The day after Hot Redheaded Neighbor (HRN) had been in my apartment (and I in his), I felt almost etheral. The first thing I thought when I woke up was, Did that really happen last night? I got out of bed, slipped on my robe, put Noli's leash on her, and walked down the hallway toward the elevator. As I passed HRN's door I thought, I know what it looks like inside there.
But not only that. I knew what his skin felt like. I knew he wanted to touch mine. I knew he had envisioned himself as being my boyfriend (even if it was joking).
And -- OMG -- he knew I had a crush on him.
At that moment I was utterly embarrassed. I scurried into the elevator, and the doors couldn't close fast enough. I would have to be extra careful not to run into him, from here unto eternity.
The following morning I slipped up, but it wasn't my fault. I had forgotten to be on the lookout for the other witness -- Sam. I was coming back into my building with Noli, and Sam happened to be coming out. We made eye contact, he held the door for me, I said, "Hi!" as cheerfully as possible, and he nodded and walked out.
In the safety of the elevator I realized I wasn't embarrassed having seen him. I was ticked off.
The rest of the day I fumed about the whole thing. Why should I be embarrassed? He's a total jerk for putting me on the spot like that. And HRN should have asked me out by now! What a coward! Uhhh!
But it was Friday, so I couldn't stay mad for long. No sense in spending my weekend stressed out, although the bitter aftertaste lingered. Which is why I decided to let the whole thing go Saturday morning.
I was out with Noli (again...yes I know the visual of me taking Noli out seems overdone in this blog, but listen, I have some of my best encounters when she's around) and when I came back into my building I ran into Sam. Before my heart could skip a beat or my mind could go blank, I pointed at him and said, "I need to talk to you."
He stopped in his tracks when he saw me, but then he saw the expression on my face and backed up to the wall. I should have been thinking, What am I going to say now??? but somehow I was cooler than I've ever been.
"What was that the other night?" I asked, cocking my head. And perhaps Noli cocked hers too. He was caught.
"Umm, you mean the other night when we were talking?" he stuttered.
"Uhh, yah." I crossed my arms and pushed my hip to the right, waiting for his response.
"You know, I just read people really well, that's all."
"But you singled me out. There were two other people there." I cocked my head to the other side.
"Well, you know, I could just tell you're a good person!" he said, smiling, apparently proud of his response that he believed was the equivalent of a "get out of jail free" card.
"Huh? That doesn't make any sense."
He looked down and shrugged. "I don't know, I'm sorry. But aren't you glad it's all out in the open now? You should live your life, not keep things bottled up inside."
Oh HEEEEEEEEEEEECK no. "First of all, I am living my life. Secondly, I had a good thing goin' upstairs. I had a cute neighbor who flirted with me, and it gave me something fun to look forward to. Now that things are out in the open it's super awkward. So please explain to me why you ruined things for me."
Sam sighed. "Look, he's my boy, and he acts normal around me, but he puts on a mask around everyone else. He wants someone who will like him for him, but he's too insecure to just show people who he is. He doesn't want to get hurt, so it's hard for him to put himself out there."
"What, and that makes him special? No one wants to get hurt!" Sam's answers were becoming more and more asinine. I was getting annoyed.
"You know, that night after you left, I told him that you were the whole package -- you're gorgeous, you've obviously got a good job, you're a good dresser, you're nice, you take care of yourself, and you're confident. A woman like you is not easy to come by."
Oh help. He was flattering me to get me off his back. "And?" I asked, ready for the point of his speech.
"And...I told him that if I were a good looking, redheaded, white guy, I'd be up at your door trying to talk to you."
Huh. So that's why he came to my door.
I threw my hands up to stop him. He wasn't giving me any helpful information, and I was tiring of our conversation. "Okay, well, thanks for your explanation. See you later."
I didn't see either of them the rest of the weekend, and by Monday the memory of the horrid incident was beginning to fade. Besides, I had much more important things on my mind. Margaret (my roomie) was finally coming back from her 3-month TDY, and I was hosting a weekly dinner with some Christian friends. Only five people had RSVPd, so I was making my famous cracked mustard chicken with all the Southern fixins. Yum!
While I was cooking I received a call from an unknown number. "Hi, Mary El? This is Steve from the church. I'm calling for a college student wants to go to a Bible study tonight. Can he join you for dinner?"
I cringed -- I'd made a little extra food, but not too much. I wanted everyone to be well fed, and another boy meant we'd be cutting it close. But how could I turn someone down? So I told him okay and gave him my address.
Around 7 p.m. people began arriving, including a couple of guys who read my blog and wanted HRN updates. So I began telling them "HRN UPDATE!!! (Part 1)". As I was finishing the part about him telling me he wanted to touch me, someone knocked on my door. DUN DUN DUN!!!
No, it wasn't HRN. But it was someone who hadn't RSVPd. And he'd brought his wife and young, unruly son with him. Hmm. I was going to have to thaw more chicken.
A few minutes later another knock on the door sounded. I opened it, and two guys stood before me.
"Hi, Mary?" one asked me.
"El. Mary El."
He looked confused. "Oh, well my name is Ethan and I'm here for the Bible study."
I looked over Ethan's shoulder at the other guy and gave him a And-who-are-you???? look.
"Hi!" he responded. "I'm Steve, the college student."
Now I was confused. Who the heck was Ethan? Before I could flip out, Ethan continued.
"While we were downstairs we ran into someone who lives in your building who has been looking for a Bible study, so I invited him to join us for dinner."
Of course you did! RSVP not necessary! Invitation not necessary! Let's put up a sign on the door: ALL WELCOME FOR FREE FOOD!
As I flipped out in my head, Ethan motioned to someone that I didn't realize was on the stairwell near my door.
"Come meet Mary!" he said to the person.
"El. Mary E...." I began, and then the person came into view. My mouth dropped open, as did his.
"Mary, meet Sam," Evan beamed.
All I could do was laugh, but not a happy laugh, a defeated, tired, incredulous laugh. "Well come on in, Sam, and everybody. The more the merrier!"
I turned to the group of guys who had been waiting to hear the rest of my HRN story and announced, "Everyone, meet SA-AM."
Two of their heads popped up, and grins creeped across their faces. I just smiled and nodded. They immediately pulled out their iPhones and updated their Facebook statuses to "Awk-waaaaaaaard..."
What was supposed to be an intimate dinner between six friends turned into what felt like a cafeteria, except I didn't have a hair net. I had set the table with cloth napkins and lit candles, and suddenly people were eating off of plastic plates and sitting on the floor due to lack of dishes and space. It was about 96 degrees in my apartment, so hot that we opened the door, letting in the cooler, 85-degree air. While everyone -- half of whom I did not know -- enjoyed the meal I made on special occasions, I slaved over an indoor grill and starved. But I couldn't help enjoy the idea that I looked very domestic and was handling the situation with ease and grace, and in front of Sam, who would surely report back to HRN.
It all turned out fine, and I felt like an accomplished, Southern hostess who had fed 15 people when she had planned for less than half that many. Sam was civil and enjoyed himself (well of course he did, he got a free, yummy dinner!), and he did not try to "read" me anymore. Everyone left full and happy, and I felt as if I'd won some sort of battle.
Of course it was inevitable that I would run into HRN again, but Margaret saw him first. She relayed to me later that she got nervous when she saw him and invited him to dinner the following week. But he was smart and didn't take her up on it.
Unfortunately, the HRN update kind of ends there. Don't get me wrong -- many, many more run-ins have occurred, but the guy is either a coward or just not that into me. So we are back to flirting in the hallway and never having a real conversation, just the way I like it.
Oh, and Ethan never got my name right.