Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Following in the Dark - a new story fragment

I was going through some old cds when I found a bunch of writing pieces I thought I had lost. I can't believe I found them again.

Following in the Dark is a story I wrote back in 2001. I think I wanted to make this story into a novel, but then I lost interest in finishing it. It looks like I was trying to write one of those soft porn novels for women, but those are really hard to write. I took all the rated X parts out, but here's a piece of it.


Pain is an odd thing. I like pain, physical pain. Emotional pain I can do without. Emotional pain tortures you 24/7. You can’t drink yourself out of it, you can’t watch TV yourself out of it, you can’t play music loud enough and long enough to drown it out. It’s an endless voice that drones on and on. That scene that keeps replaying over and over and over in your head. You know, like at Friday evening Easter mass when you do Stations of the Cross. But it’s like Stations of the Cross every day in my head. That’s emotional pain. But physical pain … ah the beauty and ecstasy of physical pain is that it has a beginning and an end. You know when it stops and you can pretty much tell when it ends. Finite pain. All those philosophers I read in school were wrong about infinity. Finite is definitely better at least for pain. And physical pain is really the only thing that stops emotional pain. It’s a displacement thing, one pain replacing another. But physical pain has its price like everything else in this world. Was it worth the price? After everything that happened, I don’t know. You be the judge.

            I met him through the alternative weekly personals.  Friends of mine were meeting and dating men that way, so I thought why the hell not.  I was bored with my life.  I had a good job, made decent money, had a great social life, but it always felt like something was missing.  I’ve never prescribed to the attitude that a woman needs a man to fulfill her life.  I had attended too many sessions of feminist consciousness raising to ever believe that.  In the back of mind however, I could still hear my mother saying in that raspy, smoke drenched voice of hers, “You’re nothing without a man, Jennifer Lynn, I don’t care what those bra burning witches are telling you.  You know they’re only protesting because they’ve got nothing better to do.  They don’t have a family to worry about, a man to feed and a marriage to keep intact.  That’s what comes when you stay single for too long.”  And it would end right there because my mother couldn’t speak for five minutes without a coughing spell.  Guess that smoke had to get out of throat somehow.  She’d cough so hard her eyes would tear up and her painted on eyeliner would start to run.  If I squinted hard enough and looked at her, I could see a faint resemblance to a bleached blonde overweight, overly made up Alice Cooper.
            “I want you to be happy Jennifer Lynn.  I want you to get married and settle down, get a house and start having kids.  When you have too much time on your hands, you make yourself crazy.”  This was my mother’s mantra about my life.  I’ve been hearing it ever since I can remember, even before I knew what getting married and having kids meant.  Mother meant well.  I know she did.  But she was just from a different generation when women had few choices.  I have choices now.  And I knew she was just repeating what grandma was telling her.
            Mother was right about one thing, though.  Men do have a way of filling up your time.  I could do with a man in my life as long as I didn’t have to live with one.  No, dating would definitely provide a quick and easy remedy to the boredom of my life.  And I wouldn’t exactly have to end up in a relationship with any of the men I would be meeting.  I could just date a bunch of men.  I mean, I wasn’t desperate for a man or anything like that.  I was happy not desperate and man hungry and I thought, in the perfect frame of mind for dating.
            I decided to study the adds that other women were putting in before writing one of my own.  Reading them reminded me of how I laughed at people who wrote personal ads in college.  Someone in my house, can’t remember his name right now, had a subscription to The Village Voice.  My college housemates and I would get together late at night, and high on pot and drunk on beer, we would read the personals from The  Voice out loud to each other in our best acting voices.  We would endlessly speculate about what kind of people would actually advertise themselves in a paper so they could have a relationship.  We made up stories about their lives, how they looked and how desperate they had to be.  And here I was now, 30 years old,  studying the ads so I could put one in myself.
            Some of the ads were bold with phrases like “Lusty 20ish blonde looking for hunky dream man”.  Others were straightforward like “34, SWF, strawberry blonde, brown eyes, looking for 30-40ish SWM.”  A middle of the road approach I thought, would work best.  I mean, I didn’t want to be bold and advertise because that seemed too desperate to me, like those bouncers at the strip clubs in North Beach calling out to passersby and tourists about the naked girls and live sex happening on stage.  I mean, did I want to shout it out to the rooftops that I was looking for a man?  No, I wanted to be subtle, tasteful, demure but bold but in a good way.
            And I didn’t want to be too clinical either.  I mean after all, this was supposed to be about dating, romance, love and meeting the right guy.  I didn’t want to feel like I was in some futuristic science fiction movie where I was ordering the perfect man like I was ordering a pair of shoes or pants.  I could just see myself ordering a man.  Strawberry blonde with freckles, but not too many, six foot, 175 pounds, income over $100K, educated from list of acceptable schools, plays golf, tennis and racquetball, conservative but not too conservative, tender but too tender, romantic but sickeningly so, cooks, takes the garbage out, does chores, snoring is okay as long as not too loud, keen knowledge of football, baseball and all matter of team sports appreciated, like to go to theatre, opera and ballet, drives a car from the list of acceptable cars, knows how to flirt, is charming, happy and upbeat.  I mean, such a man doesn’t exist, at least I hadn’t found him yet.
            And if I did find him, what would I do with him?  He’d be too perfect.  A friend of mine once told me that when you either figure it all out or get everything you want, you die.  What would be the point of living right?  And I definitely don’t want to die just yet.  But I definitely want a something close to perfect.
            There are even websites and books about personal ads.  This one website advises writing a general ad instead of a specific one.  Their rationale was that like a fisherman, you want to make your net as big as possible and get lots of fish.  You could then choose which fish you want and throw out all the rest.  The website writer said that most of don’t really know what we really want.  We have a vague idea only and if we did have a specific idea, well, we would have found that person by now.  It’s pop psychology bullshit I know, but it made sense in that pop psychology kind of way.  It’s kind of like when you take those tests in Cosmopolitan or Glamour where they test everything to what kind of girlrfriend are you to your loyalty score.  You read the results afterwards and even though in the back of your head you know it’s just a stupid quiz, if you get a good score, you feel good inside for no reason.
            I spent hours writing and rewriting my ad and finally came up with the following:
Spiritual but still partying single SWF, 35, looking for happy and charming man, 35-45, with similar attitude.  Interests include theatre, ballet, opera and spectator sports.  Be gainfully employed and educated and know how to call strikes and football penalties.
            I liked the spiritual part because I consider myself very spiritual.  I mean it’s not like I go to church or anything. I  had had enough of that with my catholic church upbringing.  No, I didn’t go to Catholic school thank god, but my parents were religious churchgoers.  My dad was the worst, especially during easter when w would attend stations of the cross every Friday till the big day.  My mother wasn’t so bad.  She just dragged us to Novenas every Wednesday where we were supposed to pray to the Virgin Mary for prayers.  I never knew what to pray for when we went, so I prayed for more clothes, bigger tits, more allowance, the power to have boys in fall in love with me at will, etc.  There should be an instruction booklet with these kinds of masses like telling what the point of the mass was and what you were supposed to be praying for. 
I asked my mother about it once and she just said in her tobacco voice, “Just pray to be a good girl, all girls need to pray to be good girls”.  I didn’t like her answer and I was only seven years old at the time.
“Am I a bad girl mama.”  I asked.  Mama laughed then and grabbed me and kissed my forehead.  I could smell the scent of her cigarette brand, pall mall that always clung to her clothes.
“No, you’re a good girl but you have to pray to keep being a good girl otherwise you’ll slip and become a bad girl.”
I haven’t gone to Catholic church regularly since college and only attend when I am home visiting my parents.  But I still pray to god a lot, just like I did when I was little.  Except this time around I pray for a job promotion, more money at work, no bad hair days, a good man someday to marry, and of course, to be a good girl.
            And of course, I still buy candles to light.  My mother used to buy three candles.  One each for her mother and father and one for dad’s mother, who was always sick.  I used to have the honor of lighting them because I was the oldest.  Mother and I would stare at all the candles to see which ones to light.  Mother used to whisper that the right candle would show itself to us and that meant it was the right one to light.  Once we found one, we had to stare at the candles again looking for another one to light until we lighted the last one.  Then Mother would make us kneel and pray but we never prayed as long as it would us to light the candles. 
I still follow this ritual today when I go to church with my mother.  I light a candle for my dad, my two sets of grandparents and one for myself and I follow the same process my mother used.  But these days I don’t kneel to pray.
Okay, so I’m spiritual.  And as for partying.  Well, I still do that, maybe a little too much, but it’s better to mention this detail in the beginning.  I mean, I don’t want to get stuck with a stick in the mud who doesn’t drink and who doesn’t like to have fun.  Men like that are plentiful like they caught the old and boring disease when they hit 30 or something.  Like now that they’re past the ripe old age of 30, they can’t have a beer or two or a case now and then.  And as for fun, well the fun trait got nuked out of their body in all its traces.  You know the type.  You go to movies with them and they can’t even laugh at something really funny.  Or you make a joke, and not just a joke but a really funny joke and they don’t even crack a smile.  Or, the worst, you suggest a little something different sex wise and they give you that “Oh my God!” look.  Like HELLO!  I thought men were supposed to be hornier and girls.  I thought men were supposed to be more inventive and creative in the sex department.  I thought men were supposed to like a woman who came up with creative ideas in bed.  Instead, these “boring” guys at the one suggestion of something kinky, like they’re virgins on their first night in bed and you’re suggesting something other than missionary sex.
No, I definitely want a man who knows how to have a good time and who isn’t going to shrink from a little fun in bed.
And I want someone happy too and charming too.  I’m so tired of those guys who are so morose.  They look like that cartoon with the blob holding up a flower with the sad sack smile on his face.  You know.  Guys who have to tell you everything they’re feeling like you really care.  And they don’t censor their thoughts either.  Like you really care about how they’re feeling about every little thing.  I mean, I honestly think it’s such a class thing. I mean, private things are meant to be kept private.  It’s so middle class to let people know everything you’re thinking.  It’s so middle class to vomit your feeling on people until you know they care and even then, you should censor and edit yourself so the person listening to you, gets the executive summary version and not all the details.
God, I remember dating this one guy.   He was really good looking, which is not my usual type.  I mean he was six foot four and 200 pounds.  Blonde with brown eyes.  Nice body because he really took care of himself.  Naked, the man looked like a greek sculpture with broad muscular shoulder tapering to narrow hips and the cutest butt this side of the Mississippi.  But my god, could that man talk.  He was an electrician and he had his own business and he was endlessly going on about his business, his employees, how he thought he was getting old, how he thought he was going bald, how he thought the smell of his body was changing because of age, etc.  And he would do all this talking after sex.  And I’d lay there listening, praying the guy would just shut up and roll over and start snoring or suggest we get something to eat.  Talk about role reversal.  Most women pray for and fantasize about a man who likes to talk after having sex, but I swear to god if you’ve ever had one talking next to you in bed for hours on end, you will rid yourself of this fantasy forever.
And lastly, I definitely want a guy who likes to watch sports because I like to watch sports.  I like watching it on TV, I like going to the games.  I mean, maybe it’s because I’ve had to get used to it after years of being forced to do it, but I really like it.  I like being able to analyze pitches and players and trying to figure out what kind of defense a team is playing on the basketball court and what kind of penalty will be called.
I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I do these things because I feel like I actually know something about the game that I’ve been watching.  And that feels good after years and years of ignorance.  I can’t let all this knowledge of sports that I’ve been accumulating from years of dating sports fanatics go to waste.
Once I finished my ad, I sent it in.  I had thought about showing it all my girlfriends but I decided I didn’t want to know their opinion.  This was my show, my own personal gig and I didn’t want anybody’s input into it.  Okay, I was a little afraid of what they would say and I dreaded the thought of hearing words like either boring or too slutty.  This was my first personal ad.  This was my first foray into the world of personals dating.  If I failed I didn’t want anyone to know.  But if I succeeded and at least had a good time dating, I would then be able regale all my girlfriends with my latest venture into singleton humiliation. 
Did I say humiliation?  I didn’t mean to say that.  It’s not humiliating to be advertising for a boyfriend, is it?  I know I thought that when I was in college but it’s a different story now.  Men don’t seem to be as plentiful or eager as they were in college.  Their really isn’t a place to meet mean other than at a bar or at parties and how many of those events can you attend when you work 50 to 60 hours a week.  No, the personal ad is the answer to this modern dating dilemma, my answer anyway.
Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would meet him or at least a guy like him.  I put my ad in on Friday the day of the deadline.  The newspaper comes out on Wednesday and I figured that would give five days to get mentally ready for this adventure.  I mean, I had to face a scenario that no man would want to answer my ad.  I mean it could happen, couldn’t it?  I could be rejected based on five lines.  Rejected not because of my looks or how much I weighed but just how I wrote a five line ad.  Dating in high school and college never prepared me for this.  Then there was opposite scenario of what if I get flooded with answers, what would I do then?  I mean I dated, but I wasn’t that popular.  I never had guys hitting on me every five minutes.
The paper gave you a mailbox that you call in and listen to responses to your ad.  I mean how could I make a decision based on listening to someone’s voice and what kind of message they left.  I mean, I know I don’t have the best speaking voice myself and I completely stumble over my words.  I mean I know I’d sound like the biggest airhead and not the top financial analyst at a company that was trading for $80 on the New York Stock Exchange.  I mean, the CEO of the company read my reports like a bible and carried it around with to meetings, or so his secretary told me.  But on the phone, my voice said I sounded like such a valley girl.  I thought that comment was unfair especially since my ultra conservative boss grew up in LA at the beach and was a former surfer beach boy now turned stuffy accountant who had the renowned hatred for anything that smacked of Valley Girls.
I had five days of different scenarios playing themselves through my head like this including me meeting the man of my dreams and of us getting married and flying off to Vienna on our honeymoon and having hurry up sex in a gondala.
I decided I would check my newspaper voicemail Friday night.  That would give any interested men at least two whole days to read the ads and respond to mine and would save me from the embarrassment of not having any calls at all if I check too soon.
Friday night rolled around and I excused myself from the usual after work drink crowd claiming a headache.  I came home, took a bath, and wrapped myself in my most comfy clothes which consisted of any old pair of gray Guess sweatpants that I bought in the boys department at Macys which were frayed at the bottom from when I cut the too long legs off.  For my top, I wore a white Calvin Klein cotton t-shirt which was practically slimy from too many years of washing and a blue sweatshirt covered with paint stains from the last time I painted my apartment.
Before I got home, I stopped at the local grocery store and bought all my favorite comfort foods; corn dogs, french fries, and one tub each of hagendaz chocolate and vanilla ice cream.  I know, I know, I’m supposed to either choose chocolate or vanilla or at least have a favorite but I can never decide so I buy both.
It’s 8 pm before I finally pick up the phone and check my newspaper voicemail and much to my utter surprise, I have 20 voicemail messages.  I breathed a sigh of relief and let go of my reject nightmare.  With pen and paper in hand, I listen to the messages one by one.
I hate to admit this but you form judgements about people listening to their voice.  I gave every man the benefit of the doubt and listened to each message twice.  Any man that didn’t speak reasonable english, I deleted.  It’s not that I have anything against foreigners or anyone with an accent, I mean I love men who have brittish, french or southern accents, but for my first personal ads dating experience, I didn’t want the added stress of having a communication problem.
Any man that left a vulgar message was instantly deleted, after all, although vulgarity is fun in it own right, I’m not sure I want to be with someone who uses vulgar language when they’re supposed to be impressing me in a message.
Any man who could talk in complete sentences or who sounded like he was either drunk or on something, I also deleted.  It’s best to spot potential problem men at the get go and let them go on their way.  I wanted to date not baby sit or have drunken or drug experiences with men I didn’t know.
Any man who started a message with “Hey Baby” or any other such endearment, I instantly hit delete.  I hate being called “baby”.  It reminded me of all those prohibition era movies with gangsters calling their girl friends “baby”.  You never what their real name were, they were all just called “baby or babe”.  Images of men in porno videos saying “hey baby” or “come on babe” to their sex partners also flooded through my mind.
Great.  I had listened to 19 messages and still had a blank page in front of me.  Well, it was just two days I told myself.  Of course, it would just be my luck that he would be message number 20.
I liked the sound of his voice immediately.  It was accent free, meaning I couldn’t tell what part of the country he was from.  Maybe he’s from California like I thought, because native californians aren’t supposed to have accents.  His voice had a warm tone to it, soft yet firm, like he a professor or something.  And he spoke in complete sentences, which was a plus.  I immediately got a picture of a guy with glasses wearing khakis, an oxford blue button down and old wool navy sweater with leather patches at the elbows.
