Tow The one night stand or A way of hiding.
I wanted to go out and dance, so when I called her to ask if she wants to go the place I spent many nights during university and she agreed without hesitation, I forgot about being tired. It was the end of a hard working week and the next day I was about to leave town.
I was excited about this particular weekend so I put on a song that I’ve discovered years before. “I wanna dance and love and dance again.” If it doesn’t ring any bells, I’m gonna save you the trouble of a google search - it’s a JLo and Pitbull song. Sorry. Please don’t judge me based on this. The song was part of a playlist I listened while in Vienna, running in my favorite park. And it really kept me going. Well, this song and another song that (for reasons unknown) had a short part with a sound of a barking dog on the background. First time I heard it I was so scared that a dog is chasing me that I ran faster than I ever did in my entire life. I couldn’t make myself to turn my head to face the dog that was about to bite my ass, so I ran and ran and ran. It took my around four weeks to realize that all of the noise was coming from my headphones and there wasn’t an angry dog behind me. Well...that’s how I am as a person. Pretty spectacular, no?
Anyhow, let’s go back to my night out and the music I was dancing on before leaving my apartment. I needed to blow off some steam, and being out with her in that club was everything that I wanted. We arrived there after grabbing a drink in another bar and talking about very important philosophical issues. The night was going to be fun, fun, fun. The club we chose was full of drunk Erasmus students, but we didn’t really care. We started drinking beer and having tequila shots and drinking beer again. We were dancing like it was 2006.
At some point a guy approached me telling me how he never seen a woman more beautiful than me. I thanked him for the compliment and continued drinking my beer. He started dancing next to me, trying to get the conversation going, but I was too drunk to follow up. He came closer to me, in a gesture I interpreted as his wish to kiss me, so I took a step back. I was drunk, but not that drunk to not know what I was doing. He came closer again so I touched his left shoulder with my right arm, telling him I’m not interested.
“But I love you,” he started screaming, “don’t you understand? I love youuuu!”
I laughed out loud and whispered in his ear “You’re just drunk, and FYI, I’m waaaay older than you.”
“I don’t care about your age and I know this is true love.”
“You just met me - like literally - 5 minutes ago. So tell me, champ, how old are you?”
“I’m 22 and I love you.”
I tried not to laugh too loud, but a sense of pride struck me. I still got it - whatever “it” was.
“Then you should spend time with someone closer to your age, champ. I’m too old for you. Trust me on this.” I winked at him and moved to another dancing spot.
“You don’t understand.” He added in Spanish and that only made me smile again. But on my right there was a group of three guys - also in their early 20s, who started talking to me and my girlfriend.
“We’re from Germany and came here only for one night. We found extremely cheap tickets and decided to come to Romania.” And then they introduced themselves, in a very German kind of way.
“Freut mich.” I said smiling and looked at my friend, telling her with one glance that it’s tequila time. The guys followed us to the bar and were happy to be making friends, but shortly after I went back to dancing. My friend remained closed to them, being polite and giving tips on what to explore in the city.
But my Spanish admirer found me again “Guaaapaaaa!!”
“Nooooo, I’m really not in the mood. Please go away, I’m introverting.”
“But you’re so pretty!”
“And you don’t even know what introverting is, do you?” I said and walked away.
But he was determined to catch my attention and I was sure I didn’t want his, so I grabbed the guy next to me and started dancing with him.
“So what’s your name?” I asked.
“Aaah, hi. I’m *insert name I don’t remember*. What’s yours?”
“Ioana. Nice to meet you. Great music, no?”
He was totally confused and could barely talk, but I was in a dancing mood so I was jumping around like a duck. I’m not a good dancer when I’m sober, so me being drunk next to a stranger who had a hard time understanding why I’m dancing next to him was a scene that made my friend laugh. She gave me thumbs up from the bar, meant as a gesture to assure me that I still got it.
I still got it, baby!
I don’t remember who kissed who first, but I was making out with this guy wondering if it’s acceptable to ask again what his name was. But I didn’t. Because I didn’t care what his name was.
