This Is For You

I meet him at a bar. A friend invites me to a book launch in Williamsburg, which is less a release party than a loose group of friends and acquaintances gathering to celebrate the success of an author I don’t know. The host’s dismay makes it clear that this is not the sort of social gathering for tagalongs, but my friend scoots into the booth and pats the vinyl next to her, forever making room for me.

The Twitter mini-titans wear ironic hats and faux-fur coats and I know so much about them, their abusive parents and various disorders, but I don’t know them at all. They chat about BuzzFeed and who has been insulted by a D-list celebrity. The dull roar of the dive bar drowns out my social anxiety. I nurse a beer and nod at everything.

And then there he is, bursting with kind energy and so fucking tall. He leans across the booth to laugh at my jokes and look at me with big, bright eyes. Something about him reminds me of my ex: how he talks with his whole body, his eagerness to make me feel heard. I recognize a part of myself coming back to life with the buzz of confidence and anticipation. A friend steals him back in conversation and I consider taking a business card out of my wallet, scrawling my number across the back. Before I make up my mind, he returns and asks if I want another drink. I want another drink.

He asks me what I do and I talk about my job, and then about sex writing, and then about herpes, and I wait for him to flinch and he doesn’t flinch. He says he’s always been fascinated by sexuality but I can’t detect any creepiness in his earnest questions, and when he asks why I write about herpes, the girl sitting next to him leans forward and says I know you! I watch open-mouthed as a stranger—who is not a stranger to this stranger—tells him how brave I am, and I grin and thank her, ask what her Twitter handle is. Brooklyn is a small world.

He kisses me good night on the L Train. The next day I invite him over. When he arrives just after midnight I am not sure what to do with this six foot six goofball who fills up the whole room. I make him watch my favorite TED Talk before we have sex. His hand presses against my throat but doesn’t tighten, just holds me loosely in place, and I sink into how much I want him. It’s rare for me to be so comfortable with someone I’ve only just met. He whispers into my sweaty hair that I’m a good girl, yes, that’s it.

I think about it at work the next day: good girl. The simplicity of those two words won’t leave me alone.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.