Third Date

No, not like THAT.

That rule is a garbage made up ruIe.

“I gotta go say hi to that guy,” he says, about someone across the store, and then, he comes back and makes chit chat with the cashier.

“You know people everywhere,” I say, and he tells me that his daughter hates going out with him because there’s always someone he has to talk to. It makes sense that he’s a bartender, he is so very social, so absurdly charming. When I ask, he says yes, women do hit on him all the time, and men too.

“They think I’m flirting,” he says, “but I just really like talking with people. I’m happy to meet them.”

We get a drink before dinner and he pulls my stool close to his and puts his hand on the back of my neck, runs his fingers down my spine. He tells me about his family and how he was the little brother in the kitchen with the girls, with his mom. He flatters me nonstop and sometimes he kisses me on the mouth, hard.

“Interracial couples get stared at a lot,” he warns me, and later, in the place where we have dinner, a woman stops by our table and says we are gorgeous. When I ask him about this later he shrugs and says it happens all the time. “We did look great, though,” he says.

He asks me to spend the night with him. Right there, over the second plate of sushi, he just asks, the same way he’d ask if I want another drink. I smile and shake my head. “Not tonight,” I say.

“Okay,” he says, and doesn’t make a big deal out of it.

I drive him home and go with him to his apartment. It is a tiny one bedroom; the furniture is too big for the space. I think, “Oh, this is a straight man’s apartment, a divorced dad’s apartment.” When I look in the mirror in the bathroom, I see that my mouth is purple and red, a bruise. “I’m so sorry,” he says and I think he means it but he does not ease up. I do not ask him to.

45 minutes, an hour later, I peel myself away and I am home by 11:30. I get a text thanking me for the night out and asking when he can see me again.

The next morning when I look in the mirror, I see the bruise has spread, my mouth is a purple smear. It does not hurt.

He wants to get together New Year’s Eve, but I decline. I am flying out on the 2nd and I imagine myself arriving at my destination with no socks because my head has been clouded, because I have not slept. I am probably much too honest and I tell him this, I say, “No, I’m afraid that if you come over, you’ll get in my head and I will end up going on my trip with no socks or something. We can get together when I get back.”

It is not easy to say no, but it feels like the right thing.

“I’ll wait,” he says, with such confidence that I kind of want to change my mind.