Friday, August 26, 2011

chapter nine

I wish I knew what I was doing.  Of course then I probably wouldn’t be doing it.  Patrick agrees to come to the party - he even looks like he wants to ask about tomorrow, because he can’t wait a day to see me.  I’ll die if he does that.  As it is I may have to throw myself off the roof deck to avoid whatever is coming next.

Two hours, in the dark, making out.  And that’s all we did.  Like an after school special or a Harry Potter chapter, we kissed and kissed and nothing else.  It was... awesome.

Stop it, stop it!

Kissing Patrick is unlike anything I can remember.  Tyler was so familiar and comfortable that it was almost automatic.  I still wanted to kiss him, the desire was still there, but the taste and feel were almost my own by the end of two years.  Then I tried to brainwash myself into forgetting what that felt like.  If I knew how effective Patrick would be, I might have started months ago.

Patrick feels different in my arms - he’s not as tall but stronger, broader and every surface is rock hard muscle.  I must be like a stuffed animal in comparison.  He’s playful too, keeping the mood light, like he knows we can’t stand any closer to the fire.

There’s something about it though that I don’t trust.  The frat boy man-whore who doesn’t even try to round first base?  This supposed bad boy is being a lot better than I want to be.

It makes me wonder: Who is this person?  Even Patrick seems impressed with himself, as if every time he doesn’t reach for my zipper is a point on the scoreboard.  But if he’s working that hard, how long can he keep this up?  If it’s not the real him, I want to get away now.  I’ve had quite enough surprises.

But I let him take me to this burger place all the same.  It’s art deco and the circular booths have huge backs, so each table is effectively an island.  He slides in close to me.  After we order and there’s no one passing by, Patrick slides his good hand between the wall and my waist, leans heavily into the cushioned backrest and sighs.  His head rolls in my direction till it’s almost on my shoulder.

“Miranda told me about your ex,” he says.  In my hand, a straw suffers a terrible fate.  His gentle laugh shakes my side.  “I just wanted you to know that I know.  And that I....”

“Don’t.”  My voice is much quieter than I intend and I have to clear my throat.  “Please don’t, Patrick.  Don’t say you’d never do that, because that’s exactly what I expected from him.  And I can’t stand to be disappointed anymore.”

He settles those blue on me, the color of the summer sky.  Traces of his boyishness linger in his face - the way his mouth curls, the shape of his jaw.  But his eyes are older and they’ve seen some things.  The look on his face is so honest that the shell around my heart cracks a little.

“I won’t promise you anything, Kristen.  Except that I’ll try.”

Patrick doesn’t wait for my reply.  He touches his lips to mine in a gentle, easy kiss.  The kind of kiss you give someone you plan to kiss every day.  I want to say something like ‘I’m trying too’ or ‘I’ll make it worth your while,’ but if I’m not taking promises then I shouldn’t be giving them out.  Breaking one is just as bad as having one broken.  So I return his kiss and revel in the sizzle of newness and anticipation that spreads as far as my fingers and toes.

Over dinner we compare favorite Chicago spots and vacation destinations.  He carefully skirts any mention of other girls, and I delete Tyler from all stories the way I’ve deleted him from my life.  When Patrick has polished off an enormous plate of food, he sits back, slides his hand up my thigh and waits patiently for me to finish.

I’m nearly choking, of course.  His gesture is so casually intimate - as if we’re feeling each other up now, in a burger place, when we barely touched in the dark movie make out marathon.  It’s also slightly possessive, as if he’d be glad for anyone to see this is his girl.

God damn I want to believe that.

Without thinking, I put my hand on Kristen’s leg under the table.  It’s habit.  If she were wearing a skirt I’d be twisting the side of her panties between my fingers right now.  Once my hand settles over the curve of her upper thigh I can’t move it.  I don’t want to.  Heat from her skin bleeds through the soft denim and I can almost imagine I’m touching her bare body.  My hand feels dipped in fire.

Kristen asked me not to promise her anything.  I was about to say that I want to make it up to her, what he did.  I want to be the guy who gets this right.  But it’s a good thing she stopped me, because I shouldn’t make promises I’m not sure I can keep.

She leans into me though and smiles to herself.  I congratulate myself on another day where she had fun. Maybe it’s wishful thinking that she seems a little less scared today.

We walk hand-in-hand to the car and I drive her home like her dad might be waiting up.

