On Wednesdays, Amanda Chatel will be sharing stories about her strange, fascinating and sometimes wonderful dating life. If it makes you want to date, check out TheGloss dating page.
I have much to say about this week’s “Dating Hijinks.” However, I have yet to find the words, so I will leave it all up to you, our readers. Again, we have another submission from a guy, and it’s definitely different from what we’ve received in the past. Aside from a comma here and there, I’ve kept it just as it came to me, including his (“ManTalkNow”) chosen title for his piece: “One Night with the Plain Girl.”
Just read it; then we can discuss in the comments.
“One Night With the Plain Girl”
Lisa was a scientist, methodical, meticulous and frighteningly bright. She had earned the respect of all around her. When I wanted to know what the right answer was, I went to Lisa. And I would usually hang around a little longer than I needed to. I knew that, more often than not, and without looking up from the data I couldn’t understand without her help, she would let loose a bitingly funny comment about something or other. In the whole building, I found there was no more dependable place to go for the big, loud laugh that made my day, than Lisa’s cubicle.
I did notice that her cubicle was more barren than most. No humorous cartoons ripped from the newspaper. None of the colorful decorative touches most of the women at the office used to personalize their spaces; just a couple of photos of herself, alone, on vacation in some tropical place.
For more than a year, once or twice a week, I’d come down from “the Tower” as it was called, and sit in Lisa’s extra chair, or on the edge of her desk. I’d ask her to make the numbers make sense to me. She always did, with precision and infinite patience. And most of the time she’d unsheathe her sharp wit, too, and I’d head back upstairs with a chuckle still rumbling in my chest.
None of the guys ever said an unkind word about Lisa. But then, they almost never said a word about her at all. In the perhaps cruel way of the world, two cubicles down from Lisa sat the object of the company’s obsession. Gwen was an adequate research associate, but a brilliant man-magnet. The carpet outside her cubicle was threadbare from visitors in polished shoes. Gwen was at the pinnacle of every male employee’s list of the top 10 office hotties (yes, we had lists). Lisa was not on any lists.
A big project was wrapping up, very successfully. Some executives from the company we’d partnered with decided that a bit of a bash was in order so they invited a bunch of us out for an evening on the town: cocktails, dinner, maybe something after, if people were up for it.
We were in high spirits. You have to celebrate your successes! I sat down to finish a martini paid for by someone else, which is the best-tasting kind of martini. A hand was on my shoulder; I looked up as Lisa smiled and said hello, is anyone sitting here? I stood to pull out her chair, glad that she was part of the gathering. She deserved it as much as any of us, and since conversation at these business dinners could be awkward sometimes, I was pleased to have an “ally” beside me – someone I could talk to comfortably.
We fell into easy conversation about this and that, as the chatter and buzz around the table became louder and tipsier. There was something different about Lisa, and it wasn’t just that she was wearing a dress tonight. I couldn’t put my finger on it until dessert and coffee; then it hit me. She was looking me in the eye as we spoke and laughed. At the office, she’d never done that for more than an instant. And she had nice eyes: they were brown, and dark like her hair, had little smile lines at the corners. I felt something. The rhythm was familiar, but… Lisa was a different chord than I was used to. I filed the moment away for future reflection.
Most of the gang wanted the night to continue. One of the more inebriated of us suggested a dance club a few blocks away. It was unanimous, so off we trudged through the cold wind.
For a grown-up, these clubs are a lot like high school dances, but with the advantage of liquor availability. Lights strobing, crowd moving, boom-boom-boom generic dance mix. We ordered rounds of drinks, then stood to the side to watch the younger patrons writhe their practiced, self-conscious moves. We men made superior remarks about the action, while wondering if this was such a good idea after all. The truth was, we’d forgotten how to get into the game, and our discomfort mounted.
Lisa was talking to me over the music. Pardon? I leaned down and offered my ear. “I said will you dance with me?” Well… sure.
I don’t know how long we danced. But now we were having fun – a lot of fun. We were on the floor for song after song. One of my buddies brought us both drinks. We paused long enough to down them in a couple swallows, handing back empty glasses with happy grins of thanks. And we danced on.
Lisa danced well. Better than I did, certainly. Smooth and easy and natural; no unnecessary motions; and her eyes were absolutely alight, flashing, finding mine.
As a song ended, Lisa put her hand on my chest. ”Don’t go anywhere?” she said. Then she and some of the other girls headed to the ladies room. I watched her walk across the club, not sure what I was thinking. She was at the center of the moving clutch of women, everyone talking to her at once.
My buddies and I headed to the bar to reload. Doug from my division leaned in. “You planning on dancing with Lisa all night?” I looked at him and thought about it. “Yes.” He gazed back at me, surprised. “Seriously?” I patted him on the shoulder. “Yes, Doug.” I didn’t tell him which act to perform on himself.
When the girls came back, I took Lisa by the hand and led her back out to the dance floor. She was smiling wide. So was I. My body felt good. Loose. In the groove. I was relaxed, just going with the flow. A change of pace to the music. A slower, sultry Latin beat. We moved closer. I could see beads of sweat at her hairline. I laid a tentative hand on her hip. She slid a hand to the small of my back. Pulled me in a little.
I did what felt right. One hand in her hair, I lowered my head and kissed Lisa. It was the right thing. She whispered in my ear. I took her hand again, waved good-bye to our friends, guided her to the coat rack, and out into the night.
Hours later, we were lying in bed, looking at each other and talking softly. The pretty lights of the city were sparkling outside my windows. Snow was flying and gusting out there, but it was warm and quiet in here.
Lisa still looked different to me, and now always would. She wasn’t the plain girl with a head full of figures. She wasn’t the shy scientist I never saw as a woman. She was direct and confident. She was a flirt, a dancer and on this night, a seductress. She was inches away from me, with her scent on my skin.
And I felt a little catch inside. Something I hadn’t known. Lisa was going away. She’d taken a transfer to Europe, to the new facility opening up there.
I had a number of questions. But I just asked her, gently, why? Why me, and why tonight?
“I like you. I wanted to be with you. And tonight I had to.”
It wasn’t enough. She’d opened my eyes, but the picture never had time to come fully into focus.
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