Many of my college years were spent hanging out at the Last Exit. When I was 17, I lived just a few blocks away and I was there several times a week. I lived alone and didn't have a television set, which meant I had to get out of the house a lot.
A group of my friends were always there. They included Mike, Shawn, Tracey, Anne, Meg, Stephan and more tangentially Jerry, Pat and Leah. There were a few more whom I didn't know as well. Because we were always there, we were friends with some of the waiters and waitresses.
It was December and I'd spent several days at home nursing a very bad cold. I lonely and pathetic so I decided to walk down to the Exit and see if there were anyone there to talk to. In fact, everyone was there. I was congested and fuzzy and couldn't participate in the conversation, but I sat there and smiled, happy for human contact.
Our waiter that night was Eric. He was older than us--it seemed like he was a lot older. He had that weathered, strung-out, ex-rock star look, complete with stringy, long blonde hair. He was probably in his early twenties. And he was married. He sometimes came to our parties and he was always friendly. I had had a few long chats with him where he talked about his unhappy marriage and I listened sympathetically. I guess I thought I understood because I spent my childhood observing an unhappy marriage. He was a good guy, though unhappy. I never thought he liked me and I wasn't interested in him. I didn't find him attractive, but even if I had, it wouldn't have mattered. He was married.
That night, I ordered a coke and Eric didn't charge me. He did that sometimes, but he'd never done it for me. I fussed about being sick and he leaned over to me and whispered, "You're so cute." I thought I'd misunderstood him. Maybe he wasn't talking to me. But then he did it again, "I want to take you home and help you get better." I gave him a big confused smile.
I was exhausted even though I'd only been out of the house for a couple of hours and I said I was leaving. Eric asked me to wait since he was just about to get off work. I waited and he walked me the five blocks home. He told me I should drink some tea with honey. "I don't like honey. I don't have any honey."
"Do you have tea?"
"I think so."
When we got to my apartment building, I tried to say goodnight.
"I have to go up now. I'm sick."
He wouldn't leave.
"Aren't you going to let me come up?"
"And make you that tea?"
"No, I'm sorry. I'm really tired."
"But you're so cute. I want to kiss you."
He backed me into the corner of the doorway and put his arms on either side of my shoulders and kissed me. I was so surprised that I didn't move. He pulled back. I ducked under his arm and put my key in the lock and said "I have to go up now." I pulled the door closed hard behind me to make sure it latched. I ran up the three flights to my apartment.
I was dizzy. I had a rush of feelings: disgust, anger, confusion. I was sick and this made me feel worse. I had just kissed a married man. It was so...tawdry. He stole that kiss, but I still felt guilty.
I never spoke to Eric again. If I saw him, I wouldn't make eye contact or say hello. I was very angry. He stopped working at the Exit soon after that. I don't know what happened to him. I was so embarrassed that I never told my friends what happened.
I did tell my mom and she couldn't understand why I felt so bad. He'd kissed me, against my will, and I had done nothing wrong. I didn't like being mixed up in it at all, though. And…I think I didn't realize that such things happened. That people would cross lines so blithely. Perhaps I was worried that I'd done something to encourage him--but I knew I hadn't. Ah, poor guy, he was very unhappy. I just wish he hadn't tried to make me part of the solution.
Grateful for: good instincts.