Two nights ago I was doing dishes for the umpteenth time since moving in while the guys (specifically Denny and Trent) were playing Xbox and I decided I'd had it.
"You guys mind helping out?"
"Well there's only one sink," Trent said without pausing the game.
"It's called taking turns," I said.
"Ehh," Denny said, "I cook a lot so it's not exactly fair if I have to do dishes too."
I point out that I don't eat much of the food he makes but I still find myself cleaning it, and when I cook (I'm much better than him anyway) I still do the dishes.. His smartass reply is that that's my choice. Ryan, my one ally around here, was of course out with his girlfriend Alexa.
Trent adds that he "doesn't really know how to clean" and that I'd do a much better job so there was no point in him pitching in. I told him he could figure it out, and if this was my choice then it was time to choose not to. I dropped everything in the sink and walked off.
I was so pissed I went to my room and started texting around to see if I could hang out with - and maybe stay with anyone I knew. Pete was busy of course, (one day I'm going to have to ask exactly what s/he gets up to) and Marie had family over, and with the baby and all there's not usually a good time. That kind of left only one person to answer, and he was all too happy to do so.
"Chickpea!" Rafe opened the door with that big stupid grin on his face right away when I knocked.
"I regret this already," I sighed.
"I honestly didn't think you were gonna honor that rain check," he said.
"Well, I figured what the hell," I said, "You've toned it down a bit this week."
"Thanks for noticing," He snorted, "I'm not so bad am I?"
I entered and looked around. It was a sty but a one-man sty unlike my place.
"You've got to be aware of your rep. It seems pretty well earned."
An open bag of chips was on the kitchen table. "This dinner?" I took a fee.
"Just the appetizer. Dinner was by Swansons."
"Ew," I rolled my eyes, "Learn to cook. Women love it, as long as you don't make them do the dishes."
"I'll bet you do," he said back, and I wasn't sure if he meant 'you women' or me in particular. I didn't ask.
"Place is pretty nice. You afford it by yourself?"
"My parents help," he said, he said nonchalantly.
"Translation... They pay, while you spend your twenties 'Figuring it out.' I should have smelled the money on you."
He didn't acknowledge that. "Well, come on in. I've even got your favorite ice cream."
"Creepy," I smirked. "So what are we up to tonight?"
"I can think of a few things," he said.
"This should go without saying, but all clothes will remain on for the duration."
"Sure, sure," he said, pretending to be indignant (at least I hope he was pretending.)
I noticed something paused on the TV screen. "What's this?"
"Oh, uh, Riverdale. Kind of a guilty pleasure." He seemed embarrassed.
"That's that show with the sexy Archie and Betty and Veronica?" I wondered whether people Val's age even knew Archie comics before this show came on. (And then I thought, I'm not that much older, am I?)
"Yeah, and there's a murder mystery," he said, I guess trying to make it sound more manly (and failing.)
"Sounds cheesy. I'm in."
"Really? You came all the way over just to watch a show we both agree is probably pretty bad?"
"Why not," I said, "One of the best dates I ever had was staying up on a hotel room watching I, Frankenstein, which was the worst."
"Lucky guy," Rafe said.
"Yeah... He was," I sighed, referring to myself.
"So... Is this a date then?" He asked.
I twisted my mouth, "Let's not go nuts..."
He gave me a beer and flipped the Netflix back to the beginning and we wanted like six or seven weirdly gripping episodes before I started to drift off. He let me lie down with my feet up on his lap - a perk of shortness is that I can do this on any couch and basically stretch all the way out.
He must have crept away sometime and left a wooly blanket on me. I was more tired than I thought I would be. I woke up on the middle of the night to pee - as I do pretty much every night - and was momentarily spooked to find myself still there. When I tried to fall back asleep I got a little paranoid about how I was sleeping on a near-stranger's couch and that he might think I'm leading him on and try to do something to me... But nothing did happen of course. Then my mind started racing in all these other directions about the various stressful, painful aspects of my life, and I felt sad sleeping on this chilly, lumpy sofa alone.
Then before I knew it, it was daylight and he woke me up by sitting down on the couch next to my feet. I must have fallen back asleep eventually.
After asking if I slept okay (and me lying and saying yes) he suggested we hit up his favorite breakfast spot. It was a twenty minute subway ride away and I hadn't showered, but he swore the bagels would be worth it.
"All this way just for bagels? You can get those anywhere."
"How long have you lived in Brooklyn? You should know all bagels are not created equal." Once I tasted the product, I had to admit he was right.
Over breakfast we got to talking. I asked what he wanted to be besides a barista and he said he was a writer. I asked what he wrote and he said he was working on "Something of a semi-autobiographical novel. Basically a memoir."
I teased him a bit. "Oh really! What have you done to warrant a memoir?"
"Hey, I've got plenty of material."
"I'm sure," I snickered.
"Oh and you've had such a fascinating life? What has ever happened to you?"
My face stiffened. "Well, I was recently dumped horribly on my wedding day. That's gotta be good for a few chapters."
He blushed, somewhat acknowledging his faux pas. "I'll give you that," he muttered, his voice mingling embarrassment and irritation. I actually felt a little weird saying it because for a moment it didn't even really feel like it had happened to me, even though it definitely did, and it definitely didn't feel good.
"What else you got?" he said, snapping back into his more obnoxious character.
For a moment I wanted to play the "man magically cursed into living as three different women" card... And hell, even before that I might've had a tale or two worth telling. But as Valerie, I don't think I had much of a case. "Not a lot, I'll admit."
"Well, it isn't the story, you know. It's how you tell it." I hope he noticed me rolling my eyes.
Still, it was nice speaking to him on those terms. I had been hanging out with him for several hours and my skin hadn't crawled once. And I had to admit the bagels were pretty great.
He had the day off but I had the afternoon shift so we went to the coffee shop together. It was almost gentlemanly, until he noticed a woman coming out of the shop who happened to have large pair of breasts. His head snapped in her direction so fast he must have gotten whiplash.
I'd like to think I would usually have taken it on myself to defend her as a new member of the sex, who has had to deal with a fair share of leers, but I guess we had bonded a bit. Still I couldn't let it slide so I let him know how obvious he was by ribbing him about it: "Come on, she was a seven."
He seemed surprised that I would say anything about it, let alone that, but after a beat he regained his composure and said "Yeah but her tits were ten each."
After that remark I felt a little gross for encouraging it. Trying to make locker room guy talk was like putting on clothes that no longer fit. I felt weird for trying so hard to make him think I'm, I dunno, some kind of "cool" girl who acts like a guy... Even though deep down I still think of myself as a guy! Just not, hopefully, a cliche horn dog like him.
I went into the bathroom to put on a fresh pair of underwear, tights and deoderant - a nice thing about femininity is that you can carry all these things in your purse and people won't think much of it. When I came out, one of my co-workers, Maddie, was waiting to tsk tsk me.
"What was that about, you strolling in here with Rafe? Scandal..."
I lied, "We ran into each other on the subway."
"Suuure," she said, rolling her eyes and kind of laughing but keeping some judgment in her voice. I felt pretty bad for the rest of the day. It's weird. I'm kind of making friends with the guy, but I feel like I shouldn't. But as much as he deserves his bad reputation, I hate to admit there's a decent guy in there. It's all part of me lately being very confused about my place in the world.