I spend the night with Jude again. It’s my third time hooking up with Jude and I would say the sex is good. I wouldn’t say that Jude is particularly skilled or anything, but he’s so generally sexy. Like he could just pretty much lie there and the sex would still be incredible. Which is sort of what he does.
For example, tonight we have sex in the cowgirl position, which I can already tell is his favorite. He’s pretty into it, but then he has an orgasm, and it’s almost like he died or something. He stops moving and just kind of looks bored while he waits for me to have my orgasm, which believe me, doesn’t help things along. Then the second I come, he jumps up and runs to the bathroom. And stays in there for freaking ever.
So I guess you could say he’s not the most “giving” lover. But what he lacks in that department, he makes up for by being just really incredibly good looking.
Also, he sleeps naked. I’m rather fond of this habit. I love the feel of his taut, naked body next to mine. Admittedly, Jude isn’t much of a cuddler, but he lets me put my hand across his chest, which is just so toned and rock-hard. Once he kissed me on the forehead while I was doing that, which struck me as a very loving gesture.
Jude seems to wake up on his own at about six in the morning. He rolls out of bed and I get a lovely view of his ass as he stumbles toward the bathroom. He’s going to work now. Or at least, I assume he’s going to work. What else could he be doing so early on a Saturday morning?
After Jude leaves, I drift back to sleep until I’m awakened by the most incredible smell: cinnamon.
I bound out of bed, careful to get dressed this time in clothes I brought from home. (I came prepared.) I reach the kitchen and am pleased to find that this is the source of the delicious smell. Will is cooking something.
“Cinnamon French toast,” he says before I can even ask him.
“Beer cinnamon French toast?” I ask hopefully.
“You gotta respect a girl who wants beer at nine in the morning.”
“Fine, no beer,” I grumble.
Damn, that French toast smells good. I wish I lived with Will. I would gain like a thousand pounds just from breakfast alone.
I stand in the doorway for a minute, watching him. Everything in the kitchen is lowered for someone in a wheelchair. Will seems really comfortable cooking in here and I barely notice I’m staring until he says, “I had the kitchen modified.”
“Oh.” I blush and look away. “I was just… surprised they’d let you do that in an apartment you’re renting.”
“I own this apartment.”
“No, just me. Jude pays me rent for the room.”
I’m shocked. This place must have cost him a fortune. But then again, he’s some kind of high powered lawyer. His salary in an hour is probably more than what I make in a week. Hell, a month. “I’m really jealous,” I say. God, can you imagine if I lived in a place like this? Then again, I don’t know if it would be worth it to work the same hours as Jude and Will.
As we sit down to breakfast, I start to feel a bit sad that Jude has to work all day today. Most couples get to spend at least one day of the weekend together. Why do I have to date such a workaholic? I allow myself to fantasize for a minute about things Jude and I would be doing together if he were home today. Maybe a horse-drawn carriage ride around Central Park. Or he could take me for a ride in one of the row boats. Or we could just stay in bed all day.
“Do you think Jude will be home any time soon?” I ask Will hopefully.
“I wouldn’t hold your breath.”
I sigh. “Why does he have to work so hard?”
Will shrugs. “He wants to make partner. Anyway, our firm is one of the top ones in the city. They push us pretty hard.”
Oh well. At least he’s not with another woman. “You know what I want to do today?”
Will raises his eyebrows. “What?”
“You have to promise not to laugh,” I warn him.
He smiles. “Okay, I promise.”
“I want to go to the Bronx Zoo.”
“Hey!” But I’m laughing too. “Okay, you whetted my appetite. I love zoos though. I used to want to be a veterinarian was I was a kid.”
“Really?” Will looks at me with interest. “Why didn’t you do it?”
“It was stupid,” I say, not really wanting to talk about my abysmal grades in college that led me to dropping out. “Anyway, I love animals. And you’re right, I live in the city and I ought to see all the things that the city has to offer.”
“Damn straight,” Will says.
“I think the 2 train will take me all the way there,” I say thoughtfully. “I have to check the subway map, but I think—”
“I’ll drive you,” Will interrupts me.
I stare at him in surprise. I examine his face and he seems completely serious. “That’s really out of your way, isn’t it?”
“Well,” he says, “I was thinking maybe I’d go with you.” He quickly adds, “If that’s all right with you. I don’t want to intrude on any special, private moments between you and the giraffes.”
I laugh. “No, that would be great. I was kind of scared of being the weird lonely person at the zoo. But don’t you have to work too?”
