“For it is a sad rule that whenever you are most in need of your art as a rationalist, that is when you are most likely to forget it.” ― Eliezer Yudkowsky
I knew that he was obsessive about the cleanliness of his car. We had sat in it for a bit to get away from the crowds while in Lancaster and it looked brand new. I commented on it and asked how long he’d owned it. He shared that it had been more than a year but he made sure to take good care of it. As I got into mine on Thursday afternoon I realized that mine looked like a preschool lived there. There was a melted crayon in the back seat, graham cracker crumbs ground into the mats, and apple juice splatters both on the seat back and the side window. Francis wasn’t yet concerned about cleanliness and it was pretty low on my priority list. I knew I would be mortified to be judged by my vehicle so I went home and set about cleaning it. I scrubbed and vacuumed the inside but to little avail. The carpet was disgusting even after vacuuming.
After digging around under the kitchen sink, I found some harsh chemical carpet spot cleaner and used the entire container on the front floor mats of the car – my strategy was to clean only what was showing. It was a hot August day and I was sweating profusely. At some point I wiped perspiration off my chin just hard enough to allow carpet cleaner to enter an open pore and a chemical burn began. By the time I got my face flushed with cold water and felt confident that the damage had stopped, I had a nickel sized burn smack dab in the middle of my chin.
Life needed to start being kind to me. I was stressed enough about this visit and now I was contending with a chemical burn that would not be covered by foundation makeup. FML. Seriously. Damn. Now what? In less than 24 hours I was going to pick this guy up from the train station, a guys I’ve known less than a week, and allow him to run a meeting in my office. Then… well, then we had the whole weekend in front of us and there was no way I could hide. I’ve never thought of enough adjectives to describe the extent of my immediate frustration. I called E.
Friday morning came and I packed an overnight bag for Francis as I needed this weekend as adult time. I was seriously aware that I had established the baseline for our physical connection and my body was really happy about it but my heart was in severe caution mode. I wasn’t kidding myself by thinking that I would have any significant self-restraint if he wanted sex but with this massive scab on my face, I wasn’t feeling all that sexy. I suspect I didn’t look that way either.
At the train station I picked up a paper timetable so that I could use it as a shield – I wasn’t agreeable that my chin would be there, right out front and center for the first thing he saw as he came around the corner. I looked suspicious for sure, holding it up to my face rather awkwardly. He came around the corner and as he did, the minute I saw him, I knew that somehow in the dozens of hours we had shared ourselves over the last several days, I was falling in love. My heart sputtered as he smiled deeply with his eyes and said hello with his mouth. He bent over to kiss me, I moved the paper away and he jumped back a step with a quick look of surprise. “Oh my” he says. Oh boy, I think. We had a good laugh.
We get through the day, the meeting, the questions, the curiosity of all the people who worked for me, and made it back to my apartment by late afternoon. I was feeling a bit more comfortable. We made cocktails and sat down and talked. Talking didn’t last long. After darkness had truly settled into the room and only the moon offered light, I lay awake struggling with the conflict between my body and my mind. I don’t know what he was thinking but I had an all-out mental war ensuing between those parts of me that simply liked sex and all of the physical pleasure it allowed and the heart/mind parts that were connected to my self-respect, my values, and my morals. All of a sudden I wasn’t sure if he was there for a bootie call or if there really was something developing between us. I wasn’t going to ask though.
I hadn’t been really connected to someone since Rocky died. This – whatever it was after such a short time – felt like some kind of connection and I wanted it. I buried the questions as well as the feelings and put on my happy face, the one that focused on good physical feelings. My body was responding without abandon even though my heart was on hold.
It turned out that my mattress was completely unsatisfactory for two. It was queen sized but I’m pretty sure that it was the same one I had obtained for $50 from an old friend when I got my first place at 18. It was well over ten years old and realistically it did support one person fine but two – simply rolled into one another and then got squished by the side. We went mattress shopping. It was yet again another rather awkward experience as I could not afford a new mattress and I probably should have been more vocal about that before we got into the store but how does one casually bring that up? It turned out that he didn’t even ask – he just paid for the new bed and arranged for immediate delivery. Somehow I don’t think we got it that day so I’m not sure how it solved the direct problem but I wasn’t complaining. And again, my thoughts went into hyper mode wondering why I was allowing a relative strange man to buy me something so personal and expensive. I vacillated between being really grateful and judging myself rather harshly for letting it happen. It felt a little bit like a quid pro quo.
We went to dinner that night at an upscale Chinese restaurant that offered screened privacy tables. It was charming and quiet and the conversation never paused. We easily laughed and found more things in common. Our professional long term goals were closely aligned. Our families seemed to be comparatively similar and our familial aspirations were paralleled. I felt desired, pretty, sexy, and smart when I was with him. He announced that he needed to find the restroom and as he stood up he said “while I’m gone, I’d like you to think about how much I love you.”
Whoa. What? And he walked out of the room. Again, time stopped. The whole of my world spun furiously around me while I simply sat there in a suspended dimension.
My stomach churned into a mass of uncomfortable nervousness. I was barely able to catch my breath and I was still mentally stammering when he returned to the table, smiling. “Well, what are you thinking? He asked as he reached for my hand across the table. He wrapped both his hands around mine and stared intimately into my eyes. “I love you too” I said inertly. I was still having difficulty breathing. He continued to gaze at me intently and then in a steady, calm voice he asked “What would you do if I asked you to marry me?”
The only reply I could think of is “I wouldn’t say no”.
He responded with “Well, I’m asking.”