There's a point where things change: the hunter can lose a part of himself in the hunt. He learns things, and maybe changes. When what he learns does not conform with the vision of himself, the hunter becomes the hunted.
"Hello," I say as she walks into the computer lab at that hurried pace she uses. It is not a quicker pace like most people, but a lengthening of stride. She flashes me a hurried smile before entering the management office. I take a moment to enjoy the smile; and look back at my computer screen.
She is attractive in the same way Rachel was attractive, but quieter; maybe I like her because my insides do not tear at the sight of her.
We do not know each other past a 'hello' or a smile. Actually, she does not know me at all, but that's okay.
I have patience on my side.
A week later, I have her schedule down. It is important to have small run-ins: "Hey, Suzanne. I didn't know you worked today." Especially at night where there is no one else around to talk to. We do not want to do schoolwork; it's not late enough in the semester for the lab to be bombarded with users. A couple of hours where we can have a good laugh, talk about her life which is the perfect icebreaker, find out if she has a boyfriend or maybe girlfriend, is she looking for a new lover, etc.
It's important to establish a comfort zone. I want her, but I want to see if it is even a thought. At the end of the first of these nights, I can call her Suze.
Small steps are the building blocks of seduction.
It gets interesting later in the semester. It's a bus ride to get to the lab where she is working; but I have to write papers anyway. She is more comfortable around me. She knows how much I appreciate women from the few times I have worked with her and the users I notice. She laughs at me, but with each one I flirt with I tell her that she is my type.
After a longer while, it becomes innocent flirtation. (Innocent for her; I am rarely innocent.) More little steps: teasing her about how cute she looks in an outfit. Cute is a friend: pretty is serious, gorgeous a commitment, but cute? Cute is innocent flirtation.
One night, she is stressing; thank you college for exam stress. I try to relax her with a few tidbits from the Web, before long we are playing "Link to Porn."
I prefer to introduce sexuality as humor, -- it's harmless, just like I am.
Later on as she studies, I rub her shoulders. 30 seconds on my way out as I look at what she is studying. There is a moment of surprise, but my hands are friendly so she relaxes. I flash her a smile goodbye and go home to the lonely arms of my own mid-term exam stress.
She likes the shoulder rubs and they gravitate to full on-duty backrubs. If consultants look like they are thinking about us, I offer them one, the females at least.
I am good with my hands; they are large for my size. It is all friendly, for Suze: for me, it is different. Very different.
She learns to like it. My hands relax her when I do thumb circles up and down her spine. I massage the connection of neck and shoulder. The soft spot behind the lower ear is her favorite, mine is her earlobes.
Eventually, my hands travel to face rubs. They are not very sexy to most people, but consider the instinctive reaction to foreign objects approaching your eyes.
Trust is the Nile River.
A temple rub can be heavenly for stress. It is still innocent, just a fellow worker who handles stress differently helping you to relax. "No, this helps me, Suze. With my hands, doing all sorts of interesting things to your body, I can think about other things without my body getting in the way."
More small steps, but ones that cross the river.
We have social outings. Never a date, or anything close to a date: a movie night; the diner after work; A party where I make myself available to use as food handler, clean-up person, someone to laugh over who got shit-faced drunk and who hooked up with whom; finally at work during weekends, lunches together... as fellow employees.
Someone at the lab asks her, "What's going on between you two?" She hesitates. In the corner, I smile.
"We're just friends," she replies.
She had to think about it? "What is going on between the two of us?"
Time for a not-so innocent move, preferably a not-particularly original ploy because classics are what they are for good reasons. My favorite is flowers, strange flowers to be original. Not flowers someone always gives a woman: roses, or carnations. Lilies, maybe HUGE sunflowers.
"I could not help myself, they were so funny in florist shop 3 foot blooms among these tiny roses." and a smile that tells her I do not know how to say it yet.
Shyness is another time-honored classic.
The flirtation is not so innocent, but I'm still a friend, safe.
A lot of people hate being "safe." I cannot mind since I have patience on my side. Want to talk to me about how much of an asshole your current boyfriend is and not be judged, I will be happy to listen. I will not you give advice for I have also loved. I will say everything a "safe" friend says.
The back-rubs are never quite innocent anymore. She still says yes, but I am not so safe. Not dangerous, not yet a possibility but someone more patient than she's used to. I have waited before, and after she is gone I will still be waiting.