I went to get a bottle of water from the bar and to tell my friend I’m gonna go home soon and take the guy with me. “He’s somehow handsome and I’ve never had a ons, so why not start here? I’m not that drunk, I’m well aware of what I’m saying. Don’t worry.” I kissed her on the cheek, making her promise that she will text me when she’s home.
I called a cab and in 20 minutes I was making out with him in my living room. He had a fit body and after I took off his T-shirt, things started to get hot. But in that moment I realized I’ve never met someone as shy as him. He was an okish kisser, but when we started to have sex it was just...unpleasant. It had nothing to do with his looks or his proportions. We just didn’t connect. So the hot sex I was anticipating ended half way through. It was around 5am and I had a train to catch at 8, so I told him he can stay if he wants. I fell asleep in an instant, next to a stranger, for the first time in my life. In the morning he wanted to make some small talk, but the conversation was short because I needed to pack. We both left my apartment and going down from the 4th floor was the most awkward time I have ever spent in that building.
I didn’t have a hangover - which was surprising - but I didn’t know how to talk to him, and I can talk to anyone. He asked me for my number with the same shyness as before and I caved in. I couldn’t blow him off because of a bad sex night, but I knew I wasn’t excited to see him again. He kissed me on the cheek before I entered the taxi, telling me he had a great time. I just smiled because there wasn’t any time to explain to him why this was a one time thing. He was cute in his shyness when he texted me in the following weeks, but I was out of town a lot, so things ended without even starting.
My friend was working in the same company as him, so there were days when she was texting me that she met him again during lunch time.
“He looks at me with his puppy eyes, hoping I will start a conversation. He wants to talk about you.”
“Why should you start talking to him? Hahaha. Listen, darling, our texts messages are extremely short and although I always replied, there’s nothing there. There’s nothing more than an ‘Hey, how is it going?’ Here’s a screenshot.”
“But, Ioana...if he’s shy...”
“That’s not my problem. And let’s not talk about this again.”
It was a Saturday afternoon when I went to the supermarket to buy laundry detergent. I was waiting in line when I saw him. He was two lines on my right, getting ready to pay. I just couldn’t believe it. All this time we haven’t met and now - when I look anything but fabulous - he’s there with a fresh haircut and an outfit that I didn’t recognize. But I also noticed the big dark bags under his eyes and sensed a vibe that made me think he wasn’t in a good place. He smiled when he put his arm around his mother’s shoulders and I saw her lips moving: she wasn’t pleased about their discussion.
As for me - I was standing there, thinking it was the worse day from the history of days to have a conversation with them. “What do I say? How do I pretend I’m ok when he never apologized?” So I did something I’ve never done before - I turned around and hid behind a rack, knocking down some candies. The fall of the candies made a piercing sound so people turned around to see what was happening. I wanted to grab a bag and put it over my head, like the ugly duckling. I wanted to hide my face, from which an awkward smile forgot to fade - though my features now expressed horror and embarrassment.
Because when you meet your ex you haven’t talked in forever you want to look better than a supermodel from a fashion magazine. You want to be able to put your hand throughout your hair, with a gesture that wants to be natural, but that will make your ex remember how amazing and beautiful you are. And when he compliments you, you respond in a very casual, yet confident kind of way “You’re just stating the obvious, but thank you.” Although you won’t add that you’re wearing a new dress and you’ve just gotten a new haircut and the fit body is a result of all the months/years you’ve been working out like crazy, just to have this moment where you’re ex would say “My God, you’re gorgeous!” Yes, that’s the perfect plan. It didn’t happened to me, though. Why should I have had this luck? The shop was on my way home and I just had an amazing run. But that meant I was all sweaty and too tired to talk. I was wearing running clothes and my hair was far from being neatly combed. I stood hidden until I saw him leave and then I payed for my groceries. On my way home I called a friend, but she didn’t answer. Then I called another friend. She didn’t answer either. I needed to talk to someone and suddenly everyone was extremely busy on a Saturday afternoon!?! Whyyyyyy?!?
