Emma Alves


Frustrated 25-year-old artist-lady looking for a wildly attractive young gentleman to spend an awkward evening with. Must be over six feet tall with tattoos. I’m still new to the city, so I’ll let you pick the bar. We’ll talk about the weather for ten minutes too long, then together we’ll endure a few agonizing seconds of self-conscious silence before we both try desperately to start a new conversation at the same time. It’ll be clear pretty quickly that a mutual physical attraction is really the only thing we’re working with, which isn’t that bad, really. I mean, it could be a lot worse: some people only have their dogs to keep them company on these freezing northern evenings, and at least we’ll have each other. We’ll be counting our blessings. In fact, we’ll be so busy counting that we won’t once bother to listen to what the other one is saying. It’ll be no real loss though, because our words won’t matter. What will matter is that our knees will be gently touching beneath the bar, and that we’ll have somehow showed up to our blind date wearing the exact same cardigan. It’ll matter when we endure an entire game of darts just to smoothly excuse a transition from the bright light of the front of the bar to a dark and sultry corner booth. And when I ask you if you’d like to accompany me while I smoke a cigarette—that’ll matter, because I’ll have successfully gotten you alone.

We’ll start making out the second we get out the back door. Against the back door, actually. Then we’ll make out against the wall, then on the hood of a parked car. Then the people in the parked car will get out of the car, and we’ll decide it’s time to catch a cab home. To your home. Well, not your home exactly, but your friend’s place that you’re pet-sitting at. After suffering through the graceless ritual of fumbling out of our snow-drenched coats and boots and scarves and hats, we’ll proceed to shirts and pants and skirts and stockings, then you’ll lead me to your bed. Well, not your bed exactly, but your friend’s. Your friend with the pets.

You’ll apologize too much for not having condoms, but we’ll quickly find a means of enjoying each other regardless. I’ll be fascinated with your awkward passiveness. You project such confidence and masculinity when you’re upright and fully dressed, but in the dark I’ll be thrilled with the way that your body shivers, the tiny noises that you make, how your self-assured demeanor quite literally melts away in my hands, and, well, my mouth. Your voice will go up an octave when you beg me not to stop, and it’ll be that, that—that honest and involuntary display of utter vulnerability that will keep me flustered for a good two weeks: your voice reduced to a high-pitched whisper, your shaky hands in my hair. It’ll be what I think about as I’m falling asleep, and where my mind goes when I zone out at work. It’ll replay in my mind when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store.

You’ll hold me when you’ve finished and we’ll fall asleep together, but somehow by the morning we’ll find ourselves on opposite sides of the bed. I’ll toss and turn for a few hours, and by the time I actually wake up you’ll be fully dressed and staring at the ceiling. You’ll say something about how you have somewhere to be in half an hour, and I’ll take the hint. I’ll want to start making out with you again, but that will strangely feel like an impossible action. Instead I’ll awkwardly thank you for having me over, which will only make the situation worse. By now we’ll somehow both look terribly confused and slightly hurt. You’ll thank me for staying over, and in the same breath you’ll apologize for having to leave so early, but you’ll slip up on the delivery and it’ll come out all rushed: your sympathy and your gratitude all tangled in the same terrible sentence fragment. It’s a midwestern thing that I’ve picked up on, the “sorry-thank-you,” and you’re far from the first one to do it. It’s part of that latent land-locked passive aggressive indecisiveness that’s often referred to as “Minnesota Nice.” You shouldn’t worry, because I’ve heard of it. I read the Wikipedia article about it before I moved here. It’s a cultural thing: “sorry-thank-you” is what you say, for example, to someone who notices that you’ve dropped something and goes out of their way to pick it up for you. It’s what you say to your cocktail waitress when she brings you a new glass of your favorite microbrew to replace the one that you absentmindedly upended with your elbow. It’s what you say to a lady that you barely know when she’s leaving in the morning with her skirt on inside out after a night in which you definitely got off and she didn’t even bother to pretend that she did. “Sorry, thank you.”

Of course, I’ll know better than to expect you to call me. You are, after all, a heterosexual male 23-year-old bike messenger from a broken home, and that’s not a demographic that has ever once called a girl back. On my way out the door it’ll occur to me to ask you what your last name is, but I’ll think better of it. Just look how good we are at biting our tongues.

And maybe, maybe if we’re lucky, maybe we’ll run into each other at some bar or some party three months from now, when the cold has finally broken and things feel a little less desperate. You’ll be with your group of friends, and I’ll be with mine. I’ll notice you first, or maybe you’ll see me come in, or maybe we’ll both look up at the exact same time and find ourselves locked in eye contact from across the crowded room. I will immediately either order a shot of whiskey or take a long pull from the flask that will inevitably be on my person before working up the nerve to approach you. And sure, my heart will be racing, but on the surface it’ll be all pleasantries: “So good to see you again! How’s the warm weather treating you? Well, it was great to run into you, but…”

Or maybe you won’t see me at all, and I’ll spend too long trying to compose myself, and by the time I send another glance in your direction you’ll be halfway out the door.

Or, hey! Maybe if we’re really lucky we’ll both be rolling two or three drinks too deep, and we’ll talk for a full fifteen minutes before swerving our bicycles back to the same house, to the same bed, to the exact same situation. Rinse and repeat.

Maybe you’ll actually have condoms this time.


Emma Alves is a scenic designer, woodworker, and writer. She is a proud member of Rough House, a puppet and object-based theater company in Chicago. Check out her work at emmaalamo.com, and keep an eye out this June for her touring production, Constance and the Perpetual Motion Machine. 


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