Another social outing among our pack, I am a lot quieter, enjoying the environment, not really a part. Walking the outskirts watching the centers of attention.
She comes outside the pack to talk. I smile. Point her toward an interesting movie poster. We walk over, separating from everyone else. We talk about the movie; somehow we decide neither of wants to see the movie everyone else does. She is not in the mood for some 'grunt, flex, grunt'. I laugh at her description and shrug. I was not really in the mood for a movie, I just came because you did. A smile. Oh, really? So what movie do you want to see? I don't know. Well, there's always the girlie flick over there. Hmm, romance, comedy, most definitely a girlie flick. She playfully pokes me. I pout. Hey, I'm the one making the sacrifice from the 'flex, grunt, flex' that I love so much. "Battle on, Xena!" She laughs, oh yeah, and it's 'grunt, flex, grunt'. Ahhh, I see the difference. She points to the one she would prefer to watch.
The pack barely noticed us gone, and no one really argues when we say we want to watch something else. I am stoic innocence. I did not say it was real innocence, after all if she's willing to be separated from the safety of numbers.
It is a romance novel movie. Boy meets girl. Girl likes boy, but is unsure if he is the right one. Boy wants girl, but only wants girl. Girl wants more. Boy decides in the end he wants more too, yadda-yadda-yadda. It is funny but because of the comments that fly between us. There are only six other people in the theater, all pretty much doing the same thing so no one cares about the excess noise or laughter at an inopportune moment in the movie.
We said we would meet up with the rest of our friends at the diner, but at the moment we have a comfort zone between us. I ask if she wants to go to Denny's instead. Incredibly, she says, 'Sure.' We eat bad food and talk about nothing important.
She drops me off at my place later that night. I say goodbye and walk inside.
We get teased about the whole situation for the week, but stoicism is very effective against most teasing. She just keeps saying we are just friends.
We see each other more often. As friends. I do not have transportation to get to a good theater so it is a ready-made excuse. After a movie, going out to eat seems natural. As friends.
The problem with playing the 'hang-out friend' card is that along the way you might get caught having to make a turn in the maze because you are a friend, and not a possibility. It sucks, but then I can usually work myself back if I'm careful. It requires waiting patiently for the right moment to reestablish certain facts, but women are worth it.
It happens somewhere. I am now not a friend, but 'just a friend.' It is an amusing state but at the same time frustrating.
Small things reestablish my sexuality, like talking to other women at the mall, or the movies. She looks annoyed at times, but I am 'just a friend'. I make sure I do not neglect her. On the other hand, I was the one pushed into the dreaded friend-zone. There have been times there is no way out. Those times you accept your friendship for what it is never going to be. Laugh at yourself, and swear off women for the rest of your life or at least the next twenty-four hours.
There I am looking for a way to get out of the safe place of asexual friendship and going nowhere fast. We talk at the lab and are both in the mood for a movie. Let's do something different. What? Let's get a movie or movies from Blockbuster and get some take-out. Yeah, that sounds cool. My place? She nods and goes to help a user.
A sliver of excitement... maybe... maybe, then again probably not.
After work, we head off to Blockbuster. The ritual argument about what two people do not and do want to see ensues. We agree on each picking one movie, since it is Friday night and neither of us has shifts until Sunday night. Maybe, but probably not. We both pick a movie, we laugh at each other's choice. She picked a 'grunt, flex, grunt' movie and I picked 'Pretty Woman.'
Julia Roberts slays.
We proceed to have an argument about what type of take-out. What do you want to eat? I don't care, you pick. I'm not really in the mood for anything, you pick. Hmm, but I don't know if you would like what I would pick; and I don't really care, you pick. I'll like what you pick, pick. Pizza. No, I ate pizza for lunch. Then, you pick. No, I just forgot 'No pizza', you pick. Deli. For night-time, no way. Pick. No, you pick. Chinese? Yeah, that sounds great. You realize that you picked. No, I didn't.
Of course, there's the 'from where discussion'. It is not the first time we have had this discussion. We both have the same "if we're with someone else they get to pick what we do" syndrome.
Finally, we have the movies, the food, and are laughing at our made-up discussion about where she should park, along the line of 'you pick; no, you pick'.
Inside, I am glad I cleaned up this week when she looks around curiously.
