it. I need to hurry anyway.

The subway feels like a swamp, and I'm grateful not to have had to dress more warmly. While I'm waiting at Wilshire/Vermont to switch lines, I text my other friend to let him know I slept through his invitation, but would love to make alternate plans. A young man on the bench besides me asks if I'm getting cell reception. I nod and point above us. "I think we're right below the entrance," I say. He offers me his seat, and his friends groan, pretending to object to having to move. I laugh and tell them to stay put, that I'm fine. They ask where I'm headed. I cautiously say West Hollywood, not sure how deep into this conversation I want to go. But they're very chill and friendly, just being generally chatty. They're on their way home from watching jazz and drinking wine at LACMA. 

One of them sits beside me on the train, and we make small talk for another two stops. Have I been to the jazz nights at the museum? No, I have not. Sounds fun though. It is, I am assured. I'll have to check it out sometime, I say. How about next weekend, he smiles. I smile back. No, thanks. Can't make it then. He's unoffended and impassive, and wishes me a goodnight as he and his friends disembark.

The tourist throng at Hollywood and Highland isn't too thick, and I get a cab with ease. It's a van, and I have trouble shutting the heavy door behind me as I climb in. The driver - a hulking, smiling Eastern European - realizes as we're stopped in traffic a minute later that I haven't closed it properly. He reaches back with one arm and pulls it tight. "Oh, I'm sorry about that," I say. Without turning around, he points at his cheek. "One kiss," he teases. I laugh and my phone lights up. L. telling me they've made a first stop at Saddle Ranch, and to let her know when I'm close so they can walk over to meet me. Don't get whiplash riding the bull, I say. Oh god no please, she replies. 

Distracted by the scenes of Hollywood street life on a Friday night, I don't pay attention to where we are, and before I know it, we've arrived. I send a quick text before pulling cash out of my wristlet. Oops, I'm here. She fires back: We're walking down now. 

Getting out of the van with anything remotely resembling grace proves beyond me. Our proximity to the curb combined with my ridiculous clog heels spell disaster, and I nearly break my neck in front of an amused patio full of diners. I scuttle to a corner out of view and text L. I just made a scene trying to get out of the cab. Totally mortified. We have to go somewhere else now, sorry. 

The two of them walk up a minute later, bubbling over with Friday night energy and smiles. Hugs are exchanged and we go inside, where D. greets a large table of friends of his. L. and I hang back, use the restroom, get a drink. We only stay long enough for D. to have made an appearance at his friend's birthday, then we take a taxi to Bagatelle.

We spend the next hour drinking champagne, sharing appetizers, and taking turns updating one another on the men in our lives. D. makes us groan with jealousy when he shows us pics of the model he's seeing. L. and I have had very similar romantic lives for the past few years. She and I are the same age, yet we both tend to date younger guys - as much as ten years younger. For her, this is a deliberate choice. She likes how playful, affectionate, and attentive they are. For me, it's accidental, and something I've been trying to avoid of late, for various reasons.

But I definitely agree with her on the benefits.

Sufficiently liquored up, we join some coworkers of D.'s who are heading to the aforementioned club in Beverly Hills. The three of us ride in the backseat of a spotless black X5, joking and singing along with the music. My headache, I realize, has been temporarily bullied out of existence by the champagne.

We valet the car in front of a smallish club entrance with a massive line of anxious looking, stunningly beautiful people. I'm too tipsy to pay attention to exactly where I am, to glance up or down the street for landmarks - not to mention note the name of the club we're entering - but the immaculate state of the sidewalk registers with me. Yep. Beverly Hills.

Since we've tagged along with a friend of a friend of the promoter (or something along those lines), we are escorted through and past the waiting crowd, to present ourselves to an attractive middle-aged woman in a skintight cocktail dress. She verifies who we're with, then deftly outfits us in wristbands before unhooking the velvet rope to let us pass. I don't make eye contact with anyone waiting in line as all of this happens, but I make a point to politely thank the door staff who usher us inside.

The club is small and very dark. A tiny bar, smallish dance floor, and a raised seating area with about ten sofa groupings for bottle service. There aren't many people here yet.  The three of us fix ourselves drinks at the table the friend-of-a-friend has, and look around. I stash my wristlet and phone under the table, and we take our drinks to the near-empty dance floor. The DJ is jump-cutting crowd favorites from the eighties onward, and we sing to one another as we goof around, still plenty of space between us. Two minutes have barely passed before someone bumps into me, spilling vodka and Red Bull down the bottom half of my dress and my legs. I'm unbothered by the accident - in fact the splash of cold actually feels good in the stuffy nightclub - but we're forced to move to a dryer patch of floor lest we slip.

It fills up fast, and with people that are even more beautiful than I remember them being outside. The three of us have a grand time nudging each other, pointing, giggling, and speculating. Is he looking at you or me? Another drink and another half an hour later, we're ready to mingle.

