Three Little Words

Who Says Them First?

 WE MEET I'm at a party. I intend to get laid. I see Scott's smile emerging from the fridge, followed by a black pullover, an arm, a beer. He isn't not smiling at anything in particular; he's puffing out his cheeks so Cupid can land on one and shoot me. Soon he is telling me, "I don't need it, but if a woman wants me to tie her up, that's great," and I realize: I want to get to know him first. It suddenly bugs me that every time I meet a man the conversation turns immediately to sex.

Our first date does not go well. We're like a radio caught between two stations. We talk in many directions, none of which cross. Yet I want to see him again. He wants to see me again, too, so he kisses me, after walking me home. Whoa. The night is cold, but his mouth is warm, full of hands and promises. His tongue tells me everything we've been trying to say, and my soul agrees wholeheartedly. I pass 45 minutes in shock, reliving the kiss. Scott, it turns out, is too blown away to hail a cab (there were no cabs, he claims) and spends those 45 minutes walking home. He loses my phone number. He finds it a week later. We find millions of things to discuss.

 

FOUR MONTHS LATER I'm going for the bold moment, the desperate look. It will be my first time. I'll win an Oscar for this performance. I practice: I love you, I love you, I love you. The problem is our schedules: Scott goes to work at 6 a.m.; I go to work when he comes home and return at 2 a.m. I let myself into his apartment, get naked, crawl into bed, steal some of his pillow. He wraps himself around me, kisses my freckles, calls me nicknames, falls immediately back to sleep. When his alarm rings I scratch his back to keep him near me a few minutes longer. I listen to him shower and shave. He kisses me goodbye. "Mmmm, " I say. "I love your kisses." "I love your kisses, too," he whispers in my ear.

"I love yours more."

The other problem, I guess, is that I'm old-fashioned. I mean, a coward. I want him to go first.

 

MUSIC TO MY EARS I'm bumping into walls, dropping breakables. Three words, huge in my head, must be freed. To set the stage, I suggest a romantic evening at home. Scott buys wine and cheese, cleans his apartment, lights candles. We order sushi. I spill soy sauce on his sofa, but he doesn't mind.

"You're the best," I coo. "I—"

"So are you." He kisses me. I have chopsticks in one hand, wine in the other.

After dinner, en route to lovemaking, we slow dance around the living room. When the CD ends we serenade each other. One song has the words "I love you," and we sing them together.

Scott says, "Tell me something I didn't already know."


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