Timing Is Everything (Another London Story)

When I was 20, I studied abroad in London. But that’s not the part that matters (and I’ve told that story many times before), this is: the summer before I left for the UK, I was at a local electronics store in June, shopping for CDs and met a guy.

I hadn’t handed out my number to anyone in months and I was deliberately in between boyfriends. I planned to spend the summer and the rest of the year unattached. I’d never been to London, didn’t know what promises it held and I didn’t want there to be anything holding me back or distracting me from exploring any and all options I might encounter abroad.

Dating and relationships are hard enough without distance. And what I really didn’t want was to get attached to someone, head overseas and spend my whole time yearning to be at home. Or worse, to get over there, yearn for my significant other, then he breaks up with me because he meets someone else/ can’t do the distance. Then I’d be overseas nursing myself through a break up.

So in that aisle in the electronics store when he, Logan, introduced himself and asked, “you got a man?” I told him, “Nah, and not looking for one” and I meant it.

He scrunched up his face because I guess women don’t say that too often. So I explained, “I’m going away for awhile. I don’t want to miss anyone.”

“You think you’ll miss me?” He said with the cockiness of Denzel in “Mo Better Blues.”

Now, if you’re gonna date a man who reminds you of Denzel, the goal is Denzel in the latter half of “Malcolm X”, or Denzel in “John Q”, or “The Great Debaters”. Even troubled but loyal Denzel in “Antoine Fischer”. But “Training Day” Denzel or “Flight” Denzel, and “Mo Better Blues” Denzel are not the Denzels you’re supposed to go for. In one he was a psychopath, in another he was an alcoholic and in the latter, he had severe honesty and commitment issues. But good Lord, did he have swagger. And at 20, that still counted for something.

I laughed at his question. Ok, giggled. “I might”, I told him.

“Then let me get your number then,” he said. He flashed a smile, pearly, pretty, even, but with enough imperfections to show he didn’t ever have braces. It was perfect… to me.

I smiled, that same knowing smile (less luminous) that Nina gave Darius when he stood at her doorstep after their first date and said, “I just want to come up and talk”, and rattled off my number.

Turns out, he was boyfriend material. Underneath the swagger at our introduction was a guy who was funny and silly and goofy in a totally un-annoying way, and he was also attentive, and smart and insightful. We would talk for hours about nothing and everything or sometimes just sit in silence and be content. We were immediately comfortable. Oh, and that perfect smile was framed by perfect lips and he was a great kisser.

That summer, I go to that electronics store as often as humanly possible under the guise of needing new music, a new Disc Man, batteries, and anything that I could conveniently get anywhere else, but couldn’t just say “hi” to Logan.

He’d come by after work in his uniform and we’d hang out in my parents’ basement. We’d go out to Jasper’s, a nearby restaurant with cheap, good food and strong drinks. He was 22, so he’d order a Bone Crusher and I’d sneak sips from his glass when the waitress wasn’t looking.

Anyway, we carry on this way for the whole summer. And of course, it goes from two people pretending to be friends to two people pretending they aren’t more than friends. I like him. A lot. But I’ve got a line in the sand. I’m not going to London with a boyfriend or a “situation” either.

In the last moments I’m with him before I leave, we’re hanging out in my basement as usual. Before midnight, I walk him upstairs and we go out on the porch. I say to him awkwardly, “so this is it.” I don’t really want it to be, but I’m looking at the big picture of what I want, not the distracting details of what I have. He asks for my address – because in 1999 everyone did not have email or an Internet connection– and says he’ll stay in touch. I think it’s a nice thing to say, but I don’t expect him to. Nice gesture though. Told you he was a good guy.

“You’ll call me when you get back, right?” he says.

I promise that I will. I kiss him goodbye, savoring his thick bottom lip, and he goes on his way. I go to my bedroom to continue packing.


To be continued…

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