It is 4:54 in the afternoon and all you can think about is Jim. You close your document, put your computer to sleep and head out of the office. At 5:07 you start your car to an engine revving, “J-J-J-Jim! Jim!”

You’re in the shower by 5:59. You hang your dry-cleaned shirt in the bathroom so the steam can get out the wrinkles, even though there aren’t any, because you want to look your best and you’re redundant that way. Soaping yourself with Allure body wash, you consider that Jim smells mostly of musk and Marlboros and hope he won’t think you’re too gay. You dress, opting against cologne.

It’s 6:49 on your radio, but 6:46 on your cell phone, which you decide is more accurate so you wait until it reads 6:57 to call Jim. Close enough, you justify, to the agreed-upon 7 o’clock.

“Hey, what’s up?” Jim answers without saying your name. You wish he had, but understand that caller ID eliminates the need.

“Nothing—just got out of the shower.” You hope he’s picturing you naked. “You still want to hang out?” As if you don’t care! It is Valentine’s Day, but this is only your second date, so you need to be cavalier.

Jim speaks. “Yeah, but I’m gonna take a nap. I’ll call you when I wake up, cool?” He clearly didn’t hear you say “dinner” the other day, but that’s okay because you’re hip and casual, and you’re still going out with Jim. You get off the phone at 7:05 and sit on your bed. For two solid hours.

At 9:05 you feel proud for not calling back, as that would be needy and disturb Jim’s sleep. The problem is you’re hungry like the wolf. At 9:15 you eat Chex with Silk to tide you over until your real meal, your meal with Jim.

When he finally calls, it is 9:48. “Hey. Sorry I didn’t wake up sooner. You want some Mexican food?” Mexican, of course, will shift your stomach’s tectonic plates, but anything Jim says is great. He’s coming for you in 20 minutes; wait outside at the corner.

Thirty five minutes later you’re still patiently counting cars. You wonder if he’ll be wearing the same Bears cap and sleeveless tee he was two days ago, the day of the best date of your life. How romantically it ended: a passionate kiss before leaving the bar, so much sweeter than the standard drunken sex. Feeling his phantom lips against yours, you kiss the air wishfully as if life were a movie. His pickup approaches.

In the same worn cap and sleeveless tee, Jim is too butch for flowers, candy, or kissing hello, so you shake hands and kind of grunt a salutation.

“Where’s a place that’s still serving, you think?”

“Right there.” You point in serendipity. 

“Oh yeah,” Jim chuckles. “That’s why I keep you around: you’re smart.”

Keep you around, you ruminate. He’s such a top.

The Mexican restaurant is fantastically par, but you can’t eat because you’re nervous. You sip your margarita; Jim downs two shots and a daiquiri. He reminds you of one of your fiery college professors, only cuter, more simian and laughing at your jokes. “You’re cocky,” Jim opines. “You say a lot of funny stuff, but you get out of line. That’s why you need me to put you in your place.”

Put you in your place, you ruminate again. That’s strange, but you let it go because this guy’s into you, and he said “cocky,” as in “cock,” as in “sex.” With you.

After dinner you head for a bar. It doesn’t show that Jim’s had five drinks, but your margarita is making you spin. When you started Wellbutrin a week ago, your doctor told you not to drink—something about exacerbating depression and something else about dizziness. This warning was filed in your brain under health Info., miscellaneous and summarily ignored. Now Jim pulls marijuana from his glove box.

“Care to partake in the festivities?” he asks. It’s important to have things in common, so you say “sure” and inhale, deeply, as if to spite Bill Clinton.

The remainder of the ride takes either five minutes or one hour. All you know is that Jim seems relatively grounded, so you’re fine. So fine you start quoting The Wizard of Oz. “How would you like it if someone threw apples at you?” you repeat . . . repeatedly.

The next thing you know you’re standing at a rack of pool cues. “In front of you,” says Jim, as if for the third time. You grab one, take a sloppy shot and sink the white ball, cheering, “I win!”

“Let’s stop,” your man suggests and you follow him to a barstool. He takes the only empty one so you stand by his side.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Jim.”

“You just said that. And it’s been over for ten minutes, anyway.”

This is news to you. Gazing at your date, you try to recall everything that’s happened since you met, but the music is too distracting. “Jesus, this song’s like, so long. Do you believe in life after love?”

“You’re stoned,” Jim quips.

“Hey—how would you like it if someone threw apples at you?”

“You don’t make sense. And stop staring at me with that dippy look on your face.”

Dippy, you ruminate further. Is dippy cute?

Suddenly—or after awhile—Jim heads for the door. Following, you grab the back of his shirt.

“What do want, a kiss?”

Please, you’re thinking, and Jim pecks you on the cheek with the haste of an uppercut. You’re not sure if he says goodbye.

When you wake it is 2:37 p.m. You puzzle together the pieces of the night before, concluding a humiliation so unsettling it shakes you.

Jim will never call again.

You want to tie your body to a tree, and stone yourself with apples, but you can’t.

Because you are me­­­­, and I was 23, and this already happened.

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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