I replayed the scenes from that night on loop for weeks.
And I was actually in the middle of some particularly heavy daydreams one day when my phone vibrating next to me on the desk shook me with a start back to reality.
Recently, I started to work in a new space. Turns out my new digs were in the same building as Dan and his little start-up venture. Not long after I'd moved in, I ran into him in the elevator.
I’ve known Dan for a while. In fact, as it happens, he was one of the first people I met in town when I moved here. And I’ve always appreciated finding the opportunity to chat with him. He is a wealth of knowledge on all kinds of adulting stuff that I don’t really understand (but probably should learn) – business, real estate, investments, getting rid of a body, etc.
You know. The important stuff.
But it’s often a struggle to get to Dan when there are so many other people around because, well, everyone wants a piece of the Dan pie just as much as I do.
Lucky for me though, this new context created greater opportunity for me to pick his business-savvy brain without as much distraction.
All that to say - when he invited me to join him and the boys for some end-of-the-week beers, I happily accepted the offer.
Apparently, it was beer day again and he wanted to know if I’d be joining.
I guess they didn’t mind my company last time after all.
Without hesitation, I packed up my gear, and locked up the office for the week. I’m always the last one to clock out because I inherited my father’s workaholism, plus I don’t have dogs, children, or boyfriends waiting for me to check in.
I headed up a few floors to another high-ceilinged hallway identical to the one I just left. Slowing my pace as I approached the nondescript door that I was looking for, I just let myself in. I found their tech guy - whose name I seriously can never remember - just chillin’ at the table in the adjacent boardroom.
“Hey buddy!” Dan is a big bear of a man and has the warm, booming voice to boot. “Welcome, welcome. Come on in.”
He handed me a brown bottle from a box on the table. He noticed me notice that the box was nearly empty.
“Don’t worry,” he said with a wink. “More brews are on their way.”
Almost on cue, I heard two more sets of footsteps and the clinking of a full case of beer enter the room behind me.
“How’s it goin', boys?”
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle to attention. I didn't need to see the face to recognize his voice. I legitimately took a couple of calming breaths before turning slowly to face them.
If he had recognized me from behind, he didn't give anything away. He just gave me a nod, politely tipping his imaginary hat at me, as he and Sean moved to place their case on the table.
Without breaking eye contact with me, Dan gave each of them an appreciative pat on the back as they walked by.
“So?” said Dan. “How are things?”
“Oh, you know. Things are good.” I paused a moment to enjoy that satisfying fizzle of a fresh-cracked beer, smiled, and raised my bottle to him.
“Things are a bit better now.” We clinked our bottlenecks together and took hearty swigs while the others settled in.
I always want to be more involved in the boys’ shoptalk. But if we’re being honest, I’m generally intimidated by how out-of-my-element those conversations make me feel. But that’s part of why I put myself into these situations – forcing myself outside my comfort zone for the sake of personal and professional growth. Especially because, when I feel like I have nothing to add, what ends up happening is that I get stuck chatting nonsense with the socially awkward tech guy.
So that's obviously exactly what happened that day.
I tried not to let my boredom show, and Tech Guy might not have noticed, but he was definitely on to me.
“Looks like you might need a refill,” he said from across the table.
I looked to my right. Tech Guy was checking his phone for something he felt particularly adamant about showing me. I glanced down at the bottle in my hands. There were still a few good mouthfuls left, but I pounded it back in one big gulp. “Looks like you might be right,” I said, and circled around to his side of the table.
He cracked my next beer for me. I made a point of asking incredibly vague questions about his business to give him a reason to keep him talking at length. He went on to tell me about a successful presentation they had given that afternoon to some heavy-hitting clients. Apparently, it’d gone really well.
I was enthralled, but also a little confused by what he was trying to describe to me. He could tell. “Here, why don’t I just show you.”
He directed my attention to the screen on the wall. While he fiddled with his laptop, which was still connected to the projector from the afternoon’s presentation, I shamelessly examined the contours of face.
Between the five of us, the beers went down pretty quick.
Dan was on the phone, as he often is. He punctuated his conversation by draining his bottle and declaring that he had something that he had to deal with.
“Shouldn’t take too long,” he added.
Dan is always hustling, seeing men about dogs and stuff.
“I’ll meet you guys at the pub down the street in, what, half an hour or so?”
I still had half a beer. I noticed that he did too. But Sean and Tech Guy were ready to make a move and didn’t have the patience to wait for us to finish.
“I don’t want to lose this buzz,” announced Sean. “We’re going to the pub right now. See you guys there.”
And with that, they were all gone.
This was the first time I had ever really been alone with him.
Besides that time in the alley, of course.
The room was quiet, except for the droning whirr of the projector overhead.
“So, how’ve you been?” he asked. His delivery was always so flat, but never rude.
I was about to scoff all the same, but managed to catch myself.
I feel like you could come up with a better ice-breaker better than that, sir. You've been inside me so...
“Good, I guess?”
He grabbed the last two bottles from the case, looked me up and down, and stopped when he found my eyes again. “You look fantastic,” he said cracking open the first bottle and handing it to me.
“Thanks,” I said, struggling not to break eye contact. The intensity of his gaze ties my intestines in knots.
He took a sip of his own beer. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since…”
“Since our last cigarette,” I said with a grin, alluding to that moment we should never have shared.
“Yeah.” He mirrored my smirk. “That.”
Prolonged silence. Staring. Sipping. Looking away. Staring again.
