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No. 5

March 12, 2013

“Do you remember where I live?” I asked him.
“Yeah. But I don’t know which apartment,” he answered.
“Number 5. Like Chanel No. 5,” I said.
“I’ll go home and get the wine and I’ll meet you there in about 10 minutes,” he told me.
“OK,” I said as we walked out of the alley to the sidewalk.

It was the end of the Absinthe Party at Pamplona’s. My head was swimming with the unusual intoxication of the absinthe cocktails I’d been drinking all night. It was the first time I’d really tried drinking absinthe. I’ve had sips from other people’s drinks before. It tastes like licorice. Too sweet. The regular absinthe drinkers are always saying that the feeling you get from it is different than the drunkenness of alcohol. By my third drink I could see what they meant. I was definitely intoxicated but it was more crisp, less loopy. I was dizzy but not drunk exactly. It was weird.

And my head was spinning with a bit of confusion and surprise over what had just happened. I had just invited someone to my apartment. How did that happen? Earlier that day I was flirting with the sushi chef at the place Liz and I had lunch. She found out he was from Honduras and I was enchanted. I wanted to have him. Only a couple of days ago I was trying not to think about Mr. Leo who hasn’t called. Then, there I was, walking to my bike on my way home and he was going to be there in just 10 minutes.

No. 5, that’s what I’m going to call him. I’ve known No. 5 for years. We used to hang out at the same coffee shop when I lived here before. When I was a wife and mother, over a decade ago. He was one of several people from that place and time that I had a strange sort of friendship with…..a whole group of people that I talked to daily, had personal relationships with, yet didn’t know their last names, didn’t have their phone numbers and didn’t see them outside of that café, that world of long conversations and sharing ideas. In many ways Pamplona’s is like the substitute of that place, No. 5 being there regularly making it more so.

I saw him there on a Saturday night soon after I moved back to Lafayette. We talked for a long time, catching up on the previous ten years. I like sitting and talking to him. We people-watch and play armchair anthropologists as we analyze and comment on the behavior of the men and women engaging with each other at the bar. There are very few awkward pauses. He always has something interesting to say. He’s smart and witty with a dry sense of humor and a surprisingly joyous laugh for someone so quiet and understated. He’s well-educated, well-read and well-traveled. He was there the night I had the horrible date with Mr. 23. I remember wondering if he was observing our behavior, if he could see how badly the date was going.

He’s the guy everyone likes without being gregarious or fake. He’s that guy, that sort of asexual, confirmed bachelor getting his fix of socialization and conversation every Friday and Saturday at his favorite bar. And I’m the girl who partakes of his company on occasion when I’m out to get a bit of socialization myself, most of the time on my way to the Blue Moon for dancing. I’ve picked up on some chemistry between us a few times but I’ve learned that that doesn’t mean anything. With No. 5, I knew it didn’t mean he would ever do anything about it. He just didn’t seem like the type.

I was standing next to him at the bar, waiting for James to close out my tab and he was looking at me with a funny expression. I looked at him as if to say, “What?”
“Liz said I should make a move on you,” he said before leaning over and kissing me.
I sat there, kind of stunned.
“Huh. OK,” I said.
“Was that OK?” he asked.
“Yeah, I think so.” I said. I was kind of shocked and confused.
“Can I try that again?” I asked. He kissed me again.
“Oohhhh….Kaaay” I said. I was processing this new, strange development while trying to calculate a tip and find my purse, all with an absinthe buzz in my head. I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t know what to think. No. 5 has not the smooth, calculating moves of a Syrian Doctor type, nor is he the bumbling, clueless child that Mr. 23 was, nor the weird set of contradictions of Tennis Bashir.

“I kissed you because Liz told me too and because Kay said I should,” he said.
My old friend Kay had obnoxiously and tactlessly tried to suggest that the two of us get together almost a year ago during a very odd night at Pamplona’s. He had driven me home that night. As for Liz, I found out the next day that she had admonished No. 5 when he was sitting next to her at the bar. I was on the dance floor with another guy, just being silly and having fun. “What are you doing here? Go out there and separate those two,” she had chided him. “I’m pretty sure if you just made a move something would happen,” she instructed him. Guys had been buying Liz wine all night. She was on her third full glass at that point. God Bless Liz.

