Turner and I liked to drink. With a name like Turner I half expected it to be the case before we even met. When we were just phone conversations and static photographs passed between emails and match.com profiles, he struck me as a WASP who liked very little blood in his Marys. Turner, I thought, it’s like Classic Movies. Then I imagined him in loafers and a classic button down shirt, the sleeves rolled, a sweater vest, and a cable knit sweater. Far too many layers for a person, but on a mannequin, and in my country club imagination, it worked. When I agreed to meet him, on Valentine’s Day, at Smith and Wollensky, I found myself looking for a walking mannequin with hair I could run my fingers through, and hoped for both our sake he was anatomically correct. And I was right. On all counts. Except he didn’t wear cable knits. "I’m not gay." On his best day, he looked like Hugh Grant and told me so. But then he’d deny ever saying such a thing.
I was at the point in my dating where I simply didn’t give a shit what it might have said about me that I had no other plans for Valentine’s Day. I’d just come from jean shopping. Because I was in a place in my life, where I actually did things like that. Went jean shopping. Not just regular, "Hmm, maybe I’ll find something I like in a cute store" shopping but, "I need yet another pair of jeans I can outgrow and feel like shit about." When I charged into Smith and Wollensky, all I really cared about was sitting. I’d walked far too many blocks in heels. Once I secured a seat, I surveyed the room for Mannequin Man. He wasn’t there yet, which left me time to primp and perhaps get a drink in.
At the time, I was no whiskey girl. I drank sweet mostly-clear things, like Stoli Vanilla mixed with Sprite or ginger ale. Never pink things with puree or cranberry juice. And never a cosmo (I don’t even like the word), though I did like a good French martini, foam and all. Sometimes a floating orchid or a sugared rim, but only if it was the specialty drink of some bar known for its spectacular adult beverages. I didn’t like what a pink girly drink said about who I thought I was. I was tougher than pink. I didn’t want to be like every other girl and somehow believed if I had a handbag without an obvious label (or no handbag at all), and my drink was man enough, I’d have less of a stereotype to work against. "Single girl at bar." How fucking predictable. How terribly ordinary. So I made a practice of going alone. Okay, not really a practice, but at least once a week. Sometimes I wouldn’t even drink. But alone at a bar, when you’re not awaiting a date or for a friend to join you, I thought, said something about who I was. I’m not afraid of what you think, and that makes me different than any woman you’ve met around here. It gave me a good start. Except, I was just like every other woman at those bars. I wanted to meet someone. Not just someone. I wanted it all. The I love yous, lazy weekends, a date to weddings where I’d know there was at least a chance it could be us up there at the altar.
On the unremarkable match.com night we met at Smith and Wollensky, Turner was wearing a dark pinstripe suit, a uniform I called, "The Lawyer." I’d finished a glass of red wine by the time he arrived, and just before he had, I wondered if I was being stood up. It’s okay, I thought, it’ll be like something out of a classic movie. I’ll get stood up, and another man will show up, the man I truly should have been waiting for all my life anyway. Because life would work that way, should work that way. When we think it can’t get any worse, stood up on Valentine’s Day, it doesn’t get worse. I lived in these scenarios, weighing the chances, and wondered if anyone in the room was my destiny.
Turner began with a panting apology, rambled on about work detaining him, then he ordered a double whiskey. I wondered if really he’d been on an earlier match.com date that hadn’t worked in his favor. Once he settled in and had a chance to breathe, he smiled, as if he’d been caught at something, then told me I was a vision. Maybe he was gay.
He insisted his hair was red. "Auburn" he said. I guess it was. His beard, when the stubble came in, some of it was red, so I gave him that. He smelled like Aveda hair products. I called him Aveda Boy, which he said he hated, but he laughed each time I said it, and I knew it made him feel loved having a nickname. He wasn’t the type of guy to ever have a nickname, not really a guy’s guy. He was lucky he was handsome.
We drank enough. He needed to return to the office and insisted he have the car drop me off at home. He wouldn’t let me leave without agreeing to a proper dinner date. He didn’t need to insist. I liked him. 6’3", Yale Law, superior law firm, handsome, and what I liked most: how much he seemed to like me. Story of my life. I walked into my apartment empty handed and drunk. I’d forgotten my jeans at Smith and Wollensky. Turner, after learning as much from one of my drunk emails, said he’d called the restaurant and that I could pick them up any time.
On our first official date, which wasn’t a meet and greet as much as it was that insisted upon dinner–because I didn’t count the first meeting as a first date, unless food was involved– when I was living on the Upper Least Side, still in my "hospital housing," there was a snowstorm, rendering the evening down to pushing him into a cab, so he could make it back to the Upper West Side, or pulling him away from one so he’d spend more time with me.
