Lessons From Sleeping Next to an Engaged Woman
Nothing happened, but I was still wrong.
I am at that age when I know better fluently. I have perfect command over doing the right thing, so when I do the wrong thing, the choice is made to find a deeper truth. I guess you can say it’s like the use of foul language. There’s always a more appropriate word than “fuck” but sometimes that word says it all.
I fucked up and I knew it from the moment I said yes to her request. She was going to be in New York City for an overnight business trip and wanted to stay with me. This was absolutely unnecessary.
For one, I know for a fact if it was business for which she was in town, the company was more than willing to pay for a hotel. She is an attorney at one of those big law firms where money is spent like water. A hotel room for business-related trips is standard.
But the other reason she should have never asked to stay with me, and I should have never said yes to her request, is because she was engaged to be married. and had the rock on her finger to prove it.
She met the guy within a year after we ended whatever it is we had. Some people would call it dating, no one would call it a relationship. But it was something between us that burned bright briefly. When we met, she was only going to be around for a couple more months and I was years away from being anything more than someone’s fun for a couple of months. Back then, I didn’t know better.
So we got involved, because it was the perfect combination of timing and mutual attraction. But it got complicated quickly because that’s what happens when people don’t keep their emotions in check. You always hear folks talk about sex complicating things, but emotions are what make fun, casual relationships take that forbidden right into a hood of feelings.
Neither of us were very good at holding back our feelings, so by the time we said goodbye, we knew better than to act like we weren’t sad. I wanted her to stay, she didn’t want to leave, but no one was going to change the other person’s plans. The morning of her departure, I carried her stuff downstairs, put it in the back of the cab, kissed her goodbye, and watched the taxi for about five blocks.
Life went on.
There were occasional phone calls and texts. There was a brief period of time when it looked like she was going to be back in NYC for a job opportunity. She was on the fence about it. My reluctancy to say I would commit to her if she came back might have played a small role in that. She suggested she move in with me or at least stay with me until she found a place of her own. I knew better than that, so I said no way. I cared about her, but not more than I cared about myself.
Soon after she made the choice to stay where she was at, she met a guy. I know nothing about their courtship but I am confident she didn’t take him seriously for a very long time, and neither did I. All that changed when she moved in with him.
As sporadic as the phone calls were prior to her living with him, they became non-existent afterward. There was that one time we were both in D.C., me visiting friends, her visiting friends with her man. She snuck away to meet me at a bar at 1 AM. That was as hot and wrong as it sounds. But other than that, we kept even more distance between us for the next two years.
Her business trip up to New York City was months away when she sent the first text that she was going to be here. She said to keep the date open so we could grab dinner. Every few weeks, she sent another text reminding me she was going to be in NYC, and the closer we got to the date, the more I excited I was to see her. We’re not Facebook friends nor do we follow each other on any social media platforms, so this truly was going to be a reunion in which people have not seen each other for years.
Then the day before she was scheduled to arrive she sent a text asking if she could stay with me. I was like, “Hell yeah.” I didn’t ask dumb questions like what would her fiancé think or if she was still getting married. I could have acted like I cared about such things but I didn’t. It was a simple yes or not question. Could she stay with me? Hell yeah.
She came over in the morning to drop her stuff off, sure enough with a nice sized engagement ring on her hand, then she was off to her conference for the rest of the day. She also had drink plans with a girlfriend after her conference and she wouldn’t be at my place until around 9 or so. “But,” she said. “We’re going out when I get done. Don’t act like you’re sleepy when I get back.” She knew I liked to go to bed early especially on the school nights.
Our meet up time was perfect, because I actually had a date with someone else planned that would end right around the time her plans were finishing up. What happened on that date is neither here nor there, but I had to bring it up because I don’t want anyone thinking I was putting all my eggs into the basket of a taken woman. There were no plans on my part to do anything with her, even though I didn’t hesitate to let her stay with me, even though I knew that wasn’t right.
We met back at my apartment at 9 PM, both of us slightly buzzed from our previous commitments. She said she wanted to freshen up, I changed out of my work/date clothes and put on jeans, a t-shirt, and my Howard hooded sweatshirt. Then we were off.
The neighborhood changed a lot in the three years since she left, and I wanted to show her one of the new bars that popped up in the area. We were both kind of hungry again, so we ordered some food and chose water over the selections available on the bars extensive beer and whiskey menus. She had an early flight to catch and I had to work.
While eating, I asked her all sorts of questions I never asked about her fiance. How they met, what he did, whether or not her family liked him and his family liked her. The entire conversation was pleasant. She didn’t speak badly about him, but she didn’t speak highly of him either. She never gushed and she even shrugged her shoulders when I asked her if she was excited to be getting married. About the only thing with which she spoke passionately was when we went down the road of us. “I don’t really have a fairy tale wedding or marriage in mind,” she said. “Do I love him, yes, that’s part of the reason I’m marrying him. But if we don’t work out, I’m not going to think my life is over. It will all work out in the end, I learned that from you. You said I would be fine, and I didn’t want to believe you, but you were right. All these girls out here are always worrying about how to keep a man. I also learned that with you. You had me out here trying to nail you down, trying to convince you to be with me when you didn’t want to be with me. He wants to be with me, and I want to be with him. Maybe that changes later on down the line, and if it does, oh well.”
“Nice speech,” I said. “You know, I’m realizing now, this is probably going to be the last time I see you like this, not married, without children.”
“I know,” she said.
We both looked around for our server so we could square up the bill and we went back to my apartment.
Sleeping plans were never discussed. I don’t sleep on my couch in my own apartment, and unless she asked, I wasn’t going to pull out the air mattress for her. She was the engaged woman, let her decide how she wanted to sleep.
After I brushed my teeth and changed into my basketball shorts, I laid down on my side of the bed. Even though I sleep alone most nights, I still have one side I prefer over the other, and it’s the side closest to the door. She went into the bathroom to turn down herself, and when she came out, I expected her to ask me where some more bedding was or if I could take out my air mattress.
She did neither of those things. Instead she got into bed right next to me, on the side facing my window. She took my hand and wrapped it around her, pulling me in close so we were spooning. “Good night,” she said and soon after we were both out.
The morning after was rushed because she overslept, but I had an emotional hangover. The only thing I woke up pleased about was that I didn’t try anything, that she didn’t try anything. For if we had gone down the road of intimacy the crappy feeling I woke up with would have been paralyzing.
Sometimes it takes a night of sleep to wake up to your senses. This situation was no different. I knew it was wrong from the minute I agreed to see her, but that was something determined by principles and my own moral compass that has a tendency to act up when feelings are involved.
When I agreed to let her stay with me, I wanted something to happen between us. And sure part of that was ego-driven, but most of it was emotionally driven. I cared about this girl, like I care about a lot of girls in my past and the unfortunate thing is I’m caring about most of them too late. When I say I’m at the age when I know better fluently, I mean that in more ways than acts of right and wrong. I also know what I feel for people who were once in my life are still intense and deep. But because I didn’t care for so long, I never dealt with those feelings.
So now I’m just stuck with those feelings, and it’s humbling. The reason I should have never let her stay with me is because not only do I know better, but I care more.
I actually want to do the right thing and make better choices. That is my most honest self. So when I choose to go against that, when I am fully aware that I’m doing the wrong thing, it doesn’t go down as easily as it used to. I guess one can say my emotional metabolism for doing fucked up things has slowed down. A few years ago, I would have called up all my boys and bragged about how I had an engaged woman sleeping in my bed, I might have even lied and said something happened. We all would have laughed.
But we know better now, I know better now. The truth is, it’s not fun anymore.