"I have been going through serious kiss withdrawl," I said to Billy on Saturday night. It was shaping up to be a typical night at Bar K with Willow and the gang. "Even so, you can't let me make out with anyone icky, no matter how much I drink tonight."
It wasn't going to be an issue. Bar K had an especially rowdy, fratty crowd that night, and the only man who flirted with me was an obese gay man who said,
"Honey, you are fierce. I'm gay, but I could do terrible things to you."
There isn't enough rum in the world.
The night got cut short by Willow's over-consumption of generously poured apple martinis.
"I think you should take Willow home, she's not feeling well," Billy said to me.
I won't get into the pukey specifics, but there was some hair-holding while Willow purged the evil alcohol from her belly. I bought her some ginger ale and, after some frustrated wandering, we finally managed to flag down a cab. There was a lot of apologizing on her part, and I offered sympathy, knowing her nausea that would make way for a monster of a hangover the following day. I've been there. I'm just glad I could offer a tiny bit of help.
The car dropped me off at my place some time after 1:30am, which felt early since I was still buzzed, but alert. I smoked a cigarette on the stoop, deciding to catch up on a Netflix or two before bed. I also wondered about Neighbor Neil.
I hadn't seen Neighbor Neil since our initial meeting on Tuesday. Despite any pathetic tactics I used to try to run into him again (humming as I entered the building, jangling my keys and taking a little too long to enter the apartment, taking out the recycling several times a day), I knew it would happen when I least expected it.
Just as I unlocked my apartment door and was about to step in, the door across the hall opened, and out walked Neighbor Neil. Looking taller and cuter than I remembered.
He asked about my night and I gave him the brief rundown, making sure to mention that I was still wide awake, since the evening ended sooner than I anticipated, and painting myself as a most selfless and heroic friend.
"What about you, are you just starting your night?" I joked.
He laughed. "No, I just came out to check the mail."
We chatted for several more minutes, about Favorite Show and a few other things, while I stood with a foot propping open my front door. We both kept finding reasons to prolong the conversation and Neil finally asked,
"Hey, since you're still up, do you want to come in for a drink?"
"Sure. Let me just drop off a couple of things."
Once inside, in the space of about 90 seconds I managed to go to the bathroom, fix my hair and make-up, throw my jacket and scarf on the couch, eat a breath mint, and do a happy dance. I took nothing but my keys and crossed the great hallway divide...
Neil gave me a tour of the apartment, which has an identical layout to mine with a few differences (my bedroom is bigger, his kitchen/living area is more spacious, etc.). He then asked if he could take a quick peek at my place. He did show me his, after all, so I showed him mine. I apologized for the clutter, but he was too busy staring at my Collection, which fills the living room. The Collection is a constant source of amazement/bafflement to new people who meet me.
Anyway, we went back to Neil's place and settled on his couch with a couple of drinks. I learned a bit more about him: he's my age, from the Midwest, and in grad school, with a fun and unusual concentration. I also discovered that we have practically no music taste in common. Neighbor Neil gave me a CD holder to choose music to play in the background, and I didn't even recognize half the bands in the book. Which is a shame, because I love to bond with people over music, which has served as the core of many a friendship/relationship over the years. Whatever, he was still attractive... and appeared to be attracted to me, too. He asked me questions, cracked jokes, and made light physical contact, but also had that I-fancy-you gleam in his eye. Roommate Rachel was right.
The more we talked (and drank), the more comfortable we became physically, sitting close, legs and sides pressed together, touching each others' arms, laughing and leaning our heads together.
And then we were holding hands, foreheads pressed together, sitting quietly.
"I think this is where you're supposed to kiss me," I almost said, but didn't. I didn't want to rush the moment.
Neighbor Neil took my other hand, laced his fingers through it.
"Here's the thing," he began. "You're my neighbor. I want us to be able to hang out and watch Favorite show and movies."
"And if I kiss you..."
"I don't want there to be any awkwardness, either."
"So we're friends, it's casual...?"
"Yeah, of course."
"Though one of us has to be the wacky neighbor. Which one do you think?"
"I think that would be you."
I smiled, pleased. "It's because of the Collection, that's what pushed me over, right?"
We got silent again, and Neil ran a hand over my body, still not moving his face, still pressing his forehead to mine.
"Were you really checking your mail at 1:30 in the morning?" I asked.
"I forgot to earlier and was expecting a Netflix."
"Hm." I was skeptical.
I waited and gradually he tilted his chin and gave me a small kiss.
"See, that was friendly and neighborly, right?" he asked.
"Hm, I don't know, I think it could have been a little more friendly."
"Why don't you show me?"
Full on making out ensued. Once he checked that there were no strings attached, he did his best to get in my pants. Which of course wasn't going to happen. I was kiss-starved, but casual sex is something I'm trying to avoid indefinitely. Still, after some initial clumsiness, the kissing was good, and got us both pretty hot and bothered. If I had decided to sleep with him, I probably would have been in for quite a treat based on how--ahem--excited he was.
At one point he was on top of me and I asked, "Your roommmate isn't going to walk in any second, is she? Because then this would be even more like a sitcom."
"No, she's at her boyfriend's."
When he tried to get the clothes off, I knew it was time to go home. I sat up on the couch and we shared a couple of soft, tender kisses. Those kisses in particular, however brief they were, made my night. Obviously there wasn't any great emotional connection between us, and those sweet kisses were not reflective of any true feelings, but even the pretense was comforting.
I stood up.
"So we'll watch Favorite Show some time."
"Yeah... I can leave my email or something..." I said.
"Or I could go across the hallway and knock on your door."
"Cool, so alright... we'll be friendly and casual."
Okay, I get it, you're Casual Guy.
A brief make-out session at the door and I commenced the world's shortest Walk of Shame.
I checked the time: 5:00am. I checked my face in the mirror. My lips were slightly swolen, reddened from recent kissing.
Sometimes, if you send a request to the universe, it gets heard. Yes, it has been lonely, all the more isolating because of the recent depression. And kissing is my favorite thing in the world, so it was tough to go these last couple of months without it (the weird guy from the Halloween party doesn't count).
The kisses from Neighbor Neil, casual and illusory as they were, helped bring me back to life in a way. After findout just how many bad surprises life can pile on, it was cool to experience a moment of pleasant happenstance.
Of course, the problem with kisses is that once you get some, you want more. I don't expect this to become a pattern with Neil, and I'm pretty sure we're not meant for each other, so it has to be enough. It'll hold me over until something less casual crosses my path.