“Is that the only reason you kissed me?” I asked No. 5.
“You’re fishing,” he said in his usual non-conformist way of interacting.
“Yes, I am.” I replied. “This is it,” I was thinking. “This is the moment when you say the right thing. This is when you seal the deal.”
“I kissed you because I’m attracted to you and I’ve been trying to control myself.”
Hmmm.

I asked him to go outside with me. There’s a little alley between Pamplona’s and the next building where everyone goes to smoke. I had followed him out there earlier and hopped up on a trash bin next to him. Half the party had been out there and we had watched everyone like we usually do.

Back In the alley, we kissed more. He was a surprisingly good kisser. I was still a bit dazed.
“I’m a little confused,” I said.
“Why,” he asked. “This just happened kind of fast.”
“This is the part where you ask me to your apartment for a drink,” he instructed. “Do you have wine?”
“No,” I said.
“I do,” he said.
“Why don’t we go to your apartment?” I asked.
“Because it’s a mess,” he said.
“So is mine.” I countered.
“Yeah, but guys don’t care about that and women do.”

Fair enough. He could sense my remaining shreds of hesitation as I weighed in my head whether I wanted to sleep with him or not. I really hadn’t gone out that night thinking I would bring someone home with me. When I met Liz at her house before the party she had asked me, “What are your goals for the evening?”
“Goals? What do you mean goals?” I replied.
“Get drunk? Kiss a boy? Get laid…?” she suggested.
“Oh, OK, let’s go with those, ” I joked and we laughed at ourselves. Ironically I had relayed this conversation to No. 5 earlier in the evening. I have a confessional personality (I know, right?) and I like to tell funny stories. I thought No. 5 would find our conversation amusing.
“If you just go up to a guy and tell him that, it might go exactly that way,” he had said.
“If only it were that simple,” I countered.

In the alley the negotiation continued. “We can drink wine and talk and kiss,” No. 5 offered. Yeah. OK. He’s not the first one to get me with that line. That’s what Mr. Mexico had said. It worked on me nonetheless and within a few minutes I found myself tidying up my apartment waiting for him to come up the stairs.

I call him No. 5 because he’s the fifth one. Leo and Mr. 23 don’t count. They didn’t make the cut. Syrian Doctor, Sam, Tennis Bashir, Mr. Mexico and now No. 5. He’s the fourth person I’ve slept with since the divorce. I have to say of all the others, he’s the best one yet. He passed the timer test. (Did I write about that? I’ll add a footnote.) He was affectionate and considerate and skilled and had great stamina. It was fun and nice and before I knew it, it was 7am and we hadn’t slept. He got dressed and left after giving me a long, sweet kiss. He didn’t ask for my number and there was no hint of a “what now” discussion. As far as I know, it was a one night thing. I think I’m ok with that. Though, I’d like to do it again. I know he’s not the romantic, charming type so I know I’m not going to get wooed. He’s not going to call me up and ask me to dinner. I’m not sure how to play it now. He didn’t get on a plane for Mexico City the next morning. I know where to find him. Maybe I’ll go sit next to him at Pamplona’s, people-watch and talk like we always did before and offer to do it again if he wants to. Friends with benefits? Can that work? Hasn’t this been made into about 1,000 movies? Haven’t I tried this already? Can I pull it off this time if I don’t fall for him? I don’t have a crush on him now. I don’t think he has feelings for me either. But dammit the sex was good. I want the sex again. Yeah.

This is going to get weird.

footnote: (The Timer Test: An idea proposed by Kitten after a few disappointing experiences with one of The Four who didn’t last very long. Kitten wants to bring a timer with her when sex is on the agenda, turn the dial to 60 minutes and say, “Can you handle that?” to the potential partner. No. 5 handled it just fine.)

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