Artwork by Emma Darvick
Timing really is everything.
We met two days after our first date for brunch. He said he was desperate to see the Guillermo Del Toro exhibit at the AGO. To be honest, I could take or leave the art, but I was desperate to see him again so I was excited.
I was 35 minutes late because there was a marathon that day and it was impossible to get east of Bathurst Street. I was impatient. It felt urgent that I get there. I obsessively checked the time on my phone while sitting in the back of my stagnant Uber.
For the past number of months, I had been rushing. Rushing from one job to the next. Rushing to complete tasks around the house. My time was constantly limited and I had forgotten what it was to pace myself. Today was no exception. I had to work at four and I wanted to squeeze in as much time with him as possible before then.
On top of it all, my mind was racing worrying that there wouldn’t be the same spark in the daylight and that he would be disappointed when he saw me with sober eyes.
I arrived. I walked into the busy restaurant and spotted him right away.
He was dressed head to toe in black, the only colour was his gold calculator watch.
“Hey, I’m so sorry I’m so late!”
“Hey! Hi! That’s no problem...I’m glad you’re here now.”
He adjusted his sweater and the menus. He looked away when I tried to make eye contact.
We both ordered omelettes but he insisted we also order pancakes for the table to share.
The conversation flowed effortlessly even though we had almost nothing in common. He was easy to talk to. He was smart and interesting and curious.
After brunch, we slowly walked the few blocks to the museum. We took our time.
I fought the urge to grab his hand. I wanted people to know that he was with me but I kept my distance. I walked half a step behind him so I could soak him in.
God, how tall is he?
He must be 6’6”... 6’7”?
It doesn’t really matter. Whatever it is, it’s ideal.
His hands are so big.
His shoulders are perfect.
My gushing came to an abrupt end.
Z was saying something but I didn’t hear.
I couldn’t hear.
The ringing was back and this time it was deafening.
My vision tunnelled. My chest tightened. I became lightheaded.
We were on the crowded Dundas West sidewalk near Spadina on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Chinatown. There were hundreds of people walking past, but I could only see one.
He was coming straight for us on his bike.
It’s not Him.
It’s undeniably Him.
We locked eyes immediately. He looked like he had seen a ghost.
He looked at me and then at Z, then back at me.
I did a half smile.
No. A quarter smile.
A half nod.
He wavered on his bike. He caught himself.
The blood drained from my face. My lips went numb. My throat knotted. My guts flipped.
He passed us. He was gone. The moment was over.
It didn’t feel real.
What the actual fuck.
“Ready to go in?”
Z smiled and held the door.
Good. He can’t sense it.
My hearing came back. The heat in my face started to fade.
“Yeah! Let’s go.”
We stood in the long line for tickets. I was contributing to the dialogue but my mind was still out on the busy sidewalk. This was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate my skills of decompartmentalization I had mastered over the summer.
You just ruined His day.
“Did you see the O’Keefe exhibit when it was here a few weeks ago?”
You ruined His week.
“No?! Ugh, I loved it. My favourite part were the photographs that her husband took of her.”
That’s cute. Remember when you ruined his life?
“They were such a sexy couple.”
You don’t owe him anything.
“There’s nothing better than couples who are obsessed with each other.”
You owe him everything.
“And it’s especially sexy when the man is as obsessed with the woman the way he was with her.”
He’ll be fine.
“She was his muse. We should all be someone’s muse.”
You’ve crushed him.
I tried to focus.
We looked at the art. Z was taking it all in while I was busy replaying the events on the sidewalk to even notice the art.
Was He wearing the shirt Mom bought him for Christmas last year?
He was definitely wearing the hat you bought him two years ago.
You’re wearing the watch he bought you three years ago.
My phone buzzed.
It was Him.
I looked over my shoulder. Z had his phone pointed at me.
I put my phone away.
“What are you doing?”
“Taking your picture. You look really beautiful right now.”
He gave me the same look he gave me two nights before.
Like I was the only person in the room.
I tried to act cool. I gave him a look like he was crazy. I walked away in an attempt to seem in control and aloof.
I wandered into another gallery. It was dark and the room was empty except for a projection of a woman standing near the ocean shoreline. She was staring directly into the camera as it circled her in slow motion. She never broke eye contact. It was silent except for the sound of waves.
I opened my phone.
You were on a date, weren’t you?
