My Favorite Half-Night Stand

Page 34

“You’re not bad at it.” Holy shit, I could not sound more disingenuous if I tried. Gesturing to our menus, I ask, “Should we take a minute to figure out what we want to order?”

Daisy looks quasi-mortified. “Sure.”

The two minutes that we peruse the menu in silence are torture. Absolutely the most awkward, loaded two minutes of my life. I can feel the pressure building in Daisy, almost like she’s going to explode without conversation happening.

The waitress comes to take our order, and afterward Daisy immediately excuses herself to use the restroom. I am praying that she’s texting a friend to help get her out of this date.

I pull out my phone, texting Chris.

Zero chemistry.


With Daisy. I mean, it’s immediately clear why she’s single.

God, that sounds terrible.

I just mean—she’s incredibly nervous and talking a lot about the ex.

Man seriously? That sucks.

She’s hot. But there’s just no vibe at all and she’s so nervous it’s weird.

OK gotta go.

I expect her to be right out, but I wait a couple of minutes, then five. Our waitress brings bread, and I absently nibble a slice, waiting.

Another few minutes pass, with no sign of Daisy.

With twitchy fingers, I reach for my phone again. Other than a final message from Chris, a simple Later, there’s nothing. No emails. No voicemails. My thumb hovers over the IRL icon.

I open it, drawn to the red 1 beside my inbox.

It’s from Catherine.

Slowly and covertly, I scan her latest message. It’s long and personal—and a little rambly—but once I finish it, I go back and start again.

It’s like word vomit, but even so it’s pretty fucking endearing. Am I really this hungry for such bald honesty? Probably a little. I love my friends, but sometimes feel like we don’t go very deep, and whenever I read a message from Catherine, I feel like I’m gulping down water, or shoveling chips in my mouth. I devour it.


I look up, and the schmoopy grin on my face cracks, fading. I’ve been sitting here reading a message from one woman, on what I’m pretty sure is visible as the app where I met this woman, and I have no idea how long she’s been standing at the side of the table.

With her purse slung over her shoulder.

Quickly, I stand, too. “Daisy. Are you okay?”

She shakes her head. “I’m not feeling great. I think I just got myself so nervous about tonight.”

I look for the lie, but don’t find it. Anyway, if she wanted to lie she probably would have said her friend needs an emergency pickup, or her dog had a seizure.

“What can I do to help you feel less anxious?” I ask her, and I can’t tell if the urge to calm her is because I was busted reading a message from Catherine, or because she looks so genuinely vulnerable. “I get it, I do. I’ve been out of the game for a while, too. But I’m the same guy you’ve been talking to online.”

“You’re the same guy who’s been talking to a lot of women, I guess.” She nods to the phone still clutched in my hand.

“Aren’t we all?” I ask her, gently. “I mean, we’re all on these apps . . . dating . . . But I’m sorry. That—checking my phone—wasn’t a very cool thing to do while you were in the bathroom.”

“No, it’s fine. I was gone for a while.”

“It’s okay—”

“I think maybe I’m not ready.” She takes a step toward me, like she might hug me again, and I can almost see the thought process pass over her face, how she started the date with a hug, and it went south so quickly, and she really doesn’t want to do that again. Daisy stretches out her hand to shake.

“I’m here if you change your mind,” I say, releasing her hand.

But as she turns to walk out of the restaurant, I know it’s not really true.

I don’t get up and leave right away. In part because I feel like I have to linger after she leaves in case she’s sitting in her car freaking out, and in part because I’m actually super hungry and the chicken piccata sounded fucking awesome. In the end, I eat my dinner alone, ignoring the questioning glances from my fellow diners because there are two dinners in front of me. When I finish, I have them pack up Daisy’s linguini to take home.

But when I get out to my car, I realize it’s only nine; I don’t want to go home yet. Any hopes about tonight being the answer to my Catherine/Millie conflict are totally deflated because Daisy was a terrible fit for me. I like having sex with Millie. I love being around her. Her loyalty, her wit, and the small ways she knows exactly when we need to be buoyed speak to the depth of her intelligence. But I can’t stand how she lives in a Teflon bubble and doesn’t trust any of us to carefully handle her more delicate truths. Or more depressingly: the thought that—emotionally—she doesn’t actually go a whole lot deeper than what I’ve seen. I honestly just can’t believe that about her.

I’m not sure why I drive straight there. I mean, before all the sex, it would have been natural to come over after work, or after a bad date. We’d pull off our shoes and put our feet up on her coffee table and watch a movie or have a couple of beers and play cards. I didn’t need more than that from her; it was perfect.

But now it feels like there’s something else to be had, which makes me not only want it, but feel like I’m starting to need it.

I wonder whether, after the first time we had sex, if one of us had said, “I’d really like to try having a relationship,” that would have changed everything and I wouldn’t be weighing the balance of her sexual availability against her emotional intimacy so much. What is it about talking to women online and evaluating interactions that makes a checklist appear in my head, giving equal weight to all these things, forgetting that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that no one comes into a relationship fully grounded?

I don’t have a plan in mind. I park, I walk up her steps, I knock. I think maybe I’ll turn tonight’s Daisy Disaster into a comedy show or ask Millie to mull over these existential dating questions with me, but there’s something about her face when she opens the door that throws me. It takes a couple of seconds to register that she’s relieved that I’m here on her porch—that I didn’t go home with Daisy.

Her cheeks go pink—I can tell she’s a little tipsy—and she touches her ear and then tucks her hair there, and I scramble back in time, trying to remember when I first noticed all these little things about her, like the tiny dimple she has at the corner of her mouth, and that her left eye is a few shades darker than her right, and that she breathes through her mouth when she’s nervous.

We’re just standing there, staring at each other, and then she cracks and her smile breaks like the sun coming out, and it makes me laugh, too.

“So it was terrible?” she says. She’s giddy.


Her hand comes up to my chest and curls, making a fist around my shirt, and it’s like being in an old movie, being pulled in by the scruff, door slammed behind me.


I smile against her lips. “Does it make sense if I say that I felt like I looked at her and saw all of her, in a single glance?”

She pulls me down again, more eager now. The first time, we were sweet, tender, talking. The second time was heat and passion and that sense that we were working something out of our systems. But tonight, it’s urgent and immediate: Her mouth comes over mine the same moment she starts to lift my shirt up. I probably have her shirt unbuttoned and her jeans on the floor before my car engine has even cooled outside.

We’re naked, stumbling down the hall before giving up and leaning into the wall, where I lift her up, holding her, taking her in a breathless flurry of movement. I keep moving until she comes, until she’s a boneless, soft weight in my shaking arms.

Carefully, I set her down, kissing the crescent-shaped scar on her shoulder.

“Did you come over here for that?” she asks with a sleepy drawl. Her fingers trace the side of my face and I can’t seem to help myself, I lean into the touch.

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