It was the night before I left. He came to see me. He brought food. We ate, and I drank wine to unwind. My anxiety fell away in layers with every taste.
Not long after, he was trying to talk me out of bed.
"Come on - you have to finish packing. You have a lot to do." He nudged me, even pulled back the blankets.
I was confused at first, but then I thought his concern was kind of cute. He was acting a bit funny, so I asked if he was ok. He told me he had work to do. Understandable, but what was not cool was how he tried to make it seem like his concern was for me - leaving a naked and willing woman in bed for her own good? How sensitive, I had marveled. How far from ordinary.
"I understand", I told him, and I did. I understood exactly what was going on. I got up, walked across the room, picked up my underwear and slipped them on. Went into the living room and found my t-shirt. He came out of the bedroom as I was pulling on my pants. He walked past me and sat on the couch. Eyes wide, he looked stricken. I looked back at him blankly, every drop of feeling gone.
"Ok then, I'll walk you out?"
"I didn't mean I had to rush out. I just meant I brought my work home. I am not in a big rush."
"Don't worry, I have shit to do anyway. I'm going to walk over to the drugstore now to pick up a few last minute things."
I barely made eye contact with him in the elevator. I knew I couldn't look at him then.
"Let me drive you."
"It's less then a block away. No point, but thanks anyway."
We walked out into the cold.
"Listen, I had a great time."
I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
"Thanks," I said. "It's been fun."
He looked stunned.
I pulled my hat on as I walked away. Tears streamed down my face. Even though it was dark out, I was conscious of the people passing me on the sidewalk, but I couldn't stop. I was choking back sobs as a million things ran through my mind. My trip, being alone, feeling tricked.
I looked over to the right. Ben waived me over to his car. His face reminded me of my little brother when he doesn't know how to handle a situation. Uncomfortable but concerned. I needed to know that he felt both of those things. I needed him to have some balls. I needed to be overpowered in this small way, giving me permission to be just a little bit vulnerable. I turned away for a moment to wipe away tears before he could see them. Then I got into his car.