As I left the bar, I knew he had to have seen me leave. I couldn't bring myself to look around, because I just couldn't figure out what I would do if I saw him. I paid little attention to the catcalls that followed me down the street. I wasn't sure exactly what the implications were of my decision to walk out of the bar, and I was rapidly trying to process how to play this all out. I walked determinedly to the subway. When I got in front of the subway, I thought quickly. I should call him at least to tell him that I left his bag there. I'd be a real asshole if someone made off with his bag because I walked out. A phone call would also give me the chance to make light of this, to pretend like it's nothing.
We had exchanged phone numbers earlier in the evening, back when I thought we were getting along swell, so I dropped my bag in between my feet, fished out my cell phone, and called him. I stared down the dirty stairs to the subway as the phone rang. And rang. And rang. And then he picked up.
"Hey there." Forced cheerfulness.
"Where are you?"
"I'm out. I left. Listen, I just wanted to let you know that your bag is still there by the chairs, so make sure no one gets to it."
"Oook. [pause] Where are you right now?""
silence. My mind is going a mile a minute, calculating every possible implication of anything that I say, but I'm also waiting desperately for him to say something that will make sense of all this.
"I'm in front of the subway. It's late, I really should get home."
"Um, ok," he said slowly.
Realizing in about half a beat that he was not going to say anything worthwhile, I said neutrally, "Alright, well your bag is there, just wanted to let you know. See you Monday!" and before I could hear his response, I hung up. Part of me wanted to look down the block, to wait a moment to see if he'd run out of the bar after me, but I knew it would just be more of me waiting for something that wasn't going to happen.
Instead, I walked down the stairs to the subway, my eyes burning. My chest welled up into a hard knot. What I fool I am. I could not find my subway pass in my bag, and had to put my bag down again. I started digging furiously. This cannot be happening. I could feel the tears brimming in my eyes. I was afraid I'd miss the last train, I couldn't find my pass, I just wanted to shed my clothing and crawl into bed and wail into my pillow. Finally I found my pass and walked down to the train. I only had to wait a few moments before the train arrived. The doors opened, I made a beeline for the most discreet corner I could find, sat down, put my feet up, my head down, and cried.
I cried because I couldn't figure out what keeps going wrong. First, I run into a guy I had avoided for months, who then wouldn't stop harassing me to see him, and when I finally agreed, I discovered that I really did actually enjoy his company and really did want to see him again. But as best I can tell, he sent flowers to another girl the next day, and hasn't returned my calls or emails since then. I was completely blindsided by this. What happened? What made him pursue me so madly for months, and what changed this time? What did he see in me that he wanted so badly, and what made him change his mind in the end?
And just days later, I am here, having an incredible evening, and it too ends badly. Why am I doomed to this? What is it about me that drives men away? When is this madness going to end?
The ride back was longer than the ride to get there, and I could hardly bring myself to open my eyes. For most of the ride, I kept my eyes closed, wiping away the tears I couldn't hold back. Only a few people were on the train, mostly homeless people from what I could tell.
As I left the subway, I pulled out my phone. One new voicemail. I hesitated, because I just was not sure that I could listen to it, but I knew who I wanted it to be.
"Hey, it's me. Please call me when you get home. Just let me know that you got home safely. I was worried when you left. Please call."
I hesitated again. What good would it do me to call him? What would I say then? How could I face him at work again? But if I didn't call, it would only make things worse. I hoisted my bag on my shoulder and started walking home. Guess I have to do this.
"Hello?" His voice was groggy.
"Hey there, I got your message."
"Where are you?" More alert.
"Oh, I just got off the subway and am walking home. I'm safe, though, thanks for looking out for me!" Where the hell is this conversation going to go next?
"Why did you leave?"
Oh shit. Why did it have to go there?
"Well, you left to go talk to someone else, so I was just sitting there by myself, and I figured it was getting really late and I should just get home and go to bed."
"But why did you leave? I was upset when you left."
What am I supposed to say to that?
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. I was just tired."
"But why did you leave? Why?"
And finally he backed me into a corner. I knew what he was getting at. He wanted me to say it.
I said softly, "Why do you think I left?"
"Were you upset? Were you scared? What?"
I was pissed that he thought I was scared. It irks me sometimes when people get paternalistic. Was I scared because I was in a strange neighborhood in the late hours of the morning all by myself? No, actually, although I probably should have been. But thanks for being a dick.
I was more emphatic now. "You went to talk to someone else and you left me there alone. For a while."
"I wasn't gone that long," he protested.
"Yeah, you were."
"Even if I was, you didn't leave when I left you alone to go to the bathroom."
"Why were you upset? What happened?"
Finally, I had to admit to him that I thought we had been having a really great time together, and that I really enjoyed spending that time with him, and just when I thought things were going really well, he left to go talk to another woman. I figured since I had made a grave error, and that since I had been laboring under a major delusion, I had to just cut my losses and leave. If that's what it was going be, then I certainly wouldn't have gone all the way out there, and certainly wouldn't have stayed out so long.
We talked for a long time, and he started telling me that I wasn't imagining things at all. He had a great time as well. He was attracted to me. He had been checking me out recently. He wanted to kiss me, while we were out on the roof, and while we were waiting in the subway. He wished I hadn't left, he wished that I was still there. He told me in detail the parts of my body he had been admiring over the past few days. That woman he went to talk to? She kept looking over, and he thought it was someone that maybe he knew or was supposed to know. She was married, from out of town, had a ring on. She just kept looking over, so he went to talk to her. He couldn't figure out why I was leaving, and after I hung up, he ran to the subway looking for me. He couldn't find me, so I must have gotten a train right away. That's when he called and left the message.
Oh, sweet blessed relief. My friend insists that girls always know when guys are hitting on them, but it's guys that make us think we're crazy. This was a classic case. Except this time, I had some after-the-fact validation. I wasn't crazy. I knew what was going on. I wasn't delusional. He kept assuring me that I hadn't made it all up, that things really had been that way. We talked for a while longer, and finally I had to go upstairs. Some parts of the story didn't ring true to me - there were some declarations he was making (did he REALLY run after me? did he REALLY think that he knew the woman he went to go talk to?) but I was in no mood to entertain any doubts. He promised to call when he got back into town. We promised to make it up to each other - he was going to make up for the fact that he went to talk to someone else, and I was going to make up for the fact that I upset him when I left.
That night, I went to bed thinking about what a bad idea it is to ever get involved with a coworker. Everyone knows nothing good can come of it. Except the night, in all of its drama, was a great night. Even at its worst it was a great story. So this whole not dating a coworker thing? Maybe that's a lesson I'd like to learn for myself. On the other hand, maybe now's a really good time to cut my losses. Again.