picture by: Ali Yahya
So a reader asked me a question the other day that sorta floored me. I could have sworn I had told the story of how I met Emily already, but I so haven’t. That’s something that needs fixin’.
I had just been evicted. I had been out of my parents house for about four years and hit a pretty bad snag, and was headed back. I had no job, no income at all, I was already living paycheck to paycheck prior to losing my job and even then just barely. I also had a reputation among friends and family of being the reliable one. I wasn’t feeling very reliable now. My brother had invited me to a night out to just chill somewhere. That was something I rarely got to do anymore, he’d offered to foot the bill. I would have normally said no, gotta keep that life going, gotta take care of the things I’m responsible for. A part of me felt like I should only be focusing on getting back on my feet, but I was feeling so low I didn’t even want to live up to my own expectations, so I said yes.
My entire value system was up for grabs at this point, all of me was on shaky ground. I took my beat up old truck, and what little gas I had left, and set out to just waste some time with my brother and his pals. I was thinking a few things, like that I’d never amount to anything or escape this place, but I tried to put those thoughts aside and have a good time. Things started getting weird pretty quick. See my brother and I have this dynamic, we just get silly with each other, and we were both pretty low on sugar and were acting pretty punchy as a result. Somehow we ended up in my brother’s friend’s recently rented out space he’d be using for a second hand book store. I was working again, as a volunteer, a jobless volunteer. Well, I guess that’s how you get known for being reliable. Anyway, as I was saying, my brother and I were being pretty silly. There were ancient computer parts, even by those standards, sitting in several boxes in this space and they had to be disposed of. We went through them one by one to make sure we weren’t tossing anything useful. My brother and I came across some old processors and stuck them in our foreheads until they stuck, and pretty soon we were throwing the expansion cards like ninja stars into the corrugated box, trying to get those to bury themselves in it. We’d shout “NINJA STAR!” as we did so.
As these stories often go, my brother’s friend had a girlfriend, and she’d always been a miserable person around us. See, our friend wasn’t that good at communication and would often schedule his dates on D&D night, and we ended up having to put up with an understandably pouty and bitchy person almost every session for a few weeks at this point. We did not like her, she did not like us, and she was coming over with her sister to introduce her to some guy. Good, I thought, she’ll be busy and out of our hair. The girlfriend really wasn’t my type and I really didn’t wanna deal with two of them. So as I was winding up another add-in board to toss into the now shredded cardboard box, the girlfriend walks in with sister in tow, and I stop dead in my tracks. How in the fuck were these two related?! She was petite, she was cute, and despite her very hot-topic get up I could tell she was gorgeous, and she was smiling at me. I had been straight up caught and I knew it, I could feel the obviousness in my expression and my arm was frozen mid-throw anyway, I did about the only thing I could think of and resumed the throw, “Ninja Star!”. Emily giggled. She fucking giggled. I hadn’t totally torpedoed myself! I recalled that she was here to meet someone, and I decided I was going to take their place. That was another one of my values up for grabs tonight. I was out looking for a one night stand for the first time in my life.
As luck would have it, Emily and her sister seemed more interested in helping with the bookstore than meeting that other dude. I caught his name in conversation, small town, I knew him, and he was a loser. Now I’m pulling double duty, I’ve gotta get in to this girl’s pants and at the very least I’ve gotta keep her away from that creep show. We’re trading glances regularly at this point and finding excuses to talk to each other. Now we were painting the walls. I gave zero fucks about all the unpaid work I was doing, it was more time to spend with Emily. Turns out her 18th birthday is in 2 days. Sweet, add cradle robbing to the night’s goals. I didn’t think the sister would be much of an obstacle, after all she was prepared to put her on a date with that guy, couldn’t be too concerned about me, but she stayed attached to her sister at the hip, obviously irritated that we were hitting it off.
We took a break from working to grab some food. We ended up going to this cheap local pizza buffet. My brother said he would cover me, but he wasn’t exactly made out of cash, so this seemed efficient. Emily complained about the quality of the pizza, so I directed her to the desert pizza bar, which was actually pretty damn good. I walked up there with her, told her what my favorites were, and she dutifully piled everything I was pointing out into her plate. Old episodes of Pokemon were on the televisions, the place was primarily targeted to parents after all, and Emily obviously enjoyed it. We talked about it together, I got super nerdy about it—shocker I know—and started talking about all the math involved in the game if you actually wanted to tell the difference between good and bad Pokemon. She actually enjoyed that conversation, this deal just kept getting sweeter all the time, but I knew I wasn’t going to get a chance with her alone tonight, not at the rate things were going.