When a guy says on a message, “I don’t usually do this sort of thing”, don’t believe him, it’s the oldest personals ad line in the book.  I didn’t know that at the time though and thought to myself, oh my god, he’s just like me.  He left a number for me call and said he looked forward to talking to me.  I was hooked.
One out of twenty, those aren’t bad odds.  I mean, it’s the same as going to a bar, except this time I didn’t have to have conversation with twenty and their liquor smelling breath in a loud and smoky bar, where I could barely hear what they were saying.
I wrote his work and home number down and his name.  Jake.  I liked the name.  I scanned through my memory to see if I had ever dated a Jake and I came up empty.  Good sign.  At least, I couldn’t get him mixed up with somebody else.  I did remember a boy named Jake in high school, who teased me mercilessly because of some weird haircut I gave myself.  He claimed I looked like an alien from show on TV called “UFO”.  Jake tried to get others to use that name but he was the only who ever called me that.  I never liked him.  I mean the guy even signed my yearbook using that word to address me and drawing flying saucers all over one page.  How stupid.  I wondered what he was doing now.  He was a football player in high school but he wasn’t the brightest person on the block.  I had lost touch with most of the people I had gone to high school having moved away from home to live in the big city.  And in my rare visits to home, I never heard a word about him.
Oh well, no matter.  I would replace that awful Jake memory with this new Jake memory.  The new Jake said to call him anytime but I had decided early on that I would only call people from work.  I didn’t want a total stranger to be able to get my home phone number.  I didn’t care if the person knew my number at work.  Somehow that didn’t seem as dangerous as someone knowing your home number where they could always call the operator and get your home address.  I mean, I had to have some kind of safety rules for doing this and this was one of the safeguards that was recommended to me by my friend Allie, who’d done the personals ad dating thing several times.
“Never give them your home phone number Jen, at least not in the beginning.  There are a lot of creeps out there, you know.  You’ve got be careful.”  Allie had said in her nasally know-it-all voice.
“What do you mean creeps?  I thought you said this was safe?” I said not really surprised but wanting to find out if she’d had any bad experiences I needed to be aware of and could learn from.
“It is safe, if you’re careful.  Look, it’s not as if I’ve had any really bad experiences, but I’ve heard of people who have.  One woman I heard about gave a guy her home number and made plans to meet him for coffee.  The guy stands her up and when she went back to her place, she finds out her apartment had been broken into and robbed.  No one knew who did it, but the police told her it could have been the guy she was supposed to meet from the ad.  When she gave the police his number, she found out it was actually a payphone in a building.”
“You mean she didn’t know?” The story sounded so fake.
“No, the guy had told her call him at a specific time because he was so busy so she just assumed it was his home phone number.  So you just have to careful.  If you give the guy, your work phone number even if he is a creep, you can always hang up on him.  And at least you’re at work, where you’re relatively safe and not home alone.”   Jen said this last sentence so gravely and so unlike her.  For some reason, I felt a tinge of apprehension was over me like a cold Ocean Beach wave.
“Are you sure you didn’t have any bad experiences Allie? I mean, because if you did, I need to know for my own safety?
“No, of course not.  I would have told you about it already.  I just want you to be careful. You know, I hate to say this, but sometime you can be downright naive when you feel like it.  It’s like you can’t admit to yourself that there are creepy people in this world.  You’re some kind of weird Pollyanna.  No, and don’t tell me you’re like a cat and that you’ve got nine lives and always end up your feet.  You’ve just been lucky so far, that’s all.  And besides, if a cat was so lucky, how come a cat’s only got nine lives and not a million.  I think, for your sake, you just need to careful.  Just let me know when you’re going to do it and we can listen to the messages together.  It will be fun.  It’ll be like we’re in high school again.”
I didn’t tell Allie I was doing the personal ads.  I wanted this to be my thing.  And I was pissed that she said I was so naive and a Pollyanna.  I am so not.  But whatever, that’s Allie’s opinion.  She’s like a big sister to me since she’s 10 years older and I wouldn’t have expected anything less from her I guess.  She’s been a great friend to have, ever since we met at a business seminar on time management.  We were both at a booth and I was trying to decide if I should sign up for another seminar on paper management.  Allie was right in back of me. I guess I must have been taking a really long time to decide because all of a sudden I hear this voice in my ear saying “Just sign up, you can always change your mind later”.  I turned around and there was this big red headed woman in a brown suit with laughing brown eyes smiling at me.
“Excuce me” I said.
“I said, just sign up.  You can always back out of it later without penalty that’s all.  You’re not signing away your life, just three hours of your time.”  I laughed agreeing with what she said and signed up.  Five minutes later, Allie came over to talk to me and we’ve been friends ever since.  Allie grew up in New York City and I like her attitude.   Allie is tough as nails.
Allie told me one time while she was waiting for the bus, some guy exposed himself to her.  She told me she just started laughing and told the guy, is that it?  I mean she’s got balls.  I would have been scared out of my wits, like a deer caught in the headlights.  I mean that’s what happens to me when I get scared, I freeze and can’t move.  Not Allie though.  She said the guy turned around and starting running away from her.
All weekend long fantasies spun in my head about what Jake; what he looked like and what kind of person he was.  He said in his message he worked as a programmer in a multimedia production company.  I didn’t even know what the hell a multimedia production company was but it sounded impressive.  Jake said said he was five foot 10,  175 pounds, had brown hair and hazel green eyes and he wore glasses.  It sounded cute enough but you can never tell.  Allie told me everyone always exaggerates about their looks on personal ads.
Jake did not say anything else about himself but I didn’t expect that since it was just a voice mail message.  Did he play golf?  Or tennis?  If he played tennis, then we would have something in common since I played.
I couldn’t remember if he said how old he was and I didn’t have it written down in my notes.  I saved message and I called my voicemail and listened to his message.  Hearing him for the second time, I reconfirmed my original feeling that Jake had a nice warm voice.  No, my notes were right, he didn’t mention his age.  This struck me as odd since I was sure that almost all of the other men had given me their age.  Since I had deleted all the messages, I wasn’t able to verify my thoughts.
You know that little warning bell that goes off in your head when you intuitively know something is not right, wrong?  Well, it was going off in mine like there a was big fire going on in a small town.  But I didn’t pay attention.  I mean, after all, what’s the big deal that he didn’t mention his age.  Maybe he was embarrassed.  Maybe he was way older than me.  Maybe he was younger.  I don’t know.  I came up with a number of reasons why he forgot to mention his age.  Maybe he didn’t think it mattered.  I managed to rationalize away all the warning bell sounds until they slowly softened and then gradually faded to barely heard sound.  I couldn’t completely get rid of that warning bell, but it quieted down enough for me to go on.
Because of that warning light going off like that in m head, I was glad I had made the decision to call him at work.  I couldn’t have a long conversation with him at work like I could at home.  I couldn't even have a private or intimate conversation with him at work like I could at home, because I sat in a cube with four other people.  And if you’ve ever sat in a cube in an office, you end up listening to everybody’s conversation even when they’re trying to speak softly.  My cube walls are high so I have the illusion of privacy at least, but the cube walls are thin and you can practically hear someone fart ten feet away.  Everybody in an office knows this and there’s this unspoken rule that you don’t talk about what you’ve heard or act like you’ve heard your cube mates saying or doing.  You’ve got to maintain the illusion of privacy for everyone’s sanity including your own.
If you had to have a really private conversation, you could always go into a conference room and close the door.  Of course, everyone in the office would then know you were having a private conversation and would speculate about it secretly at lunch and on breaks because there was something different about having a private conversation in a conference room and having a semi-private conversation in your cube.  A semi private conversation is off limits for gossip and discussion.  It’s part of office rules.  A private conversation in a conference room is fair game for gossip and speculation and mean gossip too.  You’re much better off having a semi private conversation in your cube.  But I wasn’t going to do that with Jake.  Nope.  I was going to call him in my cube.  I definitely didn’t want people gossiping about why I needed to go into a conference room to talk.  I hate these stupid unspoken office rules but sometimes, as in the case of personal ad dating, they come in mighty handy.
On Saturday night, I checked my messages again and found another ten messages.  I listened in anticipation to each one and much to my surprise, found two guys I wanted to call.  Jake’s voice popped into my head.  I felt like I would be cheating on Jake, if I called these other two guys.  I laughed.  I’m dating I reminded myself.  I’m supposed to have lots and lots of dates, in fact as many as dates as I could handle so I could have a variety of men to choose from.
The trouble was, I never really dated before.  I mean not like this.  Usually when I meet a guy, I decide right away whether I like him or not.  And next you know, we’re practically living together.  I’ve never really done the date-a-rama thing.  I consider myself a one-man woman.  I tried to date two guys once in college and it was so nerve-racking.  I got them constantly mixed up and even ended up calling one by the other’s name once.  Chad, who I’d known for a long time before we ever dated, just laughed and said not to worry about it.  He said it wouldn’t have been the first time a woman called him by someone else’s name. He said it was the perils of dating.  I just couldn’t deal with all that peril in my life.  I broke off with both men, claiming I was going through a busy time at school and didn’t want to deal with a relationship right now.  I had had this excuse used on me and I decided to borrow it.
I was telling a big horrible lie but I didn’t care.  Briefly I wondered if they knew I wasn’t telling the truth.  I mean, Chad would definitely know, because he often joked about me not doing any work and still getting good grades.  I don’t think Chip would catch on.  I barely knew him and met him in back of concert line on campus.  If Chad thought I was lying, he didn’t say so and I was grateful to him for that.  He just said he understood and that he would always be there if I every wanted to date again.  I never did.  We remained friends but we lost touch with each other when I moved to San Francisco and he went to Chicago for grad school. 
He was a good friend and I could have used his advice now.  I tried to imagine Chad in my mind and what he would say.  I could almost hear him saying in that cheerful and laughing voice of his, “Jen, you’re dating.  Get over it.  Talk to them all and then make a decision.  He was right.  It was better to make an informed decision from a variety of choices than to have to make a decision based on one choice.
I replayed the messages for those two men and wrote their information down.  Jake was definitely Bachelor number one.  Bachelor number two was Scott.  Scott was my age and a struggling writer.  Scott said he worked at some job just to pay his rent but what he really wanted to do was write like his hero Raymond Chandler or Ray Kinsella.  He said it’s either black noir mystery novels or baseball novels since he was a baseball freak and big Giants fan.  He sounded interesting and nice enough and I’ve always had soft spot for artist types.  I hadn’t read anything by either two writers but knew of them because I’d seen movies of their books.  If I dated Scott, I could go to Giants game and I was looking forward to that.  I wasn’t a big baseball fan, but I did enjoy going to live games.  And he did meet my sports requirement.  Did Jake meet my sports requirement?  I don’t think he even mentioned that in his message.  I put a start next to Scott’s name for remember what I said about sports and wrote “like sports especially baseball” under his information.  I made a note on my pad of paper of ask Jake about sports.
Bachelor number three was John.  John was a lawyer by day and a budding filmmaker by night.  Another artist but since he was a lawyer, maybe he wasn’t so struggling.  John said he had taken film classes at SF State and was currently working on his third film, which was a documentary about his experiences in San Francisco as an independent filmmaker.  John’s favorite directors were Peter Weir and Francis Ford Coppola and he wanted to be able to mix the two styles.  Since I liked both directors and I liked the fact that he was a lawyer and an artist, I wrote his details down too.  John did list for me his favorite films and the only ones I’ve never seen were The Spanish Prisoner by David Mamet and She’s all That.  I wrote the names of the two movies and made a note to myself to rent them in the next two weeks for research about John.  I had seen all of David Mamet’s plays but not his movies.  No mention about sports though.  That was disappointing but the filmmaking sounded good.
None of these guys mentioned being spiritual.  I guess it’s something guys just don’t about.  Maybe it’s too private.  I hoped they were at least religious if not spiritual.  I may not go to church these days, but I don’t think I wanted to date anyone who didn’t believe in god.  That would just be too strange.  I don’t know why, but I don’t think I would know what to do with someone who didn’t believe in God.  Come to think of it, it’s never come up before so I could have been dating non-believers this whole time and wouldn’t have even known it.  Well, it didn’t matter then but it definitely matters to me now.  I wrote a note to myself “ask each one about views on religon”.
I called my voicemail box on Sunday and got another ten messages.  None of these were worth keeping so I deleted them all.  Three out of 39 wasn’t bad.  That’s almost one out of four and that’s great odds, I told myself.  Since Jake called first, I would start out with him and work my way down my very short list.  At least, they’re three very interesting guys.
Monday morning rolled around and I had gotten to work at my usual time of 7:30 am.  I figured I’d get some work done before I called him at 9:00 am.  I didn’t want to call too early in case he was one of those guys who came in late or who come in at 8:00 am, turn on their computer and log in and then leave to building to go get coffee.  The thought had crossed my mind to call when he wasn’t there over the weekend, just so I could listen to his work voicemail and get the name of his company but I didn’t do it.  Part of me thought that by doing that it would be like I was spying on him and another part of me said I was just being cautious and prudent.  The spying part won out.
I was glad it was June.  My inbox was empty of memos of things to do from my boss and my workload was very light, consisting of a couple of easy analyses on our sales figures from last month.  I could easily do each analysis in half an hour each, but I decided I stretch the time out and spend all day working on them instead.  The summer months are usually my slowest period at work and I was glad that work would not be adding to this already stressful personal ads situation.  God, I hadn’t even met the guy yet and already I was stressing out big time.  I knew I was going to be wreck if we ever decided to meet.  No, I would work on each analysis slowly making sure it was perfect and correct instead of whipping them like I usually do.  Hell, I could even experiment with the fonts, and shading and running the analyses a bunch of times, just to see the information from different perspectives and to keep myself busy.   I knew if I stayed busy before I called, my nervousness would be somewhat lessened.  At least, that’s what I hoped for.
In fact, I got so caught up with what I was doing that when I finally glanced at clock it was 10:15 am.  Damn!  I had prepared myself to call Jake at 9 am now I forgot.  I got up from my chair, grabbed my bag and headed for the bathroom.
I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed that my eyes were unnaturally bright.  All of a sudden I got a flashback of myself in a bathroom in a motel room at Mono Lake.  Me and a bunch of friends had gone up there to take acid and then hang out at the lake, which everyone said looked the surface of the moon.  We had been drinking the whole time and when we finally got back to the hotel, I went to the bathroom and made the mistake of looking at myself in the mirror.  They tell you, the experts on acid taking, never to look at yourself in the mirror when you’re on acid.  That you’ll be disturbed by what you see.  Well, they were right.  When I looked at myself and saw how dilated my pupils were, I freaked out and went into shock.  I had never seen myself with my pupils so big before.  It felt like I was having the same kind of experience now.  I looked at my eyes in the mirror and although they weren’t dilated now, it sure as hell felt like they were.  It’s got to be nervousness.  I mean what else can it be?  And what I had to be nervous about I don’t know.  I was just calling a guy at work to talk to him about responding to my personal ad, that’s all.
I went to the bathroom recombed my hair, reapplied my lipstick, checked to see if my makeup was still where it should be and then left to go back to my cube.  I thought about stopping for coffee on the way, but I had already a giant latte this morning and then two more cups of coffee after that.  I laughed to myself.  I had drunk too much coffee and was on a caffeine rush.  I wasn’t really nervous, it was the coffee.
I got back to my cube, sat down and got Jake’s number out of my bag.  I took a deep breath, picked up my phone and called him.  The phone rang once, then twice and I thought, damn, I’m going to get his voicemail. 
On the third ring, a voice said, “Hello”.
“Jake, Jake Drummond.  Hi!  My name is Jenny Butler and you left message on my personals ad in the Bay Guardian.  I’m the one who wrote “spiritual but still partying”.
“Oh so your name is Jenny, I’m Jake.”
“Yeah, I know, you told me.”
“That’s right I forgot.  Listen Jenny, I’m in my car and I’m about to park.  Can I call you back?”  Park?  He didn’t say this was his cellphone number, he said this was work.   I didn’t like this.
“Oh sure.  I’m at work.  Then number is 415-977-5249.  I thought this was your work number, not your cell phone.”
“It is my work number, well, one of them.  Look, I’ll explain it to you later.  The reception is really bad when I enter the garage.  I’ll call you back.”  Jake hung up.
Another alarm bell went off in my head.  Why would his cell number be his work number?  Maybe he was in sales.  But if he was in sales, he would have a cell number and an office number.  Why didn’t he give his work number?  After all, he gave me his home number and this cell phone number.  Why leave one number out.  This just didn’t make sense and I couldn’t account for it.  I guess I would just have to wait if he called back.  This was not a good sign.  Maybe he was married.  Or worse, maybe he didn’t even have a regular job and did all his business by cell phone like a drug dealer.
