“One. Two. THREE!” I have just drunkenly torn out of my most comfortable jeans and the adorable barely-there white cotton top I got on sale a few days earlier and cannonballed it into the Yahara River. When I flew into Madison three days before, I never would have imagined that this is how my trip would end, though I suppose my track record of “yes” might have given me a clue.
After months of making vague plans, I finally purchased a ticket to see Ruth, a woman who is perhaps one of my most intimate friends from the trial that was student-teaching. Having such a difficult summer, I felt a giant hug of relief when I saw Ruth waiting for me on the curb outside baggage claim.
One of the many things Ruth and I have in common is our view of eating as a competition to find the best food in any given city, so naturally our first stop was a renowned bakery and café where we caught up for lunch. Mostly she offered her reliable ear as I sorted through the onslaught of emotions I was trying to decipher regarding Micah, the friend Ruth had introduced me to and who had become my FWB, Friend With Benefits.
Micah was enthusiastic about everything he did. It took me a few months worth of Sunday afternoon liaisons to realize that his overly animated porn star expressions were actually just his enthusiasm for the moment. And as those months passed, our connection both in and out of the bedroom grew, watered by the fact that he not only scratched that particular itch, but because the way he took care of me, like the soothing coolness of an aloe salve. So though I had tried to fight any feelings that began to pop up when he’d kiss me on the forehead or when I’d call him just to bitch, here I was, pumping Ruth for information. She may have tried to assure me that she didn’t discuss what one said about the other, but she obliged when I asked if he’d made any indication that the feeling was mutual. So funny, his actions and my experience all point to dating-town, yet I searched for some clarity, some perspective from an outside source.
I wasn’t ready to take the risk of actually saying something to Micah for fear of the odds that the outcome would be unfavorable to our current arrangement, which was serving me just fine.
Option A) As per his lack of profession of love for me, he could give verbal confirmation of his non-desire for anything monogamous, which would necessitate a cease and desist on our fun time for the sake of my heart. Boo.
Option 2) He says, “Let’s give it a go,” and by putting some sort of label on said fun time, things that previously didn’t bother me start to itch and I can’t help but pick at whatever the issue might be until it festers, causes infection and kills its host. Double boo!
Choice D) He says, “Let’s give it a go,” and things actually work out. Who really knows where this path leads, it could be amazing, but to be frank, the idea of giving up being single wasn’t exactly sitting so well with me. I really liked being single. I was getting really good at it.
Ruth weighed each potential outcome and gave credence to each one based on their merits while weeding through my bullshit. She also answered honestly when I asked her if he had ever said anything to her about our being anything more than Sunday Funday. “No. But,” she was quick to add, “Nobut,” like it was one word, “that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel that way,” going on to add that she doubted he would discuss such things with her. Despite my hesitations, I still rationalized away the red flags and built a case.
Not any closer to any sort of decision, I put the issue on the back burner and focused on enjoying my time with one of the most amazing people I know, which I’m pretty sure ranks her pretty high among most amazing in the US. “I don’t have time for mediocrity,” I often spout, along with “Like attracts like, ergo awesome attracts awesome,” when kind words are returned. But in all truth, Ruth is honest and realistic, all wrapped up in silver lining and an intoxicating joi de vie. Her positivity is contagious and her intelligence is staggering. I had looked forward to this trip, this proximal therapy, if you will, and I could already feel its healing effects. It really didn’t matter what we would do in the next few days, I knew I’d be heading home recharged and motivated.
The adventures truly began after dropping off my bag and starting our walk from her new apartment on the “hippie” side of town (How can you tell in Madison?) toward the university campus. I immediately fell in love with the quirkiness of this college town and grew nostalgic for school days. It got me excited to register for my upcoming semester and buy new school supplies.
We passed through the capitol building where I found my first opportunity to pull out my camera and play tourist. We settled in on the Terrace, a multi-level campus plaza that overlooked the Big Lake and served booze. I settled into the uncomfortable Terrace Chair like a transfer student and enjoyed a local Madison beer amid wonderful conversation and the bustle of the upcoming semester.
