The Brown-Eyed Girl
She had questions for me. How convenient. With a motive to meet, I didn’t have to see her across the room and attempt to drum up the courage; though I surely would have made the attempt. After all, here I was in San Francisco, a city that I was sure may afford me some sort of plenary indulgence when it comes to confidence. Surely after presenting to a decent crowd at a non-monogamy conference, surely with half a bottle of wine in me, surely I would have. Though, perhaps not.
She Gave Me Her Digits
So convenient, to be sure, when she asked me her question and lingered even after I answered. We spoke of geeky things: of ‘90s television, of card games, of non-monogamy, confidence, and where to find people to fuck in a safe way. Again I marveled how once I maneuvered myself into a position of authority (however laughable I may find that idea) on a topic such as this, it helps to put all the dirty nasty secrets we don’t talk about in polite society right on the table. Should be easier to get a girl’s phone number once you’ve talked of sex clubs, and of floggings, and swinging websites, shouldn’t it? Especially when you get a side of Quantum Leap geekery with it.
“I’d like your number,” I said, as it became clear that there were others who’d attended our presentation who wanted my attention, as well as a significant need for mental unpacking and aftercare with my beloved co-hosts. I raised my phone. “Because I think you’re interesting, and would love to talk to you more.” It’s entirely possible that this statement has been thoroughly processed through the ravages of short but significant time and filtered through the bottles of Menage à Trois that joined us at the presentation table. It’s also entirely possible I used the cringe-worthy term “digits” in an attempt to coax her to give me her number through a show of social awkwardness.
The Brown-Eyed Girl gave me her digits and I begged off to decompress for a while, hoping to reconnect later in the evening. There were promises of playing Cards Against Humanity, after all.
I Didn’t Hold it Together at Dinner
An hour and change later, with a mind altering substance in me that I had never had a direct encounter with in the past (due to Nancy Reagan’s effectiveness when talking to Arnold Drummond), the Swingset crew rendezvoused in the lobby with some burners, some spouses and lovers to figure out where we should grab our celebratory dinner. There she was again, in the lobby. Feeling an intense need to follow up on this possibility that wasn’t common in my experience, and not yet feeling the effects of said substance, I asked her to join us for dinner and we were off down the block before the screen on my phone became irregular.
I wish I could say that I held it together at dinner, but I didn’t hold it together at dinner.
I came close, sure, and it’s possible that my situation was far more dire to myself than those around me. But between Shira’s constant staring and laughing at “the effects of its use on Cooper,” a very quiet showing from Miko, the girl I’d dominated the night before, Ginger working hard to keep me grounded and also deal with a lot of huge emotions that were begging to be noticed post-presentation, and The Professor, seated at the end, at the small table next to us, with The Brown-Eyed Girl I’d asked to dinner, being all charming. Because he’s so damned charming.
Why must he be so fucking charming?
Dinner ended, and this was good because this feeling in my chest wasn’t pleasant. But dammit, I could keep it together a bit longer. We were meeting up for the last few minutes of Tristan Taormino’s time before her evening became packed and her keynote the next day. But in the meantime, there was the BevMo that this beautiful Brown-Eyed Girl wanted to show me, as a man who so very clearly enjoys imbibing. Only a few blocks down and back. My ability to focus was waning as we walked, and I’m sure I talked a lot of nothing before arriving in the Pinot Noir aisle and discovering a bottle of Hitching Post Pinot at the nexus point where the movie geek and the wine geek in me intersect.
The sudden inconsistency and irregularity of the text on my phone (for reasons I couldn’t at the time understand) warned me via text (which likely came from Dylan, and not from the phone itself) not to drink under any circumstances tonight. I shrugged it off and paid the man whom I’m sure knew exactly why I would open my eyes wider after a blink. My extra-wide eyes were simply, to my reasoning, to get more visual stuff. I was dutifully returned to the hotel, sure I’d missed my window, promising to text later in the evening when plans were made for really real. After a very short thank you and goodnight with Tristan in the lobby, I told Ginger at my door that I felt terrible and needed to lie down before Nina Hartley’s reception for the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance.
Three hours later, I emerged from a sleep where my arms and legs had at various times melted together or disappeared entirely, to a text from The Brown-Eyed Girl that she’d been a bit overwhelmed by the conference that day and had decided to head back home for the evening to sort it out. There was promise that I’d see her the next morning at Tristan Taormino’s Keynote Speech. But I’d certainly blown it.
The Next Day
The next day brought the wonderful keynote, then assorted other panels and discussions washed over us, flowed through us, and we became enriched and enraged and entertained and experienced ennui. Now the day was nearing the end, and those souls were gathering in the lobby as they do on graduation day, uncertain of how we become real again, after this weekend of unique. And there was The Brown-Eyed Girl, and she smiled at me, and told me she’d done well at Poly Speed Dating the night before as I had slumbered with my phantom limbs.
My quiet sub was by my side as we talked, making me worry for her feelings about my wandering attention. My attention that yearned to focus, if only for tonight, because there was only tonight, on this fascinating geeky girl in front of me with the wispy, blonde, lightly curled hair that men write sonnets about, and the brown eyes that only Van Morrison could properly explain. She knew I wanted to go to In-N-Out burger, because as a Midwesterner it’s somewhat of an obsession of mine, and offered her car parked down the block.
