Every Heard

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Chapter 10: Touching & Talking

My decision to not have anymore boyfriends was one that surprised me.  It arose from a conversation with a man I was dating, Ben.  Benny owned a bar... and he was an alcoholic.  He seduced me with twenty-six days of sobriety.  My standards were low, as I was still recovering from a year long infatuation with Mr. Mister.

"What do you mean 'no more boyfriends'... You mean you're just going to get married?" he attempted to clarify.

I did the math, "I guess so."  There did not seem to be another way around it.  "I have had boyfriends.  I treated them like husbands, like I was giving my entire life to them... and they did not reciprocate.  After a few years, I realized they never would, and I left."

I caught the perplexed look on his face and waited, giving him a chance to speak.

"What does reciprocate mean?"

Ben was not the brightest boy, but I told myself to remain open minded.

The first time we met was at the Lickety Split open mic, several months before he would pursue me romantically.  I was talking to a friend of his who played the keys.  This friend seemed to think he would do Ben a favor by introducing us.

At that moment, I was still trying to find my confidence.  As he made conversation, I reminded myself, "Just be yourself.  Don't think.  Don't edit."  I can not recall all of the content, but I know I was charming.  I know my heritage came up, and as usual I was told I was pretty- Something I truly did not believe yet.

"I grew up looking at Korean women, thinking that's what I should look like; skinny, petite, tan.  But instead I got these big boobs and childbearing hips!"

Ben was pretty chubby during that first meeting.  He reminded me of Jackie Gleason.  I told him so- He did not take it as a compliment.

After I played, and he complimented me, his friends bought a round of shots.  As we raised our glasses he said, "Goodbye."

"Goodbye?  Are you leaving?"  I asked.

He grinned, "No, I'm not going anywhere yet... But I won't be here anymore." Then he downed his shot.

We chatted a little more over the remainder of the night.  When it was last call, I began to gather my belongings.

"What are you doing now?" He inquired.

"I'll probably go home and play some more music."

"Wanna have another drink?"

"It's two, all the bars are closing."

"We can go to my bar, drink more.  You can play there."

For a split second I considered how fun it would be to have a bar to myself... But with this drunk stranger, who no doubt would say he was platonic but likely end up trying to touch me.

"Rain-check," I smiled, said goodnight and drove home.

Upon entering my apartment, I caught a glimpse of myself in the three mirrors I had hung, staggered across the wall.  "Oh no," I heard myself say, "What did you do?  Look at you!  You are pretty, and you said all sorts of alluring things to that man!"

Months later this sentiment turned into a song:

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She Ain't Me

 

She likes to ride in fast cars and hang out late in bars

She drinks a lot of beer and never sheds a tear

She wears a fancy dress and never makes a mess

But she doesn't fight fair- so buyer beware

 

No, she ain't me- This here girl you see

No matter what you do, she can't be with you

 

She looks like me.  She's my evil twin.

Knows all my secrets, shares in every sin

If you don't believe me wait around and see

She's my very best friend and my worst enemy

 

She likes to entertain, and she may seem vain

She'd like to be a star but can't play a guitar

and though we look the same, and we share a name

I'm nothing like her- who you'd prefer

 

No, she ain't me- This here girl you see

No matter what you do, she can't be with you

 

No I'm a different girl from the one you see

I ain't her, and she ain't me

If you find a way to get her into your bed

You'll wind up waking next to me instead

 

So don't waste your time, buying her whiskey or wine

You'll ask for her number, but she'll give you mine

No, she ain't me- This here girl you see

No matter what you do, do, do... she can't be with you!

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Months later Ben lured me to his bar, then back to his apartment to smoke weed and watch cartoons.  He was a good listener.  I made it clear that I was on a dating hiatus, that my heart was broken, that I was not interested.  Nevertheless, I had already begun to make promises to myself... About trying to do things differently this time.  I would consider everyone around me a potential mate- until someone claimed me, really committed his life to me as I would mine to him.  I would not be superficial.  I would not be judgmental or pretentious.  I would put aside my presumptions about what I thought I wanted and just spend time with people.