Before the afternoon could wind down, we decided that a change of venue was in order. We needed the sort of establishment that offered cheese curds, the Holy Grail of my trip. Within a few blocks we found ourselves at the entrance to a fine watering hole called The Old Fashioned — guess what their specialty is. Our hopes were initially dashed when we saw a mob of people swarming around the host stand, and then that tricky bitch Fate, intervened and revealed two open spots at the bar. Minutes later, cheese curds had begun their journey from kitchen to ma’ face and I was debating between two completely different local brews with the help of our adorable bartender.
He was tall and lanky and I immediately loved him in the same way that way I love a man in a baseball uniform. I just can’t get enough of it. And he had a neatly trimmed beard to boot. He reminded me of a Kevin Smith-era Jason Lee in appearance, my actor friend, Vince, in mannerisms and Cocktail’s Brian Flannigan in bottle flipping skills. Of course he was adorable.
“Wow, you’re a triple threat. Bartender, good looking, and you’re good with your hands,” I threw out while he flipped and twirled hi-balls and whisky bottles behind the bar.
“Yeah, this was too good for them,” he nodded his head toward the manager standing at the kitchen door, “to keep me in the back.”
“Nobody puts Baby in the corner, huh?”
“Shake it if you got it,” he resigned himself to his own good looks.
“It’s got to be difficult being so damn cute.”
“You should know,” he answered. “You’re so adorable I want to put a picture of you above my bed.”
It was more endearing than creepy and I was putty in his hands. When Ruth and I would reminisce about this moment later, she states very matter-of-factly, “You met you!” This was further reinforced when I expressed my wishes to “Put you in my pocket,” and he replied, “Whaddya know, I’ve been called a pocket slut once or twice in my day.” I love it!
Once he knows what kinds of beers I enjoy, I don’t see an empty glass in front of me for hours. And with all of his well rehearsed bartender tricks and flair, I had dinner and a show.
As my bathroom visits were becoming ever more frequent, the names and numbers of beers I’d sampled blurred together. And upon that last fateful return from the ladies’, my face fell when my cute purveyor of libations and compliments was noticeably absent from his post behind the bar. I walked and searched for his face behind the swarm of bar patrons and found Ruth talking to someone without realizing that “someone” was that man I wanted to put in my pocket. He had written his number on a square of receipt paper as a “yes” to my request for a tour guide while Ruth had to work. In turn, she had given him my number. Did I mention Ruth is a fabulous friend?
We stumbled back to her place and into pajamas before chugging a few glasses of water and falling asleep. In the morning, Ruth decided to run as I rode alongside on her bike and she threw out a little informational tour about her new town in between idle chit-chat. I am so happy to be with my friend.
Just as we had done so many times in Denver, we decided to spend a few hours roaming around the botanical gardens with her fairly-new grad school friend, Natalie, who serves as further supporting evidence to my Awesome Attracts Awesome Theory. With no real concrete plans, we sat and contemplated the Tao…and what our next gastronomic adventure might be. After throwing around various names which meant absolutely nothing to me, Ruth and Natalie decided to try out a local legend they’d often heard about but never patronized, Ella’s Deli. Its main appeal: it had a carousel. I was instantly excited. Ruth had already warned me of what an oddity magnet the state of Wisconsin was, our national sideshow, so to speak – no doubt there resided a bearded lady. But no cautionary tales could have prepared me for what lay beyond the carousel at Ella’s.
I’m sure some Travel Channel or Food Network show has showcased the cacophony that invaded every inch of the restaurant. Toys, dolls, paper mache statues all rigged on small motors and thin-gauged wire performed a dance of sorts across the ceiling and walls. Clowns rose and fell, growing and shrinking by a foot in their legs while a homemade Spiderman attacked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, who had set up a nice little compound since leaving the Happy Meal box. Noah’s Ark and the Yellow Submarine circled each other menacingly while Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band played over a mechanical string quartet and a choir of feet apparently meant to sing “This Little Piggy.” And of course there was a monkey riding a unicycle on a tight rope over the ice cream counter. After only a minute of scanning a menu that was just as over-stimulating as the restaurant, Ruth commented, “This is the kind of place, that if I worked here, I’d go home and beat my wife.” I believe that says it all.