Maybe he wouldn’t call back.  Maybe he hated the sound of my voice and was just making an excuse.  Maybe somehow he was able to find out who I was and got a private detective to check up on me and take pictures of me and he hated the way I look.  The wild scenarios that were running through my mind amazed me.  Did this happen to everyone?
The sound of my phone ringing broke through my reverie and by habit, I picked up the phone.
“This is Jenny.”
“Hello Jenny, it’s Jake, Jake from the Bay Guardian ad”
“Jake?  Oh yeah, Jake.  How are you?”
“I’m well and you?”
            “I’m good, really good.”  There was an awkward pause after that exchange as if after just a couple of minutes we had already run out of things to say like an old married couple who are in a marriage of habit and age.  I hate silences like this.
            “So what’s up with your cell phone?  Didn’t you trust me with your real work number?”  I tried to sound lighthearted and flirty but my own words sounded flat and in boring colorless monotones.
            “Okay, let me explain.  I have a cell phone and a regular work number.  I give people I meet my cell number because I have it on me at all times.  I can also program my work phone number to forward to my cell phone number and visa versa.  It’s pretty nifty feature.”
            “Oh.  That is neat.”  Words failed me.
            “I didn’t expect you call my work number.  I thought I’d hear from you this weekend at my home phone number instead.”
            “Ah … I was away and didn’t have time to call till this morning.”  I hated telling a little white lie like that but I didn’t want to explain my fear of calling him from my home phone number.
            “No problem.”
            “Good”.  Another pause.
            “So Jake, what made your respond to my ad?”
            “You sounded intelligent in your ad.  I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of the other ads, but they’re badly written.  Yours seemed short, to the point and very well written.  It caught my eye.  Then I listened to the voicemail you left and that sealed it for me.”
            “Oh yeah, why?”
            “Your voice.  I liked your voice.  It confirmed everything I’d thought and I knew I wanted to talk you”.
            “You liked my voice?  Really?”  I started chuckling
            “Yeah, why?
            “My boss hates it.  He says I sound like a valley girl on the phone.  He keeps telling me to change the week I speak so I sound I don’t know, more professional, I guess.”
            “That’s too bad.  I think you have a great voice.  It’s very soothing.  I could listen to you every day.”
            “Listen, I can’t stay on the phone long since I’m at work.  Can I call you later this afternoon.  I’d like to talk to you more.”
            “Sure.  You’ve got my number.”
            “Great.  I’ll you around 3 pm okay?”
            “Okay.  Talk to you then.”  I hung up the phone and checked my watch.  I had a regular scheduled meeting at 11 am every Monday with my boss to go over my projects for the week and I wanted to prepare.  It was 10:40 am so I still had time.  I wanted to make sure that I had a light work week, project wise.  I wanted to free up as much time as possible so I could have short phone calls at work with all my prospective dates.
            Meetings with my boss were usually dull affairs.  Harry had been a math major at Cal and I could tell that he was one of those nerd type guys with the pocket pen protector in his short sleeve shirt pocket and wearing bright converse high tops.  I sat in Harry’s office and noticed that his tie and suit actually matched.  There was a rumor going around the office that Harry was dressing better because his new wife Mary laid his clothes out for him every morning.
            Since it was the first week of June, Harry had the whole month’s calendar in front of him.  There weren’t many project due for me that month and Harry knew it.  We went over the few projects I did have and the amount of time each one would take.  I gave him, what sounded like a lame excuse to me, about wanting to work on my accuracy and thoroughness, trying out new ways of working, new analyses.  Harry didn’t say much and just agreed.  It was baseball season and Harry was running his usual baseball fantasy league.  I knew Harry wanted as much free time as possible this summer since it was his job to input all the statistics for all the players.  Harry was a consummate baseball nut and even played minor league ball in youth, so he was more than eager for us both to have a light working month.
            I’ve always tried to keep meetings with Harry as short as possible, partly out of boredom and partly out of my hate of long meetings.  But with Harry, it was impossible.  He wanted to discuss everything that I was doing at work in great detail as if to convince himself that I knew what I was doing.  Every time I tried to keep my answers brief and to the point, Harry would ask me another question.  When I left his office, it was noon.
            I went out and grabbed a sandwich, chips and a soda and brought it back to my desk to eat.  I ate lunches at my desk a lot.  I hated eating in restaurants by myself.  I know it’s an acceptable practice in the downtown financial district, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Whenever I go to restaurants and see people eating by themselves, I always feel sorry for them and I don’t know why.  Like they look so lonely just sitting there eating by themselves.  Never mind that half the restaurant is filling with people eating by themselves, I just think it looks sad and lonely.  And I know in my heart of hearts it’s probably not true, but god, it just plain looks that way.  I told myself I would never if I could avoid it, eat in a restaurant by myself because I didn’t want a total stranger thinking these same thoughts about me.
            And eating outside.  God, I hate eating outside.  I’m a total slob when it comes to eating.  No matter what I do, I always end up with half my food on my clothes.  And besides, in San Francisco, apart from those occasional heat waves during our Indian Summer in the Fall, it’s really too cold for my taste to eat outside.
            I finished my lunch quickly and took out the notes I made on my three bachelors.  It was still 12:30 pm and I had another half an hour to kill.  Was that enough time to call one of them?  No.  It was lunchtime and they might not even be at their desks or offices.  I mean, how many people eat lunch at their desk like me.  And even when I do eat lunch at my desk, I never answer the phone unless I recognize the phone number as one of my friends.
            Bachelors two and three, had like Jake, left their home and work numbers, so I could call them at work, if I wanted to.  I thought back to my earlier experiences this morning with Jake and how nervous and stressed I was.  Could I go through that again so soon?  I wished I could call one of my friends about this dilemma and have one of them advise me.  Allie would know what to do and even Jane and Tracy might even come up with a better strategy.  But I couldn’t.  I had made the decision to do this personal ads thing on my own and I wanted to stick by my decision. Besides, I  know all three would feel really hurt because I’d kept it from them.  No matter which I went, I was screwed, so better to stay the course and go this one on my own.
            I don’t even know why I was committed to doing this all by myself, as if I was trying to prove something.  An image of my mother flashed into my mind.  God, that woman would just have a fit if she knew I was doing this.  She was definitely from the old school of womanhood where you waited till a man picked you.
            “You need to take more care with your appearance, Jennifer Lynn” mother would say, “How’s a man supposed to notice if you don’t look good.  You need to do more with  your hair, you know, get a perm or sleep in curlers every night or something.  Men like women with a lot of hair and curly hair too.”
            “But ma, straight hair is really in.  You see those stars in movies and on TV.  Besides, my hair is not naturally curly it’s straight.”  My hair was that odd brown blonde color.  Allie calls it either “dirty blond” or worse “dishwater blonde”.
            “I know but you’re not a movie star.  Maybe those hollywood men like their women with straight hair, but regular men like a women with long curling hair.”
            “Ma, you know I hate having long hair.  You know my hair gets too stringy when it’s too long.  Besides, at work none of the women have really long hair.  They all have it cut shoulder length like me”.  I knew I was in an argument I was going to somehow lose.
            “Well, maybe you’re right about the work thing.  I supposed I should just be grateful you don’t have one of those buzzcuts.  The length of a woman’s hair shows her femininity and her purity.  You just remember that.  But Jennifer Lynn, if you can’t fix your hair better, at least wear sexier clothes.  Show some cleavage and more leg.  God gave you a nice figure and you shouldn’t hide it.  I swear if you fixed yourself up more, men would be flocking around you and you’d be married in an instant and then I could have me some grandchildren to spoil.”
            If my mother knew I was doing the personal ads, she’d fly out to San Francisco and drag me on a plane back home, perm my hair and buy me the sexiest outfit in town, drag me out to one of the local bars and personally find me a husband.
            And what if I met my future husband from one of these guys.  God, I’d have to tell my mother how we met and she’d have a fit.  I mean she’d be happy I was getting married but she’d still be upset that I had to advertise to get one.
            God, what was trying to prove by going this alone?  I loved all my girlfriends and totally cherished their friendships.  They would loved to be a part of this adventure of mine.  I could have spent hours on the phone yaking with each one of them about my three bachelors.  Hours could have be spent analyzing my own dating game.  It would have been so much fun.
            I think that the reason I wanted to do this personal ad thing on my own was so that I could prove to myself that I could do something by myself, make decisions by myself, stand on my own for the first time in my life.  All my life, I’ve made decision by committee.  I guess that what happens when overcompensate for not having any brothers or sisters growing up.  After years of being an only child, I embraced having girlfriends as sisters.  I constantly wondered how different my life would have turned out and what kind of person I would have become, had I grown up with siblings.  Now I was on my own and I was missing my made up family.
            I tried to imagine what Allie, Jane and Trace would be saying to me now.  I smiled because I knew that even though I cherished and loved hearing their advice, I never followed them.  They all hated this little quirk of mine but somehow they put up with it for the sake of our friendship.  Allie would say to call all three men on the same day.  Allie loved the wild life and knew how to juggle men.  Jane would say to call each one but on separate days. That way you don’t get them mixed up.  Jane was the rational one of the bunch.  Tracy would just hate the whole idea and tell me that I was being crazy and wouldn’t be any help at all.  Trace was way too cautious for my taste sometimes, but I loved her dearly anyway.  Me, I’m a more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal.  I decided I would just wait to see how much I liked Jake.
            Having made that decision, I got back to work.  I created an appointment on my computer calendar for 3 pm and set the computer to remind me fifteen minutes before.  I should have done that this morning, treat this call with Jake like a business appointment and put it in my calendar.  Just because it’s your own personal business doesn’t mean you don’t treat it like regular business.  I’d forgotten that.
            Time flew by and when a reminder came up on my computer about the 3 pm call, it took me a minute to remember what the appointment was about.  Then I remembered I was going to call Jake.
            I didn’t feel any nervousness this time but I don’t think I felt anticipation either.  I was feeling like this was just one more thing to do.  All the websites offering advice on personal ad dating said that a woman should have several conversations by phone before actually meeting the person face to face.  You should try to do as much screening as possible on the phone and ask lots of questions, or says one website.  Many websites advocated email conversations instead of phone conversations because they say you can tell a lot about a person by their writing.
            My phone rang and I picked it up hoping it would be a short call.
            “This is Jen.”
            “Jennifer, Hi it’s Jake.  Jake from this morning, from personal ads.”
            “Oh Jake, Hi.  How are you?”
            “Great. And you?”
            “I’m good.  I’m not interrupting you am I?  Is this a good time to talk?”
            “Sure.  I mean I was going to call you at 3 pm.  Hey, how did you get my number anyway?”  I didn’t remember giving him my work number.
            “You didn’t.  I have caller ID on my cellphone.  I wanted to make sure we had a chance to talk so I decided to call first.”
            “Oh.  That’s good.” I was still in shock that he knew my number.
            “So, have you gotten a lot of responses to your ad?”
            “As a matter of fact I have.  Why?”
            “I thought it was very well written.  It was so different from all the all other ads.  It stood out for me.  I’m sure it did for other men too.”
            “Thanks.  What made my ad so different from other ads?  I’m just asking because I was trying to copy other ads that I’ve seen.”
            “I don’t know really.  I was analyzing your ad myself and trying to put a finger on what made it stand out but I didn’t come to anything conclusive.  I guess I just liked your ad, that’s all.”
            “Oh.”  I was speechless.  Jake was studying my ad like it was a piece of literature.
            “You know, now that I’m thinking about it again, maybe it was that line about being spiritual but still partying.  I like that.”  Jake laughed.  “I’m sure other guys like that line too.  Is it true?”
            “Of course.  I mean, I think I’m a spiritual person but you know, like anyone else, I still like to party.  I mean, not big time partying or anything like that.  But you know, I go to bars once in awhile and I have wine with dinner and maybe sometimes I drink a little too much, but it’s not very often.  Is that what you think I meant?”
            “Sort of.  What do mean by spiritual?  Do you go to church regularly?”
            “No, but I grew up a strict catholic.  My parents dragged me church about 3 or 4 times a week.  I didn’t attend catholic school though.”
            “Catholic huh?  I wouldn’t have thought Catholic.”
            “I guess because I don’t consider the Catholic religion to be very spiritual.  Religious maybe, but not spiritual.”
            “I wanted to put religious but for me religious means you go to church every Sunday and I don’t.  I think spiritual sounds a lot better.  I mean, the term religious makes me thinks of those bible-banger types on Market Street, who are screaming at you to repent.”  I couldn’t help but giggle.
            “Yeah, those people are pretty funny.”  Jake laughed too.  I checked my watch and wondered how long I dare talk to him before my cubemates accused me of being on the phone too much.
            “Do you want exchange email addresses?”
            “Sure.  What your email address?”
            “I have two; one for work and one for home.  I’ll give you email address at home because I can check it work.  I think they snoop on my mail at work.”
            “They snoop on everybody’s mail at work, sorry to say.”
            “Okay, my email address at home is jenjen2@att.net.
            “Great, I’ll send you email right now and you’ll get my email address.  Are you registered with any of those instant messenger services like Yahoo or AOL instant messenger?  If you are we can chat in real time.
            “I’ve got an AOL account.”
            “Great, what’s your screen name?
            “gojenny – no space.”
            “I’ll send you an invitation to chat when I’m one
            “Okay.  I’ll talk you later.”
            “Sure, when?  Are you home later tonight?  We can chat then.”
            “No, I won’t be home till really late.  I’ll try and call you on a break tomorrow.”
            “Gotcha.  Bye.”
            “Bye.  Jake?  Are you still there?”
            “I just wanted to say thank for responding to my ad.”
            “No prob.  Thanks for calling me back.  I’m sure you had many men to choose from and I’m flattered you picked me.”
            “Thanks.  I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
            Well, that wasn’t too bad.  The second conversation went well and we even had a laugh together.  Maybe that means we have the same sense of humor.  That would be a plus.  Still, it was unnerving that he decided to call me first because I wasn’t prepared for that.  It showed he was eager to talk me though.  Maybe he’s just one of those guys who a Type A and always has to be aggressive with everything they do.
            I logged on to the Net and checked my home email.  Sure enough there was a message waiting for me from Jake.  If he sent it from work, I could check out his company’s website.  I opened the email and saw that it was a personal email account and not a work email account.  The email address was countdownjake@aol.com.  Countdown Jake.  I wonder what the countdown stands for.  The email said, “Great to talk you Jennifer.  Looking forward to more conversations.  Jake.”  Jennifer.  Very few people called me Jennifer.  My mother called me Jennifer Lynne.  My father called me Jennifer.  I couldn’t remember anyone else who did that.  Most people call me Jen.  Should I tell him to call me Jen?  Does it matter?  I’ll have to ask him tomorrow.
            I smiled to myself because I had lied to Jake about not being home.  I was going go home and take a long bubble bath and relax.  I liked Jake a lot.  I didn’t get any creepy feelings from talking to him on the phone.  But something inside me stopped me from telling him that I would call him from home.  If he used caller id to get my work number without me giving it to him, he could do the same thing with my home phone number.  I was still unsure about whether I wanted total strangers to call me at home.
            I didn’t feel too bad about lying to him though.  He had instant messaging and that’s just like talking in person, only with lots of delay.  We could do instant messaging while I was at home.  It almost as good as talking and a hell of a lot safer too.
            I sent Jake a message back saying “It was nice meeting to you too.  I look forward to talking more too.  Do you like sports?  If so, which ones?  Thanks,  Jen.”  I decided I wanted to find out whether Jake like sport or not.  I don’t think I could be with someone who didn’t like sports so I had better get that question out of the way first.  I would hate to be start a relationship with someone only to find out later he didn’t like going to 49er games or even watching football on Sunday.  I mean, that would be a real drag.  I’ve dated other men in the past who didn’t like sports and I hated it. I didn’t think it mattered but it really did and I didn’t know that.  It took me dating three different men to find this out about myself.  And the second and third time, I really, really liked those guys and thought they were the ones.  I really thought that all of our other compatibilities would outweigh the sports thing but it didn’t.  I mean, I don’t know if it’s because I really like sports or because I’ve just gotten into the habit of watching sports because of dating many guys who loved watching sports on TV, but I really like watching sports on TV.
            I mean, what else are you supposed to do on Sunday when there’s all those football games on?  And what about Monday Night Football?  Is there anything better than watching Monday Night Football on TV?  Plus, I really missed going to football and baseball games.  I couldn’t even drag those two guys to any sporting events.  They weren’t even willing to go just to please me.  That  made me mad.  I endured many sporting events because my boyfriends wanted to go.  That’s what you do when you’re in a relationship.  You sometimes attend events that you absolutely hate only because you know it would please your other partner.  The fact that those two guys wouldn’t attend even just one game, one lousy football or baseball game, made me mad.  I mean, what else wouldn’t they be willing to do for me?  I mean, if they’re not willing to do the small stuff like attending a sporting event just to make me happy, how would they be with te more difficult choices in life.  I mean, I could imagine that they would be the kind of guys where they would say to me “it’s my way or the highway”.  No than you.  I was like I broke up with the both of them.  It’s the little things in life like that that are such an indication of how the person will behave when it comes to the really important and serious things in life.