Yeah... I’m sorry that happened.
Though it was little embarrassing for you, rebounding with someone who looks exactly like your ex.
Haha. Very amusing, sir.
The first joke.
I put my phone away for a final time. I tried to take a deep breath. I stared back at the woman on the screen. I attempted to slow my breath down to match hers.
Let it go. He’s okay.
He's going to have to be.
You did nothing wrong.
Z came in right on cue and stood behind me. He wrapped his arms around my shoulders. I felt myself start to melt into him.
“Let’s keep moving.” I said.
“No.” his strong arms held me in place. “This is nice.”
He didn't give me a choice. I had to soften.
I brought my hand up toward my shoulder and wrapped it around his. He kissed my hand.
The knot in my throat loosened a bit.
We stood there for a long time and watched the images of the waves. My mind raced. I couldn’t help but obsess over how I had been delayed for the precise right amount of time for our paths to cross. Had I arrived to brunch on time it would never have happened. Had we even just taken one minute more or one minute less it wouldn’t have happened.
The universe is a fickle mistress.
“Can I show you something?” Z whispered in my ear.
He grabbed me by the hand and led me to a stairwell.
His legs are so long.
“This building has a great view of the city- have you seen it before?”
The only view I knew was the one from the 28th floor.
“No, show me.”
He took me to a stairwell. We walked all the way to the top.
He was right. The view was spectacular.
I took it in. He kept close.
It was a different perspective from what I was used to on the 28th floor. We were only on the fifth floor and were looking up at the city but in the midst of it all. On the 28th floor I felt like I was observing it, from here we were a part of it.
His hand worked its way under the back of my shirt. I turned around to face him.
He pressed me up against the window and kissed me hard.
It's even better in the daylight.
I grabbed his belt and pulled him in close to me. My hands found their way up the back of his shirt too.
We heard a door open below us. Someone was walking up.
I pulled my hands out of his shirt.
“They aren’t here yet.” He kissed me again.
The steps were getting closer.
“You’re going to get us thrown into museum prison!”
“Ok. Fine. Just know...I could do that all day.”
We disappeared hand in hand into another gallery.
I was hot and bothered for the rest of the afternoon. I had a long, distracted night at work that night replaying the events in the stairwell but I had long forgotten about what happened on the sidewalk.
During the next little while, it was impossible for us to find a time to meet. He worked days and I worked days and nights and weekends and the timing just wasn’t working out.
A week and a half after our second museum date I had the whole day off. No jobs. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of the week and Z had to work. I had come to terms with it and had made big plans with myself to get groceries, do laundry and try and catch up on some sleep.
I got a text from Z early that morning.
Hey. I called in sick today. Get dressed. I’m going to order you an Uber in an hour and bring you over to my house.
An hour later I had forgotten about all my previous plans and was on my way to his condo.
I felt like a true lady of leisure. Nowhere to be, nothing to do. It was a gorgeous fall day, and I was enjoying myself.
It felt like an elaborate game of pretend.
Am I smiling?
My phone buzzed.
It was Him.
I hadn’t heard anything from him since our unfortunate run in on Sunday.
I hesitated before opening the message.
Hey. I'm going to talk to the landlord today to try and get you off the lease.
I fidgeted in my seat. I nervously tucked my hair behind my ear.
Why did he have to wait until today?
Okay. Anything you need from me?
Nope. I’ll let you know if I’m successful.
I had left the 28th floor several months ago, but it was still half mine. I was desperate to have it out of my life, but I would have loved to not have to deal with it today.
That brief moment of joy I was experiencing faded and was replaced with more familiar feelings of anxiety and guilt.
How is he going to manage to keep that place on his own?
You’ve helped enough.
He should take you to court.
Don’t be dramatic.
Who do you think you are in this car, going to see this new man?
Stop kidding yourself.
A few minutes later I arrived at the condo building.
Z was waiting outside the building for me.
“I was tracking your movements... Hi! You look so good.”
He wrapped his arms around me.
I felt myself get rigid.
Don’t sink in.
He took me up to his condo. It was beautiful. The largest living space I’d seen in Toronto so far.
“Where is your furniture?”
“I’m so glad you asked... We’re going to assemble my bed!”
He had told me previously that he had just moved in a month ago- he forgot to mention he had literally no furniture.
“You brought me here to help you assemble furniture?”
“And christen it!” He laughed.