“Occasionally they let me have a day off,” Will says. “It’s fine. Just let me shower and we’ll go.”
So yay, I’m going to the zoo with Will! Part of me wants to say that I wish it were Jude, and of course, I do wish I were going with zoo with Jude. But the thing is, I can’t really relax around Jude. With Will I can be myself and have fun. I don’t have to worry about how I look or if he’s hitting on other girls. It will be great.
My eyes have taken a beating lately. My vision is shit, so I wear disposable contacts, but when I end up spending the night with a man, I sometimes forget to take them out in a fit of passion. I know there are some contact lenses you can leave in, but I don’t have that kind, so I basically have to peel them off my eyeballs and toss them in the trash. Fortunately, I have my glasses in my purse.
My glasses aren’t awful. They’re relatively stylish. In the nineties, you would have called them Lisa Loeb glasses, and I guess now you’d call them Tina Fey glasses. But anyway, it’s a well known fact that men do not hit on women who wear glasses. This is not just one of those sexist sayings. Men literally do not hit on women wearing glasses. Period. I have experimented a few times and I may as well go out wearing a fat suit. So I generally wear contacts when I want to meet men, which is pretty much all the time, of course. But now I’m going to the zoo with Will, so there’s no reason not to wear my glasses.
I shower and come out of the bathroom wearing a pair of jean shorts that I’ve had so long that they’re fraying at the ends, a tank top, my glasses, and my hair up in a ponytail. I would never let Jude see me like this in a million years, at least not till we’ve been married and popped out a kid or two, but I feel really comfortable. When I come out into the living room, Will is on the phone and I hear him murmuring, “Yeah, something came up. Can we switch it to tomorrow? Thanks, man… I’ll see you then.”
I frown at him. “Did you have plans for today?”
He looks up at me in surprise. “Uh… well, not really. Nothing important.”
“I don’t want you to cancel your plans for me…”
“It’s not for you,” he says indignantly. “I want to go to the zoo.” He looks me over, at my casual get-up, and he gets this sort of smirk on his face.
“What?” I say, feeling suddenly self-conscious.
“Nothing,” he says, still smiling.
I finger my glasses defensively. “Hey, you wear them too!” Will is in fact dressed just as casually as I am, his hair washed by a bit messy, rimless eyeglasses resting on his nose, dark blue jeans, and a white T-shirt with the NYU logo on it. But unlike me, he was dressed fairly similarly last night. (Although he was wearing a nicer shirt, in a wasted attempt to impress Martha.) “Do I really look that bad?” I finally can’t help but ask.
“I think you look great,” he says earnestly.
I think Will realizes that he’s not going to convince me I’m any kind of beauty queen in this get-up, so we head down to the garage and the valet fetches Will’s car. I was a little worried he was going to ask me to put his wheelchair in the trunk for him, but to my surprise, he pops off the wheels on tosses his chair in the back seat. “That’s handy,” I say.
“It would be pretty annoying if I needed someone with me every time I got in the car, wouldn’t it?”
“True,” I say. I watch as Will heads east, expertly weaving in and out of the mass of yellow cabs. “What if you can’t get the wheels off? Like, I can never get jars of tomato sauce open.”
Will starts laughing. “I don’t know if it’s really the same thing. Anyway, I’m pretty vigilant about making sure my chair is in good working order. I’m pretty careful these days. When I was younger, I let a couple of chairs practically fall apart on me.” He slams his fist into the steering wheel and the horn erupts. “Stay in your own fucking lane! Fucking asshole!” He glances at me. “Sorry, I hate cabbies.”
I’m amused, mainly because it’s the first time I’ve seen Will get really angry. Other than that outburst, he seems incredibly laid back. I wonder what he’s like at work, in a courtroom.
“So what happens when a wheelchair falls apart?” I feel a little weird asking him but Will seems pretty open to talking about it, and I have to admit that I’m curious.
“Well, it’s not good.” He glances back at his partially dismantled chair. “It’s never just collapsed or anything. Usually there will be a crack or the screws get stripped or the footplate loosens or something like that. I’ve been in a wheelchair longer than I was able to walk, so I’d like to think I’ve experienced every wheelchair problem in existence. But probably not.”
Been in a wheelchair longer than he could walk? I look at Will’s face and decide he’s probably in his early thirties. So that means he’s been disabled since he was… fifteen? Sixteen?
“I was fourteen,” Will says, reading my mind. And then answers my next question: “I was in a car accident. Got a spinal cord injury.” He merges onto the FDR drive. “High school in a wheelchair? Sucked.”
I’m intrigued. “Why?”