Lunch was classic, Midwest, greasy spoon fare and we waddled more than walked out to the parking lot. Getting to be about that time in the afternoon, we picked up Natalie’s partner, Annie, from work and headed to a brewery just outside of the heart of Madison. I tried two more local beers and laughed for a little over an hour before the brewery’s biergarten was taken over by the University of Wisconsin School of Engineering Alumni something or other. Though we were all tempted to grab a name tag off the welcome table and bullshit our way into some free appetizers, we thought it best to instead maintain our own identities and change venues. Ruth thought it would be a better idea to take us back in time instead.
She knew about Le Tigre, which is French for The Tigre, from a first date a few months ago, which said a lot about the guy, and a lot about Ruth that she loved it. It was so dark inside the dive it could have been high noon or even the initial flash of nuclear attack outside and you never would have known. But fear not, should the apocalypse come a-knockin’, the ambiance of Le Tigre would be a memorable place to go out. It was a rundown, bar version of Ella’s Deli, but rather than various toys from the ages, tigers of all varieties peered from all angles. It appeared as if the owner had maybe once mentioned to someone that they liked tigers, and from that point on every gift at every birthday and Christmas was somehow tiger related. (My step-mom suffered the same fate of the elephant variety.) The jukebox probably hadn’t been serviced since the mid-eighties, confirmed by the price of seven songs for a buck and the vintage selection including “The Time of Your Life” from Dirty Dancing and “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.” We stayed long enough to hear all of our seven plays and enjoy a drink and a spin around the cracked linoleum “dance floor” before heading to another local restaurant for a few more local beers and dinner – a good ol’ fashioned Wisconsin fish fry – yum! Food comas set in and our energy collectively wound down, so we called it a night.
Ruth had to work in the morning and I had a hangover to sleep off before my personal tour by my new pocket slut friend. I finally peeled myself out of bed sometime around nine and stumbled for a few minutes before helping myself to a bowl of Fruity Pebbles (my guilty pleasure, Ruth’s treat) and throwing myself at the mercy of her shower. I found my footing and consciousness at a nearby coffee shop. And during my attempts to register for classes in my upcoming academic adventure, I received notification that my tour guide had risen, he’d be on his way to pick me up in about forty-five minutes. I headed back to Ruth’s, primped a bit and spent the next half hour nonchalantly ripping Ruth’s music onto my laptop and reading the last pages of my second run through Eat Pray Love, feeling hopeful and spiritually tingly all over. Getting lost in the Shakira song blasting from the stereo, I found myself surprised when I heard the doorbell ring. I jumped up and opened the door to welcome him in, but before I could say anything, he asked, “Was that you singing?” I laughed, embarrassed. Guilty.
We exchanged pleasantries as I gathered my things. Ruth sent me a text ordering him to take me someplace good and he offered two options: good local greasy spoon or someplace fancy. Of course I chose comfort over pretense and soon we were fighting our way to a back booth of a diner. We said flirty things and reminded one another of the cute comments the other had made two nights earlier. Yep, he was cute. I wasn’t just terribly drunk.
Relieved, I relaxed and felt no shame in ordering a meatloaf sandwich and a chocolate malt (I’ve never been a “I’ll just have a salad” kind of girl). His body was still on a bartender schedule; he ordered breakfast and a blueberry shake. I liked his style. I could get on board with this. We pushed our plates toward each other making an offering and shortly after, though the food was delicious and though we gave it a valiant effort, we had to push our plates away and get our shakes to go. He politely excused himself to pay the check before I even had an opportunity to see the damage or reach for my wallet. Maybe chivalry isn’t dead after all.
