We decided to meet in San Francisco. It was close to where we both lived. Closer to her actually, but that didn't bother me.
The restaurant she choose was a busy one. It was near the hotel and chosen at random. It didn't feel random though. The restaurant seemed calculated, like a stage or a movie set. All the people there could have easily been extras.
I arrived first, and was rather shocked at the frantic atmosphere. The noise wasn't really unpleasant though, it gave me a sense of anonymity at least. It was easy to feel obscure among the rattle of conversations nearby. After today, I would no longer be an anonymous voice on the phone, or a picture in an email. After today my obscurity would be shattered.
I took a table near the back and waited. I began having doubts about the prudence of our meeting. She was already 10 minutes late, and I was sure she had decided to stand me up. I had just stood up to leave when I saw a waiter walking her toward my table. Her nervous half-smile immediately drowned out all the conversations going on around me; it quieted all my misgivings.
We sat facing one another, with neither of us speaking. The small talk portion of my brain had shut down completely, I was drowning. She just continued staring directly at me, impervious to the silence. It almost seemed as if she were enjoying my discomfort. But she soon relieved the tension. She reached across the small table, rested her hand on my arm, and told me to relax.
"Timothy, breathe," she said.
"Yes, of course," I stammered. "I had just for a minute there forgot myself. Well, not who I am, I mean. I just couldn't remember what it was I was talking about, you know?"
She laughed at this, "Oh? Funny, I didn't realize you were talking about anything at all. What, with the fact that you have been completely silent since I sat down and all!" Her ironic smile was charming in despite of her teasing remarks., or maybe because of them. She was glowing with mischief.
By the time the drinks arrived I had loosened up some. We began talking more freely, about every small thing we could think of. We talked about books, about music, about the cathedral down the street that we both felt conveyed a sense of secrecy. That's what our conversation seemed to contain, a sense of secrecy. It didn't feel like we were concealing anything, really. It just felt like an outside observer couldn't possibly have any clue what we were talking about, like we were speaking another language. We felt removed from the other people in the room.
"Are you ready to leave?" She asked, already leaning toward the exit.
"Well, okay." I hesitated, not wanting to reenter the world so quickly. I had the strangest thought, just then, that I would never be able to recapture this moment again. I felt as if I would never again hold her attention in the same manner.
"Good, where to next?" Her tone was still playful, but it had changed. Her arched eye-brow indicated a carnality that wasn't there before.
As we were walking away from the restaurant, toward the hotel, her hips were swaying slightly. Her arm was locked around mine, and for the first time she had stopped looking at me. Neither of us had used the word sex, afraid this moment would turn vulgar maybe. But the word was there, in her walk, in flushed faced, in her sudden inability to meet my gaze. She was being careful, not realizing that she was incapable of vulgarity; that it simply wasn't in her nature.
"Here we are!" It was the stupidest thing I could have said at the moment, but it was what I could think of. "I mean in the room, you know? I just...why don't we sit down?" I continued, after an uncomfortable pause.
"I don't want to have sex with you!" Her hurried tone startled me.
"Okay." I said, "should we sit down anyway?"
She laughed, "I just mean that I decided I don't want you have that idea of me."
"That I am common." She explained. "I don't want you to think I am common. I love the way you look at me. If that changed I don't think I could recover." Now I could feel her gaze on me, again. But this time there was an immediacy, an urgency in her stare. "In fact, you can't even leave! You will stay in this hotel and continue looking at me until we both die of old age!" She rushed toward the door and dead bolted it, smiling mischievously once again.
"Okay," I said, "so we are going to sit down then?"
"Stop trying so hard to be clever," she said, "try something else. Try kissing me, you haven't tried that yet. That isn't common, you know? If you think I am common for wanting to kiss you then you can't be helped."
Before I could lean in to kiss her, she began removing her clothes. She wasn't trying to be sexy, she acted as if she were merely getting ready for bed, or for a bath. She undressed in a very clinical, efficient way, as if no one were watching. It stopped me dead, I was completely immersed. The intimacy of the act startled me.
I stood there with my clothes on, watching her undress and lie down on the bed. Her clothes were off, but I felt like I was the one who was vulnerable. She had the ability to voice her misgivings, whereas I could barely begin to name mine. There was intimacy, yes, but there was something else I had no name for. A vague fear, the knowledge that this moment too, like the one in the restaurant, had an expiration date.
I stood above her wearing a starched shirt, a tie, slacks. The armor was useless. It was her turn to watch me now.
"Strip for me." she said, in a playfully commanding tone.
I clumsily tried to take off my clothes in a sexy, rehearsed fashion; all slow and suggestive. It was a joke, I even fell once trying to take of my slacks. She looked on, both sympathetic and amused.
"You're so afraid, Timothy." She finally said. "Come here." She held her arms open.
"I thought you didn't want to have sex?" I replied, moving myself into her arms.
"I don't," she said, "I want to torture you a little."
"Just a little?" I said, trying to feign surprise.
"Timothy," she finally said, "I want to make love." Her eyes appeared to darken, then. Her grasp, slack before, had now tightened. I could feel her entire body become tense, next to mine.
And then the moment was over. It ended for me right then. I had to reenter the world.