gabriel II

(continued from here)

He didn't touch me for what felt like forever. We watched the ridiculous Deadmau5 visuals, we danced, we talked and joked around as best one can, when one can barely hear anything above the live music. He was fascinated with the upper level VIP area, where girls in cocktail dresses and high heels leaned out over the railing. "It looks so boring up there!" He shook his head, disappointed. I saw the girls watching him. He was tall enough and good looking enough to stand out easily. 

"Let's get a drink," he said, and took my hand to lead me through the crowd. He held it tight and the mere feeling of being touched, chaste as it was, absolutely sent me. At the perimeter of the dance floor he quasi-introduced me to someone he'd met earlier. I couldn't make out any names, and our proximity to the speakers made for some confusion between us and the bartenders. We ended up being helped by two, who looked annoyed when we all realized what was happening. I paid, tipping heavily.  

Back on the dance floor, Gabriel was playful and sociable with everyone around us. I was still completely sober, not a drop or a dose in me, so I was self-aware and a little self-conscious. I didn't know what the rules were. I wanted him to lead, and I was fully prepared to follow. But Deadmau5 wasn't playing the music of his that you can really couple up to. He was playing the bouncy stuff. And it was great. Then he dropped into My Pet Coelacanth and I screamed and jumped, and Gabriel hugged me. That was the shift. He moved behind me, lightly touching my hip or brushing against my lower back. I wanted to make sure he was feeling it, so I looked back over my shoulder to read his face. Up to this point we'd just been endlessly smiling and laughing. But his expression now was serious, and he pulled me sharply against him. I lost my breath and when it came back, I sighed deeply and leaned my head back on his chest. 

That's how it played out. We'd be apart for a few minutes, then he would pull me to him, moving my body comfortably. Possessively, even. By the time Deadmau5 played Imaginary Friends I was flirting back, hard. Plucking at his shirt, twisting it in my fingers, barely touching his stomach and then letting go and stepping back. Looking in his eyes the whole time. 

It was a lot of fun to say the least.

Before we knew it, it was two am. "Clock's running out." 

"Yeah, but you live four blocks from here," he replied, throwing back one of the first facts he'd learned about me, two hours earlier.

"I do live four blocks from here," I confirmed. 

"So we could leave and go start a new clock." 

"We could start a new clock," I agreed. Knowing, already, that I would never see him again after tonight. Visiting from San Francisco. Much younger. This would be it.

"Let's go do that."

---

Outside was depressing. The homeless, the mentally ill, the filthy streets. He assured me that SF isn't much better. We turned on Seventh, walking by bodies passed out on the sidewalk and boarded-up restaurants. I read his thoughts. "Bleak, huh?" 

He tilted his head back to look up at the skyscrapers. "I like the buildings."

Halfway there he objected that we'd gone at least four blocks already. "Yeah, but 'twelve blocks' doesn't sound as sexy." I was nervous, and filled the walk with chatter. We had not even kissed, yet here we were on the way to my apartment. I mentioned that he might want to check in with his friends so they wouldn't worry when he didn't show up back at the hotel, then peppered him with questions. Had he and his friends just driven down for the Deadmau5 show? Partly yes, and partly to surf and camp on the coast. Was he from San Francisco originally? No, Atlanta. Had he been to Bonnaroo? Yes, plenty of times. 

When I asked what other musicians he liked and he said ODESZA was his favorite, I refrained from telling him they were one of mine, too. 

"There might be dishes in the sink," I warned him suddenly.

"I don't care about dishes, but do you have a foam roller?"

"I have multiple foam rollers," I answered triumphantly. 

When we got to my place, I immediately dipped into the bathroom to shower. On the way I grabbed a pair of thin black lounge pants and an oversized, cropped, short sleeve sweatshirt. I hadn't eaten in hours and my stomach was as flat as it ever can be. May as well keep up the crop top theme. When I came out, Gabriel was on the floor by the door, working his back out with one of the aforementioned rollers. "Oh my god, at least come over here on the carpet."

It was then I remembered that one entire side of my platform bed's support slats were broken or missing. I'd been sleeping carefully to one side for months. 

"Soooo, my bed is kind of broken," I announced. We had not yet touched one another.

"Broken how?" He looked at it.

"The slats under the mattress are fucked up."

Gabriel raised his eyebrows at me. "How did that happen?"

"Someone was trying to be funny and threw themselves on the bed."

"Is it usable?"

I made a face. "Depends on the use."

"Well, we're gonna try." A beat, then: "Do you have an extra towel? I kinda wanna shower, too."

