Her name was Cody. Can you believe that? A girl named Cody. She was cute, terribly cute with these big brown eyes and messy bunned curly light brown hair. She didn’t have the curves I like, but the way she looked at me made me melt. All I knew about her is her name and that she liked to drink. Last time I was at this place was the first time we met. She was completely shit-faced.
This joint had community tables. All I wanted to do on this night was sit down to enjoy my arepas. I butted in on a group of people that left one end of the table open. I asked to sit. “Sure,” they said with drunken glee. Cody wasn’t there, she was at another table. I didn’t get in more than a hello when I was introduced to her. When the time came, I said my goodbyes and gave a little wave to Cody who was eating tostones with a curiosity that said she was so drunk she had no idea what she ordered. She gave me a dismissive wave with her fork.
“Sorry we couldn’t chat,” I said.
“Yeah, well. I would have liked to talk for a bit.”
She looked offended. Normally I wouldn’t care, but those big brown eyes reached out and pulled me close to her. I sat down. “What are you eating?”
“Fried plantains or something. I don’t know. It’s good though. You want to try it?” She picked at her food with her fork trying to get a little bit of everything in this one bite she was about to offer me.
“No, thank you.”
“It’s good. Trust me.”
“Yes, I’m sure, but I just ate. I’m full.”
She didn’t believe me. “Fine!” she said. I had the feeling she thought I didn’t want to use the same fork as her. The truth is I would have used it if I wasn’t full. I wasn’t afraid of her cooties. I would have kissed her if she had given me the slightest clue that she wanted me to kiss her. When was the last time I kissed a girl? Jesus.
There was not much of a conversation. Maybe if I was also shit-faced things may have gone differently. But I wasn’t, and they didn’t.
The next time I saw her we talked a little more. I went to the same place every Friday because of the food trucks but mainly to see if I’d run into her again. It was two Fridays later when we I saw her. I think she saw me too but pretended not too. When she walked by, I touched her on her shoulder and gave a little wave. She turned and smiled not at all surprised to see me. She continued to the bathroom or wherever she was going. When she got back, she asked me to sit next to her.
“Sorry about last time. I was pretty drunk.”
“I don’t think you did anything you have to apologize for?”
“Apology accepted is the proper response, or you could not accept it, I guess.”
The funny thing about her apologizing for being drunk last time was that she was just as drunk this time as well. We tried to converse, but it was useless again. I did, however, noticed the way she was looking at me. A woman hadn’t looked at me like that in a long time. They used to—a lot—but once I hit my forties, it just hasn’t happened. I say this not to brag but to let you know that I know what that look is. It’s the look someone gives you when they are in love with you.
Several Fridays passed by and finally, there she was again. She helped herself to my sweet potato fries.
“These taste like funnel cake.”
“By all means, help yourself,” I said with sarcasm.
“You put them in front of me. That implies sharing.”
“Yes, it does. But don’t worry I won’t eat anymore.”
“Oh my god. I was totally kidding. Eat as many as you want.”
She was not drunk on this night we chatted for a bit, and then I asked her “Do you always look at people like that?”
“Like what?” she asked back.
“Like you are in love with them.”
“Is that how I am looking at you?”
“Then, no. I don’t.”
“So why are you looking at me like this?”
“I guess I love you?”
“You love me? We barely know each other?”
“Well if that’s how I’m looking at you, then that must be it, no? You appear to be the one who’s an expert at how one looks at people when they are in love.”
“Maybe I’m wrong.”
“I’m twice your age. How old are you?”
“Ok. Not twice but still.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. This is kind of a shock to me. Have you ever been in love?”
“Yes. Many times.”
“Well, I haven’t. This is the first time, and I am not blowing it off like it’s nothing.”
“What if I’m an asshole?”
“Then I fell in love with an asshole.”
“Well, I am an asshole. So…”
“Do you believe me?” I could see the tears start well up in her eyes. It was the first time she had ever been in love, and she was scared. She had managed to keep men at distant for some time. What happened? I can guess. I suppose the real question is at what age did her father abandon her.
“How could you?” she asked.
“I can tell. It’s one of these things I have.”
“Yeah. Like gifts. Some people are gifted with music, or numbers, or athleticism, or even entrepreneurship. My gift is love. I can give it and receive it on demand.”
“Do you love me?” she asked me.
“I can if you want. I mean, I would love to love you. It’s just…”
“It’s never worked out for anyone. There were a lot of tender and beautiful moments. Ones I’ll cherish for the rest of my life but with them comes sorrow. Something I’d like to avoid.”
“Yeah, let’s avoid that. What do you mean if I want?”
“I mean. Just say the word, and I’ll love you back.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that!”
“I don’t know how I feel about this. I kind of want you to love me back on your own. Isn’t that how it usually works.?”
“Not with me. Though, I suppose I could have just loved you back without telling you. Then you would have had the illusion that I just fell in love with you.”
“Why couldn’t I have just fallen for someone normal?”
“I doubt anything you do is normal.”
“You’re right. That’s why I would love some normalcy. But no. Why start now?” she said as she took a drink of her local super-hoppy ale. “Do you love me or not? I am not going to tell you if I want you to. That’s just strange, I …” She paused when she saw the look in my eyes. I was looking at her like she had been looking at me—like I was in love.
Now, that I think about it, I didn’t just decide to start loving her at that very moment. I already loved her. I just chose to let it show. Or rather, not to act on it. She’s so young and cute. I didn’t want to scar her for life. I am Facebook friends with a lot of married women who still love me. I have the other end of the spectrum too. Some women have blocked me completely—not wanting to have anything to do with me. I prefer the ones who still love me.
So what is the problem with a man who can love so freely? How easy it is for him to take it away. What happens when you love a woman like she has never been loved before and then suddenly take it away? Well, one of two things. She’ll either tell you how much she is still in love with you only days before her wedding day or she will hate your guts and never want to have anything to do with you ever again.
The truth is, I love them all. All women! I just don’t let them all know it. I can’t explain it. I do know that it’s easier to show love to the cute ones. I’m shallow, sue me. I used to think I needed to find a reason why—like they were good with kids or had blue hair. It turns out that way all bullshit. I love every woman I come across. I let my guard down after few drinks. That’s why even the occasional flings never ended up flings. What was supposed to be a no strings hook up after a night of drinking always seemed to turn into a romance that shouldn’t have really happened.