I can’t sleep after the superhero antics and ice cream and kisses. I toss and turn in bed and fight with my brain for calm doing my best to let it settle. The next morning, my co-worker Jean Hugo, AKA my work husband, asks me how it went and I’m wall to wall smile.
“Soooo what did you do? You two looked HOT together on Friday.”
“He made dinner and we walked to the fountain and made out and I biked home in the pouring rain…best date.”
He immediately starts gaming with me. “Okay so he’s really masculine and men like to chase so let him chase.”
“Oh, yeah, I’m chill. I’m chilling. Totally not boyfriend material.”
“Hmm I don’t know. That’s what everyone said about my boyfriend and we’ve been together seven years. You never know.”
An hour later, a female friend passes by and notices I'm beaming and asks what’s up.
“So you met my buddy on Friday?”
I’ve always had an unnameable but tangible romantic affection for this woman. And the feeling is mutual, but for a variety of complicated reasons we never really say it out loud. “What’s that smile?”
“Nothing! We hung out last night.” Her face drops and she zips behind me to the window looking agitated and confused. She paces a few times not saying anything then, “It’s just really weird, like two separate worlds mixing, you know he’s one of my best friends?”
I don’t say anything but watch her pace, completely mystified about what’s happening. Wait, is she jealous? "And I’m friends with his girlfriend…” she says, wringing her hands. I turn my head and frown, making that “what?” face. She continues, "Who’s MARRIED!” then quickly turns and walks into a meeting. I look out the window for a moment. I can’t believe it. Hotman is way more of a mirror than I thought.
I get up and walk to the kitchen and see a Nutri Grain bar beside some empty beer bottles, take a photo of it and text it to Hotman. The night before, he showed me his “favourite commercial”, a weird, grainy spot from the 90’s where a guy in a dull grey suit, situated in a yellowed, corporate office takes a bite of a Nutri Grain bar and gets all pumped up like he’s on some mad steroid cocktail and starts spreading it around the office, gritting his teeth, repeating: “GREEEAT, I FEEL GREAT, YOU LOOK GREEEAT…” and his co-workers catch it and they all reek total havoc together. He texts me back right away: “LOL!” And sends a Google image of a logo that reads: “Hotman Style of Living”.
“Your friends are acting weird about our date.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
During our fountain talk, I realize Hotman and I have a lot in common. Many of the things he’d lived as a child and teen were similar to me, or at least fit with the current model I’ve constructed around my childhood. He was a writer in his heart but had done a lot of commercial work in his career. Where we differed was he’d lived the life of a very tall, very attractive man who’d had doors opened to him everywhere he went. He existed in an upper echelon of the human experience like tall people at concerts who have a literal head above everybody else. It’s not something he necessarily earned, but he didn’t not earn it either. He’d clearly had a lot of fun and made a success of his beauty even as he affected a kind of melancholy about it simmering just under the surface, describing the burdens of “this face” or “this body”. I believed his sadness, but I also recognized the melancholic affectation as, well, affectation. A story. In other words, having Hotman as a mirror wasn’t necessarily a flattering image (I’d been tempted to Instagram a few times that evening but resisted tbh), but, in moments, a rather unflattering one.
Instead of just texting Hotman a direct message about his married girlfriend, I take the back door and write him a long detailed thing about my history with unavailable men; details I intuitively know he’ll relate to. Sure enough a few minutes later he responds:
I know unavailable married interests too well. The last four years have been about a married woman; we actually have known each other since we were 18. She has kids. We took some time apart to think of what's left of us. She's amazing but it’s not sustainable. I’m giving myself the summer to think about it.
I think you're very interesting, and special, and everything about yesterday was very nice. I truly hope to see you again, get to know you more. Be it as a friend. Can't say much more at this point. Foggy times.
(That long message is probably not so well put together. I just wanted to write it before I start texting you silly things, or have you think I'm avoiding responding. Hope it's alright.
The rest of the week I take careful measure with Hotman. A small part of me is weary of the married woman thing but a larger part is elated. I’d spent so much time refining my understanding and working through piles of slushboy theories that I believe I’ve got this whole “unavailable” thing thoroughly figured out. I can also tell Hotman likes to be punished a little bit and has a bit of a mean edge so I do my best to be stern and charmingly difficult.
As I’m picking up my bag at the very end of our date, I remember I’ve brought a book by VS Naipaul called “An Area of Darkness” because I’d read something that reminded me of our Friday night conversation and wanted to discuss it. Serious intellectual stuff. Friend-on-friend action. I eagerly open to the page and begin reading to him in a hushed whisper. He leans his face in close and whispers, “Why are you whispering like we’re at the Vatican? I'm way too ti--” He’s about to say something else when I madly kiss over his mouth and he pushes me backward against the wall, lifting me up.
Mmmmmirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the hottest of them all?