While Gabriel showered, I did a quick once-over of my apartment. In the refrigerator was leftover salmon, some spinach, and an open pack of hot dogs. Gross, but throwing any of that away would just make my place smell bad. I realized my daily work to-do list was posted on the fridge. Embarrassing, but pulling it down after he might have already seen it would be even weirder. Then I remembered that the small dry erase board on the side of the fridge had a motivational message written on it. I grabbed a dish towel and wiped Your future self will thank you for not giving up out of existence. 

Knowing there was a very real possibility that Gabriel's weight alone would finish off the bed entirely, I laid down on the shag rug that covers most of my bedroom area floor. Plenty of room for both of us. From the shower Gabriel called out updates. He had figured out which of my unmarked toiletry pumps was shampoo. He liked the drawing of my dog. His back was really tweaked from surfing today. 

He emerged shirtless, in his boxers, to find me laying on my back, listening to the ODESZA playlist I had put on during his brief absence. I smiled a sheepish smile. Look! I'm on the floor! Isn't that cute and campy? Who cares that my janky-ass bed is broken!

He smiled back at me and I had a split second to realize his body was even better than I'd expected before he lowered himself down on top of me.

"What's 'Monrow'?" he asked, referencing the graphic on my sweatshirt.

Monrow is an expensive loungewear brand. I had bought the top I was wearing used, off Poshmark. "It's a city," I lied.

"A city?"

"Or a brand or something? I don't know. Would you like me to change?"

"No," he said, moving his hands under my shirt, "but I want you to take it off, because holy shit these are fantastic..."

---

The bed did not hold. The bed gave us about seven or eight glorious minutes and then physics got the best of it. There was some comedy in the scene, but underneath I was furious with myself for not having fixed it yet. We clambered around naked, attempting to correctly reposition the incomplete line of wooden boards. But they just kept falling. I went to use the bathroom and Gabriel tried valiantly to replace the massive king mattress without disturbing the precarious boards underneath.

"Fuck!" 

I came out of the bathroom to find him standing frustratedly next to a sunken-in bed. "Can we just put the mattress on the floor?" He seemed defeated.

"We absolutely can." We slid the mattress down to the ground directly at the foot of the bed. By now it was well past three am. The vibe had changed. It was bedtime. 

---

The next hour was my favorite of the entire night. The next hour was what I didn't know I had needed so badly. The next hour was the kind of sweet, fun, uncomplicated but intimate connection I have been missing. Talking, teasing. Silly voices. Cuddling. Gabriel was exhausted from his SoCal adventure but he couldn't sleep. He'd try for a minute then turn back to me for more attention and talking, which I happily provided. He was young and restless and beautiful, and all mine for a few more hours. I ran my fingers through his hair, stroked his back, and listened to him talk. Commercial real estate. Competitive league soccer. Surfing. Wealthy friends. Finance and economics, startups and cryptocurrency. His monologue dropped a lot of clues suggesting a definite avoidance of girlfriends, which I called out. 

"You're extremely independent, aren't you? Like...it's just you, isn't it?"

"Yes," he said simply. 

I was too hungry to sleep, so I got up to reexamine the fridge contents. I could feel him evaluating my half-dressed body in the half light of the room. His age had come up in conversation - 29 - but mine had not. The silence around our age difference was not uncomfortable though. It was just a thing, unspoken and neutral.

I microwaved us hot dogs which felt like the most unsexy food I could possibly have made, but it was really the only option. When I handed him his (on a plate; I had no buns), he got excited. "Mustard? Oh hell yes."

"That's just the juice from the hot dog. I don't have any mustard, I'm sorry."

He finished his quickly. "Honestly that was the best hot dog I've ever had in my life." I believed him.

---

Neither of us really slept. He blamed his hurting back and being overly exhausted from the day. But I knew the real reason was the same as mine: neither of us are used to sharing a bed with someone. We've both lost that comfort level. 

We tossed and turned until ten am, when there was no denying the invasive summer light or the fact that he needed to go back to his hotel, his friends, and his life. He kissed me goodbye, and I fell asleep within minutes of him leaving.

---

Do you remember the other day at the beach? You took yourself to the coast, to have a think and a feel about life. To remind yourself that good things are coming, even if you can't see them yet.

This was such a thing. This was a small moment in your life, insignificant in the scheme of things. But what did it teach you? What did it make you feel and remember?

Connection happens, if you put yourself out there for it. 

You are beautiful and outgoing and people are drawn to you. People choose you. They choose your energy.

And if you keep putting yourself out there, soon enough someone will choose you and you will choose them back, and that connection will be full of all the things that, in your hardest moments, you think are gone forever.

They aren't gone at all. They're just waiting to be made again. That's why we keep going and trying. 

So keep going, keep trying, keep dancing. But fix your goddamn bed already.