            I called Jake again the next day during my morning break and we had a 15 minute conversation about what movies we liked and why.  He answered the phone right away as if he had been waitinf for my phone call.  I don’t usually take breaks at work, preferring to just work until lunch, especially if I was involved in doing something.  I knew I was entitled to my breaks and I should probably take them but I never did.  Allie said I was crazy not to take my breaks, everybody takes breaks except you she said.  And I know I should take breaks just to relieve the stress of my work day, but I hated being interrupted when I was engrossed by  something I was working on. 
Jake liked action movies and movies with a violent theme, which was so typically male.  I liked deeper movies like “Bulworth” and “The Matrix” and romantic comedies  like “It could Happen to You”.  Jake said I liked “chick flicks.”  I had to defend myself and tell him I hated chick flicks like “Sleepless in Seattle”.  Actually I didn’t mind action movies too much and actually enjoyed watching them.  I was used to accompanying boyfriends to action-oriented and violent movies so Jake’s movie taste didn’t bother me.  Jake did ask me what I think was a weird question though.  We were talking about violence in movies and Jake asked, “Does seeing violence excite you?”
            Easily I said, “Sometimes.”
            “What do you mean sometimes?”
            “Well, I like car chases and the good guys shooting it out with the bad guys.  You know that kind of violence.”
            “Sort of.  What about when you see someone being tied up?  Does that grab you in any way?  I mean does it excite you?”  I paused for a couple of seconds to think about this one.  I didn’t know what to say.  I’d never thought about it before.
            “Like which part?” was all I could blurt out.
            “Well, there’s several parts.  There’s the person tying the victim up.  There’s the victim being tied up.  There’s the act of watching the whole thing.  Which part are you the most drawn to?
            “Honestly, I don’t know.  I’ve never thought about it before and no one’s ever asked me that question before.  But, I guess if I had to choose, the victim being tied up is the most interesting part.  I mean, because who wants to be tied up right?  I mean, I imagine so many emotions running through the victim like fear and hatred.  And then I think if I was being tied up, would I try to fight my way out of it, or would I be too scared or would I not fight because of other reasons.  I mean, it’s the part that makes me think the most.  What part excites you?”
            “The person tying the other person up.”
            “Oh.”  And that was it, Jake changed the subject and we went back to talking about movies.  It was so weird to be talking about a situation like that, but it was kind of interesting only because I’d never thought about it before.  It just struck me as a very odd thing to ask.  Jakes also wanted to know if I wanted to meet for coffee, but I told him I thought it was too soon.  He agreed.  The thought of Jake’s torture questions left my mind as soon as it entered it until Jim; one of my cube mates sort of brought it up.
            I was in the kitchen getting some tea when Jim walked in.  Jim was a quiet guy who never talked much but just stayed in his cube and work.  He spent all his time building complicated mathematical scenarios to predict sales revenue.  So far, his models were pretty darn accurate but he had to constantly update them to reflect changes in business.  We were chatting about movies we’d seen at the theater and on TV.
            “Did you happen to catch that program on PBS about pain and torture?” Jim looked me right in the eyes when he said this.
            “No.  Was it good?”
            “Yeah, it was pretty interesting.  They talked about how some people really derive a lot of pleasure from the act of torture.”
            “Oh my God, why?  Doesn’t it hurt?”  I said giggling.
            “I’m sure it hurts, but they interviewed this one woman who said it gave her the biggest rush.  She said it was better than drugs.”
            “God, I can’t imagine.  To each his own I guess.  Well, gotta get back to work.”
            I left the kitchen thinking how strange two torture conversations in the same day.  I sat down in my cube and then it finally hit me.  I wonder if Jim had overheard my conversation with Jake.  How embarrassing?  I mean, was everybody listening to me and Jake.  Great!  Now everybody in my cube section knew I was doing the personal ads.  Was the news now circulating around the whole office?  All my cube mates were men, which I always thought was so cool, but not now.  Images of them listening intently to my conversations with Jake were running like wild through my head.
I wondered what these guys were thinking of me.  I mean, I know they’d never say anything to me but still.  I mean why would quiet Jim bring it up?  And then I remembered how he looked into my eyes.  Maybe that’s why he was doing it. Like he was trying to hint something to me.  I shook my head.
            I cannot call Jake from work anymore.  It’s too embarrassing.  I mean, Tracy was right when she said to never have any personal conversations at work.  Trace was a big advocate of being really private at work and not giving your coworkers anything to gossip about or use against you.  Poor Trace.  She had been badly burned once when a coworker told her boss about what she’d said about him.  Trace was sure after that she was being hounded out of her job but couldn’t prove it.  She left and found a job paying 20% higher but she was still bitter about the experience.
            I was torn.  I had only had two conversations with Jake and I wasn’t sure if I trusted him enough to give him my home phone number.  Talking to him at work was kind of a drag because conversations had to be short and I did try to be careful about what was talked about.  But obviously not careful enough for Jim.
            I did a gut check.  Okay, still no creepy feelings.  I wished I could talk to somebody about this but I knew I couldn’t.  Well, I was going to have to have a longer conversation with Jake at some point anyway and I was never going to able to do it at work.  Plus, it might be different to talk to him without the pressure of work and my office hanging over my head.  At home, I could be comfy, relaxed, maybe even sip from a glass of wine as we talked.  I dialed Jake’s number.
            “Jake here.”
            “Hi Jake, it’s Jen.”
            “Hi!  What’s up?”
            “Nothing listen.  Are you going to be home tonight?”
            “Did you change you mind about getting together?  Because I’d love to meet you, you know.”  I detected a note of excitement in Jake’s voice.
            “Sorry, no.  But if you were going to be home tonight, I could call you and we could have a longer conversation.  You know, it’s hard to have long conversations at work and I’d like to talk to you for a longer period of time.”
            “What time?”
            “How about 8 pm?”
            “8 pm is fine.  I’ll be waiting.”
            “Great.  Talk to you tonight.  Bye.”  I hung up the phone.  I started getting a pain in my head like there was someone knocking around in there like a person trapped and trying to burst their way out.  Was that doubts setting off my inner warning system?  I looked at my watch.  It was 1 pm and I hadn’t eaten.  It must be a hunger headache I reasoned to myself.  I didn’t know it was that late.  That means I called Jake at lunchtime and he was still at his desk.  Maybe he ate at his desk like me.  If that was true, I was starting to like more and more.  I didn’t think we had anything in common, but hey, if we both ate lunch at our desk, at least that was something.
            I went out, grabbed something to eat at the deli and went back to my desk to eat.  Since Jake and I were going to have a longer conversation, after lunch I decided to make a list of things I wanted to ask him.  I checked my home email.  Jake still hadn’t replied.  Maybe he didn’t like sports.  I wrote “ask about sports” as number one on my list.  I hadn’t asked him about his job so I listed “ask about job” as the next thing.  Next, I listed “family”.  My friend Jane had a theory that the only people who stayed married forever came from families where there was no divorce in the family.  Jane said they don’t have the modeling of walking out on a relationship.
I’m not sure I agreed with her.  My parents were both still married but they weren’t happy either.  They just stayed together because they were old fashioned and couldn’t think of anything better to do.  I mean sure I got modeling of not leaving a relationship, but I was also forced to see how horrible it is when you’re married to someone that you don’t love.  Still, I should ask Jake about his parents and his family to see what his views about family and marriage are.
            I looked at my list.  Three all encompassing topics.  This ought to keep us talking for at least an hour.  God, what if he’s one of those guys who hate talking on the phone.  No matter.  If he hates talking on the phone, I’m dumping him immediately.  I hate guys who don’t like to talk on the phone.  I’m a big phone talker and sometimes when you can’t see each other, or the other person is out of town, the phone is the only way you have of communicating. 
I was in a relationship once with this guy, Bill, who hated talking on the phone.  Never explained to me why, just always mumbled something that I could never quite understand about hating long phone conversations.  Bill was a director at his company and had to oversee a lot of corporate wide projects so consequently he was on the road two weeks out of every month, travelling to various company sites to check on the statuses of his different project managers. 
I mean, it wasn’t like he was gone for two weeks straight, it was mostly one week at a time but two weeks out of every month.  Anyway, during the week he was gone, Bill would call me and maybe we would have a five minute conversation every day.  A five minute conversation once a day when your boyfriend is gone for a week is just not enough.  And sometimes, Bill wouldn’t even bother to call for days in a row, and then call finally call sheepishly saying that he was too busy to call.  I mean, what the hell is that.  The guy only calls for five lousy minutes and then says he’s too busy to call.  It’s not like we’re on the phone for hours and I’m keeping him up or anything.  And he only ever called me when his day was done, never when he was at work, when he was travelling.  When he was home, he called me at least once a day from work, just to check in to see what I was doing.  The mean, the guy turned into a completely different person when he away on business.
I mean, I hate to admit it, but I’m the type that thinks “out of sight, out of mind”.  Six months of that and I’d had it.  I tried to explain to Bill that we had communications problems like after the first month and he’d keep saying he’d work on it, but he never did.  I felt really bad about breaking up with him.  He was such a nice guy, great in the sack, and we really got along but, I couldn’t take the no talking for two weeks out of every month.  I mean, that was so torture for me and that guy just never understood that.
In his own defense, he told me that I wasn’t first girl to break up with him over his travel schedule.  I laughed and told him I loved his travel schedule and wasn’t bothered by it because I had two weeks out of the month to myself.  It was the two weeks of not talking to him for more than five minutes a day that really got to me, especially when his calling habits were so different when he was home.
Travel.  I have to ask Jake about travel and then we’ll get into the phone call thing if he travels a lot..  I’ll just ask him what his calling style is.  I mean, he should know what it is by this time.  I just remembered that I never got Jake’s age.  I grabbed my personal notebook.  I had started the habit of writing down everything I was doing at work in a notebook and had started doing the same thing for my dating project.  After each conversation with Jake, I tried to write down what we talked about for future reference or anything else that came up for me during our conversation.
I reread my notes and I didn’t see anything about how old he was.  I would have to ask him about his age.  I checked my notes about bachelors one and two and they had told me how old they were.  Briefly I wondered if I should worry about whether he was older than 45.  Allie told me once a lot of men lie about their age on personal ads, especially men after 50.  She said they claim that if they told women their actual age, they’d never get a call back so they lie and don’t tell till after the first date.
“I went out with this one guy,” Allie began. “and I noticed that he’d always managed to skirt around the issue of his age.  I didn’t say anything because a lot of men had a complex about their age.”
“So how long did this go on?”  I asked.
“For about a month.  Finally we decide to meet and have dinner.  I’m waiting for him outside this japanese restauarnt on Geary and 18th and I notice this totally baldking white haired dude standing there.  The guy looked about sixty or maybe even older.  He had that corporate vice president looking pudgy body and his face was so wrinkly.  And he had a bulging red nose, you know the kind of nose where the veins are all broken, the ones you associate with heavy drinkers.  The guy notices me staring at him and comes over and introduces himself and I recognize his voice as the guy I was supposed to be meeting.”
“Were you shocked?” 
“Well, yeah.  I said in my personal 35 – 45 and this guy looked like he was pushing seventy.”
“So what happened?”
“We had dinner and it was fine and everything and at the end, I finally said to him that he seemed a lot older than 45.  He just smiled and said he wasn’t 45, he was 55.  And I was like, you should have told me that.  And then he gives me those big puppy dog eyes and you know I hate when men pull that puppy dog routine, and says he didn’t think age mattered so much to me.  Then he goes into his thing about how much we got along and what a great dinner we had and everything I mean, how stupid.  If age didn’t matter, why would I put an age limit in my ad?  If age didn’t matter, why wouldn’t he just tell me how old he was when I asked?”
“Did you tell him that?”
“Yeah, but I tried to do it in a joking manner even though I was really pissed.  Finally, the freak admits to me that he’s had trouble in the past when he’s told women his real age.  He said that they tell him he’s told old and won’t even agree to meet him.  So I ask him, what age are these women. And he smiles and says your age.”
“Did you ask why he doesn’t go out with women closer to age his age.  I mean, you’re my age which would have made twenty years younger than him.”
“Sure I asked him.  The guy just says he likes younger women. And then I tell him, did it ever occur to you women my age might not want to date a man with that much of an age difference and he sheepishly says no.  I mean, the guy was just bullshiting and he knew it.  I give the old dude credit though because I think it was pretty obvious that I was upset.  So then the guy says, I liked him a lot before I found out about his age and the only thing that’s changed is I know his age.”
“What did you say?”
“I told him that I was feeling like he wasn’t being honest with me.  I felt that I had been lied to.  That I had told me everything about himself so he could make an informed decision about whether he wanted to meet me or not.  I told him that he had not allowed me to make the same kind of informed decision and that it pissed me off.  I said I kept asking you how old you were, didn’t you think that I would only be asking that question if age did really matter.”
“Did he say anything to defend himself?’
“No, I mean what could he say?  The guy lied to me and he knew it.  I mean how arrogant.  He thought he could get away with telling me a lie because when I met him I would be so enamored of him that his age wouldn’t matter.  I mean, the guy’s got balls and everything and I admire that.  But, he needs to take a look in the mirror sometime and really get how old he looks.  He looks way older than his age, which wouldn’t matter if the guy was totally good looking and in shape, but the guy is fat and balding.  I don’t even care about the hair thing either, but you know I’ve dated bald men, but it was his arrogance and his bullshit lies that I hated.  I tell you Jen, if you ever decide to do that personal ad thing, be wary of when a guy leaves out pertinent information about himself like age, what he does for a living, not giving you him home phone number.  It always means, I’m convinced, that he’s hiding something.  Because if he wasn’t hiding anything, the information would be out there for you.”
Was Jake hiding his age from me?  He didn’t sound old on the phone but then how would I know what an older man sounded like.  The only ones I’ve ever come across have been at work and he didn’t sound like any of many executives I’ve sat across in meetings.  But then the only conversations I’d ever had with them were all business.  Oh, occasionally I’d meet an older man at a party and we would talk but never for long conversations.  The age question would have to be settled right away, like tonight.
I was dismayed at having to be so confrontational so early on, because being confrontational doesn’t work in business and I doubt it worked when you were trying to establish a romantic relationship.  But I really needed to know how old Jake was.  I really did not want a man who was more than ten years old than me.  Everyone I know who’s ever done it says it’s a big problem.  I was not looking forward to asking him this question but I needed to ask it now and not later. 
By the time, I got home that night at 7:30 pm, I had barely enough time to change and grab a bite to eat.  I was feeling so stressed out, I went to the gym after work and did an hour long punishing run on the treadmill.  Sometimes when I get stressed out, I like to run as hard as I can for as long as I can.  Running like that always calms me down and afterwards I feel refreshed rather than tired, like I’d run out of my system all that bad stress energy.  I didn’t succeed in doing that tonight.  I felt nothing but exhaustion after my run. Having to confront Jake about his age was proving more stressful to me than I thought it would be.  I hate confrontation and avoid it all costs at work and in my personal life. 
Confrontation reminded me of watching my parents argue and bicker nightly.  My mother would always find some thing in order to pick a fight with my dad.  It was alright when he was sober and she did that.  He was always able to laugh it off and calm her down.  When he started drinking and coming home drunk, he would argue back and I would be sitting there at the dinner table completely ignored and trying to eat.  The things they said to each other were so horrible sometimes, so insulting, I was surprised that they had stayed married for so long, especially after dad became violent.  I stopped myself.  I didn’t want to think about my childhood right before a conversation with Jake.
After I changed into more comfortable clothes, I went into the kitchen and opened a bottle wine and poured myself a glass.  I grabbed one of the many breakfast bars I kept on hand and popped a small piece hurriedly into my mouth washing it down with some red wine.  By the time I finished eating the breakfast bar, I had finished one glass of wine.  I poured myself another and checked the clock.  It was 7:50 pm.
I grabbed a bunch of candles and candlesticks from the kitchen and put them in the living room near the phone.  When I finally decided on the right arrangment, I lit the candles and turned off all the lights taking my wine glass and the bottle with me into the living room.  I looked around my living room and it all looked very romantic to me lit up like that in candlelight, with the shadows of the candlelight dancing all around the room.  A perfect setting for love and somehow too an appropriate setting for my phone call with Jake.  Suddenly, all the stress that I’d been feeling fell away from me like someone had cut off weights that had been attached all day to my body.  Whatever happened with Jake tonight, I need to remember that the whole point of this personal ad dating experience was to find love and hopefully a compatible marriage partner.  If I had to dump Jake, so be it.  I had two other men who were waiting in the wings to take his place.  I was starting to appreciate the control you had with personal ad dating.  In this dating experience,. I get to decide who I see and which ads to respond to.  No one else.  Just me.  I wasn’t the one who had to sit around and wait for that phone call that never comes.  Now the roles were reversed.  They were the ones who now had to wait to see if I would call them.  I loved this new feeling of power.