So I turned to the person I always turn to - my brother. I explained him what happened and with a kind voice he told me “You did the right thing hiding. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” I disagreed, but when he added in a more angry tone, I understood it all. “You dodged a bullet. Be glad you’ve got good instincts.” And once again, he was right, and his anger wasn’t directed to me, but towards the guy he hasn’t met in years. It wasn’t the type of anger like “I’m gonna punch you in the face next time I’ll see you”, but more the “you’ve hurt my sister and I will forever think of you as being a coward. And I’m sorry she still has to deal with you.”
I no longer wanted to talk to friends, so I started swiping left and right on Tinder. Boredom and the lack of desire to have a conversation were my middle name(s), but I needed to distract myself. And when a guy asked me out, I told him I’m busy and can’t meet him until the following week. “Playing hard to get huh? It’s ok, I’m gonna ask you out again.” I wasn’t playing games, I just wanted to make sure that another encounter with my ex will not be possible that weekend.
And Andrei did invite me to a dinner as the new week arrived. I took a cab to his place - we were living in opposite parts of the town and autumn was colder as it was in the previous years. I texted a friend about my whereabouts and asked her if she really thinks anything good can come out of this. “He lives in your neighborhood and this is his phone number and some pictures and...there are going to be other people at dinner...” I didn’t trust anyone anymore and going on dates was something I was learning how to do, because up until that point, I’ve only had relationships. “You’re gonna be fine, Ioana, and worse case scenario, I’ll come and pick you up in 30 minutes.”
Andrei waited for me downstairs to talk a bit before introducing me to his friends and family. “And who am I?” I asked smiling. He shrugged his shoulders. “A girl from the internet. Does it work?” He was as uncomfortable as I was and he smiled sheepishly. “Absolutely. Do they know we never met?” He tilted his head as a no, so I laughed. “They probably don’t even care, do they?”
Andrei lived at the last floor and we made small talk on our way up. When I entered the long hallway, I had a glimpse into his living room and saw that everyone was already there. I first met his brother and his girlfriend with whom I connected on the spot. Extremely friendly people who were genuine interested to learn things about me. I felt safe and happy at the same time, but after I ate dinner, I told the cook I’m in heaven. We ate a delicious rabbit dish and drank some good wine, laughed at memories and listened to chill music. Hours passed by and I didn’t notice. The other guests decided to leave and the girl I’ve met that night (the girlfriend of Andrei’s brother) hugged me tight. “It was really nice to meet you, Ioana. I hope to see you again.” I thanked them for the invitation and remained to help Andrei to clean up.
We then talked about our hobbies, about our home towns and at some point I told him that I liked his profile on Tinder. His bio said “Netflix and chill” and I thought that was fantastic. I wasn’t looking to commit to someone at that time and didn’t want to talk about past relationships. I smiled and said “we can chill.” But by “chill” I meant “taking things slowly without any expectations.” He came closer to me and kissed me softly. “You can sleep here if you want.” I liked that he wasn’t trying to convince me to have sex with him, so I kissed him back. We were just hanging out, I thought. But it was more than that.
I would many days later find out that “Netflix and chill” meant “sex” and I freaked out. Yes, “Netflix and chill” is a code for sex. And Andrei didn’t make it up, it was a line that everyone was using to make things easier or less awkward. Except me, of course. I was the definition of “Whoa, whoa, ah, whoa!!!! I don’t know how dating works nowadays and what’s up with all the texting and the send nudes requests and I come from a small city where nothing ever happens. I’m just gonna send screenshots to anyone I know so they can decipher what is being communicating to me and whoa, whoa, what?!? I’m not sure I can do this. Please send help.”
The night ended in a great way, but I decided to sleep at home. I was after all, a strong independent woman who had her life together. Or had to pretend I have the answers to it all. (Again, I had no idea what “it” was or why it was important to have so many things figured out.) The story with Andrei didn’t end there, though. But that is for another time.