We stood in the cold, the wind whipping ropes of hair into my lipgloss. My fists were trying to hide in my sleeves. I could see my breath. We’d just finished a bottle of red and shared a dessert. And then we found ourselves in the cold, snow beginning to stick, standing like two people hoping to find a cab, yet hoping very much that no cab would come at all.
When a cab became available to us, I clawed my way across the seat, and Turner slid in behind me. Then we did our "Holy shit! It’s so fucking cold out!" routine. First date and already we had a routine. The plan was to drop me off then to head west. I should have been sending him on his way. Instead, I pulled him out of the cab with me and invited him upstairs to "meet Linus." He was psyched. I liked his company, and he adored Linus. Seriously loved the Lineman. Called him Labrinus. I felt, even that early on, the balance of our relationship and knew I’d be the one who called the shots. He liked it that way. Loved taking me out, loved how much I loved food, and loved when I cooked. He liked to be entertained. My friends called him a dud.
"He doesn’t add anything to your life." But I liked that about him, that he wasn’t hungry for attention, that he was simply happy to be told what to do. Most likely he grew up with a firecracker of a mom, or older sister, with a quiet father. I liked that he was never "me me me," and so easy to be around. And he loved my "me me me." So it worked. I liked that he liked when I made fun of him, liked his laugh, liked his emails and fingers. Liked. Until I wanted more. He struggled with more.
That first date turned into The Marathon Date. He slept over and agreed to watch my chick flicks, allowing Linus to sleep between us. We made out. He wasn’t an extraordinary kisser, nor a particularly bad one. He was soft. In so many ways. When we awoke in the morning, and attempted to air out Linus on a walk to Fourbucks, we realized the gravity of the snowstorm. Cars were snowed in. The streets weren’t cleared. All of Manhattan was closed. We were open to anything.
Incidentally Dulce had an overnight date with her ex, only a few hospital housing floors away. She, too, was snowed in and unable to get home. So I welcomed her in for our date, where I composed Wolfgang’s Chinese Mustard Chicken Salad–I surprisingly had all the ingredients on hand. Then I baked two batches of cookies. Before long Dulce made it back to her side of town. Turner and I decided to spend another night together. Drinking. Then spent the next day together, too, brunching, more movies. He eventually needed to change his clothes and go home. As he left my apartment, he ran into The Wasband in the lobby of our building. Ran into, isn’t right. "I saw him," Turner phoned to say on his walk to thrid avenue for a cab. Turner and Gabe had gone to undergrad together, though they didn’t know each other. This detail, realizing Turner knew exactly who Gabe was, made me somehow think it made him want me more. "What an idiot," he’d said of Gabe. "He’s pretty horrible in a liar with a starched collar and polished shoes kinda way. It’s creepy." So was his description of it all. But we toasted to it just the same on another date. We weren’t sure which number date it was now that The Marathon Date had kicked into play. But we drank to new beginnings and fresh starts.
Like I said, Turner and I liked to drink. We didn’t lick booze off each other or do body shots. We weren’t one of those couples that fed off each other, literally or otherwise. He hated his job, so he liked to drink on Sundays enabling him to spend his one day off without dreading his Monday. I loved my job. And my drink. I didn’t make excuses. We drank whiskey, on the rocks, though sometimes neat when I ran out of ice cubes, but then he was mostly the one who drank.
Turner drank Jack when he came over. And then he’d kiss me, and lick my neck, and I began to associate the taste with sex and Radiohead’s Karma Police. So I began to drink Jack and Gingers, until I thought it was cooler to just drink Jack on the rocks. I never drank it neat, aside from an occasional tip of his, but I thought, and still think, I’d be cooler if I did.
Turner and I loaded up on liquor and mussels, brunch beneath awnings, dog run with Linus, then I’d beg him to play me his acoustic guitar. And he would, but he wouldn’t sing. That’s when he began to play me Radiohead. Then I’d attack him. I told him to talk dirty to me, but he didn’t know what to say and said as much. I left it at that and decided to try to figure out how to get that need met when we weren’t in the throes of it. Eventually, because of his inability to commit to more with me, we became "just friends," which he came to admit was a serious mistake on his part. But I’ll get to all that much later, particularly when discussing The Blackout, and how he showed up at my apartment, despite my being involved with Oliver. The point is, once we were "just friends" he also confided, "you’d be really proud of me now. I can now talk dirty." Yeah, with a twenty-year-old whose first language was not English. Good for you, Turner. "Baby steps, baby" he said. I laughed, and then he offered to show me. "How ’bout I just take your dirty word for it Aveda Boy." Then he laughed, and I missed the way we used to be, but knew he wasn’t capable of more with me, despite how much he insisted otherwise. Then we grabbed a drink.