I was ready to go when he came back and asked where our adventure would take us next. He had planned to take me to some fancy-shmancy wine bar across town, somewhere in the same direction as the previous night’s brewery, I recognized as we drove. I could tell we were close to Le Tigre and when I pointed it out he laughed and likened it to a place near his house called The Caribou, or The Bou for short. I called Ruth and let her know where we would be if she wanted to join. But as I am so used my vacations imposing on someone’s everyday life, she had errands to run and would meet up later.
As it turned out, Fancy-Shmancy Wine Bar wasn’t open yet, so we found somewhere to be outdoorsy (read: drinking on a patio). With ESPN blaring over the bar, we spent a few seconds talking about sports until easily slipping into the topics of family and friends, work and play. I felt comfortable around him and letting my flip-flops fall to the ground, I curled up in my chair and leaned toward him, genuinely interested in the older brother he discovered as an adult or his mom who he had to say goodbye to way too soon.
Having promised a tour of Madison via bars and beers, we left after one drink and moved on to an Irish pub and restaurant. We ordered directly from the bar and he pointed me toward a small sitting area with leather chairs and a coffee table in front of a fireplace, a hilarious idea in the middle of August. We quickly picked up our conversation jumping from the most profound of topics to the most inane. He had seen a home improvement show that remodeled a room in one of Jay Leno’s garages into a “man cave” and they installed wood beams much like those that hung directly above our heads, though Jay’s wooden beams were actually styrofoam.
“I wonder if those are actual wood…I doubt it…” he thought aloud.
“If you give me a boost, I’ll find out for you,” I offered.
“Let’s finish our drinks first.”
We both smiled at the prospect and when the moment of truth came, I climbed from the leather wingback chair, positioning my legs on either side of his ears.
“This would be more fun if you were facing the other direction,” I smirked quietly under my breath.
I tingled a bit when he replied, “You know, I’ve heard that he heard beards feel good on the inside of thighs.”
Yeah, I’ve heard that too.
As we tried to plan our next move, Ruth called and asked the same question we were pondering, “Where are we drinking?” Saving myself, my friend and my driver the tedium of relaying local information through a non-local, I handed him the phone. He threw out a few options to debate for Ruth until I informed him that “Ruth doesn’t really make decisions, just tell her where to meet us.”
We discussed music as he navigated traffic back to the heart of the city and gave me tid-bits here and there as we drove around the capital to our next bar. Ruth was going to meet up with us on the sunken patio of yet another brewery. This one was tucked between several old-timey brick buildings that played host to blankets of ivy, making the patio kind of feel like a secret. We ordered cocktails and appetizers before I relaxed into my chair with my bare feet on his lab. He played with my ankles as he good-naturedly berated our server, a friend of his, and it felt comfortable, like old times. When Ruth showed up only a few minutes after our artichoke dip, an onlooker might have confused us for a well-established group of friends out for a post-work drink. There was something familiar and easy about the whole situation.
After returning from yet another bathroom trip, he asked me if I had seen the downstairs bar and brew rooms. I admitted that I hadn’t really paid attention, though I probably would have lied to get the full tour if I had thought it was necessary. He promised he’d show me before we left. I told him I’d hold him to it.
We put the hurt on the artichoke dip and a couple of rounds, and asked for our tab after he gently admonished Ruth, “You haven’t taken her to Mickey’s yet?” He paid and while Ruth was distracted by a friend she’d randomly run into, he pulled me toward the back corner of the building’s basement to show me the basement bar. It was nice, but frankly I saw through his rouse with rose colored beer goggles. I can play this game. In the abandoned hall that led to the brew rooms I said, “Wait a minute, I gotta tell you something…” just before gently tugging the front of his shirt toward me and leaning in for a kiss. God bless liquid courage. I smiled slyly at him. Wanting to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, I decided I would need to collect more data to make an informed decision on this cute bartender. So I did. I pulled his shirt down and toward me again. Nope, don’t think I would kick him out of bed in the morning. I gained enough composure to give him a little smiling squished face look and turned to collect Ruth.