I say 'grunt, flex, grunt' first. Or do we just eat and then watch the movie? Eat first, then movie. I go to the kitchen to find utensils. They are clean, woohoo! I made the mistake of living with more than four people, never again. Thankfully, none of my housemates are home.
We talk while eating. Actually, we do a lot more laughing about what might be in the food instead of real meat. I tease about all the missing pet posters around campus. Everything quiets down as she becomes uncomfortably aware that I am not actually asexual. Finally, but dangerous at the same time.
I start talking about school and finals. I ask how she's looking towards the end of the semester. The great thing about college is you always have at least one thing to talk about that has absolutely nothing to do with sex. Then again, I am taking Human Sexuality so I talk about the 30-foot penis that several people walked in on because they were late for class.
Julia Roberts and sex as humor; the path out of the friend-zone seems clear.
We finish up trying not to lose it completely to the description of my professor's explanation of why we did not have to study our sexual positions. She helps me clean up, I do not really think it is necessary considering my other housemates' kitchen habits, but I am not one to break a mood. The kitchen is incredibly clean for our house. In other words, there is nothing in the sink.
We have the required 'you pick, no you pick' argument, even if we decided before. I picked. Plans for the night require a softer touch at the later hours.
It is a 'grunt, flex, grunt' movie and does not even try to have much of a plot, which is forgivable when the action scenes are good enough and the premise is at least plausible. The comments fly about the impossibility of this stunt or that stunt. Or how really not good-looking the female decoration is. We both agree she has great breasts, though spawning a discussion whether it is a boob job, and, if so, East Coast or West Coast. The obligatory sex scene decides us both in the direction of definitely boob job and more than likely West Coast in the house.
The movie finishes in a bloodbath of car crashes, bleeding bodies, and sadly tied together plot lines.
Ice cream? Yeah, that's a good idea. Let's go.
We go outside, walk the few blocks to the local campus ice-creamery. We decide to split a banana boat without much argument. We actually suggested it at the same time. It is a messy ice cream meal, but we have fun. I am a people watcher so I am much quieter as I watch the Friday night crowd in the weeks before finals. Some will end up in a short story here or there. She notices me watching people and asks; I tell her. See that couple, they're arguing about whether or not to break up. That guy over there is stalking the pretty blonde, but she hasn't noticed it yet. How do you know? I don't; I'm just running different plots through my head. I'm giving everyone a personality that fits their physical characteristics, motions, and quirks. That way when I write a story I can describe a stalker without saying "He's a stalker"; instead I can describe the nervous hand gestures and eye movements that dude is going through right now. She starts pointing people out to me, and seeing what I come up with. After a while, she gets into the act, and it disintegrates to who can come up with the most fantastically impossible scenarios.
We head back to my apartment, this time trying to figure out what other people are thinking about us as they walk by. Or what stories we would make up about us if we were people watching and only had our looks to work with.
At the apartment, we put in 'Pretty Woman' and sit back on the bed to relax. I start dancing to the opening theme, she laughs. She has never seen the movie, which makes me feel kind of old. She relaxes after a bit and starts to enjoy it. At the point where Julia and Gere are bargaining for the week, I play with her hair. I like playing with hair, the longer the better. She moves so that I have access to all of it. She knows I like playing with her hair. She likes it, and after all we are just two friends watching a movie. I put a pillow between us so she can lean back to watch the movie comfortably. Where Richard Gere is getting the store manager to kiss ass, I start massaging her shoulders. This makes her lean back deeper into the pillow.
It is a standard massage, except for the electricity of tension charging the air. I rub the connection between shoulder and neck first, trying to get her to relax. I use only my fingers and make sure to react to every part of the movie.
I am waiting.
Rubbing the sides of her neck with my thumbs. Small circles to the soft spot behind her earlobes. Gently taking her earlobes in my fingers, tracing her ear. Tracing her hairline with my fingers.
The piano scene with Julia on top of the piano, Gere reaches up for a kiss that would say possession, but she denies him. I pull the pillow from between us and put it behind me. I move forward so that she is leaning on me with her head on my chest. Small circles at the sides of her neck, waiting for her to react to the sudden change of circumstance; she does not. I start to breathe again and keep the massage going for lack of inspiration on what to do next.
The movie continues, and so does the massage. I reach down massaging her hands now. I saw a sci-fi movie once about humanoid aliens where the hands were how sexuality could be expressed. They kissed by touching hands; I had taken it to heart.