It's actually a fun little club to be at; it's small enough to not get separated from your friends for too long, but it's filled way past capacity, stuffing patrons into a space that's obscenely undersized for the crowd, and therefore allowing for (forcing, really) plenty of opportunities to socialize with the people you've bumped up against. The three of us are having lots of laughs and enjoying ourselves immensely, and I get pretty brave in my flirtation. L. and I have only hung out a few times, and we're still getting to know one another - including figuring out one another's "type", for wingman purposes. She nods towards a tall, polished-looking guy in a white button down who's dancing near us. "What about him?" she asks me. I check him out. Kind of smirky looking. Smug, really. But he has an interesting face, and I put him closer to my age than most of the crowd.

The man notices us noticing him, and before I know what's happening, he's navigated the two or three steps between us and is dancing with me. In the space of five minutes, I learn his name (Alexis), his occupation (investment banker), and the depth of his arrogance (vast). I almost immediately forget the sarcastic crack he makes about barely being able to afford going out in LA, but it's enough to give him my best really?? glare before mumbling something about needing to find my friends and moving off. But as I do, he says something I don't quite catch. I lean towards his ear to ask him to repeat himself, and he suddenly turns his face to kiss my cheek, though it feels rather like he was aiming for my lips. "Whoa!" I say, pulling back and putting both my hands up in front of me. If Alexis even recognizes my indignation, his face betrays no embarrassment or regret. He just disappears back into the crowd, as randomly as he'd appeared.

The night goes on. Emboldened by the drinks and unfazed by Alexis, I press on, making a game of singling out for conversation any of the men the three of us find cute, just for fun. They're all twenty-something. They're all gorgeous, in my opinion. And for the most part, they're very friendly. We take turns being wingman and recruiting for one another, but nothing really sticks.

I have another mildly shocking interaction with a guy who I notice, and who notices me back. Blondish, chiseled, built but very pretty. A poor woman's Tom Hardy. We throw looks at one another for a few minutes before he maneuvers himself next to me. He's about to speak when suddenly a dazzling platinum blonde appears, wrapping herself around him like a blanket. He kisses her. I turn my back.

A moment later the girl moves away from him. As she does, the man extends his arm just enough to touch my waist and back with a deliberate, slow stroke. I jerk my head around to look at him, and his expression is clear. No, he hasn't mistaken me for his companion. He knows he's touching me. My jaw falls open and I laugh out loud. Unbelievable. I shake my head at him, trying to swallow the remnants of a smile as I step away. As I do so, the man reaches out behind him once more, smacking me lightly on my ass, a half-sheepish grin on his face. I'm too drunk, too surprised, and too amused to react in any way other than to return to my friends.

---

I see him once before we speak. He's stepping past L. and I, his body and face mostly angled away from us as he squeezes past, trying to get out of the seating area. Thick, wavy, sandy blonde hair that he's bound up in ponytail at the base of his neck. I can't tell how long it is exactly, but I suspect chin length. Smooth, slightly tan skin with an even tone and pinkish cheeks. The kind of skin that betrays an excellent diet and more daily water consumption than I manage in a week. Pale eyes, though at first I can't tell what color. He isn't smiling, so I won't see the diastema until we're in conversation a little while later. But I do see his very full lips. About six foot, maybe a bit less. A healthy but not ridiculously-so build. There's definitely cardio in his regime. He's wearing a chambray shirt underneath a kelly green blazer, and black jeans. I put him at twenty-five. He is, in my opinion, easily the best looking man I've seen tonight. A true California beach boy. Probably a surfer.

I point him out to L. as he passes and she gives me a look that says, Yep. Definitely nice. Also definitely young, girlfriend. She's right, I know. Out of my league looks-wise and way too young. I inwardly sigh and think not for the first time how much aging sucks.

A few minutes later I head to bathroom. I'm not really paying attention to where I'm stepping, other than to avoid the toes of the patrons I'm walking with, so I'm surprised when I feel my foot connect with something solid, send it flying across the hallway, and into the wall next to a photo booth. I realize I've just kicked a glass, full force. I look around guiltily, or perhaps to figure out whose glass I've just punted, and I find myself face to face with Probable Surfer.

He smiles widely in sympathy. Diastema. He looks like Heath Ledger, but prettier. Less angular, less gaunt in the face, which glows with...something.

"Don't worry about it," he says. "I think I kicked it before, too."

"You can't take me anywhere," I reply. He laughs and we just sort of look at one another for a moment, assessing. Are we going to keep this going? Do we want to? I want to. Do you want to?

Apparently he wants to, because he makes a subtle join me gesture with his arm as he moves out of the flow of foot traffic, to the only space where we can stand that isn't in the way: next to the obnoxiously glowing photo booth, which is pouring hallogen light on my face at one a.m. I am not happy about this.

I also have a thought as it happens: This is what they mean by "falling" into conversation. 

Over the course of the next several minutes, I gather the following bits of information: he was born and raised in ____. He went to {Ivy League University} for undergrad. He just graduated from ____ law school. We've been to some of the same music festivals - like, on the same actual dates, where we could conceivably have seen one another (we didn't; I would have remembered). He wishes he were going to Burning Man like me. He likes my dress. He really likes floral prints, in fact (I greet this statement with a skeptical smile, as I suspect he's teasing me. No really. I have two floral print sofas at home.) His name is Matthew. He smiles a lot.