Time was accelerating, and the lobby was filling. A number of folks I’d seen in passing throughout the weekend passed through and wanted to chat just one last time before the end and we said goodbye. Most of them returned to their corners of the bay, but many returned to their corners of the country to lament the fact that too little time had been spent together. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw The Brown-Eyed Girl flirting and laughing with a gentlemen who clearly might have the time to spend with her that she deserves.
“I don’t think we’re going to make it to dinner,” I told her, with the sort of overwhelming sadness that is reserved for graduation day, the last day of vacation, the last day of camp.
She blinked at me. “Well, I just told him I’m going out to dinner with you, so I guess I’ll tell him things changed.”
I told The Brown-Eyed Girl it was really, really nice to meet her, resisting the urge to throw that third “really” on the fire. She hugged me and held it. And she did that thing midway through where it’s about the time you would let go in a normal friendly hug, but instead you squeeze a little tighter.
I love that thing.
You’re fucking this up so badly, Coop! She wants to spend time with you! She knows you’re leaving tomorrow, and it doesn’t matter. She wants to spend time with you! The voice in my head was screaming at me as the hug ended. I noticed Miko looking at the throng in the lobby with the same wistful sadness that was growing in me. I’d brought a posse with me to San Francisco, she didn’t have the same luxury. Shira’s voice rang in my head: Don’t Make Shit Weird. The Brown-Eyed Girl didn’t let go at first, looked into my eyes.
“Wait!” Came from my mouth without thought, no idea what I was asking her to wait for, or even if it was just to wait a few more moments here with me before you go and join the handsome gentleman on the other side of the lobby to develop something interesting. Both The Brown-Eyed Girl and Miko looked at me, and waited.
So I scrambled. After all, this was the point of this trip, self-discovery and growth. Time to grow a fucking pair and name that which you want, Cooper S. Beckett. (In this instance, the S is for Spaz.) Not having a plan, I just allowed what I wanted to spill out of my mouth. “I want to spend some time with you,” I told the Brown-Eyed Girl, taking her hand. Then I turned to Miko. “And then I want to come back and spend time with you.” Almost as an afterthought, I said, “and someone needs to go upstairs to the room and make sure that Dylan is still alive.” Dylan had crashed after the keynote and not reemerged from room 815. I handed Miko my key card and tried to ask her in the eye contact if everything was alright, if I’d made the right play. But my eye-speaking skills didn’t fire up, and I got no real response.
“Let’s walk,” I suggested to The Brown-Eyed Girl. She nodded and reminded me that there would be hills. I felt I could handle them.
Our Aberrant Moment in Time and Space
We talked about what made us who we are, why non-monogamy was important to us, what hurdles there were, what stumbles had come, and how we overcame those stumbles. We looped around and around, up and down the streets, stopping at a bakery just to smell the apple cinnamon donuts in the window. Texts from those I’d left behind periodically interrupted, asking where I was, when I’d be back. I pawned off with “busy” and “soon.”
Time was short, and growing shorter. There were other plans for the evening, as there are always other plans, things we should be doing, people we should be seeing, talking to, bullshitting, and plotting with. After several passes by the hotel, I figured that it was unlikely we’d go past the door again.
Take a risk, Coop.
“So, with our hotel right around the corner, I’ve been trying to work up the nerve for the last several blocks to kiss you.”
“That’s a great line,” The Brown-Eyed Girl told me with a wide smile, then leaned into my kiss. A kiss that lasted and continued, long enough that we had to move to get out of people’s way, long enough that we briefly drew attention, long enough that I missed multiple texts. Forgetting about the logistics of it all, the 2,000 miles that separate us in “real” life, just two people making out in the sunlight on the streets of San Francisco.
I told her it wasn’t a line, that I’m really rather shy, and had spent quite a large chunk of our walk debating whether or not to try for it. That led to a discussion on the difficulty of meeting people, approaching them, the conversion from talk to something more, like a kiss or a fuck. She thanked me for knowing how to kiss, and we kissed until it became apparent that we ought to get dinner at some point.
We rendezvoused with Miko as she was getting coffee, and sent her up to actually rouse Dylan for dinner, but really just so we could make out one more time in the hallway.
We ate at In-N-Out burger, we walked Fisherman’s Wharf, we saw the sea lions, we squintily questioned whether the shadowy outline in the bay was Alcatraz or a ship. I was right, it was Alcatraz. Then we drove up and down the San Francisco hills until the car decided it had had enough, forcing us to back down.
When we returned to the hotel late that night, I said goodbye to my Brown-Eyed Girl, realizing that this was perhaps the elusive vacation crush that so many people I knew had talked about from their youth. Something special because it was never meant to be more, or could never be more due to necessity, proximity, and chronology… just an aberrant moment in time and space, its very own beautiful thing. The Brown-Eyed Girl who asked me a question, and geeked out about Quantum Leap, and showed me a tiny slice of San Francisco, and bought me a loaf of sourdough.
I don’t labor under the delusion that we’ll likely see each other again. But those moments with her will stay with me.
This article is an excerpt from my book, My Life on the Swingset: Adventures in Swinging & Polyamory.