“Do you want to come back to my hotel? Just to hang out? Talk?" He laughs at his question. "I’m trying not to sound lecherous but 'do you want to come back to my hotel' is a tough sentence to say to a girl you’ve just met at a bar.”
“Yes, I would actually. I’ll give you a ride.” I volunteer boldly.
“You’ve gotta listen to this one" I giggle excitedly.
Serge and I end up in the parking lot of his hotel as I play DJ on my truck’s CD player.
“This one is my favorite” I say as I slide in Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. “Do you know Wilco?” I ask.
He chuckles. “Yeah I’m familiar. The lead singer used to be in a band called Uncle Tupelo that I liked a lot when I was younger. Their guitarist is also a good friend of ours. He plays with his sister in a band called Blue Mountain”
I get the impression he knows a lot about music that has never even entered my radar so I stop trying to impress him with what is becoming my painfully obvious lack of knowledge.
Once I've tossed aside my pretenses we talk about everything. In the cocoon of my truck, as Jeff Tweedy's haunting vocals infuse the air with passion, we share the intimate details of our lives and loves.
Books: "you've got to read Dickens". Music: "Badly Drawn Boy, you need to listen". Religion: "Mormon eh? What's the deal with polygamy". Traveling: "You want to come to Paris with me?"
Being raised by single mothers and our past relationships also figure prominently in our conversation. I tell him about Andy and he reveals he has a girlfriend who lives in London.
“We’re on a break though. Trying to figure out where we want to take things after four years of long distance.”
“How come one of you doesn’t move to be with the other?”
“That’s a thought. It’s just been really complicated, so we finally decided to take some time off, let the pieces of our relationship fall where they may.”
A girlfriend in London. Sounds so glamorous. I’ve never been further east than Colorado. I tell him all about how I think I’m ready to be done with Andy.
“It’s more habit than love.” I say.
“Yeah, I know exactly how that goes.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure” he replies.
“Do you do this kind of thing a lot? Hook up with girls on the road, I mean.”
He takes my face in his hands, looks at me intently for a long time before answering.
“Really? Because if you just want to fuck me I’d rather you not pretend like you’re feeling these things when you’re not.”
“Wow.” He whistles. “Who fucked you up so bad?”
“What do you mean?”
“Somebody must have hurt you for you to feel this way.”
I sigh. “I’m just tired of the bullshit. I’m tired of the games people play. If I like someone, I like them and I’m not afraid to tell them. I don’t want to play hard-to-get and I don’t want to try and play it cool to lure some guy in. I don’t want to make it complicated. And I like you. I don’t know what that means, I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again. It seems so unlikely. So I want this night to be authentic. I want our emotions to be authentic. Then we can always look back and know it was a valid experience without ulterior motives.”
“I agree. And I’m impressed with your forthrightness.”
“So if your little goal here is to fuck me, that’s okay. Just be honest about it. I’m fine with that.”
“It’s not. I mean, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but I’ll be happy if we just talk.”
“Yep. You are a sassy one, aren’t you?”
“You’re good.” I drag him toward me by the front of his shirt and kiss him hard.
Before I know it we’re in the back of my truck doing things I’ve never done with boys I dated for years.
“Holy shit.” I say when we’re finished.
“Holy shit is right.” He is staring at me, his inescapable eyes drilling holes of escape into a soul that's long been locked up.
“Let’s get back in the front.” I am so alive life vapors are seeping out of my skin. I am afraid. I climb forward and fiddle with my CD collection, embarrassed to meet his gaze.
When the music begins playing I risk a look at my passenger. He’s still staring at me with those boundless eyes.
“What are you doing to me?”
“What do you mean?” I ask coyly.
“You know what I mean.” He grabs me and three minutes later we’re climbing into the backseat again.
“Fucking hell!” I shout when we’re finished. “I know this is such a cliché thing to say but I am SO not like this! Really! I swear to god. Tonight is the craziest—“
“I know.” He looks so shell-shocked it's obvious he is feeling what I’m feeling. I am blown away by our conversation, the sex and the wild emotions he is setting free inside of me.