I grabbed my purse and took out my dating notebook.  I glanced at my watch and it was 8 pm.  I dialed Jake’s number.  After about two rings he picked up.
“Hi!  Is Jake there?
“It’s me.  Is this Jen?”
“Hi. Yeah it’s me.  How are you?  I mean how was your day?
“Not bad.  I finished up a couple of projects that were due.”
“What kind of projects?”
“I was working on finishing the programming for a couple of new games my company is putting out for Christmas.  I’m not supposed to really talk about it because the gaming industry is so competitive, but they’re new fantasy games like Dungeons and Dragons.  Did you ever playthat game?”
            “No.  I don’t play many computer games except for the usual tetris or solitaire.  But I’ve heard of Dungeons and Dragons.”
            “Most women don’t play computer games.  It’s definitely a male oriented market.  75% of my company is all men which I understand is rare for most business companies.”
            “No, you’re right.  My company is half and half and I think most businesses strive to have that kind of balance.  Is that why you’re answering personal ads?  Because you don’t get to meet many women at work?”
            “Partly.  I’m also very busy and work long hours so there’s not much time left for any socializing.  Why did you decide to put out an ad?”
            “Well, I had many friends who did it and they told me it was great way to meet lots of guys.  My friends that had done it also said you get to meet more of a variety of men than you would normally?”
            “And have you? I mean, met a variety of men?”
            “No.  If you can believe it, this is my first personal and you’re the first man I’ve called.”
            “So you’re a virgin personal ad dater?”  I could hear Jake chuckling.
            “I guess so and you?”
            “I’ve answered other ads before.” Well, cross that commonality off the list.  I wonder how man women he’d met this way.  I mean, the guy could’ve left that message on a dozen ads last weekend.  How many other women was he talking to besides me.
            “And did you meet anybody you dated seriously?”
            “A couple of women but we never stayed together for longer than six months.”
            “Why only six months?”  Great, a serial dater.  Those are the worst kind.  It almost always means fear of commitment.
            “I don’t know.  That’s just long they lasted?”  I guess he’s not answering that question, but I’ll ask again in the future, if we have a future.
            “Oh.  Jake.”
            “I need to ask you a personal question.  Do you mind?”
            “Depends on what it is?”
            “You never told me how old you are?”
            “Why does age matter that much to you?”  I hate when men say that like age doesn’t matter to them.
            “Yes, as a matter of fact it does.  I prefer to date men who are not more than 10 years older than me.”
            “Why, if you don’t mind me asking.”
            “I think in order for a relationship to work, both people have to be compatible.  And one way to be compatible is to have the same cultural references.  When a person is more than ten years older than you, I think that there’s a tendency to have radically different cultural references, not mention tastes in music, things to do, programs to watch on television and even attitudes on life.”
“But don’t you think that with love those difference can be overcome or least not matter as much?”
“Sure I do, but you don’t want to start out with a loaded deck.  Do you know what I mean?”
            “So answer the question, how old are you”?
            “I’m 44.”  I was relieved.  “Satisfied?”
            “Completely.  But you know I’ll have to check your driver license when I see you just to make sure you’re not lying.”
            “Are you serious?”
            “No, of course not.  I was just joking.  It’s my sense of humor.  Sorry.”  I knew he wouldn’t get it.
            “No need to apologize.  I just don’t know you well enough to know when you’re making a joke that’s all.”  I looked at my list and crossed off age and job.
            “And sports?  Do you like sports?”
            “Yeah I like sports.”
            “Which ones?”
            “I watch football, college and pro.   Also basketball, college and pro.  And  baseball, of course.  Any objections?”
            “No, none at all.  I watch sports a lot on TV and enjoy going to games once in a while.  I was worried you didn’t like sports so I had to ask.”
            “Since you must have a list that you’re working off from, are there any other things you want to ask and get out of the way now before we go further?”
            “How did you know I had a list?”     
“The other women I ‘d talked to from prior personal ads all had list.  I think it’s a girl thing.”
            “Don’t you have a list of things you want to know abut me?”
            “To tell the truth, no.  If I wanted to know something about you, I ask.  Plus, I’m very easygoing so a lot things don’t bother me.”
            “Oh so you’re easy going?  Like what does that mean?”
            “Just what I said.  I don’t let a lot of things bother me.  I’m a go with the flow, roll with the punches kind of guy.  And you?”
            “I’m the exact opposite.  I’ve been compared to small yapping dog, which I think means I’m high strung and nervous.”  I couldn’t believe I said that.  Jake was going to think I was some high strung poodle girl.
            “Are you?  High strung and nervous that is.”
            “Sometimes.  Why does that bother you?”
            “No.  It’s just a good thing to know.”
            “Oh.  What about your family, what’s your relationship with them?
            “Let’s see, only child, both parents still alive retired now and living in Arizona.  As for relationship, my father is an ex-military commander and has always treated me like one of his soldiers; formally and cordial.”
            “I’m sorry.  That must have been hard for you.”
            “It was, but I’m over it now.  And you?”
            “Only child also and my relationship with my parents is friendly and I think it works better when it’s long distance.”  I didn’t want to start off right away with the story of my miserable childhood.
            “Parents, they’re all the same aren’t they?”
            “I’m beginning to think so.  Are your parents still married?”
            “Yes, they’re a traditional and conservative pair.  And you?”
            “My parents are bizarrely religious and very catholic, so yes, they’re still married.”
            “Catholic huh?  I’m surprised you’re an only child.  I mean, I thought catholics had big families.”
            “They usually do.  After giving birth to me, my mother had severe complications which resulted in her not being to have any more children.”
            “Did they want more?”
            “Oh yeah, did they ever?”  That was an understatement.
            “What about adoption?  Did they think about adopting more children if they wanted to have a big family?”
            “I don’t think the thought ever crossed their minds actually.  They really just wanted to raise their own.”  I could hear my mother spewing on and on about not wanting to raise other people’s mistakes.
            “So what else in on your question list?”
            “Do you have to travel a lot on business?”
            “Not very much except for a couple of seminars during the year.  And you?”
            “Same here, seminars mostly.”  Great, no travel, so maybe no communication problems from traveling too much.
            “Anything else?”  I was starting to feel embarrassed like I should have given this more thought and more time.
            “Actually, those were all the questions I could think of so far, but don’t worry, I’ll have more.”
            “I’m not worried.  I just thought you’d have more that’s all.”  Great, now he probably thinks I’m shallow and an idiot.
            “And you.  Do you have any questions for me?”
            “I told I didn’t have a list.  But I do have very important personal question.”
“Okay, shoot”
“When are we going to meet?”
            “Didn’t we discuss this earlier.  I thought I’d wait awhile longer.  You know, have more conversations, that kind of thing.  Why what’s the hurry?”
            “No hurry.  Look, I have to be honest with you since I’ve done this before.  We can talk as long as you want but it’s not the same as meeting face to face.  I’ve had several great conversations with women on the phone and you end up thinking you’ll really get along when you meet.  Then when you finally do meet them, something happens.  I can’t explain it but there’s something about meeting a person face to face that really determines whether there’s any chemistry between you and you can’t just can’t judge chemistry on the phone from conversations.”
            “Why?  Do looks matter that much to you?”
            “No and I’m not talking about looks.  Hell, I’ve met several beautiful women that I just wasn’t attracted to.”
            “Come on, you expect me to believe that?  You expect me to believe that if you met a supermodel you wouldn’t be attracted to her?”
            “Sure, I’d be attracted to her as any normal would.  That’s completely appropriate.  But chemistry is deeper than that.  Chemistry just isn’t the normal physical attractiveness.  It’s something more primal, primitive.  And it’s not rational either and I don’t think you can make chemistry happen.  It’s either there or it isn’t.”
            “So what exactly are you saying?”
            “Look, I don’t want to push you into anything but I also don’t want to waste my time.  I don’t want to have to spend one month or even two months talking to you on the phone or chatting on email or instant messaging without meeting you first.  It’s not worth it to me because that’s a lot of time spent.”
            “And you don’t want to waste your time getting to know me if you don’t have chemistry with me.  Is that it?”  That’s cold.
            “Exactly, only it’s not that cold, honestly.  Look, haven’t you ever talked to some man on the phone and then ended up meeting him and that meeting changed your whole thought about him.  I mean, before that, think about it.  We all get preconceived notions about what the other person looks like especially if we’ve only spoken on the phone.  Am I right?”
            “Sure I guess.”
            “Well, then you know what I mean, don’t you?”
            “Yeah, I guess I do, but honestly this is only the third conversation we’ve had and the only conversation that’s been longer than fifteen minutes.  Don’t you agree that we still need to talk more to find out if we even just like each other.”
            “I like you, don’t you like me?”
            “I guess, I don’t know.  I mean, I hardly know you.”
            “Okay, let me ask this another way.  First, do you get say feelings, some would call them instincts, maybe gut feelings, gut instincts about people when you first meet them and even when you first talk to them.”
            “Yeah, so.”
            “And don’t these gut feelings, instincts tell you right away, maybe even in the first five minutes whether you’re going to like someone or not.  And doesn’t that first impression usually pan out.  Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, exceptions to any rule, but on the whole, aren’t your first impressions usually right on about a person?”
            “I guess.   I mean, I don’t know.  I’ve never thought about it before.”
            “Well, I’m asking you to think about it now.”
            “I guess if I look back over my life, you’re right.  My first impressions of people have usually been correct.  Why?”
            “Well, what was your first impression of me?”
            “From what point?”
            “I don’t know.  How about from the beginning when you listened to my voicemail answer about responding to your ad.  What were your first impressions of me from that?”
            “I liked your voice.”  I blurted that one out but it was the first thing that came to my mind.
            “Great anything else.”
            “Well, after that I thought I’d want to meet you and so I called you.”
“So you like me a little.”
“Well, enough to call you back.”
“Okay, what about after our first conversation and after our second conversation.
Did those conversations enhance that first impression?  Did they make you want to talk to me more?”
“Well that’s obvious isn’t it because I’m talking to you right now.”  I didn’t want
to mention my heeby jeebies or what I thought about the torture question and what happened at the office afterwards.  I don’t know why.  All I can remember is I just didn’t want him to think I was afraid of him or anything like that.
            “So you’re impression is still favorable?
            “Yes, it’s still good, very good.”
            “So doesn’t that tell you that you might just like me just a little.”
            “A little.”  I couldn’t help but laugh.  This guy was good, very good.  Did he go to law school or something before becoming a programmer.
            “Is it just enough for you to agree to meet me?”
            “I don’t know.”
            “Well, check it out.  Think about me asking you to meet, say tonight at some place of your choosing and see what your gut is telling you.”
            “Yes, right now.  Think about what I just said and let me know what your gut is telling you.  Take your time.  I can wait.”  I thought about meeting him and did a gut check.  I had a nagging feel of danger, maybe fear, and definitely excitement and a thrill especially if he wasn’t joking about meeting tonight.  God, that would so wicked and so very dangerous.  But I loved it.  I secretly love the feeling of danger.  Danger has always excited me and driven me to do bad things, especially when I was younger.  As I got older, I stopped doing dangerous things mostly out of fear and lack of time.  But what could be so dangerous about meeting Jake in a public place of my choosing.  In fact, that’s what all the advice websites tell you what to do.  Meet at a public place of your choosing to feel safe.
            “Are thinking?”  Jake’s voice startled me out my reverie.
            “And?”  God he sounded so hopeful, so enthusiastic like he already knew what my answer would be.  It’s not fair that he thinks I’m that easy to figure out.
            “I don’t know.”  There, that should throw him for a loop.  I really just wanted to say yes, but a part of me wanted to play with him a little just to see how far he would go.
            “What do you mean you don’t know”
            “I mean I don’t know.”
            “You mea after all that, all you gut is telling you is you don’t know.”
“Yep that’s what it’s saying.  It’s also saying that I don’t have enough information
to make a sound and rational decision.”
“What more information do you need?”
“Well, are you serious about meeting me tonight?  I mean, you posed it as a hypothetical question.  I can’t make decisions based on hypotheticals.
            “Would you be willing to meet me tonight?”
            “Well, isn’t that part of the question you asked me?”
            “Sure, I guess.”
            “So, you weren’t serious about meeting me tonight?”  I loved teasing him like this especially when he didn’t know he was being teased.
            “That’s not what I said.”
            “Well, why did you put it into your question, if you didn’t mean it?  That’s a little rude, don’t you think so?”
            “Why is it rude?”
            “Because, you get a girl’s hopes up but then when she calls you on it, you don’t know whether you mean it or not.”  I startled giggling I couldn’t help it.
            “You’re laughing at me.”
            “No, I’m not, honestly.”  I tried to stop myself from laughing but I couldn’t.  I was just having way too much fun.
            “So, why are you laughing”  He didn’t sound too happy with me.
            “Because I’m teasing you and it’s fun.”
            “You’re teasing me?”
            “Yes, I am.”
            “So, wait a minute.  Does this mean your gut is telling you to meet me tonight at a place of your own choosing.”
            “It sure is.  What else did you think it was going to say?”
            “I don’t know.” I could hear Jake chuckling in the background.  “I was sure you were going to say yes until you said you didn’t have enough information and that threw me for a loop.”
            “Yeah a big old giant loop.”
            “So are you serious?  Would you mind meeting tonight?”
            “Are you serious, I mean you’re the one that asked.”
            “I’m very serious.  Name the place and I’ll be there.”  I looked at my watch, it was after 8:30 pm.
            “Do you know where the Blue Danube is on Clement Street?  It’s a little coffee shop, all yellow, blue and white?
            “It’s upper Clement isn’t it?  Before sixth avenue?”
            “Yeah, just drive down from the top of the Clement and you’ll see it.  Can you meet me there at 9:15?”
            “9:15.  That sounds great.  How will we recognize each other?  Do I just meet you outside?”
            “No, it’s a cold night.  I’ll be inside wearing a navy blue beret drinking a latte.”
            “I need more details than that.  What if there’s two of you wearing blue berets?  It’s happened to me before.”
            “Okay, I’ll be wearing a navy blue beret on my head and navy blue cable wool sweater with a blue oxford button down shirt and jeans.  Is that better.”
            “Perfect.  I”ll see you then.” 
After he hung up, I lay back on my chair and panic gripped me but I had to let that feeling slide.  I mean, what could happen?  We were going to be in a public place.  Besides, after that conversation I was dying to meet him if only just to thank him for being such a good sport in letting me tease him like that.  That was the most fun I’d had in ages.  If that conversation was any indication of our future time together, then if nothing else, dating Jake was going to be a lot of fun.  And wasn’t it I doing this personal ad thing for fun?
I ran into my closet, turned on the light and survey my closet.  What was I going to wear?  This was after all, sort of like our first date.  I wanted to look good but I knew I couldn’t be too dressed up since were just meeting for coffee.  Plus, god forbid if anyone in the coffee shop guess that we were on a first date.  That’s so embarrassing.  Then it hit me.  Damn!  I told Jake what I would be wearing so he could recognize me.  I shook my head.  What on earth possessed me to tell him I was going to wear that outfit.  I mean, of course I owned clothes like that but I haven’t worn that combination since college.  I think when I said it, I was picturing what I thought he would wear.  My brain must have gotten completely mixed up making me think I would be wearing that outfit.
            Great!  Nothing like having a man think you’re a conservative preppy girl or worse yet, some mousey librarian or something.  What else could I do?  If I didn’t wear the outfit I said I’d be wearing, he’d never be able to recognize me.  Maybe I should have asked him what he would be wearing.  I just gave him the advantage of him knowing me and me not knowing him.  I mean, he could just figure out who I was and if he didn’t like what he saw, he could just stand me up and I’d be left there, for god knows how long, in the café waiting for him to show up.
            I looked at my watch.  It was 8:50 pm.  I needed ten minutes to walk to the coffee shop.  Quickly stripping off my clothes, I put on Levi jeans, an Ann Taylor oxford blue button down that I’d had for years and a navy blue wool sweater I purchased from Land’s End last month.  For shoes, I decided to wear my dark brown Borns with the chunky two inch heels and blue striped socks.  By habit, I put on a pair of pearl earrings and grabbed a pearl necklace to wear around my neck.