Enough time has passed that now I really have to use the restroom, and I say as much. "So what," he says playfully. "You're walking out of my life, just like that?"

Walking out of his life is the very last thing I want to do, but I refuse to ask him to wait for me where he's standing. "I'll meet you back inside," I say with much more nonchalance than I feel. I'm only 80% sure I'll be able to find him again - it's a tiny place but the crowd is thick - but it's the only option.

"Ok," he says. "You better. Same team, right?" he asks, raising his eyebrows in mock seriousness.

"Same team," I nod. He nods too, and then we turn away from one another.

---

While I'm waiting in the line for the bathroom, I chat up two tipsy girls behind me. They compliment my dress, which, if nothing else, is inarguably unique in the mix of sleek, fashion-forward outfits everyone else is sporting.

"I look like I just came from church," I reply. One of the girls shakes her head vehemently.

"Do you have a ponytail holder?" she asks me.

"I wish," I reply. She bites her lip thoughtfully, looking me over.

"A ponytail and some eyeliner. That's all you need," she declares. I smile, not offended at all. She's exactly right.

"Next time," I assure her, feeling as if I've just promised my daughter to make a bigger effort towards looking cool at her soccer games.

---

It takes a few minutes to find him again, but serendipitously, his table is just a few feet away from ours. The next half hour: dancing, drinking, talking, joking. I introduce him to my friends. I try not to stare at him. He slowly ups the physical ante, and eventually, his arm is wrapped around my waist. I am okay with this. There is no arrogance in the gesture or, it seems, in him at all. In fact, I'm beginning to get the impression he's pretty crunchy. I squint at his ponytail. How long? I ask. He responds by reaching back and pulling the band from his hair. I notice it's the same "ouchless" kind I use. I watch as he finger combs his hair down to show me. Yep. Chin length. Golden and wavy and soft-looking. Devastating. I want to run my hand up the back of his head and gather it into my fist. Instead I just smile.

I allow myself one more moony question. "Twenty five?" I say, cocking my head as if studying him. He snorts, throwing me off. "Hmm, really? Twentyyyyyyy-seven?" I say, hoping I don't sound hopeful.

"Twenty-eight," he says, and that line of discussion stops there. He doesn't reciprocate the inquiry.

The club lights come on. Lots of lights, in fact, which seem unnecessarily bright. I catch my reflection in the mirror beside us. I am, undeniably, a hot mess. I've had a sinus infection for a good week, and have been losing sleep steadily because of it. I haven't touched up my lipgloss in hours. I cringe, taking myself in, and think wryly of the expression we used in my dancing days: ugly lights. Strip club owners, it seems, take malicious glee in flipping the light switch the second the clock strikes 2:00 a.m., leaving the girls to scramble to collect payment from their customers and scurry back to the dressing room, lest the brutally unflattering light turn them into pumpkins in the eyes of those men.

Knowing that these ugly lights aren't doing me any favors, I brace myself for a blowoff. But it doesn't come. In fact, the opposite: do I want to come to after hours with him and his friends? I consider. I know my friends are going to be heading home anyway. But if I leave with Matthew, it'll most likely mean spending the night with him. It doesn't necessarily have to, of course - but I don't predict asking him to drive me back downtown at three, four in the morning.

But I'm enjoying him. I can't say that it's any kind of off-the-charts connection, but he is so, so very nice to look at. My ego is tugging on my sleeve. Do it. Come onnnnn, please? You never go to straight bars! You never meet straight guys! What's the harm? Please? For me? LOOK AT HIM.

He turns to face me directly, and his eyes search mine. "What do you say? Same team?" It's that moment - the one where two near-strangers have an unspoken, closing-time exchange. I'd like to hook up with you. Would you like to hook up with me? Where the terms of the hookup are undefined, precisely, but not by a whole lot.

"Same team," I reply, and he accepts this answer with what I decide is an appreciative smile.

I say goodbye to my friends, and we head out into the warm night.

---

Okay, wow, that was quite a post. Your blogmistress wasn't expecting it to take so long to detail this particular adventure, and she's thinking maybe she should stop there, at least for now. I intended to tell the whole story, and I'm sure I will, but goddamn, this is is already eleventy billion words long as it is.

So lemme just publish this and I'll tell the second half later when my elbows recover from four hours of resting with a complete lack of ergonomic kindness on my hard, hard desk.

Incidentally, I really hope it doesn't come across as braggy. Like, oooh, look at me, cute dudes be hitting on me! Really, I'm only sharing it because I know some of you guys get a kick out of the (rare) juicy stuff. I totally would too! And I was pretty mum about what went down with my last manpanion, so I dunno, maybe I feel like I owe you something a little more fun?

Just don't get your hopes up too high; from this point on it was a tragicomedy, but I know it's at least more entertaining to read this stuff than me droning on about the sads all the time. 

Ok, done disclaiming. Thanks for caring/reading about my "romantic" life!

- Ellie