Animals, Food, New York, Photography, Relationships, Writing

We’re Setting Fires

images-44I have a pet rabbit, and she has unwittingly become my euphemism for having sex. As in, “Would you like to come upstairs? I don’t believe you’ve met my rabbit.”  My rabbit is the spirit animal for my libido, gnawing on shoes and live electrical cords, freaking the fuck out for no reason and bolting beneath the couch, three pounds of compacted instinct and hunger and fear.

I’ve now had three dates with Dig, and he still has not met the rabbit. This is radically unfamiliar territory. A beautiful girl I know was recently telling me the story of walking up to some man in a bar; she lead with “Hey, do you want to have sex in the bathroom?” Names got exchanged sometime after penetration, while the toilet auto-flushed over and over and over again. I identify deeply with this sort of transaction. You want something, and I want something. Sex is exchanged like a briefcase full of money, like a ransom.

With Dig, it is not like this, and that, of course, freaks me the fuck out. He’s the kind of person who would return a briefcase full of money if he found it on the street. I squint hard at him, because he is so different from anyone I’ve ever dated that he is nearly invisible, the way an iguana that grew up in a banana tree won’t recognize anything but bananas as food.

I have these vast mental blind-spots. For example, I didn’t realize until this morning, waiting for Dig to come and pick me up, that the verb I gave him is cribbed from the title of this blog. It gives our thing a resonance that I don’t think I want it to have, and yet Dig, with its tone of industry and masculine functionality suits him perfectly. And I do dig him. He picks me up for our third date this week and brings me, utterly unprompted, to my favorite Greek restaurant, where I struggle mightily to flirt while trying not to swallow the branzino’s tiny, needlelike bones.   After lunch, he kisses me for a long time, his truck warm against my back, but he seems to be in no particular hurry to meet the rabbit, and this is baffling the fuck out of me.

I can’t tell where the borders are between liking him and liking how he treats me, and I desperately survey my own feelings for markers. My whole system is aslosh in oxytocin, and I am left flooded and harried.

On a more familiar note, it is Sketch’s birthday this week. I go uptown with that Rembrandt etching I bought him in Amsterdam, clumsily framed and matted, and leave this present with his doorman, along with a note bursting with news about my trip.  Before I beat feet out of there, I whisper I love you, I miss you, in the direction of the elevator, while the doorman looks at me fretfully.   I will find out the next day that Sketch happened to come downstairs minutes later; he sprinted down Broadway looking for me, but after the drive-by gifting, I had gone in the other direction.   He searched but he couldn’t find me; I was in Riverside Park, watching the dogs, just chilling in geographic proximity to my beloved ex-boyfriend. We were close enough that if something was on fire, we would have smelled the smoke at the same time.

And something is on fire. Ignoring the growing swell of panic in all my organs, intensifying like a siren’s Doppler shriek approaching from a neighborhood away, I take a midweek phone call from Dig.   A phone call! On the phone! It’s crazy. I am out of practice, unsure of the last time I talked to a heterosexual man on the phone, and there’s a couple of awkward pauses, in which I am tempted to yell down the line I LIKE YOU like a twelve-year-old.   It reminds me of when I was in seventh grade, and I had this boyfriend I had never met. We went to different schools, but mutual friends set us up, and we would just hang out on opposite ends of the phone line, peaceably listening to each other breathe. Today I still find it sort of gratifying just to know I’ve got a man’s attention, and Dig and I don’t talk about anything important; I just keep him electronic company for the last half hour of his shift and then release him.

The next day I go out to Far Rockaway with my friends. The sand here is so full of wave-smashed shells it’s like walking on broken dishes, and the surf makes its point belligerently, repeatedly, but I love the beach and I love my friends. We talk about the different kinds of weird dicks we have encountered over the years: Easter-Egg Dick, which appears to have been dip-dyed two different colors, or Pointy-Pyramid Dick, which I think is self explanatory, or that long, thin one that you wish you could double-up the way you would store an extension cord. The longer I wait to take Dig to bed, the more nervous I am getting about what is going on in his pants.

I am trying, hard, to pump the brakes, because dating Dig feels like running downhill, his lack of resistance both liberating and alarming. The oxytocin levels in my brain are dangerously high, sending out a high tension whine of I NEED HIM.   I keep shaking my head to clear this ludicrous thought like a dog with a tick in her ear. Fuck, I don’t even know this man. He’s just a “good person” who wants to “get to know me,” and here I am, all hanging air-quotes around these words.  My inner cynic belligerently points out the grammar mistakes in his texts, props her combat boots on the desk, sucks her teeth and asks: What are you going to write about after you fall for this guy who can’t discern between there, their, and they’re? And more persuasively: What about Sketch?

I don’t have any answers. In the meantime, Dig and I talk about taking it slow. “Like building a fire,” he says.

“We’re setting fires!” I announce gleefully to no one in particular. Not exactly the same thing. I have fires, too many fires, left wild and untended, and in the spirit of responsibility I douse the dating apps right off my phone. My phone asks: Are you sure? I am not sure, of anything, ever. This is the rough country of uncertainty; a trail of small signal fires behind me, I squint hard at the rock-strewn beach and try to see if anything looks familiar.


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