I almost don’t go on the OkCupid date with Andy. Something about him seems bland — the round smiling face in his photos, the messages that are flirty but not quite witty. It seems ill-fated that I enter his number incorrectly into my phone and he has to hound me via email to nail down a plan: 7 p.m., wine bar downtown. Am I wasting my time?
But I want to put as much distance as possible between myself and the ex, and I’ve decided that other men make the best unit of measure. Since the breakup last month, any blank space in my mind gets filled with the same dismal diatribe: That after years of trying to mend my wicked, commitment-phobic ways; of abstaining from causal sex and dead-end drama (oh glorious drama, sweet nectar of youth) so that I could be pure and unencumbered when I finally met someone worthy of love, I was ultimately dumped by that pretentious hippie when it “got too serious.” The injustice! The outrage! The embarrassing, pointless heartbreak. The portion of my gray matter dedicated to relationships has kept on having one — an obsessive one — with the ex, even though he isn’t around anymore to participate. It needs something new to chew on — it hardly matters what or whom. So I head downtown in search of fresh fodder.
I’m wearing my official First Date Dress: black, casual, just clingy enough. Andy stands outside the wine bar. He looks just like his profile photo, tallish with dark hair and good shoulders. Point for Andy. He leans in for the customary “nice to meet you” peck on the cheek — leans longer than customary. The dress might be working a bit too well. “Easy tiger,” I say “Let’s get a drink.”
We make conversation about art we like, bars we like, shows we binge-watch. The instinct I had before meeting him resurfaces: There’s no there there. The connection we have is that of two culturally literate, socially aware grown-ups, adept at the art of banter. We persist nonetheless. Our generational references are mismatched by five years. He seems titillated that my profile advertised my desire to date men just a little bit younger than me. When I turned 40, I became obsessed with rates of decay: Mine is slower that most, and I want equal eye candy for equal work. If I lied about my age, Andy would think I’m just another frisky 36-year-old, which is exactly what I look like. But I suspect he finds frisky on a 45-year-old woman to be somehow peculiar.When I turned 40, I became obsessed with rates of decay: Mine is slower that most, and I want equal eye candy for equal work.
My head-trip dissolves by the third glass of wine. Then we’re kissing. It feels fast, even for an Internet date in a look-at-my-ass dress. But I’m on the rebound. I’m excused from reasonable behavior for at least another month. And the kissing, unlike the talking, is a conversation worth having. The heat from his palms goes straight through my back. His mouth, his hands, his thigh are all alive to my touch.
“Let’s go to my place,” Andy says.
“I’m not going home with you yet.” I explain my theory of necking in public: If we go home now, there’s nothing but our own self-control (dubious) to slow the rush to fucking, which could make the fucking boring. But the constraints of being in public, like the constraints of a sonnet, make the make-out more artful. “Let’s build some suspense.”
We decide to go to the Film Forum, sit in the back row and not watch the movie. We look for a taxi. The taxis are full of other people. He pulls me into a little nook between two buildings and kisses me hard. “Give me your tongue,” he says. Back behind that boyish face is a serious freak. This is getting interesting. “I want to be on a rooftop,” he says. “Let’s go on somebody’s rooftop.”
We spot a delivery guy walking into a building. The door slams behind him before we can sneak in in his wake. A couple rings the buzzer next door. We look like their kind, like we could be friends of neighbors of their friends. They hold the door open for us. We stroll in and follow them upstairs. They knock on a door on the third floor. We keep climbing until we turn the final switchback of the staircase to reach the top floor. The landing bends off to one side, then terminates at a thick metal door barred by an alarm that looks serious. There’s no doubt in our minds it will sound if we push past it to the roof.
Andy presses me against the wall. The roll and push of his hands is forceful against me. He feels like a top — a good one, with some sensuality amid the bossy behavior. I like being dominated, though it has been a while since I’ve gone down that rabbit hole. Has it been five years? More? What a long time to fantasize constantly about something and not do it.
File that under: things I swore off when I decided to seek only serious relationships. To act like a lady. To eliminate short-term dubious bullshit from my personal life. But ladylike behavior gets you nowhere in this town. Dating in New York is a circus. The men are too fickle. The women too beautiful, too starved for attention, too many. The law of supply and demand does not favor us. If you eliminate short-term dubious bullshit, there’s nothing left.
So here we are.“Give me your tongue,” he says. Back behind that boyish face is a serious freak. This is getting interesting.
A door opens somewhere below us. We freeze. I’m bent over the railing with his hands under my dress. I can see every hallway in the building stacked up behind the zig-zagging banister to my left. Two floors down, a guy in gym shorts steps into the hall while the sound of footsteps rises up from the ground floor. Delivery. They swap food for cash, each bill visible in the fluorescent glare. All they have to do is look up and over, just a tilt of the head, to see us. Intruders. Can’t they feel our eyes on them? The adrenaline kicks up another notch.
The apartment door closes. Andy grabs my meaty thigh. “You like my big biker legs?” I say.
“I like your body,” he says and moves his hand upstream. I remember being 26, when a caper like this would feel almost normal. Right now it feels well above average. He has a finger inside me. Then two. Andy knows how to give a lady a hand job. He finds the unicorn, aka my G-spot, which eluded my ex (not that he looked for it) and the last few gents before him. Liquid is running down my leg. Andy keeps going. It’s ridiculous how hard I’m coming. His penis is out of his pants now. He starts swinging into position behind me.
“There’s no way I’m letting you slip it inside me without a condom.”
“Okay.” He puts my hand on it. A door opens one floor below us. A girl walks out with a blue bag of recycling, the bottles and cans clinking as she carries it downstairs, oblivious. We resume, a scuffle of hands, limbs and other anatomical attractions, until he comes. White drops shoot out and onto the linoleum floor, where they’ll be mopped up eventually by an unsuspecting janitor.
We collect ourselves. He buckles his pants. I straighten my dress and consider my panties, then shove them in the bottom of my handbag. We hold hands and walk downstairs, like we’re just another couple visiting friends in the building. Once we’re outside, all the pent-up noise erupts in laughter.
“Holy shit, that was awesome.”
“I feel like we robbed a bank and didn’t get caught.”
I’m giddy. He’s grinning. He wants to go back to his place to start the next episode. I want to leave on a high note. “I’m done for tonight,” I say and flag down a taxi. We kiss through the open window and agree: to be continued.
I’m still high when I get home that night, and the next day too. “How was your Friday night?” I want to ask every person I know and boast that mine was better. But how many of my friends would consider a hand job from a stranger in a stairwell to be a night worth bragging about? Precious few. They’re missing out. I feel smug with my secret.
Andy and I text over the weekend while fantasies spin in my brain: What shall I do next with my new young lover? But once again our communication fails to click. There’s no energy behind the words on the screen, no urgency, no real rapport. A few days later he ghosts. My disappointment flickers and quickly fades. I’m already planning other dates with other men. Andy himself doesn’t actually matter at all now. I still have what I got from him. Some part of me snapped back to life in that stairwell. It had been iced over by the belief that I’d outgrown my own sex drive, that women my age don’t crave or inspire that kind of adventure. But I do and I will. To be continued indeed.