You have to strain your neck to look him in the eye, and stand on your tiptoes to kiss him. He says your name like it’s a prize, an award he thinks he’s earned. And as you lie there with him, underneath only the glimmer of the lamppost peeking through the partially drawn curtains, everything feels illuminated and vulnerable. Like you’re sitting alone on a stage while he points a spotlight directly at your naked body.
You take a deep breath as the physical turns intimate, and cover your body with a pillow in a white satin case. It seems strange to let him touch you now, but stranger still to be as far apart as you are. The bed feels larger, and yet you’re worried you might fall over the edge onto the pile of clothes and shoes. He begins to tell you about his parents’ divorce and his best friend’s struggle with the LSAT, all before he tells you how old he is. Or rather, before you ask. It’s hard to look him in the eyes, big and green, but he makes it a point to look right at you when he speaks. The pauses in his cadence are intentional and powerful, and it’s easy to see why such a large company employed him so young. He oozes an assurance you lack, and it follows him under the sheets, his fingers interlaced above his head and his shame nowhere to be found.
You start to talk about the way running makes you feel alive, and how you’re scared that if you try to pursue writing, your love for it will turn into an obligation. And then that love will go away. You’re surprised at how quickly you’re opening up, but then you remember that he’s returning to New York in the morning, and you feel as if there’s no way your secrets can board the Metro-North. Yet you still tell him you’re sorry for rambling, and that people don’t usually listen so well.
It’s the first time a one-night stand recommends you to his therapist. And it makes you wonder what it takes for someone to care about you. Maybe it just takes a series of reciprocal flirtations, leading to a trip up to your third-floor walkup, and a boy two years older than you, who you think has the whole world figured out. You think maybe he really cares when he asks if you want your socks off or on, or when he calls you pretty—really pretty—or when you tell him he’s kind, and he replies saying this isn’t kindness, but humanness. You wonder what’s the difference between caring for someone and being mature. He tells you to call anytime, because he doesn’t like to meet people and then never speak to them again.
You never speak to him again. And on his way out, he takes one of the chapsticks that sits on your desk and sticks it into the pocket of his tan linen pants. You have to pretend you didn’t see. He hugs you in the stairwell and you watch him descend the three floors before you turn around and return to your room.
You take a shower and let the water run over your hair in a way that feels dramatic and adolescent. When you exit the shower, you make sure to write that therapist’s name down in the notes app of your phone before going to sleep.
Half a year later, you see him selling abstract paintings on Instagram, big canvases full of blobs of uncomplimentary colors. You’re not sure why, but it disgusts you so much that you unfollow him. You tell your therapist about it the next day. About how young you were, naive, easily captivated, infatuated with false confidence and bad art. You tell her you don’t do one night stands anymore, can’t, won’t. Chalked this up to an experience that you needed to have to grow up.