“This is bullshit.” I laughed too.
My rigidness faded slightly.
“No way. They say the best way to find out if you’re compatible with someone is to build furniture with them.”
“That’s a bullshit theory.”
“Here’s an Allen wrench. No touching until it’s built”
He meant it. There was zero touching until we built the bed.
It was distracting.
With each passing moment, I wanted him more. With each passing moment, I forgot about everything else.
He was getting impatient too.
“Almost done…” He slipped his hands into the back pockets of my jeans and pulled me close. I reached up to try and kiss him.
"...we just need to take the garbage down to the garbage room.”
“Is this a joke?”
I don’t normally use the word ‘thirsty’, but it really does best describe my mood at that moment.
He looked incredible. His white t-shirt would stretch over his wide, dark shoulders showing every bit of definition down his back when he would reach for something. The veins in his forearms would protrude when he would tighten the bolts. His brow would furrow when reading the poorly translated instructions.
It was driving me crazy. We hadn’t slept together since our first date... I felt like my skin was crawling.
We lugged the cardboard and styrofoam down to the garbage room. We shared the elevator down with an elderly woman. He turned his head and gave me that same look again.
I felt the all the blood in my body rush to my lower half.
I have never wanted someone this bad.
He exhaled loudly. He smirked and looked down. He shook his head.
He wants me just as bad.
We waited for the old lady to saunter off the elevator. We walked down to the garbage room and disposed of the trash and promptly walked in silence back to the elevator. He pressed the “up” button.
We stood next to each other, still not touching.
I could feel the electricity was bouncing between us.
Time passed slowly. Silently.
The attraction between us was chemical. Whenever I was around him I’d become a stupid, giggly, inarticulate, bashful idiot. It had been a long time since someone garnered a response like that from me.
The elevator doors opened after what seemed to be an eternity. I went to press the button to take us back to his floor. He grabbed my elbow and pulled me in close. He slid his hand up the front of my shirt while he kissed me.
He’s already hard.
The ticking time bomb finally went off and the explosion was massive.
When the elevator got up to his floor, he grabbed my hand and we ran down the hall. I couldn’t stop laughing.
He opened the door and pushed me up against the wall.
“That was the longest hour of my life.” He said as he ripped my clothes off of me.
“It was the hottest foreplay of my life.” I said as I ripped his clothes off of him.
He paused and stared at me. He bit his lip. My vision tunnelled and I lost my hearing, but it was different than all the times before.
I closed my eyes and let him wash over me. I could finally have him the way I wanted him. The only thing I could focus on was the way he tasted, how good his weight felt on top of me.
How good it felt to be wanted. How incredible it felt to want someone.
We spent the rest of the morning entangled in one another. Sweating and out of breath. We never got tired.
Well, that’s not true-- but it did take time.
We paused for a nap. I woke up 45 minutes later feeling more rested than I had in months.
I quietly got up without disturbing him and searched for my phone, I hadn’t checked it for hours. I grabbed it from my bag and snuck off to the washroom.
There was a message from Him.
Hey. I just wanted to let you know your name is finally off the lease, so you’re off the hook. Hope you’re doing well.
Okay...thanks for dealing with that… I hope it wasn’t too much work.
It’s fine. I’m relieved it’s over.
Good. Okay. How are you?
I’m good... I’m actually seeing someone.
Something happened in my body.
Wow, who is she?! How long has this been going on??
It’s actually been about a month but there hasn’t been a good time to bring it up. She’s cool. A doctor
Maybe you and I can get a drink sometime and catch up.
That’d be nice. I’d like that.
A doctor… isn’t it a little embarrassing for you to be dating someone exactly like your ex????
Well played, Hebb.
I laid my phone on the edge of the sink. I looked at myself in the mirror.
He’s moving on.
My eyes started to burn. Tears started to form. I braced myself against the counter. I took a long deep breath through my nose and a long exhale through my mouth.
This was the first moment of lightness I had felt in months. The muscles in my back released slightly.
I opened my phone and read the text over again
I’m good... I’m actually seeing someone.
I cleaned myself up and went back to the bedroom. I threw my phone onto my bag and forgot about it.
I crawled back into the newly assembled bed and weaselled my way under Z’s big arm.
Laying down next to him I allowed myself to soften. To sink in.
“There we go,” he said.
His eyes were closed. He was still half asleep.