“In high school you want to fit in,” he says. “You want to be like everyone else. You don’t want to be the kid in the wheelchair. That’s not, like, a desirable image to have.”
“I hated high school too,” I confess.
Will smirks. “You? Come on. You were probably prom queen or something.”
“I was not!” I cry. “I was… totally ugly and had lots of acne. And my hair was mousy brown, I had these huge glasses that used to cover half my face, and my mother picked out all my clothes.”
“Are you seriously trying to compete with me about awful high school experiences?” Will says, shaking his head. “I used to have to take the elevator to get to my classes. And it got stuck like once a month.”
“That’s nothing,” I say. I’m warming up to this competition now. “I used to have these big shiny metal braces and my lunch would always get stuck in them. And I had rubber bands in my braces. And head gear! I used to have to wear this awful night gear that attached to my braces and went over my entire head! I couldn’t go to sleepovers because I was too embarrassed.”
“Pssh, whatever,” Will says. “I never even had a date during the entire four years.”
“I couldn’t even get a date for prom.”
“I never even kissed a boy till I was like 18!”
“I was 19 the first time I kissed a girl.”
“Wow,” I say finally. “We were both a couple of losers, huh?”
Will looks at me and we both burst out laughing.
It’s funny—I never confessed to anyone how ugly and unpopular I used to be when I was in high school. When I went to college, I sort of reinvented myself. Bleached my hair, got contacts, dropped 15 pounds. Back when I was in high school, a guy like Jude never would have given me a second look. I probably would have stared longingly at him and his cheerleader girlfriend, building up elaborate fantasies about him while I masturbated in my bedroom.
Sometimes it seems like not a whole lot has changed though. Yes, I’m now dating an incredibly handsome guy. Yet I still feel like a loser a lot, stuck in a shitty job and with no husband or kids. I look over at Will and wonder if he feels the same.
I wince when I notice that it costs $13 just to park at the zoo. When I decided to go to the zoo, I forgot how goddamn expensive everything is in the city. I start to get my wallet out from my purse, but Will shakes his head at me. “I’ve got it, Libby,” he says.
So that took care of parking, but the admission fee is $15. Yikes. How could it cost that much just to see a bunch of goats or something? I’m really tapped out since I bought that stupid (but gorgeous) dress for my date with Jude, and $15 seems impossibly expensive.
“Let me pay,” Will says, probably noticing the horrified look on my face.
“No, that’s okay.” It’s not like this is a date or anything, so it would be weird if Will paid for everything.
“Libby, you look miserable,” he says. “The firm pays me a sick amount of money. Let me treat you. I think we’ll both feel better.”
I’m about to start arguing more, but I know he’s going to win this one. “Okay,” I agree. He’s probably right. Like I said, he probably earns more in an hour than I make in a month. Fifteen dollars is like nothing to him, whereas I could eat for a week on that kind of money. (I’ve done it. Believe me. Hello, ramen noodles.)
Once we’re inside the zoo, I feel like a kid in a candy shop. I really do adore animals, so I’m staring at all kind of exotic birds, squealing about giraffes and zebras, and Will is just kind of watching me, obviously kind of amused by my reaction. Yes, I act like I’m about five years old around animals.
“Oh my god,” I gasp. “We have to go into the children’s zoo.”
Will looks skeptical, but I know he’ll agree. I love children’s zoos and museums, because it has all the cool hands-on stuff that we adults have supposedly outgrown. I mean, just because I’m a grown up now, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to experience hearing the way a bat does. I mean, how cool is that?
“I think you look really stylish with bat ears,” Will comments.
“Oh, do I?”
“Yes, you should buy a pair for home,” he says. “Wear them on dates. To work functions.”
I laugh and slug Will in the shoulder. I have to tell you, I am beginning to really adore this guy. Yes, Mia is my best friend and always will be, but I could see Will and I becoming great friends. We really click somehow. I can’t remember the last time I’ve laughed this hard, and I can tell he’s having a great time too.
The thing is, I’ve never really had any male friends. Plenty of boyfriends, but no boy (space) friends. I’ve always wanted to have male friends, especially gay ones, although Will is definitely not gay. But anyway, I just never felt comfortable enough around a guy to be friends with him. But I really feel comfortable around Will. I feel like I could say practically anything to him.
And the great thing is that there’s absolutely no sexual tension between us. I’m not interested in him and he’s not interested in me. So we can just be friends without having to worry about what might “happen” between us. It’s like the perfect situation.
