When I first met Harry outside of Peet’s back in May, he wore khaki’s and a shirt-sleeved collared shirt. His forehead was already smeared in sweat, and his red hair was pushed over to his right side. He walked with a subtle limp, and his glasses were completely transparent against his pale skin. But his smile was confident, and we immediately began chatting about running 10 miles along the Capital Crescent Trail.
And then in August looking across from him at a Bethesda German bar, taking a big gulp of my lager in a glass mug and losing certain motor functions, I realized how great he was. My palms were sweaty, and I wiped them along my deep purple work dress, the black belt tight around my small midsection, and my feet sweating in my navy blue flats.
It was still humid in DC. We spent hours catching up on the phone the past weekend while I was in Kentucky for my 10-year high school reunion. We agreed to stay friends after about six or seven dates when he hadn’t made a move and I realized I wasn’t physically interested in the relationship. But I enjoyed his company and the more I got to know him the more I became myself.
Although I’ve had my own series of sexual misadventures, I’m not one to make the first move. And I didn’t want to destroy the one good friendship I had going in the DC area. In the year since my move from Baltimore, I’ve met many young people, but I had yet to make any new friends or see anyone past a few dates.
But what if like so many of my other long-term relationships, it started from a friendship? What if Harry, as nerdy as he was for an architectural engineer from Detroit, was my first step into a new long-term relationship? And what if it was up to me to make the first move?
Two beers on an empty stomach did not aid in the decision-making process. Harry and I merely wanted to catch up before he headed to Cleveland for the weekend. I had been late greeting him at the bar due to my crazy work schedule. As I looked over his freckled face and learned of his similar German ancestry, my cheeks flushed and my hands sweated more.
He used his hands when he talked about work, but he held his beer with little movement as he listened to my tales of blog post conundrums. And his blue eyes stared at me with immaculate focus. I excused myself to the restroom with a huge smile on my red face. We split the drinks and decided to head home. I offered to walk him to his car as it was on my way home, but mostly I wanted a private moment.
When we arrived at the garage, we stopped to depart ways. And that’s when I smiled.
“There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you,” I started, my sweaty palms hidden inside my black jacket’s pockets. I couldn’t read the expression on his face.
“I know I said I just wanted to be friends, but I think my feelings have started to change, and I think I like you as more than a friend.” I couldn’t erase the huge grin from my face.
“Yeah I kind of figured,” he smiled back. “I was going to ask you about it eventually. I noticed the increased communication and kind of wondered.” He smiled and I felt relieved.
“So what do you say?” I asked, swallowing hard.
“Well, to be honest, I’ve always liked you. I just figured things would develop more naturally if we stayed friends. And I wanted to keep you in my life.” He sighed, seeming more relieved than me.
“Okay,” I said, and then removed my hands from my pockets. But he just stood there.
“Do you want a ride home?” he asked.
“Yeah, sure.” I followed him up the parking garage stairs to his green Mini Cooper. Once inside the vehicle, I looked at him, but he just laughed. We started talking about our new relationship status, how I was one of the few dates he actually followed up with for a second date, and how the friends I met last week had given their approval.
But as we drove away, I felt a little confused. I kept looking out the window wondering if he would kiss me in the parking lot in front of my apartment. I thought I had made myself clear but did I need to make it more obvious? So when he pulled in front of my apartment, I looked over him and thanked him for the ride.
He just sat there. Okay, I thought, here goes nothing. Maybe he was just shy?
I leaned over to kiss him but then he immediately leaned back. He looked terrified. I drew back and then asked in my half-drunken state, “Wait, how experienced are you?”
He looked at me dead pan, cracking his knuckles, “Like none at all?”
“But you seem so confident?”
“Yeah that took years. I mean I’ve been out with girls but I was really shy at first and it just never kind of happened.”
“That’s okay. I mean it took a while for me, too, but then I kind of just got tired of waiting and did something about it. This is why you never made a move, right?” I turned to him and smiled.
“Yeah,” he smiled back. “I’m kind of insecure about it and don’t really know what to do.”
“Well we don’t have to rush it. We can always go back to your apartment some time and practice. I could teach you things, I guess.” He cheeks turned red, and he nodded in appreciation. I looked out the window and wondered how I could make my exit.
“Can I kiss you?” I asked. I had to know if there was some kind of physical attraction. I leaned near him again.
“So which way should I turn my head?” He seemed nervous, and I tilted his head in my direction and kissed him quickly on the lips.
“We’ll work on it,” I smiled and reassured him. “Thanks again for the ride. Talk soon.” I got out of the car and hustled to my building’s front door.
Not only was he a 28-year-old virgin, but it’s possible he had never really kissed a girl before. Maybe that’s not his fault? But even I consider myself a late bloomer, and I eventually got tired of waiting. There just came a point where I wanted to experience certain things in life, and I wasn’t going to sit around waiting for it to happen.
How Harry had never taken initiative like that, I wasn’t sure. I was a girl. It seemed easier for guys to lose their virginity without much repercussion. But maybe I was wrong?
I jiggled my keys in the lock and pushed the door open. My roommate was sitting in her cushioned chair with my two-year-old cat in her lap.
“How did it go?” she asked with a smile. I shut the door, and my smile immediately faded.
“You have no idea.”
“Oh no, what happened?” I picked up my cat as he came running towards me. I didn’t know how to explain what had just happened besides what it was.
I was dating a 28-year-old virgin. And even though I didn’t lose my virginity until later, I still had many years of experience on him. I could certainly be dominant but I didn’t want to be dominant all the time. And I didn’t want to have to show him everything… I mean everything.
So I put my cat down and stood there in front of my roommate relaying the events of that night. And when I made it back to my bedroom, I just laid on my bed and cried. And then I called my brother for advice. And after a weekend of thinking about it, I decided that whatever interest I had in Harry was no longer there. As soon as he asked me which way to tilt his head, I lost whatever attraction had been there. I felt bad.
And I hated myself for ruining the friendship. But as my roommate reminded me, he liked me from the beginning so it was bound to come out at some point. And maybe it was better to happen now before either one of us got too attached? So I returned Harry’s call at the end of the weekend and in as nice a way as I could put it, I told him I was uncomfortable being in that position, and I didn’t think I could go forward with our relationship.
He didn’t really get it at first. And actually called me back an hour later to get some further clarification. But then on Monday he called me again and said after thinking about it he needed some space and didn’t think we could be friends. Totally understandable. He said bye and hung up the phone. I sighed with relief but also a certain emptiness. My roommate was cooking spaghetti, and I just shrugged my shoulders at her.
But to this day, the 28-year-old virgin story comes up on every first date. And I feel bad for using Harry in this way, to tell an unusually entertaining story, but unbeknownst at first the story also tells my dates what I’m looking for. I need a man who’s going to take initiative and he can match my own assertiveness. And I need to know where the relationship stands, whether we’re dating or just being friends.
Sometimes when I see a Mini Cooper I am reminded of Harry and our first unsuccessful kiss. I’m glad I at least gave him that. And I hope he finds someone who can truly appreciate him.
I have no pictures of our three-month tenuous relationship. Just a few blog posts alluding to it. Have I wondered about Harry in the six months since? Of course. We had a great connection. And I’ve dated other guys since then. But there’s something bland about dating in DC, and if anything Harry taught me that when you find a great connection you hold onto it.
We are like ghosts in DC, constantly going through one another. And one time Harry took me to Great Falls Park, and like the rapids, he fell off my radar. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t at least admire the beauty of it.