Never look back again


Dear Claire:

††††††††††† Iím sorry about the other night.

††††††††††† But you knew about me before you set things up and knew how hard it is for me to deal with situations like that.

††††††††††† I know you meant well.

††††††††††† Maybe Iím not as nice a person as you seem to think I am.

††††††††††† Maybe there is something ugly behind my shyness which I am hiding from the world, some Frankenstein monster which is better left untouched.

††††††††††† When I confided in you, I sounded as if loneliness was the most pressing problem in my life.

††††††††††† Perhaps even I believed that if I could break myself out of this block of ice I might find a measure of happiness.

††††††††††† But I was talking in hypothetical terms and you took it literally and decided to find me a date.

††††††††††† Do you know how much anxiety the dating process has caused me over the years?

††††††††††† The whole struggle to acquire more intimate knowledge about someone, the idea of romance and potential happiness piled even more pressure on me: everything seemed to depend upon my ability to articulate my feelings.

††††††††††† Each time I backed out at the last minute, shaken from the fear.

††††††††††† I would have backed out this time, too, had you not locked me into the situation with your utter kindness. You showed up at my door with a suit and tie, and waited out the whole time while I dressed. You even drove me there, more a mother than sister, but one who clearly loved me deeply and feared that I might end up alone.

††††††††††† You always believed loneliness was the great sin, and Iíve watched you go through this match-making with your friends, treating it a science, you calculating personalities the way a horse breeder does steeds.

††††††††††† Yet, it is the chemical reaction between opposites that seems to intrigue you most, how one type can draw out another from his or her shell.

††††††††††† This I suppose was your intend when you hooked me up with Linda.

††††††††††† Just how you found someone as wild as Linda is, Iíll never know.

††††††††††† None in your crowd ever reached those levels of eccentricity.

††††††††††† I swear when she dragged me out onto the dance floor, she intended it as a strip tease Ė although Iím not clear on which one of us she intended to strip.

††††††††††† I might have blamed her behavior on the drink Ė since she sucked drinks down so fast even the bartender had a difficult time keeping up with refills.

††††††††††† But deed down I know the alcohol really kept her from going even crazier. All night, she stared across the table at me as if concocting violent and bizarre sex rituals for later after she had waded through the ritual time necessary for our date. I envisioned her as an aggressive cave woman fully intending to drag me back to her bed by the hair at eveningís conclusion.

††††††††††† She said as much during our slow dances when she rubbed herself up and down me her language so ripe as to make even the crowd smoking in the menís room blush.

††††††††††† I didnít really panic until she mentioned handcuffs, rope and a whip.

††††††††††† At that point, I began looking around for a path of retreat.

††††††††††† I excused myself to go to the menís room again, but made a sharp turn at the front door, and once outside, hailed a cab.

††††††††††† She, no doubt, had played this game before since she pushed me inside the cab once the door opened and climbed in after me, ordering the driver to take us to her place instead of mine.

††††††††††† The whole ride she tore at my zipper trying and only my steady resistance and the driveís indignant stares kept her from beginning her feast right there in the cab.

††††††††††† I would have stayed in the cab, but she dragged me out. When the cab left and I still resisted, she looked peeved, as if for the first time thinking maybe I meant what I said about not going upstairs.

††††††††††† But she wasnít going to take no for an answer, telling me that my sister had laid it all out for her, how I canít commit myself to anything, even when it might be something good.

††††††††††† In desperation I told her I was gay.

††††††††††† She laughed and pointed towards my bulging pants, saying that any man with that kind of reaction to her isnít gay.

††††††††††† She then laid it on the line for me, saying I can either stand down here on the sidewalk pretending to be a flag pole or I can go upstairs with her for a little fun.

††††††††††† If I stayed, however, I wouldnít have anyone to blame in the end except myself.

††††††††††† And just like that, she marched up the steps and into her building, leaving the doors open for me to follow.

††††††††††† And I stood there staring, feeling as shattered inside as I did when Momma died, feeling as if my mask had been ripped off my face and the real, naked and vulnerable me was exposed for anyone to see and laugh at.

††††††††††† Sure, I wanted to go up those steps. I ached to go up those steps.

††††††††††† But the coward inside me kept whispering for me to walk away.

††††††††††† I almost did, too.

††††††††††† But I thought of you and how ashamed you would be of me, and how I could never look you in the eye again if I turned away.

††††††††††† Yet climbing those steps was the hardest thing I ever did in my life.

††††††††††† Each step as high in my mind as Everest.

††††††††††† Once on top I never looked back.

††††††††††† Maybe I never be this brave again. Maybe Iíll never meet anyone as wild as Linda is. But one time was enough to make me realize, it wonít be as hard to repeat this again.

††††††††††† And if itís any comfort, Linda was lying about the whip. Believe me, the rope and handcuffs were more than enough.


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