The last part of the children’s zoo is the petting zoo. It’s this large area filled with goats, cows, sheep, chickens, etc., which you can pet and feed. Since Will bought the tickets and all, I put in quarters to buy the animal pellets. Don’t laugh, but I absolutely love hand feeding goats. I start to giggle as a goat licks my palm to eat up every last pellet.
“Aren’t you going to feed them?” I ask Will, who’s just sitting there staring at me.
“And why not?”
“Because animal saliva is disgusting?”
Except I’m not letting him off the hook so easily. I make him pull off the leather gloves he’s wearing (I guess to protect his hands? His wheels are a total mess from the dirt on the ground) and I put about a dozen pellets in his palm. “Okay, feed that goat,” I say.
Will frowns. “You’re not going to let me leave till I do this, are you?”
I have to hand it to him, he fed that goat. And I think despite all the fuss, he enjoyed it. I mean, who doesn’t like feeding goats?
After the children’s zoo, I’m famished, so we stop at the nearest concession stand for lunch. I make a halfhearted offer to pay, but Will’s so insistent that the whole day is on him that I don’t even try to fight it anymore. And seriously… six dollars for a hot dog?
While Will and I are eating, I notice a couple at the next table. It’s two women with boyish haircuts who are obviously involved with each other, and they’re taking care of a small Asian baby. I look at the little family and smile. “Sometimes I wish I were a lesbian,” I say.
Will was taking a drink of soda and he starts coughing. “What?”
“Oh, you know what I mean,” I murmur.
He’s smiling now. “I honestly don’t.”
“Women are so nice,” I say. “We’re so… giving and nurturing. And we’re not afraid of commitment. And we’re soft and pretty. Sort of like that Katy Perry song.”
“Let me tell you something, Libby,” Will says. “As a heterosexual male who’s dated my fair share of women, I can assure you that they’re not all so giving and nurturing. And plenty of them are afraid of commitment. Although I guess I can concede the soft and pretty part.”
“Please,” I snort. “If you compare men with women, men are definitely more commitment-phobic than women.”
“I’m not commitment-phobic,” Will says.
“Well, maybe you’re an exception,” I say. “Or maybe you’re not being entirely honest.”
Will winks at me. “Fine, so go ahead, switch to the other team.”
“I wish it were that easy,” I say.
“Of course not,” I say. “Could you just… switch to men?”
“No, but I’m not going around saying I wish I were gay,” Will says with a grin. “Anyway, men are disgusting assholes.”
“Women can look beautiful to me,” I explain. “And yes, I enjoy looking at a beautiful woman. But I don’t feel anything when I look at her. I don’t feel any excitement, any tingle, any heat. Like that feeling that you just want to feel that person’s body against you and touch every inch of them… you know what I mean?”
“Yes,” Will says in a quiet voice. “I know exactly what you mean.”
“That’s what it was like when I met Jude,” I say. “I just saw him and I felt so drawn to him. And I didn’t care about anything else, I just knew that I wanted to be with him. Honestly, I can’t stop thinking about him.”
Will takes a bite of his hot dog. Chews. “Right,” he says finally. “Jude seems to have that effect on women.”
I frown. “Is it too weird for me to talk to you about Jude? I know he’s your good friend.”
Will plays with his napkin. “No, it’s fine,” he says. “Go ahead.”
“Has Jude… said anything about me?”
“Um,” Will says. “Not really.”
I bite my lip. “I know this question is going to sound totally insane considering the way Jude is, but I’m just wondering… do you think there’s any chance he might want to settle down? I mean, not necessarily marriage, but at least a steady girlfriend?”
I hold my breath, waiting for his answer.
“I don’t know,” he says finally. “I doubt it. Anyway, I’m honestly not really sure why you’d want to be Jude’s girlfriend. He’s kind of a jerk.”
I’m shocked that he just said that. “Aren’t you his best friend?”
“Yeah, that’s how I know he’s a jerk,” Will says. “Look, I like Jude. He’s a lot of fun and he’s also a very loyal friend. But he’s really unreliable and insensitive. And he’s also a complete womanizer.”
“But people change, don’t they?” My voice sounds almost pleading, even to my own ears.
“Maybe,” Will says after a really long pause. “I guess it’s possible.”
Suddenly I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I know Will isn’t going to tell me what I want to hear. And I really believe he might be wrong. People do change. I could change Jude. “So, um, what about you?” I ask. “Are you thinking about calling Martha?”
Will cracks up. “Really? You think I should call Martha?”
“Well…” I say. “I guess not. No, I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Actually, I’m worried about you,” he says. “You think ol’ Martha might try to get revenge?”