Painting resumed and we kept making conversation, she mentioned a very bad experience with D&D at her high-school with boys who seemed primarily in sexualizing her, actually attacking her in the game if she had a problem with their gross behavior. She was craving coffee but was a messy painter and would have to do significant washing to get her own, so I offered to get her coffee. This used bookstore was kinda nestled in a hippy commune, there was some damn good coffee that was just free to take, piping hot. The guy that ran the cafe just liked it that way. I got her coffee black, having neglected to ask her how she took it. I figured that if she took it black and I put cream in it I couldn’t undo that, but that if she wanted those things, I could always go back and add them. Sure enough, she didn’t take her coffee black.
“Well why don’t you come with me, since you’re so messy and tell me how to do it, I can’t recall everything that’s available over there.”
So she followed me back to the coffee nook and showed me how to make her coffee the way she liked it. I wondered aloud why she tolerated that behavior she talked about earlier, neither of us really remember the answer aside from the fact that she lamented not having the books again because she’d like to use the inspiration in her own art work. She really fancied the artwork in those books. Of all the nights not to have those in tow. So I just straight up offered to go get them from the house, a good 25 minute drive one-way, and she accepted. I thought that was perfect, at the very least if she’s a decent person and plans on returning this property that guarantees a second encounter, worth the gas in my estimation. Off I went.
On the way back I sorta wondered about the possibility that her sister took the opportunity to scram and take Emily with her; I was kinda kicking myself for not getting her number or discussing that possibility. When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find her still painting, though they were packing it in for the night. I showed her the book and she squealed with delight and we just wouldn’t shut up about it. She mentioned that she’d be back at this place in 2 days, it’s where they were celebrating her birthday. No need to ask for a number now, I thought. I’ll see Emily in 2 days, that’s when I’m going to make my move, they’ll be staying the night.
I attempted to say goodbye, but Emily walked me back to my truck and I had zero problems with that. Just before I asked her myself, her sister, hanging back a good 20 feet blurted out, “Hey Emily, you going home with him tonight?!” in a mocking tone. Emily was clearly and visibly embarassed, and stammering. I just smiled at her. She shuffled sheepishly back towards her sister and we said our goodbyes.
I was nervous on Saturday. I had no idea what kind of party this would be or how it would go. There sure were a lot of guys here, guys I knew, these were my friends. Huh. I hadn’t thought about it prior, but Emily was celebrating her birthday with just her sister and her sister’s social circle. None of Emily’s friends were to be found tonight, and honestly, sitting here typing this, I’m only beginning to realize how odd that sounds. My brother was here too, for his friends sake, because Emily’s sister would be there with her boyfriend.
A television was set up and there was a giant half-circle of couch around it. I parked my butt next to her butt and she didn’t seem to mind. We smiled at each other. It seemed the night was already going well. We watched some anime and some Invader Zim, and we cuddled. As luck would have it, I actually did enjoy those things, and we were able to keep ourselves entertained while the rest of the “guests” got bored. Eventually her sister stood up and reminded her of the next activity on the docket, which was cake. I thought that was harmless and I really wanted to wish her a happy birthday too. Apparently this was timed at her actual birth hour. I wasn’t prepared for after-cake though, neither was Emily.
Her sister reminded her of something else she’d agreed to do. See, before she had really thought about me being there, or before she knew I was a thing, Emily had told her sister she wanted to see what was inside of a sex shop. I went white on the inside, and did my best not to show it. Emily definitely went visibly pale. Well this was going to be awkward, but it wouldn’t be my first time in a place like that, maybe I could actually make this more comfortable for her than the first time I set foot in one of those places. Clearly though, she was now nervous about her own idea.