And so we were off to Mickey’s, dropping off Ruth’s car first. Mickey’s was a bar established in the lower level of an old Victorian, voted one of Madison’s best. Drinks and then a tour of the various rooms that comprised the house. I feel like we played a sloppy game of pool, but to be perfectly honest, this is around the time when the details of my memory become much more selective. We eventually made it out to the patio and watched the sky turn from blue to pink and purple to black. And though I had slowed my intake of libations, I had plenty of liquid courage left in the tanks. I was feeling that crazy urge for communion with nature crawling up my leg (Ooh, that tickles!) and nesting somewhere between my gut and my heart.
“I want to be in water!” I declared sometime after Natalie and Annie had joined us.
This being a weeknight, the girls had obligations in the morning that precluded them from such adventures. Fortunately for me, bartenders are burdened not by such early morning constraints.
Which brings me to my nearly-naked cannonball into the Yahara, across the street from Mickey’s. It’s almost deep enough. Almost. I knock my shin into a rock or a root, but I’m too ecstatic from the cool rush of fresh water to notice or care. I wade out a little further and half hop, half tread and watch as he carefully strips naked in the moonlight and slowly lowers himself down the riverbank and into the current. We play and kiss and float and swim our way back up toward our pile of clothes, and then we do it again. We lay back and stare at the stars passing behind overhanging branches. I breath in the moment. Yes.
While I would have loved to have stayed there and let the river carry me, there were other matters at hand and a ticking clock. My flight left the following afternoon. And as it would turn out, we would need that time. We dried off as best we could and he wrapped me up in a kiss and a fleece blanket he had in the back of his car before pulling his dry clothes over a mostly wet body.
Before long I found myself standing in front of the mantle in his living room looking at pictures of his family, his nephew (son of his illegitimate brother) and the mother he lost fourteen years ago when she was younger still and peacefully soaking up a beach somewhere. He stood behind me and beamed as he told me little family stories before suggesting we wash the river off of us. Happy to comply with his request, I peeled off my damp underwear while he turned on the shower and got naked once again. We shuffled and traded places under the shower head. I allowed myself to get lost in the moment as he scrubbed that spot on my back that reminds me of the companionship I loved in marriage, closing my eyes and letting my head hang back.
Again, he wrapped up my wet body and sealed it with a kiss. Neither of us tried to play it cool or hide our eagerness as we ran off to his bedroom leaving a trail of wet footprints along the way. The next hour or so (I’m guessing) was a fury of hands and kissing and legs going here and arms leaning up there. We were a drunken mess of passion and flesh.
After said encounter, I felt confident in going back to regale my married friends with stories of romps in rivers and in between sheets. (It’s a heavy burden to be the person through whom your friends live vicariously. I take the responsibility very seriously.) When I thought all was said and done, I sent a little prayer of apology to his roommate for our being so loud, gave him a deep satisfied kiss and rolled over, falling asleep almost instantly.
About an hour or so later (again, I’m guessing), he rolls over and wraps his body into mine. Eyes still closed, I smile and press back into him, inhaling and exhaling myself back to a comforting sleep. Or so I thought. He gently runs his strong fingers up and down my body, leaving trails of sparks in their wake. I’m able to maintain my self-control for roughly a microsecond. I’m so caught off guard that by the time I really understood what’s happening, I roll into him, he over me…and then legs wrap around him, my toes curl again and I pull him into me and nearly scream to exhale. What the fuck was that?!?
I roll him over on his back and switch places with him, plant a congratulatory kiss and roll off with a high five before settling into another REM cycle. For another hour or so…And so it went every hour-ish for the next 12, each time cementing the hormonal attachment I would have to sooth away with the reality of different time zones.
After the first few times, I stopped trying to keep a tally. Then I began to marvel. How does he have the stores? But he did, and he kept on keepin’ on. And as the early morning light began to flood his bedroom, I almost began to see the in between sleeping times as necessary rest to sustain the marathon rhythm we’d established.