Now I do. “Uh…”
“How do women get revenge on each other?” Will asks. “What do you do? Shave each other’s heads during the night?”
“God, I hope not,” I say. “What do men do for revenge?”
“Punch each other in the nose.”
“That’s not any better.”
Will grins. “Maybe you better lock your door tonight.”
I’m impressed that Will has such a good sense of humor about the whole thing. If a man acted that way after getting set up with me, I’d probably go hang myself. But Will doesn’t seem to care at all. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.
I think we cover every square foot of that damn zoo. We even go on the monorail ride, which is supposed to be one of those huge zoo attractions. “What’s a monorail, anyway?” I ask.
“Well,” Will says, “mono means ‘one’ and rail means ‘rail.’ So, yeah. I think we better go on it.”
Will’s wheelchair is too wide to fit on the monorail car, so the guys running it offer to help him board and then store it for him. He’s obviously not thrilled about the whole thing. One of the guys grabs him under the arms, another under his legs and they hoist him into the car after a count to three. I can tell he’s not used to having other people help him transfer. And moreover, he looks a little anxious leaving his chair behind. “What, you think they’ll lose it?” I ask.
“No, of course,” he says. “I completely trust those 16 year old boys who can’t even grow facial hair yet.”
“Tell you what,” I say. “If they lose your chair, I owe you a Coke.”
Now it’s Will’s turn to slug me in the shoulder and I laugh. I see him relaxing and they don’t lose his wheelchair, and we have a fantastic time on the monorail. Actually, the whole day was fantastic. As we drive back home, stopping briefly for McDonald’s drive-thru on the way back, I’m glowing, not just from my sunburn, but because this was the most fun I’ve had in ages. The Bronx Zoo. Who knew?
I tell this to Will as he pulls his car up in front of my building, and his face lights up. “I’m so glad,” he says. “I had a lot of fun too.”
“We should do something again,” I suggest.
He smiles. “Yeah, that would be awesome. We can do the whole touristy museum circuit if you’d like. Or just a movie.”
“Wonderful,” I say, as it occurs to me that I’ve now had sex with Jude three times and we haven’t been to the movies together yet.
I skip upstairs to my apartment, grinning stupidly. I even forget that my roommate Martha probably hates me now and my heart skips a beat when I see the light under her closed door. Luckily, Martha isn’t the confrontational type. She’ll probably just keep being the same bitch she’s always been.
I close the door to my own room, flop down on my bed, and dial Mia’s number. “I had the most fantastic day,” I tell her when she answers. “We went to the Bronx zoo!”
“Jude took you to the Bronx Zoo?” Mia sounds so impressed that I hate to tell her the truth. “In the Bronx? Wow.”
“Actually, it wasn’t Jude,” I admit. “It was his roommate, Will. We just went as friends.”
Mia seems dumbfounded. “You went to the zoo with… Jude’s roommate?”
“Well, yes,” I say. “He’s a very nice guy. He’s like… a brother.”
“A brother?” I can almost hear Mia smirking on the other line. “Does he know you think of him as a brother?”
“Oh, stop it,” I say. “Look, I’m dating his best friend. He’s not interested in me, I swear. It was completely platonic. We both just really wanted to go to the zoo.”
“Whose idea was it?”
“Technically, I guess it was mine,” I say after a moment’s thought. “But he was talking about it last night, which is how I got the idea. He really wanted to go.”
“Okay, let me get this straight,” Mia says. “A grown, heterosexual man really wanted to drive all the way out to the Bronx to go to the zoo?”
I jut out my chin. “Yes, that’s right.”
“Very believable,” Mia says. “And might I ask, who paid for your ticket?”
“Well,” I say. “He did, I guess. But—”
“Oh, stop it,” I say again. “Look, Mia, he’s a lawyer and has a huge salary, and he knows money is tight for me right now. It wasn’t a big deal. At all.”
“Are you seriously this dense?”
“So what are you saying? That he’s some kind of scumbag who’s macking on his best friend’s girl?”
“Are you officially Jude’s girl?” Mia asks.
I’m not exactly sure how to answer this question. I would definitely like to be Jude’s girl. I don’t think I’ve ever been so attracted to a man in my entire life, and even though I know you’ll say it sounds stupid, I keep thinking how amazing it would be to marry him. It could happen. Stranger things have happened.
And before I can answer her question, the call waiting goes off. And I see Jude’s number appear on the screen of my cell phone. “Mia,” I say, “I’ve got to go. It’s Jude.”
Mia sighs. I only wish she could understand.
To be continued....