“Speaking of cigarettes.” He pulled a carton from his pocket and put one in his mouth.
He draped his coat over his shoulder and he strode across the hall with the cool elegance of a catwalk model adorned in business attire.
As he slid his arms into the sleeves and opened the door to the fire escape, he turned back to see if I was following. “You coming?”
It was cold that night. Winter was definitely on its way.
Shielding it from the chilled breeze with a cupped hand, he held his lighter to my lips and ignited my cigarette. I took a long, sultry drag, and tipped my head back to welcome the venomous smoke into my lungs.
We stood so close that our bodies pressed lightly against each other. I tried to hide my sheepish smile while he pretended not to notice.
Come on, man. I know you feel me.
We silently exhaled our anxiety into the night. But it was short lived - of course, I slipped on the wet metal under foot and fell fully into him. I wish I could say I did it on purpose, but I only have my inherent awkwardness to blame.
“You okay?” he said, laughing at my clumsiness.
“Just fine.” I blushed. The heat radiating subtly through his coat both was both reassuring and intimidating.
I figured he'd be wanting to make a move, to meet up with our friends. But when he took off his jacket and placed it on the back of one of those big leather chairs again, I didn't know what to think anymore.
The boardroom was lit solely by the projector that was still humming patiently overhead.
Weird. I don't remember us turning the lights off.
He leaned against a side table near the wall with his arms crossed, beer in hand, as he watched me finally remove my jacket and toss it over his.
I grabbed my own beer, and leaned on the edge of the massive centre table across from him.
Blips of unnecessary chatter until the words ran dry. Then we just glared at each other, waiting for the other to break.
“Just come over here already,” he said, uncrossing his arms and extending one hand towards me.
My foot finally fell carefully on the carpet as I moved towards him. On one hand, I was hesitant, nervous, worried about the potential consequences of taking that final step.
Steady, girl... You know this can't end well.
But the other hand was already recklessly throwing caution out into the winter wind.
Once I was close enough to accept his hand, he pulled me in gently towards him, and leaned back into me. Like he was about to lead me through a dance for the first time.
But I already know this dance. And now I'm not so sure I want to follow this lead.
I felt the warmth of his palms on the ledge of my hips, and our foreheads touched as we breathed together. It was passionate, sensual, and bizarrely comfortable.
My hands moved up to his face, around his neck and to the back of his head. Eyes closed, our lips hovered around each other without ever fully touching.
Gradually, our mouths moved cautiously towards each other until a single, extended kiss passed between us, and he held me a little closer. I felt like I might fall through the floor if he let me go.
“You turn me on,” he said, trailing his words on his lips. “So much.”
His confession made me tingle. I felt like I might sneeze, but I giggled instead. With one hand running through my hair, the other was on the small of my back. He guided me backwards to the table ledge, and paused to stare at me again.
“One day, I’ll be able to look at you.” He nuzzled into me and buried the words into my neck. “All of you.” He kissed my collarbone. “Without having to rush any of this.”
“One day,” I said, forlornly.
Looking back, I see that I went into a sort of autopilot mode here. I leaned on to the table, inviting him to follow me, and shimmied back far enough for him to crawl on top of me. On all fours, he lowered his face towards mine and kissed me with more intent than before. He moved his mouth down my neck, and my hands were free to untuck his shirt, exploring up his back. I wrapped my legs up and around him as we writhed on the table, blurred forms glowing in the silver-blue wash of the projector lights.
His hand was on my thigh, my hip, my ass. Squeeze. He nibbled on my shoulder, up my neck, behind my ear. Swoon.
He raked his fingers lightly up along my inner thigh. “Is this what you want?” he said. I felt myself dilate, and release again. My clit was tingling hot at the prospect of his touch. I felt my entire vulva expanded, demanding that he keep going.
It is. I do. I want this. I want you. Desperately. But.
But my heart started beating much faster than it should have, and I choked.
“I don’t know what I want,” I admitted. “I can’t deny how I feel about you.” I broke eye contact with him, recoiling into the eclipse of his face. “How I’ve always felt about you. But--”
“I know,” he said. He encouraged me to look at him, guiding me by the jaw back into the steady stream of pale blue glow. “I feel the same way.”
My pulse was still racing and I felt a lump swell in my throat. I stared into the lens of the projector to validate my tears.
“We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to,” he said stroking my hair reassuringly.
“'Want' is a fickle thing,” I sneered at him, followed by a tiny sniffle. “I think we’ve pushed this as far as we can,” I added. “Sean will be already be too drunk to notice how long it’s been, but Dan will probably be getting to the pub soon.”
He helped me sit up on the table. I lingered there for a moment, staring at the oversized screen to my left. The paused video had been swapped out for murky prisms swirling in and around a sea of ink-black.
He thumbed my jawline again, and wrapped his protective arms around me. I hesitated at first, but soon after succumbed to the comfort of his embrace.
We walked out the front door of the building and into the cold. Before returning to the real world, I desperately wanted to pull him back to me, to hold him close for one more moment, to kiss him one more time.
Or just erase the last half hour. I would take that too.
Not because I regret it, but because I'm just not ready to deal with... whatever this is.
My heated internal argument sputtered, and my lack of a decision became one in and of itself. Somewhat dejected by my own reticence, I followed a few paces behind him down the steps to the sidewalk.
The chilly rain stinging my face masked the hot tears swelling in my eyes, and washed away whatever was left of my fire that night.