Jessica is out at dinner with her gay best friend and she just texted me a photo of some kind of decadent chocolate dessert. I think Jessica is now F.
We haven't gone on an official date, but she's slept at my apartment the last five nights and is now texting me photos of her meals. Tonight is my first night alone. Maybe I should scrap this lettering system. We'll just call her Jessica, the girl who sleeps over.
Until last week, Jessica and I had been acquaintances, then platonic friends for over a year. Then she left her fiancé. Then things began to change.
We grabbed beers after work on Tuesday night and I just listened. I said supportive things when it seemed like she needed it. I told her I've been there. I tried to act like the wise old pro of failed relationships. In truth, I know nothing. No one does.
Sure, there are guidelines. Kind of. You try to avoid communicating with your ex unless you have to. You try to avoid looking at your ex's Facebook page. You try to avoid imagining that your ex is fucking someone else right now at this very moment. You try to be civil. But one or both of you are seriously hurt and because of that, there is no predicting exactly how all the shit will sort itself out.
I told Jessica something like this as well. She nodded and told me she's glad that I'm there for her. Before we parted ways, she invited me to meet up with her and her friends on Thursday night. They were going to what she described as a surfer bar in a Hell's Kitchen basement. I was intrigued.
I arrived around 8 pm. The place is called Reunion and there's a surfboard sign above the entrance. I descended the stairs into a post-workday crowd that seemed majority women, dancing. The decorations have standard Tiki flare, but the music is predominantly 90s rap and R&B. Jessica and her friends were drinking cocktails and swaying to Bel Biv Devoe's "Poison" when I entered the fray. Her face lit up when I waved to her.
Jessica knows I like spicy, so she immediately ordered up shots of jalapeno-infused rum. I introduced myself to her friends and they began asking me a lot of questions in short order. Some were about my job, others were about where I lived, and a few were about my breakup. They all seemed to already know it occurred three months earlier and that my ex was most likely cheating on me at the time of our split. We all synchronized, threw our heads back, and downed the first round of shots.
The night continued like this for a couple more hours. We would small talk intermittently and if a particularly appealing song would come on, one of the girls would lip synch along while the other three would dance around, goading her on. I did my best to be present during these times. However, I usually just leaned back against the bar, sipped my beer and watched Jessica. Her smile was getting to me.
Between 10:30 and 11, our group began breaking up until it was just Jessica and I standing out front of Reunion. She asked if I wanted to walk off the booze. I said yes and we began making our way south.
Both of us were feeling good and the words poured out. At one point, Jessica talked about how she was bored at work earlier in the day and came across a Web site focused on medical oddities. She described to me a condition called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (aka Stone Man's Disease). Apparently, it's an incredibly painful ailment where bone replaces connective tissue. She was fascinated by it -- by the thought of how horrific it must be to be afflicted by such a disorder, knowing your body was going to slowly harden until you die.
It was dark stuff, but she took a kind of deviant glee in describing it. It was like the world was a cooler place because bizarre conditions like this exist. I realized Jessica is different than any other girl I've ever met.
Before long, we were nearing my neighborhood. I asked Jessica which train she was planning to take to her friend's apartment in Brooklyn, the apartment where she'd been staying since she left her fiancé. She wasn't sure. I told her she was welcome to stay with me, if she wanted. She agreed, stopped in her tracks, and pulled me aside. She looked into my eyes and told me we had to be good. We needed to move slowly. I agreed. I said we should just be friends, like always.
When we got back, we prepped for bed and laid down next to each other. Neither of us said a word. Jessica left the next morning while I was still lying in bed, not quite awake.
That night, Friday, I was out after work with my friend Jeff. It was his birthday a few days earlier and he had received some THC-roasted almonds another friend purchased at a California dispensary. I was curious as to their effect, so we met up at a bar called GMT. We were multiple bourbons and a handful of almonds deep when I got a text from Jessica around 10 pm wondering if I'd like to have another "slumber party."
It seemed like a perfectly good idea. Jeff was getting a little hazy anyway. He didn't seem to respect the potential power of the almonds and had eaten roughly twice as many as I. We closed out and I walked him to the train station. His goodbye consisted of a few fairly indecipherable phrases and a heartfelt hug.
Ten minutes later, I was sitting on the edge of the fountain at Washington Square Park waiting for Jessica. It was a clear evening with a warm breeze. Mixing with the standard smattering of shady individuals were numerous couples, kissing and holding hands. The almonds had cast a toasty calm over my body and I couldn't help but get caught up in the scene. I'm not exactly sure how long I had been sitting there when I turned and Jessica was sitting beside me. She smiled and asked, "How fucked up are you?"
"I'm cool," I replied.
We flagged a cab and headed to a bar just south of Houston and Bowery to meet some mutual friends. While there, Jessica and I made knowing eye contact a few times, but were cautious to not be too obvious. We had a secret and no one could know.
It was 2 am when we left. A short cab ride later, we were back at my apartment. We started kissing and peeling off each other's clothes as soon as we got inside the door. She told me the shower was her thing. We went to the bathroom and got under the warm stream of water. Once we started kissing again, neither of us wanted to stop.
Eventually, we turned off the water and dried each other off. We moved to my bed, curled up, skin against skin under the sheets. It felt incredible. It felt more comfortable than anything I'd experienced in months. We didn't have sex. She said not yet. That was fine with me. We didn't need to.
We spent Sunday walking around my neighborhood, stopping at shops, grabbing drinks, and picking up groceries for dinner. She made a fennel salad with apple in it that night. As soon as it was done, we started kissing and slowly removing each other's clothes. Completely naked, I asked Jessica if she wanted me to get a condom. She nodded that she did.
Over the last few days, Jessica and I have been emailing back and forth throughout the work day. She feels guilty, because her ex has been calling her fairly frequently since the breakup, telling her how much he "hates her for ruining his life." That and trying to find a sublet has made her feel unsure and nervous.
She says the only time she feels comfortable and relaxed is when she's with me. I try to be supportive and a good listener like before, but obviously I now have more at stake. I tell her I like her and that I don't want to just be her rebound. She assures me I'm not.
Honestly, even if I am, I don't care. I want to see her. This makes more sense than anything I had with the other girls. So I invite her to stay with me and she accepts.
When she texted the photo of her dessert tonight, I nearly told her she should bring some back to my place. Instead, I responded something about being envious. It's important for us to take tonight off -- to have a breather after five nights sleeping next to one another. I needed to think tonight and to write this and to read it back to myself.
Right now, Jessica is headed back to her friend's in Brooklyn. In the morning, we'll talk. At some point in the day, I'll probably invite her to stay with me. One night off is enough.