But soon his alarm clock buzzed, and we took the urgency of the moment for not one, but two final rounds. We took just a few minutes to glow and lament alternate realities where he lived in Denver or I had unlimited frequent flyer miles. And beyond that, we didn’t really acknowledge the diminishing time I had in Madison. Instead, while we dressed and we gave the post-game rundown, more like star struck fans than seasoned anchors. I note that the shirt I’d worn last night is missing, all I have is the tank I’m grateful I’d grabbed from Ruth’s and threw into my shoulder bag, though the missing white shirt does add color to my story. (Drunk Me apparently had expected some shirt-losing scenario in my future.)
We chit-chat idly on the drive back to Ruth’s, frequently throwing the conversation back to the amazing night we just spent together. I get entirely too excited as we pass the Oscar Mayer Wiener-mobile in the factory parking lot, and he seems proud that he was able to help make my Madison trip a memorable one. Yes, it was the Oscar Mayer Wiener-mobile that made my trip memorable…it had nothing to do with the epic night of orgasms.
I joke that I’m going to send him my chiropractor bill when I go to get my hips put back in place. He says, “I just got ‘em where I wanted ‘em,” and I tingle a little. When we drive past Mickey’s and over the Yahara, I ask in the most seriously facetious voice if he’ll keep an eye open for my shirt. He laughs, “Will do.” And when we finally get to Ruth’s, we agree to stay in touch and he kisses me sweetly. Feeling no need to hide the fact that I was ten feet off the ground, I wafted to the front door and slid in.
Ruth was on her way home from a study session that morning and would arrive in a few minutes. I wondered around her apartment aimlessly, anxiously, twitching with all the nervous energy that comes with “What just happened?” and “What’s next?” I paced from her living room to her bedroom, picked up a book, read a few words, tossed it on the nightstand and wondered back to the living room to put in a CD, then to the bathroom for a mirror check to see if I was any worse for the wear. Is it possible to look completely refreshed and wholly exhausted all at once? I stood admiring her new shower curtain (yesterday’s errand) when she got home.
“So?” she asked in a deservingly expectant tone. I filled her in on the skinny and almost felt guilty, as if I was bragging, not intentionally, but purely as a result of the previous 12 hours’ events, still in awe myself. She was happy for me. I confessed that I had been worried that she might be upset about the whole situation, but knowing the kind of friend she was, she wasn’t that kind of person. She confessed in contrition that she had been slightly upset and had to deal with things in her own way, but knew that I would be happy if the same thing had happened to her. I so appreciate the relationship I have with Ruth and the kindness and honesty we both value in and speak to one another. And once she’s purged her guilt, she offers up, “Well, maybe this will give you some perspective.”
“Yeah,” I grin, “I got perspective like ten times.”
I’m still buzzing when I get in the shower in preparation for my next four hours in airports and in transit. I feel a pang of disappointment to wash the smell of him off my body; being a veteran traveler though, I can pretty well predict that the musk of such an endurance event might not be appreciated by my fellow passengers. But the memory is still fresh in my mind and as I flash back to particular moments, my breath stops short and I do my best to hold onto that fleeting feeling.
Ruth and I have time to grab lunch once I get my bag packed. She takes me to a local sandwich shop that’s no frills, but delicious. As we go past landmarks that are starting to get familiar and others I heard referenced in the past three days, I notice something stuck to my front tooth. I flick my tongue firmly over the tooth’s edge, but to no avail. I flip down the visor mirror and bear my teeth to reveal a new exposed edge across the right third of my left front tooth. “Holy shit! I chipped my tooth!” A small chip, but a chip nonetheless. I frantically searched my memory for any sort of cause that may have led to such an effect.
“Yes, I did jump into a river, but I didn’t land face first.”
Ruth laughs and after inspecting the damage, informs me that it’s not that bad and it can probably just be filed down.
“Good,” I say half-heartedly, but I’m still confused as to how it happened, turing over possibilities in my mind. Was I Sloppy Drunk and hit my tooth with a glass? Or worse, Was I Sloppy Kisser and made overbite-to-overbite contact? At no point during the night did I blackout, but I have nothing in my recollection that even hints at dental damage. I guess life is just full of mysteries.
