Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In which I find out that the guy who visited me in Miami had a crush on me but I didn't have a clue but maybe our mutual friend was imagining things

When I got back to the US after my stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile ("Peace Corps lite," we called it because we were in large cities that had coffee shops and movie theaters and electricity), I stayed with various amazingly generous friends in Austin until I had a job and got a place of my own in Miami.

I stayed at Tom and Sherri's for a few months, then spent a month at their friend Cindy's place while Cindy was out of town on a business trip. Cindy had a roommate, George, who was a very nice, very quiet guy who put up with having a stranger live with him for a month. George and I didn't do too much together. We had nothing in common except we were friends with Tom and Sherri. But he was nice. We would chat occasionally, but we each really just minded our own business.

George is the main part of this story, so remember what I just said.

The one thing I remember from staying in that house was that there was dog hair in the bathtub because Cindy blessherheart used to bathe her dog and then not clean the tub. I can put up with a lot - it takes a lot to gross me out - but I am kind of particular about where my naked feet go, especially when they are attached to my naked body. I won't even take my socks off for yoga because the idea of putting my naked feet where others have trod bugs me.

Note that I will, however, put my naked hands on that same mat. I am not consistent. I don't know why. I will also happily buy used shoes at consignment, but only if they are odor free and in good shape. So there you go. I have inconsistent squeamishness.

That said, I don't think most people would be happy about a dog-hair filled tub. Lots of coarse black hairs that blocked the drain. Ick.

I am also not a fan of mildewy shower curtains and have just one word to say to people whose shower curtains are black and slimy: bleach. Just spray some bleach on it. You don't even have to scrub. You don't have to live in grossness.

Look. If I, who can pee in a hole into the ground in the "bathroom" at the La Paz bus station while an old Aymara lady and her granddaughter watch me because of course there are no walls or stalls and then not wash my hands because there is no sink, can be grossed out by something, it's pretty gross. My standards are really low. See heed me when I tell you to clean your dang tub.

Know that I feel a wee bit bad criticizing someone who was so generous to me. For what it's worth, this was over 15 years ago and I have changed all the names. I am indeed grateful that Cindy let me stay in her house. It was very nice of her. And maybe she was in a rush before going on her trip and just didn't have time to clean the tub and it's sure not like I had anything better to do and it was nice, actually, to be able to do something for her and make a contribution to the household by doing some cleaning. There. I feel better.

Then I moved to Miami.

What I discovered about living in Miami is that people in Miami have a lot more friends than people who live in cold places. As in, I have never had so many people want to visit me in the middle of winter in my life.

Which was fine. I had a guest room. I liked seeing people. Most of my friends are excellent houseguests, as in, they didn't leave their towels or the bed linens on the floor and didn't leave their trash all over my house. I made a few extra copies of my housekey, gathered a collection of information about local attractions, stocked the fridge, and told my guests I would see them when I got home from work. If it was the weekend, I said I'd meet them for dinner. No, I had no wish to accompany them or to take them to Miami Beach. I had done that. Been there. My Saturdays were not for being a chauffeur but for doing my laundry, going to my swimming workout, and grocery shopping. Stay at my house, yes. Get my services as a tour guide, no. I was working until 9:00 p.m. or later most nights. My free time was for me.

After I had been in Miami for about a year, Sherri emailed me - George was going to Florida to watch the shuttle launch and wanted to know if he could stay at my house.

Of course he could stay! I had stayed in his house for an entire month. I was delighted to have a chance to return the favor.

He was going to have a car - drive up for the launch on one day, then go to the Keys the next. Fine. Use me as a hotel. I don't mind. It's a little bit of work, cleaning the bathroom and making the guest bed, but again, George had been very generous with me and I owed him.

All went as planned. George arrived. Gave me a lovely hostess gift. (He has excellent manners.) Stayed one night, went to the shuttle launch, returned. While he was gone, I got a call from a Peace Corps friend, W., who had a long layover in Miami the next day on her way from Washington DC to Argentina. Did I want to hang out?

Sure! The next morning, I told George that I was picking my friend up from the airport to hang out with her and that I might not be home when he got back from the Keys.

He asked what W. and I were going to do. I shrugged. Go to lunch. Talk. Nothing special.

Maybe he could hang out with us? he suggested.

I was taken aback. "I thought you were going to the Keys," I said.

He told me it was too overcast to do that.

Oh sheesh. I had been looking forward to time with someone who knew me and whom I knew and I wasn't happy about incorporating a relative stranger into the mix. But what do you say? He was a nice person. A guest in my house. "No! I don't want you with us!" I didn't have it in me.

After I picked W. up at the airport, the three of us went to lunch. It was fine, but W. and I didn't have the conversation I had wanted to have - you know, where we talk about men and gossip about our mutual friends.

W. left that evening and George left the next day. Life returned to its sad normal of 13-hour days at the sweatshop of Ryder corporate finance.

A few weeks later, Sherri emailed me. How did it go with George?

Fine, I told her. He saw the shuttle. Whatever.

No, she asked. I mean, how did it go?

I still didn't understand.

Her exasperation came through the monitor. He likes you! That's why he wanted to go to Miami!

Well knock me over with a feather. Talk about playing it close to the chest - share a house with someone for a month and you don't have a clue that his interested in That Way. Was I clueless or was George too understated?

I am generally clueless, but George had given me no hint whatsoever. Coming to Miami did not count as a hint. I was a hotel. Not a destination in and of myself.

And of course George had said nothing. Not a word. There had been no flirting. No statement of intent. Nothing. I am not a mind-reader and even if I were, I would not have been looking for this sort of information in George's blesshisheart mind. Nice guy, but no chemistry and I had learned my lesson about ignoring my chemistry instincts after the disaster with the guy I dated right before I went into the Peace Corps.

There is no better way to ruin a perfectly nice friendship than to try to push it to romance. The kissing never gets better. Ever. It's either there or it's not and there is no sense forcing it. Your friend who says, Oh no! It can get better! is a liar - she left her husband three years after she told you that.

I had to tell Sherri that I was not interested. Which is something I hate to do because I always feel as if I have been forced into it because the guy involved has refused to properly interpret my signaling. As in, if I had been romantically interested in George, I would have given him some indication. You know - like asked if I could go to the Keys with him or tried in any way to spend more time with him.

Although - and this just crossed my mind - maybe George had said nothing to Sherri and she was trying to matchmake. That's better. I like that a lot better than 1. I was clueless or 2. I had to reject a really nice guy. He probably had no interest in me at all. Whew.