When we arrived we were sorta doing everything as one large group. The store clerk seemed somewhat annoyed at us, already knowing why we were there. I suppose they saw the birthday groups a lot, they never buy anything. I sure as hell wasn’t going to buy anything. Emily knew I was single and I was not about to put my intentions on the table in such an obvious and crude fashion, she seemed damned innocent. Emily seemed into me enough as it was so adding unnecessary risk with a move like that felt dumb. Her sister was going out of her way to embarrass her in the store. We got to the novelty section with the life sized forearm and fist. I actually had to avoid eye contact because I didn’t want to show I was into that sort of thing. We had been dodging each others eyes the whole time in there, and it was obvious because of how much they were meeting prior. I decided to break from the group and just stare into the wall of porn with a hundred yard gaze. Somehow, Emily managed to duck out of the group in a few minutes and joined me. She of course, asked what I was looking at. At this point, I’d like to thank my grandfather for teaching me how to heckle newscasters, because those skills were just about to come in handy. I looked over the porn wall, “oh, I’m just looking at all these ridiculous names, here, take a look at…”. I forget the punchlines, so did she, but I started relentlessly making fun of all of the titles of the porn on the wall, and the tension eased. I even think I recall us making it to the leggings/skimpy outfit section—Amazon didn’t exist for that yet—and she told me how much she liked the idea of a corset. Even then Emily knew how to get to me, just this time I’m pretty sure it was unintentional. At some point, that wrapped up, the details of this memory get fuzzy in places, but I know we left the store both thanking our lucky stars that we hadn’t managed to scare the other off.
I got Emily more coffee from the cafe, and we settled in for some more Zim marathon. No one could say shit, birthday girl’s party. Almost everyone else had fallen asleep, it was just us, and her sister. We were staring into each others eyes something heavy, and after a few minutes her sister had to get Emily’s sleeping place ready. They hadn’t had the good sense to do that prior. I asked for a kiss while we were briefly alone and she shrank back and squeaked out a yes. There was so much I wanted to do with, and to Emily but she clearly wasn’t ready. I think that’s when I set aside my expectations for sex. I would later learn that there was also a lot she wanted to do to me but was too chicken. 8 years later I would learn that I hadn’t been concealing that boner as well as I thought. But man, that was a great kiss. Soft, slow, romantic. We were well finished by the time her sister returned, but seeing her sister return put a Cheshire grin on Emily’s face. I think she thought she got away with murder.
That was a restless night for me. Just prior to Emily being escorted to her makeshift bed her sister gave me all but a speech on how closely that room would be watched and how locked it was. Please, that’s an interior door and there’s no way I couldn’t get past it, and I wanted to say that so bad. I spent until 3am trying to figure out if I was going to get past it. At one point, I even walked up with the thought to knock. It was 0130 and I stopped for a few reasons. It was late and I didn’t want to annoy her—though it turns out she was awake—and I also didn’t want to risk waking her sister. I could definitely get past that rudimentary lock, but that seemed kinda….very aggressive, but knowing I could presented a temptation. Years later, Emily would remark it was a good thing I hadn’t, because I probably would have gotten exactly what I wanted if I had.
Despite not getting to sleep until 3, I was the first one awake that morning. Shortly afterwards Emily was out and about. It was roughly 6:30 in the morning. Naturally, I got us both coffee. I found the computer the cafe owner had briefly played music from the night before, pulled up YouTube and found Desperado. I sang it to her. She had no idea how much that song applied to me in that moment, but she loved that I was singing it to her. A bit after that, everyone else started waking up. I hadn’t gotten my second kiss yet, she was too embarrassed that someone might find out the extent that she’d already fallen. She was the only one in the dark though, and that became a meme later. I still tease her about how long it took her to figure out that we were dating.
Everyone had breakfast, and Emily’s sister reminded her it was time to go. Her parents were expecting her back soon and they were reluctant (rightly so it turns out!) to have her spend her birthday that way in the first place. We were in the middle of another conversation about nothing as we headed out of the complex, she basically demanded a hug goodbye, where she promptly decided to take a deep sniff of my hair. I think she thought she was being sneaky, but I wasn’t going to say anything, I was content to let her think she wasn’t noticed. Her sister however, guffawed, “Oh Emily did you just smell his hair!?”.
Emily turned red. I just smiled and said my goodbyes. 13 years later, it’s been a hell of a one night stand.