            When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw a very nervous very young looking me staring back looking the way I used to dress in college.  If I put a ribbon in my hair that matched my outfit, I knew I would be wearing the kind of outfit I always wore in college.  But instead, I combed out my hair and left it ribbon free.  I put makeup on, sprayed on perfume, grabbed my purse and headed out the door.
            The Blue Danube is small corner coffee shop on Clement.  It serves food, wine and beer and always has great music playing, consisting mostly of techno dance and world beat tunes. The crowd that frequented the Blue Danube tended to be young, hip and very trendy with a few regular folks and old hippies thrown in just to mix it up.  I often got coffee there because it was close and right next door to the place where I did my laundry.  I went there out of convenience and not because I liked the crowd or ambiance of the place.  I never dreamed of visiting other coffee place even though there are about four or five coffee shops in a space of six blocks on upper Clement street, each with their atmosphere and type of crowd.
            When I got to the Blue Danube, as usual it was full of people sitting inside and outside at the street tables.  I had good table karma and sure enough, a couple of minutes later a couple got up to leave and I took their table.  It was on the side where the computer terminals for rent were.  The table was against the side of the wall and well situated offered a good view of the inside as well as the outside tables.  Since the table was near the computer terminals which were hardly used and against the wall, it was a nice quite place to chat while still feeling like you were part of the general café crowd.
            I lay my coat on the table and got up and ordered a decaf latte since it was too late for me to drink real coffee. I sat down and looked around.  The café was full of couples, people by themselves either writing or reading big books and small groups of people gathered around and talking and laughing.  I knew I should have brought a book or at least a tablet so I could look like I was here to do something instead of just looking like I was waiting for someone to show up.  On that thought, I got up and grabbed a couple of papers from the free rack.  This way, I could at least look like I was here to do something.
            I must have been sitting there waiting not more than ten minutes, when I notice a man with brown hair and glasses coming up to my table with a purposeful stride.  Was this Jake?  He wasn’t quite what I pictured.  This man had medium brown hair in what looked like a hairdo from the Herman’s Hermits, that old 60’s group where the hair was a little long, maybe just a couple of inches from his ear lobe, and it was parted on the side.  He wore dark brown tortoise shell frame glasses which couldn’t quite hide his best feature, his huge puppy dog velvet brown eyes.  His skin was very pale, almost white, like he never got into the sun and his body was slim but not athletic, more thin and looking like he didn’t use it very much or maybe he played soccer.  He was wearing a navy and green plaid shirt, navy wool sweater and jeans.  If it is Jake, at least I’ve gotten the clothes almost right.  But instead of a sunny college professor type, he was the more somber and serious nerd.  Well, he was a programmer wasn’t he?
            “Are you Jen?”  The man said when he reach my table.”
            “Yes.  And you must be Jake right?”
            “Yep, that’ me.”
            “Want to sit down?”  I gestured to the empty chair.  Jake sat down and put his chair directly across mine so I was looking directly into his face.
            “This is a nice place.  It’s quiet yet there’s a lot of action going on.”
            “Thanks.  It’s one of my favorites.”
            “So I take you live in the neighborhood, in walking distance?”
            “Um, sort of.”  I was still unsure at this point about how much I wanted Jake to know about my personal information.  To change the subject I said, did you have a hard time parking, this place tends to get really crowded at night.”
            “No, no problem, but then again, I’m a good parker.  And you?”
            “I’ve got the parking fairy on my side, so I always manage to find a spot”
            “Were you waiting long?”
            “No I just got here about ten minutes ago and you?”
            “I only just got here myself too.”
            “Oh.”  I was nervous and running out of things to say.  “Did you want to get some coffee first or something?  Maybe something to eat?”
            “No I’m fine.  Why?  Are you getting something to eat?”
            “No, I just got a latte that’s all.  I just thought you might want to get yourself a drink.  If you don’t want coffee, they sell wine and beer.  The wine and beer are pretty substandard but at least they have it.”
            “A beer sounds like a good idea, do you mind?”
            “No, go right ahead, I might have one later.”
            “Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Jake took his brown leather bomber jacket off, put it on the chair and went to get coffee. It’s interesting how when you meet someone for the first time, you have this urge to study them like they’re some newly discovered species. Jake’s every move became burned on my brain like it was being recorded for further study. I could see myself going over these images at some time in the future and using them as examples to make philosophical and psychological assumptions about Jake.
Jake moved deliberately slowly as if every move mattered. Did he know I was watching him? I made no effort to hide my interest. Every gesture he made looked like a ritual, kind of like he’d done this, meeting a woman in a coffee shop, a million times before. I tried to think if there was any animal that he reminded me of and I’m not sure I liked the image I got. I saw him as black, very smooth, and utterly vicious panther. He would be the type of predator who would stalk you slowly and deliberately and with considerable stealth. Once he decided that you were his, he would be ruthless in pursuit and dominant in his mastery. That was such an odd image for him. At first glance, Jake seemed to be so mild mannered. But I did detect an intensity in his brown eyes, that I think he kept fairly well hidden and all of a sudden I was very curious to know why. What was he hiding?
Did he always look the way he did now when he was a teenager? His face was smooth so I didn’t think he was one of those gross pimply faced boys. Was he popular? He seemed so quiet and deliberate to me that I didn’t if those qualities were acquired or natural. If there were natural and he had those qualities in high school, I couldn’t imagine him being very popular. Teenage girls just aren’t that interested in quiet thoughtful men. Those kinds of deep qualities would become attractive as you aged as a male, but probably not until mid 30’s.
From where I was sitting, I could see his hands. His fingers were long and tapering, which somehow didn’t fit with the rest of his body. They looked like artist’s hands or what I’d read about artist’s hands. I’d have to study his hands more carefully when he came back to the table.
I saw the woman at the counter smiling up at him and he was obviously flirting with her. Did he know her before or did her flirt with every woman he met? His flirtatious nature surprised me. He just didn’t seem like the flirtatious type but there he was chatting up the counter girl, who was now making moon eyes at him. Jake turned around suddenly and caught me watching them. The woman noticed that his attention was diverted and glanced over at me, like she was checking out the competition. I wanted looked down quickly as if embarrassed by my intense perusal of them, but I didn’t. I just stared back and tried to smile my most “it doesn’t bother me” smile. I saw Jake smiling back at me and turning around to grab his cup, quickly leaving the counter without even stopping to say goodbye to the counter girl. She seemed surprised by his abrupt departure and I saw her watching him walk back to my table. She turned quickly, her pony tail whipping her in the face, and went back to the kitchen since there was no one else in line.
Jake came back to the table with his coffee. He put his coffee cup and saucer down on the table slowly. He left again and came back with two cubes of sugar and the carton of half and half. He stopped in front of the table and poured the half and half in his cup with precision as if he was trying to eyeball the amount. He dropped one sugar cube in the cup, picked up the spoon and stirred it about ten times making sure that the spoon went around the whole width the cup. Then he repeated the action with the reaming cube, again stirring it ten times as if every turn mattered. Jake picked up the coffee cup and took a sip. A small smile spread over his face. He put the cup down deliberately and turned around to take the half and half back to the baker’s rack where all the condiments were kept. He took three napkins and came back to the table, finally sitting down and putting one of the napkins on this lap and storing the other two underneath his coffee cup saucer. He finally looked up and I found myself staring into those big brown eyes of his.
“Sorry that took so long.” I smiled thinking that he knew I had been studying him the entire time and that he was putting on some kind of performance just for my benefit.
“No problem. I love coming to places like this to people watch. You can learn a lot about someone just by watching them.”
“I’m sure you can. And did you learn anything about me?” I laughed. I wasn’t going to take that bait.
“I’m not sure. I didn’t really notice you.” I wondered if he was going to call me on my little white lie.
“No? Are you sure?”
“Well, the counter girl girl laughing did catch my attention. Do you know her?”
“Oh, it just seemed like you two knew each other.”
“No. I was just trying to make conversation. Have you ever noticed that you get better service, better anything from people when you pay attention to them?”
“No, can’t say I have.”
“It’s true. You should try it some time. People really bloom around you when you just bestow the smallest amount of time on then.”
“Why do you think that is, because that seems kind of sad, like the person you’re talking to is starving for affection.”
“Aren’t they? Aren’t you?”
“No way. I get plenty of attention.”
“Are you sure? So why are doing this ad? I mean, I’ve met you and you’re a very pretty woman who doesn’t seem like the type who has a problem meeting men. Do you have a problem meeting men?”
“No, I’ve never had a problem meeting men actually. I guess I did it, because I don’t have a lot of time to socialize at the usual places like at bars. In between my job and my friends, I keep myself pretty busy.”
“So why the ad?”
“I guess I just wanted to meet a different group of men. My friends who have done this personal ad thing before said they met men who weren’t part of their usual circle.”
“Was that a good or a bad thing? Some women don’t like meeting men outside of their particular social set?”
“They said it was good thing. Most of my friends are like me, I work downtown and there’s a certain type of man that I’m always meeting. But when I go to places like football games, I see all different types of men, types I never seem to come across in my normal life. Does that make sense?”
“Sure. I feel the same way.”
“Is that why you answer the ads. Because I mean, you’re not the kind of guy who seems like he would have a hard time meeting women either.”
“Thanks I don’t, at least not too much. But like you, I’m busy at my job and sometimes being social really takes an effort. I’m also interesting in exploring relationships outside of what I would normally consider my social set.”
“And have you had fun doing that? Meeting all types of women?”
“It’s been interesting. And you?”
“I don’t know. You’re my first.” I was embarrassed to admit this.
“So I’m the first you met off your ad?”
“Yes, you are.”
“I’m honoured. What made you pick me first?’
“Yours was the first voicemail I liked. No other reason.”
“And, what do you think? Is this is a good thing?”
“I don’t know” I said laughing. “I haven’t really formed a firm opinion about you yet. I mean I’ve just met you ten minutes ago.”
“But you must think something right?”
“I might.”
“Why so shy? I won’t bite. Besides, I’m curious.” Did I dare tell him what I was thinking. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to now.
“I think it might be fun to get to know you.” I tried to say the fun deliberately and slowly like it really meant something. “And you, what do you think about me?” Jake leaned back in his chair and studied me. I brace myself for that discomfort that usually came when men studied me. Surprisingly, I felt no discomfort at all. In fact, there were no feelings of discomfort in our whole meeting so far except for the usual early discomfort that comes from people who don’t know each other. But that feeling left almost as soon as it started.  Was this a good sign?  I don’t know.
            I don’t really like that feeling of too much comfort with a man.  I mean either you’ve met “the one”, a concept I don’t really believe in, or that comfortable feeling comes from someone whose dysfunctional pattern exactly matches yours.  Either way, it’s hard to tell the difference and you really won’t find out which one it really is until you’re well into the relationship.
            Let’s say for example, you end up with guy whose dysfunctional pattern matches yours exactly.  Everything going fine, you date, you have sex and then you move in.  So far everything is fine because you’re in love and you’re in that honeymoon stage which just seems to last forever.  Then all of a sudden you have your first real crisis in the relationship.  It doesn’t matter what triggered the crisis, it’s just the first one real one the both of you have had.  Now, if your dysfunctional patterns match, you’ll probably both be handling the stress of that first crisis in exactly the same way. 
Now that’s where the problem comes in.  Both of you will do exactly the same thing, whether it be running away from the problem or confronting the problem full on.  Now in most healthy and normal relationships both partners tend to handle stress differently and this works out well for both, since when one partner is down, the other one is most likely up.  This adds balance to the relationship and helps the couple cope with the crises of life.  If your dysfunction patterns match, then both of you will be down at the same.  When that happens, who’s going to do the picking up in a relationship?  Where’s the balance?  Unfortunately, there is none and both of you will be down and most likely stay down for a long time. This is not good because eventually one of you will get tired of you both being down all the time and find a way out and poof, there goes your time and your relationship.
Now, you maybe asking yourself what if that person happens to be your soul mate?  Doesn’t that make the problem better?  Well, let me tell you my theory about soul mates.  It’s not that I don’t believe in soul mates, I do, very much.  What I have a problem with is that there’s only one.  I mean, only one.  What happens if he dies, he gets sick or just never meet him, or you meet him and something happens and then you break up with him.  If you follow the soul mate, only one theory, your screwed.  I mean, once that guy is gone, you’re done for because there will be no one else.  And if you believe in the only one theory, you’ll be miserable for the rest of your life, because if you hook up with someone else that person will never be anything more than a substitute for the “one”.  It’s so limiting to have this “soul mate one theory?”  I mean, who makes this shit up anyway?  It’s miseable.
That’s why I don’t ascribe to this one man soul mate theory.  To me it’s cruel and unusual punishment.  I believe in “the one for the moment” theory.  I mean, some men are “the one” for a time, but maybe that time is just one minute, five minutes, five days, five months, five weeks, five years or if you’re really really lucky, five lifetimes.  See what I mean, you have more flexibility this way.  Besides if you believe in this theory, then every man becomes the one and isn’t that much better than having just one guy.  Now you’ll have several. 
Your sole job then becomes to simply to find out and anticipate how long that moment is.  And admitted this is the hard part.  There have been men in my life, whom I thought would last at least last for five months and they did only, there were supposed to have lasted only five minutes in my life.  Talk about overstaying their moment.
            So, I really don’t trust this comfortable feel I feel with Jake just yet.  Do men ever think this way?  What about other women?  Or is it just me?
            “Earth to Jen”.  Jake said.  I looked at him.
            “You had that far away look in your eyes like you’d gone somewhere and I didn’t want to interrupt your journey.”
            “Well, did you go far away?”
            “No, I was just thinking about something that’s all.”
            “Well, are you through thinking now?”  I didn’t know whether Jake was serious or sarcastic.
            “I think I’m done, why?”
            “Well, when I speak to someone, I usually demand to have their divided attention.”
            “You do?  Why?”
            “Because then I feel like the person is really going to listen me.”
            “And have they, I mean, listened to you?”
            “They at least looked like it.” Jake said with a smile.
            “Looked like it, but did they listen?”
            “Does anyone?”  I hate people who answer questions with another question.
            “I don’t know.  I’m asking you since you’re the who seems to have a problem if people don’t listen to you, but don’t care if they at least looked like they’re listening to you.”
            “Sometimes they did, sometime the didn’t.”
            “Sounds like it was a 50/50 split.  You know heads or tails, even money?”
            “Well that means that it didn’t matter if they gave you their undivided attention or not.”
            “What you mean?”
            “Well, whether they listened to you or not, you still had a 50/50 chance of them actaully not hearing your message.”
            “Well, then that’s an even money bet.  So it never matters whether they actually listening to you or not, because you still have a 50/0 chance of them not listening.”
            “Well, 50/50 split or not, I still like to have person’s undivided attention.”
            “So do I have yours now?”
            “Oh sure.”
            “You wanted me to tell you what I thought of you?”  I nodded my head, totally forgetting I asked him that question.  ”Well, I think you’re a bright person, who obviously thinks of which I now have had first time experience of, and I find you attractive.  And no, I’m not put off by your little reverie.”
            “Oh, that’s good.”
            “Anything else, you’d like to ask me?  I know you a list earlier today.  Did we get to every topic or question on your list?”   My list, I forgot my list.  I was almost tempted to dig down into my bag to find it but I didn’t want to embarrass myself and show Jake I actually had a list.  I mean, who wants to be that typical right.
            “Not right now, but I’ll think of something.”
            “What about you?  Any questions for me?”
            “Yes, as a matter of fact.  I’ve been thinking about since I got off the phone with you tonight.  What made you suddenly decide to want to meet face to face.  I could have sworn you said that you wanted to wait till we go to know each other better and that you didn’t think you’d want to meet me for another two months at least.”
            “I had a strange incident at work after our call.”  I wasn’t going to tell Jake about Jim, but it just of just slipped out.
            “What incident was that?”  Jake sounded genuinely concerned.
            “Well, I sit in a cube of four people.  The walls are really high but you know how cube life is, you can practically hear the person breathing next door.  Anyway, after I got off the phone with you, one of my cubemates who I swear must have overheard our conversation, started alluding to a certain subject we talked about.  Well this person, whose name is Jim, broke every cardinal rule about exiting in a corporate cube.”
“And what rule is that?”
“The unspoken rule is you act like don’t hear other people’s conversations as well as their body noises.  I mean, you’re supposed to pretend that you live in cube house and that nothing comes through your walls.
“Did you make some kind of body noise after our conversation.”
“No.  It wasn’t that”
“Well, what was it?  What did he do or not do?”
“I was in the kitchen and he brought up nonchalantly the word torture.”
“So, what’s the point?  lot of people use that word.”
“Well, not  Jim.  He’s a very quiet guy and he never talks about his personal life”
“Did you think he was listening to our conversation?”