Hours later the sun is rising. My surprised intake of breath is audible as I spot it peeking over the shadowy, purple mountain range that rims the east side of the Salt Lake Valley.
“We’ve been talking for six hours.” Serge says quietly.
“I feel like I know you better than people I’ve known for years.” I say.
“Yeah…” He’s toying with a stack of my business cards he discovered while rifling through my console. “I’m going to give you my email address. That’s the best way to get me while I’m on the road. Will you email me?”
“Of course. Here, write down my email and my phone number too.” We exchange addresses, then silence descends.
“I guess this is goodbye." I sigh. "Where are you guys headed now?”
“Portland.” He mutters cheerlessly while running a hand through his beautifully scruffy hair.
“That should be fun.” With the specter of goodbye looming over us we have suddenly turned shy. Neither of us knows what the future holds. He’s tangled up in a long distance relationship. The last thing he needs is more long distance drama. I’m---well, what am I? I haven’t given a thought to Andy in hours. Suddenly, after years of pining for him, my obsession with my ex-boyfriend seems silly and pointless.
“Well, whatever happens in the future, I’m glad I met you.” I say. “I’m happy to know somebody like you exists.”
“I feel exactly the same way.” He lifts his head again and studies me with those phantom eyes of his.
We say our goodbyes and after watching him disappear behind the smoked glass of the hotel I pull out of the parking lot. Immediately across the street is a convenience store. Early morning commuters are gassing up on their way to work.
I remember Serge describing his love for a certain brand of chocolate covered pretzels. Before I know what I’m doing, I’ve pulled up to the convenience store. I purchase two bags of the pretzels and drive back to Serge’s tour van. I pull out a business card and dash off a little note: “I hope they don’t melt before you get to eat ‘em!" and shove them under the window wiper.
I drive home in a daze. Just let it go, I tell myself. It was something that happened to pull you out of your funk. Nothing more. This is not something to pursue.
When I get home I turn on my computer and log onto the band’s website. There he is. All the time right here on the internet looking out at me and I never knew he existed. I tap in my Yahoo account password and debate emailing him. I know myself. If I don’t email him right now, when my emotions are fresh, they will become vague and I will talk myself out of it.
Our conversation seems to have had this freeing affect on my personality. In one night he validated every feeling or emotion I’ve ever had. So, after debating what to write I decide to send whatever comes out, no deleting. It helps me craft an email without pretense.
This is what I send:
Well hello there. I figured I may as well email you before time distorts my memory of you (and us having ghetto - but oh so good - sex in the back of my truck). It's the next morning. You are probably still here in Salt Lake City... and I am, strangely enough, still thinking about you. I logged onto your website to check you out and make sure I didn't dream the whole thing. I am listening to Feather Boa, which I understand you wrote - and is a song of some import for Marah. Life is strange, and we may never see each other again, or you may hook up with women all along the way - shit, if I was a "sexy band guy" I'd take all the action I could get, so nobody's blaming you...But I digress... we may never see each other again - but I wanted you to know you did something to me. What you have done, I don't quite know yet. The fact that I'm listening to your music and emailing you is evidence of something. Anyway... these things are noteworthy: your voice, your eyes (eye sex is important) your passion, your intelligence, and the unbelievable balls it takes to tell conventional life to fuck off and just tour the world and play music. You are brave. I am better for meeting you.
Two days later I get a text: “Am in Portland and just having a few of my pretzels.”
I agonize over the text for hours.
“It means he’s thinking about me, right?” I ask my best girlfriend Natalie hopefully.
“Definitely!” She agrees.
“He wanted me to know he got the pretzels.”
“Seems to be.”
“I don’t think he’s checked his email yet.”
“He would have emailed you back.” Natalie adds helpfully.
“I think so. Shit, I hope so. We talked about hating the games people play. He doesn’t seem like the type to play games. It’s just that I don’t know what the deal is with his girlfriend. Whether they’re breaking up or working it out. Maybe he regrets our night.”
“I don’t think he would have sent you that text. But they might work things out. Four years is a long time to date someone.”
“Yeah, I know.”
When the emptiness in my email inbox gets the better of me, I draft the following email and hit send before I can talk myself out of it.
To be continued...