I woke up to her text.
The muppet is interested.
It all came back. Her birthday in a dive bar that somehow also specialized in sake cocktails. Lots of beer and four borrowed cigarettes. A small television playing, for some reason, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which I had watched and provided commentary on all night with The Muppet. He had come over to me just as Leatherface was stimulating a woman’s clitoris with a chainsaw, which was off. She was pretending to enjoy this, presumably to ensure that the chainsaw stay quiet. I was not pretending to enjoy any of it but still, I could not look away. The Muppet found my transfixed horror entertaining (read: adorable, as boys are want to find this kind of squirming in girls) and so, for the duration, I had him.
I would count the evening as pretty standard first-time meeting flirtation, living even just South of promising. As you’d expect from a man who certain women call The Muppet in secret, he was nice, a generous laugher and cute; a cartoon everyman.
His interest was obvious to me not because of some kind of personal arrogance but more to do with my having a cursory understanding of adult sexual behavior. Or rather, I know the meaning of things. He sat at my side all night; his eye contact had been steady and meaningful. He had watched me walk away when I’d left him at the bar at the end of my night. So I had simply known.
He was interested but I was still not sure how interested I was in his interest.
I’d responded to her text coyly, in case I decided that this was information I had a use for. Before, this kind of information had been essential.
For a long time preceding this exchange, I was sexually impulsive. I tended to view men as adventures; confusing curiosity with desire, though I remain unconvinced that they are so different. I liked the beginnings of things so much that I collected them. I discovered, that beginnings age poorly, especially for someone as ungraceful at endings and subsequently cowardly as I am. A full calendar year of dragging myself around the city after boys, sitting across bar tables; the prickliness of loneliness and boredom and uncollaborative sex and seeing a version of yourself that you wouldn’t have chosen reflected back at you through eyes you never liked enough to begin with.
It had gotten so that my heart felt like a dry mouth.
That I had left the bar last night alone, without the assurance of “progress” was a dramatic shift made even more significant by the fact that I hadn’t made myself leave alone because of some self-care resolution. I had wanted, nay desired, to leave without him; without ever having touched him.
That gray morning, I rolled around alone on my futon, thinking that a season of change had found me after a solid year of beds and mouths, imagining myself now spit out the other side a steadier and more self-possessed woman, I swelled with pride. And then my friend sent another text.
Just keep dressing well and you’re golden.
My moment of reverie was punctured with indignation. My friend was referring to the fact that, the night before, I had worn a thin black sweater vest, with an outrageously plunging v-neck, stretched over my braless, flat chest. That the night before, to stand above me or simply be taller was to look down and thoroughly see the contours of my meagre breasts. To face me was to face two prominently alerted nipples and to see me from a distance was to see a whole lot of exposed pale flesh.
En route to her birthday I had texted.
Tonight I am celebrating your birth
as well as the fact that I never did grow those breasts.
Of course, I’d known all about the outfit. I had been the one to draw attention to it even. The night before, when I had unzipped my brown leather jacket and perched on a bar stool beside her, my friend had complimented me genuinely and she was not shaming me in any way by mentioning it now. But still I was bristled by the insinuation that I had dressed the way I had for attention from The Muppet, etc. That the interest and the attention paid to me was connected to the outfit. That I had employed a trick I considered the territory of lesser women, which I didn’t need to reduce myself to, because I had intelligence and charm and, and, and…
In my mind I saw The Muppet’s permanently smiley face. I imagined what he’d thought of my outfit. It concerned me that he might think I’d worn it for him or them; that their attention was the goal, not merely a pleasant product of wearing such a shirt.
Alone I said out-loud:
My nipples are not for you.
And as I did, a little doubt found me there.