“It wasn’t a ons, it was a two nights stand. He was visiting the city, we clicked...and I asked him to stay one more night,” I said cheerfully when my friends looked at me surprised. “But who is him? Tell us more.”
“Well, he lives in England and his a funny sport. And you know how dangerous funny guys are. You laugh and laugh and bam, you’re naked.”
They both looked at me with disapproval and started a conversation that felt like a therapy session.
“Ioana, don’t you think it’s somehow weird that you only get attached to men that are out of reach? They either live in another city - or even worse, another country - or... they are like Andrei. We think you have a commitment issue.”
I didn’t like to hear that, but it did stick with me. “Do I refuse to take a chance with anyone because I’m too afraid of being hurt again?” Noooooo, I was sure it wasn’t true. I haven’t had met anyone worthy of my time and energy, I thought. Plus, I no longer got easily attached. I needed to believe that because a strong independent woman is independent for a reason.
I lived my 20s being in a relationship and I liked being in my 30s and not having to promise anything to anyone. I was relieved being on my own and if someone was able to make me come out of my comfort zone, well, that meant that that someone had to be quite different. But I decided that with the next guy I will date, I will take things more seriously and be more responsible.
I went running one Saturday with some friends and there I met other people who have been running longer and faster than I was. I enjoyed being among better runners. I was part of an amateur running club and I say this without any jealousy - I was the slowest from them all. But this particular day I managed to achieve a new personal record and had a chance to talk to a guy whom I thought would be a good fit for a friend of mine. (I like to play The Cupid Game.) At the end of the run we were in a courtyard, eating home made pizza. It has been a perfect day. I arrived home quite late and although I was physically exhausted, mentally I felt fantastic. I was proud of myself for going forward. And when a guy I just met sent me a message on Facebook, checking in on me, I was glad to have made a new friend.
He was the type of guy who could easily pose on the cover of a sport magazine. He had a sculpted body and a great passion for life. And that night was the first night we spoke on the phone. It was easy to talk to him - and in the next days we talked some more and finally met to ride our bikes around the city. I then confessed I can’t keep up with him. “Yes, my next goal is to run a half marathon in the near future, but a triathlon is way too ambitious.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer, though. He had had heart problems and surgeries and he can still kick ass at every competition and, more importantly, he will help me train. I liked his excitement, but I am well aware of my physical boundaries, so I allowed him to have it his way. In the next days, he kept in touch more than it made me comfortable. He was texting every two hours with silly questions and when I didn’t reply, he started to get controlling and demanding. It made me wonder what he was expecting from me, as I was totally confused by his remarks.
I called a friend from the running club and made a joke “I feel he’s making wedding plans while I’m still trying to shake off the soreness.”
My friend started laughing and he suggested I should tell him I’m not interested.
“Can you tell him for me? You know him way better than me - he mentioned that.”
My friend laughed again, telling me it’s my responsibility to end things in a mature way. “This is not my problem, Ioana, and you know I’ll help you with whatever you need, but you have to learn how to stand up for yourself. I will intervene if things get messy though.”
I hung up the phone, feeling I’ve received the best possible support. I replayed in my mind the date with the super fit guy, wondering what did I say or do that made him believe that I encourage in any way his domineering behavior.
It was a warm autumn day when we met near a gym in my neighborhood. It was 5 minutes ride from my place and I was glad I didn’t need to travel that far. I was still recovering from the intense workout.
