I met a man in my early twenties while shopping at LL Bean. He was, simply put, gorgeous. He had eyes that could reach way down inside of you, and lips you couldn’t help but want to kiss. To my surprise, he asked me for my phone number. A week later we had our first date. I remember being so nervous. Dating wasn’t really my thing
it still isn’t, so I had absolutely no idea how to act. Add the fact this guy was a dreamboat, and I was pretty much a blubbering idiot the entire day leading up to that night. Being young, dumb, and a college student, I was beside myself over the fact he was going to come to my apartment and pick me up. Like in a car and shit. Weird, right?
I had never had oysters so he insisted we go to a tiny little oyster bar down on the docks. When we walked in the smell of salt and ice filled my nose as he gently took my hand and lead me across the dimly lit bar. We sat at the bar between two burly fishermen just in from their day. Growing up in a fishing town, in a fishing family, this place felt oddly like home. The sounds. The smells. All coupled with a man I couldn’t take my eyes off of.
We sat bellied up to the bar, eating oysters and drinking beer, for hours. We talked about where we were in our lives. What our hopes were. What had brought us to this point. Conversation came so easy and smooth, as he sat there with his hand on my thigh the entire time. At one point I had explained to him about my rocky sexual past. The rape and molestation, and my inability to form valid physical relationships. I was afraid I was falling into a trend of only wanting to have sex with men instead of getting to know them and forming something meaningful. He took both my hands into his, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Let’s not let you slip away like that. No sex. Not tonight. I promise.”
Shortly thereafter we left the comfort of the salty smell and burly fishermen, and he drove me home. He walked me to my door, and I asked him to come inside. Our date continued as we sat on the couch and talked until we could barely keep our eyes open. I invited him to stay until morning. I felt secure in his words about not having sex, and I wanted to experience what it truly meant to sleep next to someone with no expectations. As we laid in bed, limbs entwined, he pressed his body against mine and kissed me gently. Every ounce of me wanted to rub my body against his, pull his clothes off, and feel him inside me. But he had already said “not tonight”. So we didn’t. We simply rubbed gently against each other and fell asleep.
The next morning he kissed my lips as he walked out the door saying he would call me later.
He never called.
When I saw him a few weeks later at LL Bean he pretended he had no idea who I was. He was polite, but still would not acknowledge that he had ever even laid eyes on me before. I was upset, as most people would be. I had felt something I thought was sincere. Something I didn’t know existed. I was suddenly left standing there wondering if it had all been a dream. I often went back to the oyster bar on the docks, looking for that same comfort I had felt that night. I went there with different men, my roommates, and even by myself. The salty air and the burly fishermen were all still there is the dim lights, but the comfort was not. I’m not sure why, but it took me a long time to get past the feeling of lost hope from that night.
I’m past it now, but there are times I look back and wonder what happened. So smooth and cunning. Easy going and handsome. I’ve never met a man like him since. Not one to that level of comfort I felt anyway. Perhaps it’s from the walls I built up after, or the hardening from military service. Now, however, I’m working on knocking down those walls. I’m working on finding that comfort with someone. I’ve learned it’s not the sex, or the lack there of, it’s the ability to let people in. The ability to be confident enough in yourself to open up without being afraid of the hurt that may follow. We are all our own fortresses, and we guard ourselves well. However, every now and then we have to let someone in because living in a fortress by ourselves can be very lonely. Life is, after all, better spent with love.