I found myself being reluctantly courted by Ben.  He would draw pictures of me as I played guitar.  He would feed me delicious local cuisine from his south Philly neighborhood, get me drunk, smoke a joint with me, then pet me while I sedately watched cartoons.  He called this prelude to dating, "touching and talking".

Little did I know he was eagerly counting down the hours until my 100 day man-fast would end.

This was when I wrote my first joke:

So, it's hard being a female at an open mic.  I'm always outnumbered 10 to 1 by the boys.  We hang out at these bars, drink and play... and by the end of the night, we're feeling good- A guy will ask me to go back to his place to "jam".  No funny business, just chill and play some tunes, he says.  So... we go back to his place, he offers me a beer.  Sure, I'll have one more beer tonight.  He turns on the TV- Oh, yeah, I like this show too.  Cool.  After an episode, I think it's getting late- I should start heading home.  He says, no stay a little while longer.  Let's smoke a joint... Alright, I'll smoke a little... The couch starts to get really comfortable... If the guy is smart, he has some snacks to share... This is alright ...Then the next thing I know, he's trying to shove his tongue down my throat, and I'm like- Whoa!  Wait, wait, wait!  What the hell?  You mean I can't follow you home, sit on your coach, watch your TV, drink you beer, smoke your weed, and eat your food- without you trying to put the moves on me?!          ...Then he tells me I talk too much.

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Ben and I had a few nice dates.  One time we took his nephew to the movies.  I watched Ben pretend we were a family.  He seemed happy...  But after a few weeks, he started drinking again, and I watched him fall apart.  I listened to him belittle and berate himself.  I saw him cry on several occasions.  Until eventually he ended our courtship.  I felt like when he looked at me now he saw a reflection of everything he disliked about himself...

"We have to stop this..." He said, "I can't break up with you- because I'm not with you, but we can't see each other anymore."

"Okay... You don't wanna just hang out?"

"Nope.  Can't."

"Okay."

...The next few times I talked to him, he would drone on about his old crush- How he was still obsessed with her.  He would project that I must be equally obsessed with Mr. Mister.  Rather than becoming jealous, he became friends with Mr. Mister.  It was a strange dynamic.

By then I had become good friends with his roommate, Ashley.  So we still ran into one another... But I told him, "If you already know the answer, I won't argue."

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Later into the future I would recount this story to the Gypsy.

"So you just walked away?"

"Yeah.  That's what he wanted.  Why would I argue?"

"Don't you think he wanted you to?  ...if you really cared?"

I thought about it, still do from time to time, and I always come to the same conclusion, "I guess I didn't, or I would have."

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At least once Ben confused me by asking me to hang out again.  One time in particular he was very wasted and tossed a book at me... Some self-help dating book.  He said this was how he seduced me.  He said he wanted to know if he could get a girl like me... It never occurred to me that I was any sort of prize to be won, but once he got me, he was finished with me- and just as well.  His kiss gave me no sparks either.

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I was surprised to receive an invitation to Mr. Mister's birthday party at Ben's bar.  I decided to go- to show no ill will towards either of them... That was where Spectacle found me again.  "Hey, where did you go?"

"Oh, hi.  Me?  I'm around."

"I haven't seen you... You disappeared."

I did not want to explain to him that after several weeks of fooling around, he had made me feel like a fool in public.  He could not communicate with me well enough to say whether he wanted to spend time with me or not.  We did not get to know one another, could not read each other... Neither of us made contact between the times we bumped into one another, despite having each other's contact info.  So, I stopped being around him.

I did not explain it to him.  Instead I watched another woman flirting with him, while he seemed to be flirting with me... Then I went home alone.

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Occasionally I would catch up with Ben.  He would ramble on about the same self-deprecating woes that he had many years before I ever met him.  "Ben, you're a good guy.  You have lots of friends who care about you.  Why do you do this to yourself?  Are you a masochist?"

"What's a masochist?"

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