“Wait,” I tell her, sliding from the drivers’ side and going around to her door.  She has to step right into my arms and it’s a really good excuse to give her one last kiss.  I double it up since I missed last night’s goodnight kiss.  I lean Kristen against the side of the SUV, get right in close and pause.  She laughs, a single clear note, then kisses me hard on the mouth.  From zero to sixty in one second.  Her hands grip my hips, my one good hand is palm open on the edge of her rib cage, just inches below her breast and the next level in this game.  Kristen parts her legs slightly and my thigh wedges in like it’s a quarter and I’m trying to buy candy.  We melt all over each other.

“God,” she whispers against my lips.  I don’t step away or open my eyes, I just stay there with my face to hers and mouths so close we could kiss without moving.

Old Me is going berserk.  One more push of my legs and I’d be riding up onto her hip.  I think she’d let me too, which makes my blood boil.  Old Me wants to drag her upstairs and show her I don’t need to hands to work her controls.

“Patrick,” she breathes.  Every time she says it, my heart rate ticks up a notch.

“Kristen,” I try to sound like I’m teasing her instead of torturing myself.

Old Me throws dishes, lights fires.  Invite me in, invite me in!

“Good night.”  She slips from between me and the car like water and hurries inside.  At the door she throws me a little wave.  I see her hurry up the steps and out of view.

The side of the SUV is cold beneath my touch, a stark reminder of the soft warmth I just let get away.  The drive home will be a race against my need to take care of this urge myself.  Again I thank God I didn’t hurt my right hand.

For the second night in a row I haul ass up the stairs just to stand panting at the banister, gripping it like the railing on the Titanic.  The only sounds are Patrick’s truck pulling away followed by a weak whimper from me.  I briefly consider a manic roll of the dice: if I yell his name out the window and he comes back, then I can sleep with him.  Makes perfect sense.

Instead I slog into my apartment and pitch face-first onto the couch.  

I’ve had the day to end all days.  The Date That Will Go Down in History.  What else could a girl hope for?  I lay there for quite a while, inhaling directly from the cushion and trying to sort out the jumble in my brain.  It’s probably a half hour later when my phone beeps.

You never saw a human being move so fast in your life.

Patrick: Thanks for today.

“Nuuuuhhhhhhhh,” I bleat to the potted plant in the corner.

Patrick: I had a lot of fun.

I briefly consider typing, “I had a lot of impure thoughts” but my fingers will not cooperate.  So I simply tell him: I had all the fun!  Best date ever, I think.  Thank you.

Inside I am thinking: Whatabouttomorrow? Askmeoutfortomorrow! Ordrivebackherenow!

Patrick: Sorry you didn’t get your piglet.

Me: I got to feed penguins, I am set for life.

Patrick: Don’t spoil the dog’s birthday party with your penguin story.

Me: He does get jealous.

Patrick: Do I need to get him a present?

Me: Haha, no.  I’ll buy some treats.

Patrick: Then I’ll get a present for you instead.

Me: I don’t type anything.  I just put my face back into the couch cushion and die.

Patrick: Goodnight gorgeous.

Me: Night, Patrick.

I float around the apartment for an hour, getting stuff ready for work and trying to pretend it’s normal to feel like a helium balloon has inflated inside your stomach.  Though I have a very small space to cross, it seems less depressing as I go from desk to kitchen to bookshelf to bed collecting what I need for tomorrow.  When I can finally sit, it’s for thirty minutes in front of the mirror examining my eyebrows and skin.  Really I end up staring at myself and blocking out the questions in my mind.  It feels good just to float for now.

When I go to sleep, I’m smiling.  And I wake up the same way.  Then I frown.

I won’t see Patrick today.

Oh my God, get a grip!

Okay, apparently the floating part is over and someone gave Common Sense back her bullhorn.  I lay still and concentrate on a few key themes from the night before:

One: We haven’t even done anything.
Two: I am not deaf, dumb or blind.  I can see things coming if I keep my eyes open.
Three: This feels good, so shut the fuck up.
Four: Okay, time out.  Day off from Patrick.  Everybody take a deep breath.

Ugh.  Now my head feels heavy and slow.  I drag it around the apartment, dress and head for work.  Even the free newspaper at the El can’t keep my mind from drifting toward penguins and movie theaters and Patrick’s hand on my thigh.

My phone beeps and I nearly spill the contents of my purse getting it.  Here, man loitering in the corner, have my wallet.  Homeless lady, want an iPod?  I’m busy getting a text from a boy I don’t even like.