“Oh, I’m sure he was.  Maybe he didn’t hear the whole thing, but he certainly heard the word torture.”
“Is that why you decided to meet me tonight?  Because some lunatic in your office brought up the word torture in a conversation/”
“Look, it made me realize that everyone in my cube can hear my conversations at work and I didn’t want to have to go through another Jim incident again.”
“How do you know it just wasn’t a coincidence.”
“Believe me I know.  Plus, Jim looked at me directly in the eyes when he said it like I was supposed to catch on to him or do something.”
“And did you?  I mean like did you catch on or do something.”
“No way.  He’s one of my cube mates.”
“So from all this you decided to meet me tonight.”
“Yes.  Okay, now I have a question.”
“Why did you ask me about torture?  I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have normally have conversations about torture in my day to day life.”
“That’s a pity.  Well, now that you’ve met me, you’ll be having more of those kinds of conversations.”
“Why?”  I didn’t like the tone of this.
“Because I’m interested in it and I think you secretly are too.”
“I think you have wild side.”
“You don’t even know me, how can you say that?”
“Because I’ve got a good feeling about this?”
“You do, do you?  What, are you a psychic?”
“You’re laughing at me, aren’t you?”  Jake leaned back in his chair with a frown on his face.”
“No, I’m not laughing at you.  Look, let’s just start over all right?  Pretend this conversation never happened.”  I wanted to forget what he said about torture.
“Sure.  I’m sorry”.  Jake leaned forward towards the table again.
“No need to be sorry.”  I said leaning over and squeezing his hand.  Jake smiled at me and looked down at my hand and squeezed mine back.
The rest of our conversation after that veered away, whether by his choice, my choice or both of ours together, from hot topics.  Instead we talked about where we worked and whether we liked it or not.  I could tell Jake loved his job.  When he talked about what he did for a living, he sat up in his chair and his gestures became wider.  I saw a gleam come into his eyes that I hadn’t noticed before and his voice sounded eager and enthusiastic.  Jake said he loved to create and programming was like creating.  And he loved the fact that he got paid very well for doing something that he loved.  Maybe it wasn’t the same as being paid as artist for your art, but to him it was.  Jake also said he painted in his spare time and that painting was true creative love.
I told him I wished I could feel the same way about my job but it was just a job that I happened to be very good at but was very passionate about it.  Jake seemed impressed by my role in my company, especially when I told him I only spoke to Directors and up.   I guess my job did sound glamorous and important to someone on the outside, but to me it really wasn’t.  I hated the pressure of always having to ready for meetings and being all dressed up every day because I never knew from day to day whether I was going to meeting with a director or a vice president.  When he asked me about hobbies, I really didn’t know what to say.  I told him I liked doing needlepoint and that my friend Allie had introduced me to the craft when we were travelling in London together.  I worked on my needlepoint projects every night but I did it more to just have something to do at night other than reading.
Jake seemed surprised by my statement and asked, “Is there nothing that you’re passionate about or have been passionate about?”  I had to think about that one for awhile and didn’t answer right away.  Jake watched me and sipped his beer.
Finally I said, “No, and I think it’s because I’m not a passionate type of person.  I don’t really get caught in things, other people,  I never have.”
“Maybe you just haven’t found something or someone to be that passionate about..”  Jake theorized.  “Doesn’t it bother you?”
“No, it doesn’t.  I mean I don’t know what the feeling is like so I have nothing to complain about.”
            Jake dropped the subject and we proceeded to talk about living in the city, our friends and our families.  I felt really comfortable talking to Jake and telling him my opinions about everything.  He seemed comfortable as well, although if he wasn’t I don’t know I would know it since I didn’t know him very well.  I sensed no awkwardness or unease in his speech or body language so I assumed he was comfortable.
            One thing I did notice, which was unusual for me, is that I was not very aware of my surroundings.  I mean, I was on one level but it felt like to me that most of my attention was focused on Jake and what he was saying and how we were interacting with each other.  When one of the counter persons came over and said they were closing up, I looked down at my watch and I was surprised it was five minutes to midnight.  We had been talking non stop for three hours.  I had only ever had conversations of this length with another woman and certain never a boyfriend.
            I stood up and put on my jacket and said to Jake, “Wow, I didn’t know it was so late.  The time just flew by.”
            Jake was putting on his jacket as well and said “Yeah, we sure lost track of time.”  We left the coffee shop and went outside.  The fog had descended almost to the ground, as it usually did in my neighborhood at this time of night, and the air was misty and cold.  We both stood there for a minute and observed the fog swirling around us like a thick wet vapor.
            I turned around and held out my hand to him saying, “Well, it was meeting you Jake.  I had a great time talking to you.”
            Jake took the hand I was offering to him, shook it and then covered my hand with his other hand, so my hand was enveloped in both of his hands.  “I had a good time talking to you as well.  When can I see you again?”
            “Are you sure you want to do that?”  I said jokingly knowing what the answer would be before he even said it.
            “Sure as hell.  I like you Jennifer and I think we should spend more time getting to know each other.  How about dinner tomorrow at Farallon?”  Farallon was one of those expensive restaurants that always make the top twenty list for best restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I had eaten lunch there once and was really impressed with the food but it wasn’t cheap and lunch for two was around $60.  I’d always wanted to go there for dinner but all my friends said it should be for a special occasion since it was so expensive but there never seemed to a good occasion for us to go.
            “What time?”
            “How about 8 pm?  Are you going to be able to get a reservation?”  To eat a good restaurant in San Francisco, you have to make reservations and if you want to eat at a peak eating time, you have to make reservations at least two weeks in advance.
            “No, I’ll have to check.  If I don’t get one, I’ll find something comparable.  Don’t worry,”
            “Oh, I’m not worried but you know how hard it is to get good reservations.”
            “Yes, I know.”
            “Well, I’ll see you at 8 pm then.”
            “Don’t you me to pick you up?”  I forgot Jake didn’t know where I lived and although I knew I liked him a lot, I wasn’t sure if I wanted him to know where my apartment was.
            “No, that’s okay because I’ll be downtown anyway.  Look, when you find out where we’re going to eat tomorrow, I’ll just meet you there.  I mean, where ever you can get a reservation, I’ll be close to it and can meet you there.”
            “Still don’t trust me, do you?”
            “I barely know you, you know.  We’ve only just met.  A girl has got be careful these days living in a big city like San Francisco.”
            “Yeah, I know. I was joking sort of.”
            “What do you mean sort of?”
            “I guess I thought you’d already gotten a good feeling about me, but maybe I was wrong.  What does your gut instinct tell you?”  I wish Jake hadn’t brought that up.  It reminded of the creepiness I’d felt earlier about him, which was sort of still there only now quiet and probably laying in wait till I got home.  My gut instincts always seem to desert me whenever I drink more than I should and when I’m in a crowded place surrounded by too much sensory overload.
            In the course of the night, Jake had offered to buy me some beer and I said yes  As the night wore on, Jake kept buying me beers and by the time the counter person came over to use to let us know the place was closing, I had drunk four beers.  I hadn’t eaten much that night, and I was feeling a little tipsy, maybe even a little light headed and dizzy standing out there in the fog.
            “You like to think a lot don’t you?”  Jake asked,
            “What do you mean?”
            “I mean, I think you like to think a lot, turn issues over in your mind before you make a decision on how to react, what to say.  You obviously like to ponder things very deeply.”  His statements flattered me.  I had never thought myself as a very deep person and often felt that I didn’t thing about my life deeply enough.
            “I don’t think I think about things deeply enough.”  I said sheepishly since I’d been accused of this trait before.
            “Yeah, you’re definitely and thinker type.”
            “And you?  What are you?”
            “Oh I’m a thinker too.  I suppose it takes one to spot the habits and mannerisms of another.  But I’m a man of action to.  When I want something I go after it.”  Jake looked me straight in the eyes as he said and I felt a streak of something shoot up my spine.
            “And what do you want now?”
            “If I told you, you might never talk to me again.”
            “Depends on what it was you were thinking about?”
            “Honestly, xrated things involving you and me.”  I was surprised but at the same time, I guess I expected as much.  Jake had come across to me as a very intense person.  I mean, the guy was an artist type and those types were always overly emotional.
            “Were we having fun at least.  I mean was I enjoying myself and were you?”
            “Oh yeah, lots of fun, you didn’t want to stop.”
            “Did you?”
            “No, of course not.  I was encouraging you, urging you on.”  Jake laughed.
            “Well, that’s good then isn’t it?”
            “How so?”
            “It means we’re well matched, at least in your fantasies anyway.  And that’s a good sign, I think”
            “And you, any fantasies to report?
            “No, sorry.  I may be a bit more conservative than you in that department.”
            “We’ll see about that.  I think you’re just shy.”
            “You could right about that.  Listen I’ve got to go.  It’s late and I like to get to the office 7:30 am.”
            “Can I drive you home?”
            “No, I drove.” I said lying.
            “Can I at least drive you to your car then?
            “No, thanks for the offer.  This is a safe neighborhood.”
            “I  know, but like said earlier a girl’s got be careful”
            “Yes and I am careful all the time, or hadn’t you noticed that.”
            “No, I noticed how careful you are.  Sure I can’t change your mind.  It’s cold and foggy.”
            “No, I’m sure.”
            “Okay, I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know where we’re going.”
            “Great.  I’ll see you.”  I wanted to grab Jake and give him a hug but I didn’t.  Those nagging doubts about him were starting to pop up into my head like those annoying pop up internet ads.
            “Where are you parked?”
            “Oh, right across the street, I was lucky.”
            I watched Jake get into on of those expensive space age looking silver colour vehicles.  It had the kind of car shape, I knew men and car enthusiasts would be moaning over, very sleek and very italian.  I watched as Jake finally drove away.  When I was sure he was out of sight, I walked back to my apartment.  Would Jake be the type of guy who leaves a message right after he meets you to let you know what a good time he had?  My theory was that men who worked in corporate America or who were in sales developed this habit.  It wasn’t like they really liked you or anything, it was just polite and courteous to do that.  Kind of like sending a thank you note to someone for dinner.  Jake struck me as very polite and very courteous.  He helped me on with my jacket, he let me go out first through the door at the coffeeshop and of course, he offered to drive me home.  A part of me said the only reason he offered to drive me home was so he could finagle an invitation up to my apartment and then I guess try to get some first date sex or at least some serious hot and heavy kissing.  Oldest trick in the book, I thought laughing, offering to drive a woman home. Well, at least he’s typical.  There’s something to be said about being typical, I think.  I like guys who are typical, you know, guy guys.  Guys who watch sports.  Guys who are kind of sloppy.  Guys who hate to shop with you but come anyway,  then make you try on slutty tight clothes that you wouldn’t be caught dead in and they know you wouldn’t want to be caught dead in, but they make you try them on anyway because they want to fantasize about you wearing those outfits.  Guys who are like giant teddy bears, you know guy guys.  
            When I got home, I found a message from Jake telling me how fun it was to meet me and that he was looking forward to having dinner tomorrow night.  He ended the message saying to wish him luck on getting a dinner reservation at a decent restaurant.  Laughing, I wished him luck.  I hoped he’d get a reservation at Farralon because I’ve always wanted to have dinner there.
            At 2 pm the next day, Jake called me and said the only restaurant he could a reservation at in the area was Campton Place.  Campton Place was one of those classic San Francisco restaurants that always make the top 20 list.  The food was excellent, the décor conservative and it was very, very expensive; dinner with wine could set you back about $200 for two people.  I said fine and hung up.  I looked down at what I was wearing and was glad I had on a short black skirt, black stockings, a black cashmere v-neck sweater and my new and hip ultra comfy two inch heels.  I was even wearing the pearl necklace and earring set my parent gave me for my twenty first birthday.  I was perfectly dressed for the restaurant.  Did Jake know about Campton Place and how people there actually dress for dinner?  Not that it mattered because a guy can almost walk into any restaurant wearing whatever he wants and nobody says anything.  When you’re a women, you get so stared if you wearing something inappropriate.  But then if you’ve a got a gorgeous body and wearing something inappropriate, somehow you’re forgiven because at least you’re beautiful to look at.
            I met Jake at the restaurant at 8 pm and was glad he had a suit and tie on.  I didn’t think he dressed that way at work and must have gone home to change.  His suit was unstructured and in black wool; probably italian.  He had on a white shirt and medium gray tie with tiny burgundy horizontal stripes.  How good he looked and especially his tie choice surprised me.  Some woman must have suggested that outfit for him.  I glanced at the picture of us in a mirror together as we were entering the restaurant and marvelled at how our outfits matched perfectly.
            Our dinner conversation flowed freely and unlike last night, there were hot topics.  Of course, that could have been helped by the fact that we both had a vodka martini before dinner and no appetizers.  I wasn’t that hungry and neither was Jake, but I was feeling nervous and ordered a drink.  Jake smiled at me as I ordered and told the waiter he wanted the same. 
Maybe all that torture stuff and being wild was just an aberration or maybe Jake was trying to test me or something.  Whatever the case, he had decided not to do it tonight and I was grateful.  I knew though in the back of my mind that he would bring it up again and that I would have to answer him.  He let me avoid the second time but I knew he wouldn’t do that the next time.
            Torture.  It’s such an odd little word for me.  It’s a subject I’ve been obsessed about for a long time and something I keep secret.  I mean, none of my friends even know about it, not even Allie.  And it’s not that I don’t trust or anything like that. And it’s not like I think she would think I was some kind of nut or something because she’s told me some S&M and stories of her own.  But that’s where she and I differ.  To Allie and I think to most people, torture, S&M is something you do when you’re bored with regular sex.  It’s different and it’s exciting because it’s so forbotten in our christian culture to want to be hurt or give hurt.   But that’s not how I think about torture.
            I think it all started because my mother was such a catholic nut and made me go to church with her several times a week.  I mean, you can only look at the statue of Christ nailed on the cross with the blood trickling down his hands and his feet so many times, without wondering what that felt like.  And then if you’re an imaginative young girl like me, you get into the whole catholic thing of wanting to suffer with Christ and hearing stories about stigmata.  According to my American Heritage dictionary, and I should know because this definition has been reverberating in my brain since I was twelve years old, stigmata is the mark or sores corresponding to and resembling the crucifixion wounds of Jesus, sometimes occurring during religious ecstasy or hysteria. 
Maybe it was the part about religious ecstasy or even religious hysteria that I liked.  All I know is that at twelve years old, I prayed for stigmata to appear in my hands and feet.  I wanted to be like Christ and I especially wanted to suffer with him.  I wanted to be called to Christ like the Catholic nuns said they were in Sunday school.  I wanted Christ to call me to suffer with him and make stigmata appear in my hands.  My favorite time of the year was Easter because every Friday we went to Stations of the Cross Mass where you relive Christ’s journey to the cross.  Every catholic church has scenes of this journey, fourteen of them in all, so the parishioners can suffer weekly with Christ in the weeks leading up to Easter every Friday after Ash Wednesday.
            Perhaps it was just me going into puberty and being flush with raging hormones that made me want to suffer like that.  I once saw a documentary on TV that talked about ghost and demon possession happening to young girls who are going through puberty from the age of twelve on.  The documentary said it was something about the onset of puberty triggering hormones in a young girl and that the hormonal activity attracted ghosts and demons.  Now I don’t know about the ghosts and demons part, but when I turned age twelve it was like I understood everything for the first time.  And with that first understanding, everything became larger than life and dramatic for me.  I think this is the time when my my drama queen antics might have even started.  Whatever it is that caused me to want this, all I know is I wanted to suffer, I longed to suffer and I would have done anything to suffer, within reason of course.
            Looking back on it now, I think the Catholic Church does it to whip up hysteria so when Easter finally arrives you’re so glad that Jesus has resurrected because you’ve been racked by guilt every Friday during the Stations of the Cross mass.  Of course, the Stations of the Cross mass is only attended by the very devotional like my mother and their children who they drag along because unless you have family or older children, Friday night is the worse night to get a babysitter.  But even if my mother could get a babysitter, I think she’d still drag me along with her every Friday thinking it was part of my Catholic education.  And even when I turned twelve and was old enough to stay home by myself without a babysitter, mama dragged me along anyway saying she wanted me where she could keep her eyes on me.  I think she thought I was going to get into heaps of trouble while she was away at church for an hour every Friday.  I don’t think I would have but I never got a chance to find out. 
Perhaps it was her way of making up for the fact that she never wanted me to go Catholic school like all my other friends at church.  Mama always said that girls who went to Catholic school went in as innocent young girls and came out as chain smoking sluts who wore too much makeup.  Mama went to a catholic school so I guess she knew about that.  She said she was determined that I would never suffer the same fate, so I attended public school where I grew very cynical about the Catholic church and all of its teachings and doctrines.
