Thanks for saying hello when I was cashing out at the bar last night. You were nice in a way I really needed. I was leaving because I was at that depressive tipping point where more booze means the oblivion zone, an especially poor situation when it’s 1 a.m. in Alphabet City and you have to make it up to West Harlem. Cause, well, I’m six days out of a breakup and not coping super great with it, but also, as I was chatting with a cute girl earlier that night, it really sank in that now I’m negotiating the single life as a woman with male genitals. And, well, dating is difficult enough without that in the mix. So I was sort of in a low mood when you saw me.
You asked me what I did and you seemed impressed that I was a writer and teacher at Columbia. God bless you, you didn’t ask what I write about. You told me you worked in information security and that you keep the bad guys out of my bank account. I said, “Hey, thanks for that!” You told me you were Canadian, from Ontario, and I said, “Hey me too, I’m from Manitoba!” (A long time ago, but still from there.) You had this accent I couldn’t place that sounded vaguely Irish, but maybe it’s just a particularly prominent Canadian twang and I’ve been an ex-pat too long to get that.
You asked me if I wanted a drink and I said no, I was leaving, though goddamn yes most of me wanted another drink. I finished cashing out and you asked me, “You sure you don’t want a drink? A Jagerbomb?” I silently made fun of you at first for ordering that, because damn did you have that bro-in-his-early-‘30s vibe. Dark striped shirt, khakis. You made it work though. You’re well put together. And you have very, very kind-looking eyes.
Anyway, that self-imposed booze cutoff didn’t have the strength to last long, but I didn’t want to lead you on or anything, so I raised my eyebrows and said, “I’m leaving right after.” And you put on this lovely shit-eating grin and said, “Hey, I’m not looking to get laid here."
I didn’t really believe that, but it was somehow nice to hear. You made me laugh. I shook your hand and said, “You’re very nice. I’ll take a drink.”
“Maybe we could go to eat sometime,” you said. I said, “I like eating.”
You ordered another Jagerbomb and then gave the drinks you’d already ordered to your friends, a blur of four guys all sorta looking like you, appearing, grabbing their drinks, then disappearing. When my drink came, I said cheers and then you tipped the shot glass into the Red Bull and said, “I’m a pourer.”
“Oh, I drop mine.” We drank and I slammed my glass back down on the counter wayyyyyy before you did, and for some stupid reason I wondered if that had given me away (of all the things) or if, maybe, you’d be displeased that I finished ahead of you. The kinda shit I used to berate my female friends for worrying about.
You smiled after you finished your drink though. I said, “Hey, thank you very much, that was great.” And there was such a palpable silence, and I just couldn’t say goodbye and leave, I couldn’t, your eyes looked so kind and hopeful and in a rush of a few seconds I liked you so much, and I blurted, “I hope I see you again.”
You reiterated the “we could go to eat” line. “I like eating,” I repeated. And then more silence I couldn’t leave hanging, so I said, “How do I get a hold of you?” You offered your number, and I held up an index finger and dug in my bag for a pen. “Remember the days,” I said, tilting my head and smiling, “when getting somebody’s number meant it was written on your hands?” You seemed to like that I said this. You grinned and said yes. I proffered my arm and said, “Write it.”
Mike, maybe you guessed this, but I only did that because I didn’t want to put your number in my phone, giving you an opening to say, “Text me to make sure it’s come through,” and therefore giving you my number. But I do miss getting a phone number written on the back of my hand. You delicately steadied my arm with one hand and wrote your number with the other. I even asked to clarify if that 7 was a 7. I’m sure you think I’m going to call you in just a day or two.
And—I’d sort of like to. Not because you seemed particularly incredible, though you were insanely likeable. No, it’s because I’ve been pretty needy and sad lately, and that’s not a good reason to call you but I’d like to do it anyway. I’m generally into girls, yes, but I’ve had some rare, beautiful explorations with boys too. I did want you tonight. If I could’ve known for sure you’d be into all of me, I probably would’ve texted you by now. I might’ve stayed at the bar.
But, y’know, I’ve got a dick. Maybe that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, and shit, maybe you knew—I’m not always the best judge of when I’m read as trans—but judging by the vibe I got from you, I just don’t think either of those things are the case. I don’t know how to have that conversation, I don’t know what part of me is attracted to you and what part just doggedly needs validation, and I’m starting to see I don’t know how to interact with men in general, not anymore, anyway.
So, as much as I loved waking up to your number on my hand this morning, I’m also going to wash it off in a few hours, so I don’t get tempted to call you. Sometimes I’m a damn-the-torpedoes girl, and maybe in the future I could take more of that attitude, and take my chances on your reaction. But I’m not strong enough for that yet. Maybe I should’ve said, “Sure, but I’m into girls,” when you offered that drink. Might’ve been the kinder action. (I don’t feel bad about the taking-your-money part though. You did tell me you live on the Upper East Side.)
Still, I want you to know I felt really uplifted after seeing you. That night was on track to end in a dark place, and because of you it ended up in a good one. I slept well for the first time all week, actually. Thank you.
If you’re anything like the boy I used to be, waiting for a call from a girl, and the disappointment losing intensity and gaining iciness with each evening that the call doesn’t come, you might be both sad and angry about this. Maybe you’ll take this as a sign that you’re a loser (you’re not) or that I’m gutless for not rejecting you to your face (I was, I didn’t, and I’m sorry.)
I suppose, of course, there’s a chance you’re a raging asshole who I should be glad not to know. But last night, at least, you were nice to me. That’s going to be more and more apparent in the coming weeks. The street catcalls are growing. A gaunt man will grab and fondle my hands at the store where I work. A drunk guy will stick his head into my car and slobber-kiss my cheek. I knew that transitioning meant I’d have to deal with creepy dudes but, ugh. Not fun.
So I just want to put a message somewhere in the universe saying that you are great, Mike. For those fifteen minutes, you were really nice to me. I’m sorry. I even asked if that 7 was a 7. I’d like to think that I could call you, Mike. But right now, there’s just no way I will.