But it’s just Jane.

Jane: How was your date?!

With a deep breath, I resolve to tell Jane everything I’m thinking and feeling.  Not over text though, so it’ll have to wait till lunchtime.

Me: The truth? Epic. Need to talk. Lunch call?


Me: No! Slut. Call me @ 12.

My job as an assistant at an internet-based social living site, kind of like Yelp, is generally pretty sexy.  But that’s only when nothing sexy at all is happening in your life.  The office is open-plan with lots of desks and few walls.  Everyone is under forty, lively and loves to gossip.  It’s a hive of activity and the worst place ever to make a personal phone call.  I file my date with Jane into the back of my mind and slog through the Monday morning crowd to our door.  The only thing I always love is how the place opens right onto the street level, so you can always see daylight.  Work will be the perfect distraction today, and I need it.

Then I see my desk.  Some genius has printed out several 11 x 17” screen captures of me and Patrick at Wrigley Field and posted them all over my desk area.  I just groan, hear a few good-natured laughs from the peanut gallery and throw my stuff into a corner.

“Hot time, summer in the city....,” someone starts singing.

Everyone laughs.  My phone rings, it’s 9:01 AM and the day has begun.

Work is endless.  The clock ticks just past eleven, my stomach growls and I make another attempt to focus on my screen.

An instant message pops up from my friend Arianna, across the room in finance.  

Arianna: Shit, so busy I haven’t gotten to interrogate you!  When did THAT happen?

Me: We met Friday night.

Arianna: And you spent the weekend wearing a hockey jersey and screaming his name?

Me: OMG, does this company have a smut filter?!

Arianna: I’d have been fired long ago.  Tell me all about it later?

Me: After lunch.

At ten of noon I go to the bathroom, brush my hair and compos myself to talk to Jane.  I really want to tell her everything, but some of the topics are still a bit sore: she obviously wants me to trust Patrick and I’m not sure I can.  Then there is the Dead Horse Problem: we have been over every inch of my insecurity and despair a thousand times.

She’ll understand, I tell myself.  And I do really need to talk about it.  A day off from Patrick is a good thing for me, let me settle my head.

I go back to my desk just before noon, check email one last time and reach for my purse.  As I spin in my chair, a wave of quiet rolls over the office.  It starts at the door, passes me and only when it reaches the back wall do I realize no one is talking.  A phone rings brashly.  The air gets charged, like every hair on my body is standing up.

“Cool, thanks,” a guy’s voice says.  Not just any guy.

I slowly rise to my feet, my head coming above the dividing wall.

Patrick, smiling like he’s in the Stanley Cup parade, saunters toward my desk.  He wears dark, expensive-looking jeans and a white collared polo shirt that magnifies how tan and healthy he is.  My mouth may fall open.  His arms and chest look strong enough to climb.

A yelp, followed by the sound of a chair being up-ended, comes from Arianna’s general direction.

“Hey,” Patrick says, good hand is in his pocket like he has nowhere to go and all day to get there.  He just stands at my desk, looking all blond and casual.  “Wanna get some lunch?”


  1. "Me: I don’t type anything. I just put my face back into the couch cushion and die." Best line; sounds like something I would say

    The debating between "Old Me" and "New Me" is still hilarious!

    I'm very happy Patrick couldn't wait another day to see her. I don't think she could have waited either (I know I couldn't! :) )

  2. I love this story!!

  3. Haha rumours, burn! Brilliant, I love this :)

  4. I love this. So, i'm in an internet cafe in Dusseldorf, and the tatted up biker dude next to me is staring. Probably because i've been laughing outloud as I've been reading this. Oh well. So worth it.

  5. I don't know if you make a habit out of taking requests, but I thought it would be worth a shot - I LOVE all your stories, and I would love to see you write one featuring Paul Bissonnette. I've only ever read one other one about him and I'm absolutely sure yours would be better!

  6. AH! More please, very soon! This story has to be one of my favorites yet!! Very cute, and I think you've done an outstanding job of capturing Kaner!

    Any chance for a Great Eight story after this??

  7. Where have you gone??? It killed to see no updates this weekend. Pllllease update soon!

  8. wow, just came home from two weeks on holiday - and now I can't stop reading and catching up on your story. I am no fan of the real kaner dude, but the one in your story is great! and so funny!

    - and since I've been away it seems weird to me anon complaining about no updates... I should be doing so many other thins but I still have so many updates to read...