He wanted to show me his bike path throughout the city and I agreed. I liked using my bike exploring an urban landscape I already knew like the back of my hand. He was going faster than me, but the short stops we made allowed me to catch my breath and ask him to slow down. When I told him I need to call it a day, he insisted to come to my neighborhood to the market, so we traveled back to northern part of the town. He asked me to hold his bike while he goes for a quick shopping - and that made me uncomfortable. Why should I wait for him to buy vegetables? But when he returned with fruits and a rose, I had my answer: he told me he bought everything for me. “Ooookay...!?!?” I replied that although is (somehow?) nice, I have fruits at home. But he went on with how eating fruits is good for the body and how healthy I will become. And that was too much, so I stopped my bike and made sure I say things very clear. I told him how we have a big garden at home and I get all my fruits from there and that I was more than happy to continue doing so in the foreseeable future. I saw him getting angry for not agreeing with him, but I didn’t care. I wanted to go home, so I said good bye. He took his fruits and gave me the rose, a rose that I threw in the trash when I got home. It wasn’t only his desire to tell me how to behave that bothered me, but also that he followed me home, thinking I wouldn’t notice. He wanted to see which building I was entering and that was just wrong. When I asked him what he was doing, he lied: “It’s easier to go this way, as the road I first went on is a one way street.” And that pissed me off - he was in my neighborhood and he told me how bike lanes are organized. He was using the bike as a mean of transportation for years and all of the sudden he was this law abiding citizen. “Okay, have a safe trip home. Byeee!!!” And shut the main entrance behind me.
The next days he sent me flowers on Facebook and a million text messages on WhatsApp. He was a 11 years older than me, but he was acting like a 4yo who didn’t receive ice cream for dinner. We had common friends, and I didn’t want to make things weirder than they already were. “We won’t be more than running buddies,” I texted him when he invited me to his place. And again, he didn’t give up: “But I imagined we will have dinner together next week because I have been preparing and...” I replied after one day, hoping things will end well. “My boyfriend wouldn’t be happy knowing I am having dinner with another guy in his apartment.” And then the hell broke loose. “You are ungrateful and impolite and I hope you’re ‘happy’ with your boyfriend.” Plus other things I would rather not write. For days I wondered what kind of personality deficiency made him act like this - because there's a line between the overzealous pursuer and a stalker.
I continued my daily routine, trying not to think about him too much, although at some point I had the feeling that someone’s constantly watching me. I hoped it was just “an once in a while type of worry from being exposed online” - my picture was on the website of a running club. I was one of the Wednesday people, and anybody who wanted to join me for a run was more than welcome to meet me at 6pm in the location that was listed under my name. There were also weekly Facebook events that I shared publicly on my wall, so if someone wanted to find me, it wouldn’t have been difficult.
I’ve never actually saw my capricious and unpredictable 'admirer' again, nor in almost two years of being weekly on the same running path was I scared of being watched from afar. But one Thursday in October, I didn’t feel safe. I had a peculiar feeling ever since I woke up and even the short walk to the corner supermarket was unfamiliar and stressed me out. I texted a friend telling her about it all and then decided to go out for a run. “Mens sana in corpore sano.” - and all of that. It had been a great run, I cleared my head and going back home with my bike made me feel free. I was careless until after I showered and so I decided not to stay in for that evening. I texted a guy that I was, after all, available to meet for a drink.
I put on a black dress I recently bought and took a cab to the city center. After I payed the driver, I had the feeling of being watched, again. I entered the bar to see my date waiting for me at a window table, and I was no longer feeling distressed. The anxious feeling I had experienced before was attributed to the guy who saw my yellow cab arrive and who was smiling as I was approaching the table. Or so I thought at that point. The date started well, the usual yada yada and some jokes, but he was living in another country and I wasn’t interested in following a pattern that proved unfit in the past. He walked me to the cab area and I told him it was nice meeting him, when he delicately kissed me goodnight. It was a gentle, soft kiss that made me stay in front of the taxi for a little longer. I was pleasantly surprised and did not expect my night to end like this. I felt comfortable next to him, but had again the strange feeling of being followed. I looked around but couldn’t see anyone - as it was dark and late, but I hesitated going home and preferred following my date in his hotel room. It was inexplicable to me that I felt more safe with a stranger than going back to my apartment, so I texted a friend and told her everything. Yes, I was still with the guy she knew of and didn’t want to go home. I only left the hotel three days later and a one night stand was the beginning of something I didn’t anticipate. And all of my fears somehow disappeared during the days I spent with someone that soon became more than a stranger to me.