             But when I was twelve, I was innocent and very catholic and I cried during every station, especially during station 11 when Jesus is nailed to the cross.  I could imagine the force of every hit of the hammer as the nail went into first his right hand, then his left.  The nail crushing through the skin, the tendons and into the bones and finally coming out the other side.  And then the same procedure repeated on the left hand and then finally the nailing of the feet so he didn’t just hang off the cross by his hands.
            Sometimes someone in the mass, almost always a woman, would wail and cry as if it was actually happening to her or as if she was actually there.  And when I looked around, I sometimes saw other women with tears silently flowing down their faces through their black veils.  My mother never cried.  Her face was always the same, stoic and I often wondered whether she felt anything like what I did.  I guess, she must have because we attended Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent until I left home for college.  Funny for a religious family, we never talked much about religion so I never really knew what she thought about the Stations.  Except for than one time I asked her about Stations when I was fifteen years old and had stopped wanting to go to church with her on Fridays for Stations and was old enough to really take care of myself; one of very few of episodes of my teenage rebellion.  My mother looked at me in the kitchen and said, “The purpose of the Stations of the Cross young lady, is to remind us of the effects of sin and salvation won for us through the suffering and resurrection of Jesus.  You are supposed go to mass so you can think about your sins during each stations and then renounce them and Jesus to be your lord and savior so he can forgive your sins.”
            “But mom, I’ve already accepted Jesus as my lord and savior when I got confirmed.  Why do I have to every Friday night?”
            “Because you are not sinless and neither am I?”  I kept arguing but I knew it was useless; I could never talk my mother out of sin argument.  My mother had a memory like a computer when it came to my wrongdoings and whenever I tried to get out of going to church, she would throw in my face every sin she thought I committed.  After about half an hour of listening to a litany of my sins, I just gave up.
            Of course, stigmata never appeared in my hands that Easter or any Easter after that.  But I never forgot how I longed for the feeling of pain and stigmata and to be called by Christ.  When I got older, I used to dream of being a nun like all good catholic girls, because that would mean that Christ had chosen me to “a bride of Christ”.  Maybe he wouldn’t give stigmata, but at least he would ask me to his bride and suffer and shave my head and wear those hot and ugly outfits the nuns wore.
            But like the stigmata, the call never came and instead boys and sex became my religion.  The only other time that torture came up in my youth was in my ninth grade english class when I had to read Nathaniel Hawthorn’s book “The Scarlett Letter.  The Reverend Arthur Dimsdale used whip himself for his sin of having an affair with Hester Pryne.  It was then that I found out that whipping was an acceptable form of self punishment for a catholic as well as a christian.  It’s funny how this fact never came up in Sunday school.  Maybe you had to go catholic school to learn that and that’s why my mother never wanted me to go to school there.
            When I researched it at the library, I found out that catholics and christians throughout the centuries used to whip themselves for their sins and do all sort of other sorts of self punishments to atone for their sins.  After the whipping or other self-punishment, the person felt absolved and some might say achieved some sort of religious ecstasy through the process.  After that I tried to whip myself once with my own belt, but I couldn’t quite hit my back and when I finally succeeded, it hurt too much.  Self-punishment was definitely not for me.  No, if I was going to be tortured I would have to someone whip me or make me feel physical pain in some way.  I could never do it myself like Reverend Dimsdale and those early christians.
            After freshman year in high school, I never really thought much about my feelings about torture.  I mean, sometimes it would come up when I was having sex with a boyfriend but it just a sexual game like being blindfolded or being tied to the bed with ropes or having anal sex as some of my friends would say. But it was never anything serious; it was always just for fun.  With Jake, I knew it would be different but I just didn’t know how.  And part of me, maybe that part of me that’s still eight and still loved stigmata and wanted to know what it was like, really liked Jake for that very reason.
            During dinner, Jake offered to drive me home and I let him.  I knew during  dinner, when I was half thinking about stigmata and torture that I had made the decision to keep dating Jake to see where it would lead.  If Jake seemed surprised by my sudden acquiescence, he didn’t say so.  He just smiled and said okay.
            The dinner at Campton Place was great and every dish was prepared exquisitely.  I let Jake order the wine since he said he was into wine.  Since we both ordered chicken dishes, he ordered a bottle of Chardonnay which was so good we drank half the bottle before dinner was over.  Jake asked me if we should get another bottle and I asked him what he thought.  He said that he didn’t really care and would only order a bottle if I would help him drink it.  The Chardonnay was really good and I loved its smoked oaky flavor and those hints of chocolate, so I said sure.
            For desert, Jake ordered a couple glasses of port to go with the black forest chocolate cake which was very dark and very rich.  When I got up to go the bathroom, I felt a little lightheaded and knew I had drank too much at dinner.  I wondered how much this meal and all the wine we drank was going to cost, but Jake didn’t seem to care.  I just hate when a man spends that much money on dinner because it always makes me feel obligated in some way to him.  And I also knew I was in a tipsy enough mood to give into any obligation Jake might want and that worried me.  Damn my taste for good food and wine.  It always led me to trouble on dates and I had a feeling I wouldn’t be going to work tomorrow. 
Good thing, I told my boss that I might be taking the day off tomorrow.  I had finished all my work for the week and didn’t have anything really planned except for some financial schedule that didn’t need to be done till Tuesday.  The schedule was just a summary of the monthly sales report that I did, so it would only take an hour to put together. Harry said fine, if he saw me fine, if he didn’t he know I was taking the day off.  He knew that my schedule was light too.  I didn’t tell Jake about having tomorrow off because I didn’t want to give him any ideas and I was afraid of what he might read into my actions.  I just knew that I would probably have three drinks at dinner, which is a lot for me and that I would feel tired from all the booze and fat from all the eating and I didn’t to be at work feeling that way.  And now I was glad because I had had at least five drinks maybe more and I was feeling very lightheaded and in a ridiculously good mood.  The good mood always seemed to come when I drank too much, much like the headache and hangover that I would have tomorrow.  Again, we have another example of fun and punishment again going hand in hand together.
When I came back to the table, Jake asked me if I was ready to go and I said yes.  He said he was feeling a little tipsy and wanted to leave.  I laughed and told him I was feeling the same.  Jake laughed and said to not worry about him being too drunk to drive me home.  He would be fine once he was out in the cold air.  I just smiled.  I didn’t relish the though of taking a cab home and I was really interested in seeing Jake’s expensive silver car close up.
Jake had valet parked and sure enough the valet pulled up in Jake’s silver car.  Jake opened my door for me to get in and I heard the valet say, “nice car” to Jake as he handed him the keys.  The car looked as expensive in the inside as it did on the outside.  The seats smelled of fine glove leather and when I put my hand out to feel it, the leather was soft like it could have been used for a skirt.  The car had deep seats and it was pulled way back and I could stretch my feet all the way out.  I felt like I was lying down instead of sitting and it made feel very comfortable and lazy.
I was yawning when Jake got into his seat and closed the door.  I had forgotten to put on my safety belt and before I knew it, Jake had leaned over and was grabbing my seat belt.  His arm was very close my face and I could smell his aftershave drifting into my nose.  He smelled of pine and some kind of musk.  His hand was so close to my face, I could feel the hair on his hand gently trailing across my cheek.  The contact and the smell was exciting and I held my breath waiting for his next move.  Jake buckled me in and said “Did you forget about your seatbelts or are you that tired?”  I looked over at him and he was half turned in his seat.  He had taken his tie and jacket off and unbuttoned his shirt.  I could see some of his chest hair coming through the opening of his shirt. 
Jake looked down and noticed that I put my bag, my briefcase and my coat on the floor in front of me.  “Here let me put you stuff in the back so you can be more comfortable.” Jake said as he grabbed my belonging and put them in the backseat of the car.  As he leaned down, he accidentally or maybe even purposefully, let his hand run across the top of my thigh to get my things.  I felt a thrill shoot through and looked down at my thigh.  My short black shirt that usually came across mid thigh when I was sitting down was now practically all the way up my thigh.  I casually lifted myself and pulled it down while Jake was putting my stuff away.  That shirt was just a little too revealing.
Jake sat back in his seat and looked down at my skirt’s new length.  I watched him as he smiled. “There. That’ more comfortable isn’t it?”
“Yes, thanks.”  I smiled back.  “Are you still lightheaded?  Can you drive?”
“Oh yeah, I can drive.  And you?”
“I’m fine.  I think I just got a little lightheaded when I stood up but as soon as we got outside into the cold foggy air, it went away.”
“Yeah, me too.  You know it’s not that late.  It’s only 10 pm.”
“What do you have in mind?”  I was still a little tipsy and I was hoping he wasn’t going to suggest going to another bar.  If he was, I was going to tell him to take me home.  No more drinking for me.
“You live in the Richmond, so I was thinking we could drive out to the beach and sit in the car and talk some more.  Are you game?”
“Sure.  Why not?  This is a nice car Jake”
“Thanks.  I like nice cars”
            “Yeah I could tell that.  What kind of car is it? I couldn’t tell from the outside.”
            “It’s a Ferarri.”
            “Oh.   I thought it was Italian something.” I laughed when I said this.  All of sudden I felt Jake lean over and he planted a quick kiss on my lips in the middle of my giggle and then leaned back.
            “What was that about?”
            “I wanted to capture your laugh.”
            “So you kiss me to capture my laugh?  I didn’t know you could do that.”
            “It’s an ancient italian myth that if you capture someone’s laugh with a kiss, you have their heart forever.”
            “Is that what you want?  My heart forver?”
            “Right now, yes.”
            “And after right now?”
            “I don’t know that depends on you.” Jake put a hand out and squeezed my thigh.  Such a guy thing, putting the hand out and squeezing the woman’s thigh.  It’s like it’s the universal male signal of I’m interesting in having sex with you.  Men do it everywhere and at any age.
            “I think we should drive to beach before the valet gets mad at us.”  Jake looked around and saw a line of cars in back of us.  He laughed and said, “To the beach and I’ll wait for the answer to my question there.”
Jake started up the car and slowly maneuvered us out of the Union Square area and then drove swiftly to the Ocean Beach parking lot. The Ocean Beach parking lot was usual full of cars at this time of night.    Jake pulled into a spot where we weren’t flanked on either side by cars.  He didn’t say anything but just there staring at the ocean waves.
I’d driven by the parking lot before at night and wondered what people did in their cars as they watched the waves break.  I’d always imagined teenagers making out or gang members doing drug deals or people getting stoned.  But now here we were parked at the beach like a couple of teenagers on their first date.  Well, it was our first date but we weren’t teenagers who’d never had sex before and were too young to go to bars.
            I must have giggled out loud because all of a sudden I heard Jake say, “What’s so funny?”
            “Just being here at the beach with you.  I feel like a teenager.”
            “Don’t you come out here just to contemplate the ocean?”
            “Sure during the day when I’m riding my bike down here but never at night.”
            “Why not?”
            “I don’t know.  I guess I always associate sitting at the beach in a car with making out with a guy.”
            “Is that what you did at the beach at night when you were a teenager?”
            “Sure, didn’t everybody?”
            No, not if you didn’t grow up near an ocean.”
            “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right.  Where did you say you grew up again?”
            “Downtown Chicago.  When I first moved to California, all I wanted to see was the beach.  I wanted to live by the beach, be within walking distance of the beach, smell it when I woke up in the morning.  I love the vastness of the beach and its size.”
            “You should have moved to LA or Santa Monica then, not San Francisco.  At lest there, it’s warmer and you could enjoy it most of the time”
            “Probably but the beach here is good enough for me..  Besides, my condo is right back there.”
            “You live in those condos by the Safeway?”
            “Yeah, we are in my front yard, so to speak.”  I wasn’t sure if I was glad to get this piece of information or not.  At least, he didn’t ask me if I wanted to go with him.  But then again, how convenient was it that we were in walking distance of his home.  I decided not to reply and just stared out at the ocean like he was doing.
            It was clear out at the beach with no fog and I could see the waves lapping gently across the shore.  It was a cold night but on the far left, I could see a bonfire with a bunch of people sitting around it, all bundled up with hat or hoods on their heads.  No matter what time of the year it was, you always see fire at the beach.  It could be freezing cold out and you’d still see a bunch of people sitting around a bonfire.
            It was quiet and I could hear the both of us breathing.  As if Jake read my thoughts, he turned on his CD player and I could hear the sounds of jazz filling the car.  I recognized a song from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.  I liked that album and had even made love to it once with a boyfriend who was jazz aficionado.  Was Jake into jazz?  Somehow we never got onto to subject of music, although it felt like we covered everything else.
            “Do you like jazz?” I asked.
            “Yeah, I like listening to it at night.  It’s very soothing and calming to me.  Do you like jazz?”
            “Yeah, sometimes.  I have this CD at home in my collection.”
            “It’s a jazz standard for our generation.  I think everybody has this cd in their collection.”
            “Probably so.”
            We sat like that for a long time, just listening to Miles Davis and staring out at the ocean and the stars over the beach.  Jake’s car was very comfortable to sit in and it stayed warm.   I leaned back in my seat and took my shoes off, glad to have them off my feet.  I was so warm and comfortable, I was afraid I was going to fall asleep.  I didn’t want to relax that much.  I looked over at Jake and he had also leaned back and looked very at home sitting there.  He had moved his seat back too so he was able to stretch out his feet, although not much as I was since he had longer legs.
            “Don’t fall asleep on me.”  Jake said”
            “I’m trying not to, but I’m so warm and comfortable.”
            “If you get too cold, I’ve got a blanket in the backseat.”  Wow, Jake kept a blanket in the back seat.  Guess he’s done this before.”
            “Okay.”  Jake looked at and smiled and leaned over and grabbed my hand and squeezed it.  I thought he would let go but he just kept holding my hand.  It was a nice and comforting feeling to have him holding my hand like that in the dark.  I squeezed his hand back but Jake didn’t turn around.  He just kept staring out at the ocean.
            I wondered whether we were going to talk at all but decided I didn’t care.  It was lovely just to sit here like an old married couple or just a couple of friends, well friends who hold hands, and look out the ocean and listen to jazz.  I was starting to feel very comfortable with Jake and if this was any indication of what going out with him would be like, then he already had me hooked and we hadn’t even had sex yet.  This was a first, at least for me.  I’d never been so sure of wanting to out with someone before.  Usually, I make my decision until after I have sex with them, but with Jake, I was sure that if we had sex it was going to be fun and comfortable and maybe that’s what I needed right now in my life; a fun, simple, relaxing and uncomplicated relationship.
            I could feel Jake staring at me and I turned around.
            “You know, you never answered my question yesterday about your wild side.”
I knew he was going to ask me that question again, I just wasn’t expecting it so soon.
            “No, I didn’t did I?”  I answered looking back out at the ocean.  “I was hoping to answer that question when we got to know each other a little better.”
            “The answer to that question will tell me whether I want to get you know better.”
            “And if I answer wrong?  Assuming there’s a right or wrong answer.  What happens then?”
            “Well, if you’re not what I thought you’d be like, I take you home and we say goodbye.”
            “And if I am what you say imagine me to be?”
            “Then we continue, keep going.”  Jake said slowly.
            “To what end?”
            “To where ever the road takes us.”
            “Sounds like a pointless journey to me, a road with no end in sight.” I turned around and challenged him with my eyes.
            Jake laughed.  “Some people might call that a good thing,  A few people might even say that it’s called a marriage.”
            “And you, what do you say?”
            “I say, one step at a time.”  There was a moon out that night and the moonlight illuminated Jake’s teeth as he smiled.  I turned around again to stare out at the ocean.  I didn’t know what to do.  Part of me wanted to tell him and the other part was screaming no, danger, danger.  Briefly, I wondered whether there were any physical signs to indicate the stress that his question had aroused in me.  I pictured myself sitting there calmly in the dark and holding Jake’s hand.  There were no signs of distressed breathing, involuntary body movements or twitches or give away signs of inappropriate perspiration.  The hand holding Jake’s hand was relaxed and not gripping it mercilessly.
How long would Jake let this silence sit between us, which was slowly starting to fill with tension and excitement, continue on?  I saw an image of myself as a moth being inexorably drawn to a light, to a flame, then as Icarus flying upwards towards the sun.  Rationally, I knew that moths eventually burn themselves to death in a flame and that Icarus got burnt up by the sun god Apollo for his audacity to fly so close to him.  Were Icarus and the moth rational?  Did they think about their death as they flew towards their light and into their demise?  Or did they fly knowing they would die?  Or better yet, did the gloriousness of flight and freedom blind them to everything but the need to fly towards the light?  Or did they fly unwittingly, propelled by forces unbeknownst to them, victims of themselves and their circumstances.
“You really don’t want to answer that question right now do you?”  Jake finally asked.
“No.”  I answered him and then leaned over and started kissing him.