The older a woman got, the more diligent she had to become about not burdening men with the gory details of her past, lest she scare them off. That was the name of the game: Don’t Scare the Men. Those who encouraged you to indulge in your impulse to share, largely did so to expedite a bus. Like I felt the wind of the bus. I could even see a couple of the passengers, all shaken by a potential suicide. And out of nowhere, the guy rushes over, yanks me toward him, and escorts me out of the street.”
“The birthday boy?”
“No, different guy. You all start to look the same after a while, you know that? Anyway, we were both so high on adrenaline, we couldn’t stop laughing the whole night. Then he asked me out. Now one of our jokes is about that time I flung myself into traffic to avoid him.”
“You were in shock.”
“No, I wasn’t.”
“Why isn’t the joke that he saved your life?”
“I don’t know, Amos,” I said, folding my fingers together. “Maybe we’re both waiting for the day I turn around and say, ‘That’s right, asshole, I did fling myself into traffic to avoid you.’ I’m joking.”
“Am I?” I mimicked him. “Should the day come when you manage to face-plant yourself into a relationship, you’ll find there are certain fragile truths every couple has. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with the power, knowing I could break us up if I wanted. Other times, I want to blow it up just because it’s there. But then the feeling passes.”
“To you, it is. But I’m not like you. I don’t need to escape every room I’m in.”
“But you are like me. You think you want monogamy, but you probably don’t if you dated me.”
“You’re faulting me for liking you now?”
“All I’m saying is you can’t just will yourself into being satisfied with this guy.”
“Watch me,” I said, trying to burn a hole in his face.
“If it were me, the party would have been our first date and it never would have ended.”
“Oh, yes it would have,” I said, laughing. “The date would have lasted one week, but the whole relationship would have lasted one month.”
“Yeah,” he said, “you’re right.”
“I know I’m right.”
“It wouldn’t have lasted.”
“This is what I’m saying.”
“Because if I were this dude, I would have left you by now.”
Before I could say anything, Amos excused himself to pee. On the bathroom door was a black and gold sticker in the shape of a man. I felt a rage rise up all the way to my eyeballs, thinking of how naturally Amos associated himself with that sticker, thinking of him aligning himself with every powerful, brilliant, thoughtful man who has gone through that door as well as every stupid, entitled, and cruel one, effortlessly merging with a class of people for whom the world was built.
I took my phone out, opening the virtual cuckoo clocks, trying to be somewhere else. I was confronted with a slideshow of a female friend’s dead houseplants, meant to symbolize inadequacy within reason. Amos didn’t have a clue what it was like to be a woman in New York, unsure if she’s with the right person. Even if I did want to up and leave Boots, dating was not a taste I’d acquired. The older a woman got, the more diligent she had to become about not burdening men with the gory details of her past, lest she scare them off. That was the name of the game: Don’t Scare the Men. Those who encouraged you to indulge in your impulse to share, largely did so to expedite a decision. They knew they were on trial too, but our courtrooms had more lenient judges.