Guest post by Will Hines, one of the best improvisers and comedians around.
After college, I worked at a rural community newspaper (“Rotary Club Debuts Public Bulletin Board”) and had a fling with a coworker - a not unheard of occurrence, but dramatic for young me. Her name was not Edna, but let’s say it was because I believe that no one within 10 years of my age was ever named Edna and this will protect her identity. Edna was also just out of college, cute and a good writer. But more importantly to me, Edna was a huge show-off. Specifically she was a show-off about being well-read and well-traveled. She’d drop purposefully impressive words in her conversation like “besieged” and “pungent” and self-consciously formal ones like “greetings” and “mad.” She’d go out of her way to mention her travels in Spain and Prague and China. She’d quote the beat poets and 80s hardcore bands and Henry James.
She was reeeeeal annoying.
But at the time, I could not be deterred. I loved show-offs. Especially people who showed off their bookishness and worldliness. I was average looking, sort of a rough draft of Michael J. Fox, but also a shy naive guy, not far removed from honors student/compulsively quoting Steve Martin years. Not a virgin, though my limited romantic experience rounded down to virginity. And socially, my friends were the “stand in groups and quote movies” sort. I’d stayed in Connecticut my whole life and rarely strayed from following the rules.
So if a show off self-mythologizing girl wore her contrived adventures on her sleeve, I listened. And if they quoted the Dead Milkmen while they did it, I REALLY listened.
Of course I got over worshipping this kind of person. By the time I was 40.
Anyway, my attention flattered her, and we got together for a few weeks. It was sweet and fumbling and to my limited romantic experience and shy nature, overwhelming. But then she moved away for a year to teach English in Japan before that was the kind of thing these types of girls did. She and I wrote letters, with the understanding that our fling was over and these were just two friends staying in touch.
But a year later she came back to visit and I arranged to meet her. For coffee. As if that was something I did. So we met up, and to my dismay, a great deal of our conversation consisted of her telling me about the amazing sex she’d been having with a Korean chef she had met in her final weeks there. Apparently he did romantic things like surprise her with freshly cut pears or show up with knife wounds from fights.
I was shocked at how candid she was, and hurt that she was oblivious to how this would make me jealous. But she’d had another life for the past year in another country. I had stayed in my rural Connecticut town and memorized Gin Blossoms lyrics. Our fling was long ago in her memory despite being very near in mine. I was thrown: the whole year I’d hoped she’d come back and rekindle things. She was dramatic and bold, and I wanted to be dramatic and bold by proxy.
After coffee, she said she had to go shopping (for avocados and vegan everything, I presume) and I went along. There in aisle 7 of a Grand Union supermarket, my former desire for her now transformed into a desire to prove something coupled with my jealousy of the Korean chef and my frustration of never having traveled or done much of anything, all welled up. I wanted to one-up everyone she had ever met. I wanted to be bold and sweep her off her feet with my passion.
“Want to go have sex in your car?” I asked.
She studied my face. I tried to hold steady as if she were going to blow air on my eyes and test for glaucoma. Whatever she saw there convinced her and she said “Hmm. Yes.”
Once she said it, I realized that was the last thing I had expected. Who knew that people sometimes do ridiculous things if you just ask? 15 minutes later we were driving around back roads looking for a tucked-away cul-de-sac or some discreet dirt road.
As we drove along I started panicking: was I ready for this? I’d had sex a not-that-many number of times, and they had been extremely traditional experiences. Even the ones with Edna.
The car ride felt like a roller coaster climbing to its first dip, and I had a sense that part of the track would be missing. I reassured myself by thinking “Well, maybe I *am* this kind of person — the kind of person who just runs off and has sex in a car.” When you’re 22, you can still imagine so many futures, you know? Maybe I was going to be like Warren Beatty, just laying girls like crazy and breaking hearts all over the world?
But then we found a spot, and pulled over. We ambled into the back seat and started making out. And almost immediately, I became amazingly self-conscious that we could easily be found. And of the sounds of our clothes sliding along the cheap plastic seats. And of the bright street light just a bit up the road. I started fidgeting, feeling claustrophobic and even sweating. I knew that I was not in the mood to fuck and instead just wanted to get the fuck out of there.
In an absurd halt, I stopped everything and told her I had to leave. “I’ve overbid,” I remembered saying.
She looked confused, and now looking back I wonder if she was hurt. “Well, that’s fine,” she said. “If you’re not in the mood to romp let’s not romp.”
She drove me back to the grocery store in silence.
I didn’t lose touch with Edna. She moved to New York City, and then a few years later I did too. We’d see each other. But I lost my appreciation for people who use words like “romp” and talk about the “devastating” poem they read. Good people to run into, but not good people to date, at least for me.
Though one night in New York I ran into her in a bar and we had a drink. She was a yoga teacher (of course) and I was teaching improv comedy. She was ranting about something that was wrong with a feminist something and I wasn’t really listening. It did occur to me to re-proposition, but I held off. Because she might have said yes.
Will Hines is a performer at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and is one of the funniest people on the planet. Follow him on Twitter @willhines.