For such delicate hands, they stung more than I would have thought when they came across my face with as much velocity as she could muster. I have never been slapped before, though I am certain that this was not the first time the thought has crossed a woman’s mind or that I may have deserved it. It was, however, the first time I have respected Staci that much since prior to spending a night in her bed all those months ago.
This was a day to make pillow forts in the living room and not leave the house without exceptional cause – it was cold, rainy and raw, a January mélange that threatened to become the definition of the term meteorologist use when they have no idea what’s going to happen, a wintry mix. Unwilling to separate my ass from my man chair, I blew-off a friend’s party that I should have attended, before I finally motivated to shower, get dressed and attend another friend’s party later in the evening. After queuing for ten minutes while clouds spat icy rain drops down my neck, I finally entered the bar that hosted the second party. I said hello to the Guest of Honor and few mutual friends, before I was able to wiggle into a bar space to procure a beer.
I noticed Staci at the end of the bar but didn’t think that she saw me. In the time honored tradition of men everywhere, I faced the opposite direction from that moment forward hoping that our paths would not cross. I stayed for as long as I could take the excessively crowded bar, talking with people I couldn’t hear, and longer than I should have tempted fate. Goodbyes were said and I made my way to the door. When I was almost outside I placed my left arm into my top coat causing the natural craning of my head to the right. That’s when our eyes caught in an “it’s dark in here, did she really see me, just keep moving kind of way.”
I spent the bulk of what was left of the night holding up the bar of one of my normal haunts. There were friends all around and I moved through various groups having cocktail conversations. I gave Staci no further thought, until I stepped outside for a smoke and felt a tap on my shoulder. In the sliver of an instant before she said hello, I somehow knew it was going to be her.
“You didn’t want to say hello earlier, Refugee? And please don’t insult us both by telling me that you didn’t see me.”
I ignored the later statement as I made a slow turn to face her and simply said “Good evening, Staci” and I know that I used a tone that pronounced and mocked the “I” at the end of her name. “It’s been a while.”
“A while since you talked your way into my pants, fucked me and never called you mean?”
“That is a charitable version of events, but sure, we can go with that one.”
“What version would you like?”
“Staci, is there any virtue in doing a post requiem on this right now?”
“You know, Refugee, for all your high minded poetry and philosophizing, you are just another asshole who will say anything, do anything to get what you want.”
There are few benefits to smoking, but the extra moment of reflection that a drag on a cigarette provides is among them.
“I’m sorry you feel that way, Staci.”
“That’s it, Refugee; that’s all you got? Sorry I feel that way as if you not calling was somehow my fault? And maybe it was, because I should have known that you were full of shit. You are nothing but a snake-oil salesman.”
Her voice had raised an angry octave since we began speaking. I am glad that this wasn’t a poker game because I know all of my “tells” were on display. I could feel the vain in my right temple surging, my right hand involuntarily clenching, and my jaw tightening. Deep breath, stay calm.
“Staci, we have differing recollections of events, and maybe I should have talked to you about it afterwards. Either way, we are not going to reconcile those recollections tonight.”
“Just tell me why I didn’t get a phone call. Don’t you think you owed me that?”
“We talked one night; I was in a vulnerable place we had a little too much booze and ended the night at your place. The whole time we were doing that dance, for all the time we have flirted around and at each other, you represented yourself as single. When we spent the night together I didn’t expect to wake and see men’s shoes next to your bed that weren’t mine. I didn’t expect to see the same brand of razor that I use sitting on your sink; and I damn sure didn’t expect to see pictures of you and your man on your fridge. I don’t want to be anyone’s man on the side, and definitely don’t want to be that guy without at least knowing that I was gonna be that guy. I never called because I didn’t owe you a call and you didn’t deserve one.”
I knew then as I know now that my inflection on the word “you” gave it an alternate meaning; and I could see in Staci’s eye that she heard it with all of the dismissive venom I had intended it.
The feeling of her ring against my cheek lasted longer than the feel of her hand which had shriveled in the night air. I’ve never been slapped before. Not sure I deserved it this time; but as I watched her walk away I thought “glad we weren’t inside so she could have poured a drink in my face.”