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He knew nearly nothing of her and that was enough.

She let him be in control, and this excited him, the unspoken single-mindedness that pulled them down like quicksand onto his bed.

He always screwed up with girls, judging them against principles that he didn't measure up to himself.

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Restraint Mechanism   Open Mike Topic           February 1, 2001

Wishing something had held you back?

by Jandro

Email to a FriendHe poked his head out from under the covers and smiled at her, noticing for the first time that her eyes were greenish-brown, like his. She smiled back, lifting her head to kiss him and remembering his first kiss only hours before, in the elevator, not even waiting for the doors to close and the doorman staring at her.

The following morning he looked out the window into the drizzly grayness to watch her get into the cab. It wasn't great, he thought, but pretty good. He was trying to be cheery. He shuffled slowly back to bed, the afterglow from the prior night dimmed by her rushed, seven A.M. departure. With eyes closed he recalled his hands running up her legs and the moment she unzipped him, the creaking of the bed, the dribbled saliva, her body leaking onto his. Then he remembered her panties, a bright pink splatter on the hardwood floor, next to his socks and her bra, so carelessly shed. What was the hurry?

She gazed out the cab's window, the early morning traffic on Second Avenue thin on a Saturday. Inside the stillness of the taxi, her cell phone rang. She counted the cars as they weaved between them: the red ones and the blues, the yellows, the occasional delivery truck, the mid-town buses. She made up her day, her Saturday, her very busy Saturday. She had the dry cleaning to pick up, the library books to return, the phone calls and brunch and then the party at Za's. The clouds floated up into a lightening sky, but she knew it was still freezing outside.

God, he'd been so excited about her. His voice had trembled the first time he called. Let's have a drink, he offered. No, she said, let's have dinner. He knew nearly nothing of her and that was enough. She was a friend of a friend, single and cute and ready to have dinner with him on a Friday night. He'd gotten this good feeling about her and he was just her type, according to the friend, which was why she'd pushed for dinner - she wanted a fair shot with this guy, her type of guy, and no one takes 'a drink' seriously.

The radio was playing old Elvis Presley songs, the sad ones that made her feel hungry. The cabbie waited while she ran in for a bagel... not the breakfast she'd envisioned last night. She stood in line and the cell phone rang again -- probably her friend, calling for the details. She remembered so little. Two beers, two glasses of wine, oysters on their half-shells. Swallowing while he watched, his eyes on her neck, on her lips and her chest, her face flushing. Why did he want her so blatantly? Something had changed. Something when he saw her and he decided he could have her, and that was all it took - he wasn't going to wait for the fruit to fall when he could simply reach up and grab it.

He stood in the shower, lathering and letting the scalding water wash away their night together. He thought of how there was nothing left to look forward to anymore. Maybe it had been an accident. Perhaps when she brushed her knee against his, he assumed... and then she assumed, and then he assumed, and then she thought, why not? Why not let her fingers linger on his as they reached for her fallen napkin? Why not get close enough to breathe on his neck, outside in the January wind, as they waited for the car? And then she let him invite her to his place, she let him guide her past the couch, as if it was invisible, and into his room. She let him be in control, and this excited him, this and the not talking, the unspoken single-mindedness that pulled them down like quicksand onto his bed.

She got the bagel and hurried back to the cab. The phone beeped and the message light came on. She would call back later. It was nothing, she'd explain. He wasn't boyfriend material, so it didn't matter. He was exactly the sort of man she would never take home to meet Dad, the kind who wouldn't know the difference between great, and good, and not-so-good. The whole thing, she'd explain, just deteriorated so quickly. It wasn't meant to be. True, that would sound phony, but it's just easier, putting people into boxes. Besides, most times her instincts were right and it wouldn't have lasted long anyway. So if they had hot chemistry, why not blow it all up in one big bang and move on? There would always be another man - tomorrow, or next year - a good guy who wouldn't unzip his pants on the first date, who'd wait - who'd know to wait.

He turned off the water. Steam shrouded his body. He'd been so intrigued by her. Now he couldn't shake the feeling that he knew everything. The physical surrender seemed so overwhelming, yet it was so ephemeral. Why did he give up so easily? He knew that it wouldn't be long before he forgot exactly how things trailed off, or why he deliberately chose not to call. It always ended up this way. He always got things all screwed up with girls, judging them against principles that he didn't measure up to himself.

The cell phone rang again. For a minute there, she wanted it to be him, though she knew he wouldn't call. She didn't really want him to call. She wanted to let herself be vulnerable: Show a naked patch and then trust that it'd be respected, loved, and appreciated. But not with him, he wouldn't get it, and that was why she'd scrambled out of bed so suddenly. It's only sex, she told herself one more time, just like when he'd first slid into her, when she'd given him the most intimate thing she could ever have to share. Then again, she'd done this enough times that she wouldn't go berserk with guilt. She'd forget him soon enough. At least his name -- it was a common name. Though how long before she'd forget the tangy scent of his sheets, the orange-and-blue pattern of his bedspread, the picture of his golden retriever taped to the lampshade?

He walked out of the bathroom determined not to behave so predictably; he grabbed the phone and put his wet, dripping ear to the plastic. He dialed, wishing he had put on some coffee instead of pretending to sleep, and toasted bread, and brought them to the bed and said to her, hey, can we start over? That would have been easier than waiting for her to pick up.

He leaned his forehead against the wall and hung up. Too late, he thought, going back over the moment when they walked past the couch, or when he invited her in, or even when he felt her breath on his neck and offered to share a cab. And he wished he had noticed her eyes earlier because perhaps that, or something like that, would have held him back.

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