While we wait for our lunch, the effects of large amounts of alcohol and lack of sleep settle in my eyes and posture. Ruth can see the hurt in my face, but also that spark in my eye that says it was all worth it. I’m barely able to eat half of my sandwich and soup and I’m entirely too aware of the new feature in my smile.
With a half hour to kill before I really need to be at the airport, we decide to spend our last few minutes together wondering around a fancy-shmancy home interior store we had ooh-ed and aah-ed just down the block. The space is set up like several little kitsch-y living rooms showing off throw pillows of various sizes and colors and a range of beautifully (and not-so-beautifully) scented candles. I push my nose deep into the wick of one after another until I stop on one that smells like a man’s cologne…and my mind snaps back to one of the many moments which found me tangled up in the sheets with my Marathon Man. I must have this candle. I doubt that the candle actually matches his choice of cologne, but that hardly matters. It smells like what I imagined he smells like, it has that quality of a strong man pinning me down and having his way with me. I’m not even bothered later when TSA pulls my bag from the x-ray machine and inspects it because of the suspicious solid mass. In the future, when I would want to remember him and the tingles he gave me, I’ll light the candle and watch Chasing Amy or Mallrats.
I laugh as we pass a store window displaying rolls of toilet paper embroidered with presidents’ faces and Ruth promises to bring me back here next time I’m in town. Before coming here, I was just excited to see my friend. She had been having a difficult time in the past year adjusting to being a grad student in a largely under-grad town and from what she had told me, I was expecting something less than desirable. What I actually experienced was a cute little hippie town that was quite hospitable, to say the least. I loved the beer and cheese and the smiles, down to earth and completely eccentric all at once.
I hugged Ruth tightly and promised that I’d be back. I reminded her that Colorado missed her and that she always had a place to stay. We kissed each other on the cheek and I walked into the terminal.
Jammed into my backpack I had clothes that smelled like river, minus one shirt that I had worn only for a serendipitous 12 hours that still take my breath away in the same way the memories of him spending the next 12 pulling our naked bodies together does. My body was covered in new bruises and bug bites, my hips were dreading the thought of three hours in an airplane seat and I had no explanation for the new chip in my smile. And yet, I felt so charged, nourished, replete with the positive…and ok, maybe a little drunk on oxytocin. I offered up all of it to the Gods of Yes and said my prayer of thanks. Of course I would be back to see Ruth; I will see her where ever she ends up. But Madison touched me in a way I hadn’t expected – AAY OHH! Tip your waitresses, folks.
Joking aside, Ruth was right, I did get some perspective. I was starting to clarify my wants and needs and began to appreciate what was out there. I’d spent way too much time terrified that I was doomed to spend my life bouncing from one disappointment to another when it came to men, so I clung to something that met most of my needs. I realized that I was starting to compromise what I wanted because I had an easy answer, a likely target for my aimless affections. And I realized that the potential outcomes I’d brainstormed were somewhat flawed. I wasn’t worried that Micah would say “yes” and I would miss my single life; I’m just not ready to give up my singlehood for him, for a sexual connection that motivates me to satisfy him because I can’t hold my leg up there anymore or I can’t handle that porn star face much longer before I bust up laughing, which seemed like an even exchange for breakfasts and spooning and scrubbing that part of my back. And though those things are nice, I’ll keep my eyes out for another purveyor of such goods – despite my previous track record. Even if that possibility I found was three states away, it existed nonetheless. There was still the possibility that I could connect with another human being on so many different levels. I didn’t want to preclude myself from that option because I had found something that was “close enough.”
I’ve rarely in my history of interactions with the opposite sex been the one to end things. I’ve always held onto hope (and/or delusion) a lot longer than my partners in crime. So now I feel a bit like a stranger in a strange land; I’m asking “How is it that you say…’I can’t sleep with you anymore, I’m looking for greener pastures’?” I’ll admit that maybe a small part of me hopes that they’ll be green dairy cow-grazin’ Wisconsin pastures, though logic and history tell me otherwise. A girl can hope, right? But more than hope, I focus on my promise to myself not to settle. And I hope that Micah and I are able to remain friends, because I won’t settle for enemies either.