Ben laughed. “now you’re just making fun of me.”

“No,” I said. “I’m entirely serious. I think it’s hugely flattering.”

“Oh,” he said, smiling. He laughed.“awesome.”then he took a bite of his gelato and immediately grimaced. “It’s coffee,” he said, as he ran to the trash can on the sidewalk and spit it out.

“You don’t like coffee?”

“Coffee is like doctors’ visits and npr to me,” he said.

I took his cup from his hand and held it in the palm of mine while I ate from the other. “More for me, then,” I said.

We got back in his car, and neither one of us knew quite what to do next.

“The day doesn’t have to end,” I said. “does it?”

“I’m glad you said that,” Ben responded. “Where to next?”

“Well, I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not really hungry . . .”

“What if we go back to your place?” he suggested. “I promise I won’t get handsy.”

I let it sit in the air for a minute. “What’s wrong with handsy?” I teased him. He didn’t even say anything; he just threw the car in reverse and started speeding down the street.

When we got back to my apartment, Ben took my keys out of his pocket. We walked up the stairs to my door, but halfway up the stairs, Ben realized he’d forgotten something. He quickly ran back down to his car and put money in the parking meter. then, he flashed back up the stairs to meet me and unlocked my door. once inside, he gingerly placed the keys on my table by the door.

“They’re right here when you need them,” he said. “Is that a good place to remember them?”

“That’s fine. do you want anything to drink?”

“Oh, sure. What do you have?”

“Water. I should have said, ‘do you want any water?’”

Ben laughed and sat on the couch. I grabbed two glasses and went to the refrigerator to fill them, which is when I saw the big bottle of champagne sitting there, ice cold and left over from new year’s eve.

“I have champagne!” I said and grabbed it out of the fridge. I walked to the living room and held it up in front of Ben. “Bubbly?”

He laughed. “yeah! let’s break open the bubbly.”

We ran to the kitchen and got wineglasses. I attempted to open the bottle and failed, so Ben stepped in and popped it open.the champagne sprayed all over our faces, but neither one of us much cared. He poured our glasses, and we sat down on the couch.

It was awkward for a minute. We were stuck in silence. I drank from my glass for a bit too long, staring at the golden bubbles. Why was it awkward now? I wondered. I wasn’t sure. I stood up for a minute and felt the whoosh of the alcohol to my head.

“I’ll be right back,” I said. “I’m just going to go . . .” What? What was I going to go do? I wasn’t sure.

Ben grabbed my hand and looked at me. He stared into my eyes. His eyes looked to be pleading with me. Just like that, I threw myself onto his lap, straddling his waist. I kissed him. My arms wandered down onto his shoulders. His hands grabbed my hips. I could feel them through my jeans. He pulled me tight as he kissed me, his arms running up my back and into my hair. It felt like he was desperate to kiss me. as we moved our heads and hands in sync, my body started to ache where it wasn’t being touched.

“I like you,” he said to me, breathlessly.

I laughed. “I can see that,” I said.

“No,” he said, pulling his face away from mine for a moment, looking at me like I was important. “I like you.”

Boys had told me they liked me before. they had said it in eighth grade and in high school.they had said it drunk at parties. one had said it in a college cafeteria. some of them looked down at the ground when they mumbled it. some of them stuttered. each time I had told them I liked them back. and I realized now that each time I had been lying.

No man had ever made me feel this admired before, nor had I admired someone back this much before. What had Ben done in the past few hours to make me care so much? I didn’t know. all I knew was that when he said that to me, I knew that he meant it. and when I heard it come out of his mouth, it felt like I’d been waiting to hear it my entire life.

“I like you too,” I said. I kissed him again and he grabbed me. He put his hands around my waist and he moved me toward him, closing what little gap there was between us. He kissed my ears and jawline, sending goose bumps up the back of my neck, for what felt like hours. I finally had to stand up. there was a cramp in my hip.

When I looked at the clock, it was after 8:00 p.m.

“Wow,” I said. “this is . . . that was . . . a long time.”

“Are you hungry?” he asked me.

“Yeah.” I nodded, realizing that I was hungry. “are you?”

“Yeah. What should we do? Go out? Cook here? order in?”

“Well, pizza is out. We had that last night.” We hadn’t eaten it together, but I knew the way I said it implied that we had. I liked hearing myself say it. I liked that I sounded like his girlfriend at that moment—which made me feel a little insane. I was ready to get monogrammed towels for us and I barely knew him.

“Right. so my vote is order Chinese or cook here, depending on what you have.” He gestured toward the kitchen. “Can I look?”

I stood up and showed him the way. “Be my guest!”

We walked into the kitchen and stood in front of the refrigerator. He stood behind me, his arms around my torso, his face in my neck. I showed him what I had, and it was sparse, although had either of us been a decent cook, I’m sure we could have come up with something.

“Well, that settles it,” he said.“Where’s the Chinese food menu?”

I laughed and fished it out of the drawer. He looked at the menu for only a minute. “How about we split the kung pao chicken, a bowl of wonton soup, beef chow mein, and white rice?”

“Make it brown rice and you’re on,” I said.

“Because this is a first date, I’m going to say okay, but all subsequent dates, absolutely not. Brown rice tastes like cardboard and I simply cannot meet you halfway on that in the future.”

I nodded. “I understand. We could get two different orders of rice.”

“Maybe when the romance is gone we can do that, but not tonight.” He turned in to the phone. “yes, hi. I’d like to get an order of kung pao chicken, an order of beef chow mein, and wonton soup.” He paused for a moment. “no. We’d like brown rice, please.” He stuck out his tongue at me, and then he gave my address, his telephone number, and hung up.

When the food came, we ate it. ana called a few more times to try to find me. Ben made me laugh over and over; he made me cackle and hiss. He made my abdomen hurt. We kissed and we teased each other; we wrestled with the remote. When it got late enough that it was do-or-die time, I spared us both any awkward misinterpretations and said, “I want you to spend the night but I’m not going to have sex with you.”

“How do you know I want to have sex with you? Maybe I just want to be friends,” he said. “ever consider that?” I didn’t need to respond. “Fine. so I do want to have sex with you, but I’ll keep my hands to myself.”

Before meeting him in my bedroom, I thought carefully and consciously of what to wear to bed. We weren’t going to have sex, so lingerie or sleeping naked was clearly out of the question. and yet, it wasn’t an asexual activity. I still wanted to be sexy. I settled on a pair of very small boxer shorts and a tank top. I checked myself out in the mirror before I left the bathroom, and I had to admit, I looked accidentally sexy when it was anything but an accident.

I walked into my room to find him already under my covers. His shirt was off but the blanket was covering him. I crawled in next to him and put my head on his chest. He bent his head down to kiss me and then turned to see where the light switch was.

“Oh,” I said. “Check this out.” I clapped loudly twice and the lights went out. “I got it as a party favor years ago.” I never used the Clapper anymore. I’d honestly almost forgotten that I’d plugged it in. Ben was floored.

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