Are you growing a beard? I ask him playfully.
I ask this question far too often. In my mind growing a beard means one of two things: you’re a college student or an actor. Therefore when I ask the question I expect an interesting answer: “Yeah, I’m so consumed with work on my thesis on [pretentious topic although it could make the world a better place], shaving seems trivial. Plus I think a beard will make me look intellectual.” or “Yes, I just got cast as Henry V.” In my mind Are you growing a beard is a conversation starter. In reality it’s far more often a conversation dead-end: “No, I’m not growing a beard, just lazy.” Ah, lazy, that’s attractive. (Like I should talk. I’m currently in major Fuck Shaving Legs Til Spring mode. But that’s not “written all over my face” so to speak.)
No trouble with attractiveness here, scruff or no scruff. Nor is there trouble with my potential conversation killer; he turns it into the conversation starter I always hope it to be. “I wish I could grow a beard! It’s too sparse, won’t grow properly. Look, I have a patch under my chin that just won’t grow. It’s completely smooth. Feel.”
Yes, I am at a bar with a guy who can’t grow a beard. Yes, that means he’s under 21. No, it’s not my first date with the under 21 set. (Remember Trader Joe’s Guy?) Yes, that means I did not learn my lesson. Yes, I touch his face and yes, moments later we’re kissing. I haven’t had a real crush since Sideburns Guy, and that was totally unrequited. I almost forgot how awesome it is to kiss your crush.
It had been a long weekend. Of working and flirting. Being in the theatre world means working weekends. Fortunately 8 hours of promoting goes by fast when you have a big ol’ crush on a guy promoting not 10 feet away from you. In between sales pitches we play the Get To Know You Game. He’s a “working traveler”, hailing from South Africa, on a trip around the world. So far he’s been all over Europe, now he’s in New York for 6 weeks, next stop Barbados. So you’re a drifter. I say.
During visits to the MOMA in the past 3 years, there is one photograph that struck me more than any other. I don’t remember the photographer, or the title, or even what it looked like exactly. I remember the description: “unknown drifter”. I fell in love with that description and the hazy memory of the image. Ever since the word and concept of a “drifter” became heavily romanticized in my mind. “Moon River” featured in both “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Sex and the City” only adds to that.
Get To Know You Game continues for about a week. He’s a drifter, world traveler, just my physical type, intelligent, makes me laugh, and has a lovely South African accent. I’m even more of a goner than I was before. At this point nothing can squash my level of crush and the prospect of a whirlwind fling. Not even when the game reveals he’s NINETEEN. That’s okay, I think to myself. He may be too young to drink, but that’s only in America. He’s not from America so it doesn’t count! Besides, I won’t get too attached, it’ll make the 6 week expiration date easy. This is I HAVE A HUGE CRUSH rational.
On Sunday night, the end of my week, he still hasn’t asked for my phone number. I hand him my phone and tell him I want his. Then I head off to a rehearsal. On the bike ride there my mind is buzzing: I’m not going to see my Safa (that’s slang for South African) until Thursday due to how our work schedules match up. I have his phone number, I could take a risk here. It would likely be fun, what’s the worst that could happen? Finally a quick debate of passive vs. proactive. All that in the 7 minute ride to rehearsal.
Of course I texted him: Hope your day got better [it was a slow day for sales], if not I want to buy you a drink. Say yes. Apparently having a huge crush leads me to encourage underage drinking… He says yes. I speed bike home and scream at my roommate I’m meeting a hot South African for a drink in 15 minutes, I need something cute to wear but I don’t want it to look like I came home to change! He’s only ever seen me bundled up in a coat! Having a huge crush puts me Silly School Girl Mode, but you already knew that.
You know where this is going: two Stellas and some conversation later, I’m touching his face and we’re making out. Crush still intact. As two drinks in my limit these days (not to make Patti Stanger proud but because I have the lowest tolerance ever and I’m through puking on subway platforms), I’m about ready to leave.
The bill comes and we bicker about it. I have no cash, he only has a $20. I said I was buying you a drink. I’m a woman of my word, I say putting my debit card on the table. He hands me the $20, tries to slip it in my pocket, I refuse to take it. No means no! “Fine.” He plunks the $20 on the bar and says to the bartender, “Mate, you better thank her. You just got a huge tip thanks to her being a stubborn arse.” If an American called me a stubborn ass I’d probably get upset. When a South African calls me that, it’s adorable. Also adorable: how this bill got paid (in my mind anyway).
Our adorableness is confirmed by a woman standing outside the bar. A couple kisses standing next to my bike and instead of the standard “Get a room.” she says “I’m sorry, you guys are totally adorable.” She was probably drunk but that doesn’t change the fact.
I unlock my bike and he tells me how awesome it is. Yes, it is! He asks if it has a name. No, it doesn’t. Which is surprising coming from a girl who named her butt cheeks (Hank and Melvin; I was 15). No name has seemed right thus far. “You should call it Jabulani“, he says, “That means ‘Happiness’ in Zulu.” Did I mention the boy is fluent in English, Italian, and Afrikaans? Against all odds the name stuck. I still call my bike Jabulani.
Jabulani pretty much describes my feelings. Happy, tipsy, wheeling my bike with one-handed so I can hold my crush’s in the other. There’s a moment of “So what do we do now?” and it’s pretty obvious what he wants to do. It’s a first date, every other time I send the guy home with a good night kiss if he’s lucky. Tonight I do something I’ve never done before. I invite him back to my place. Got his phone number, made a date, got drinks, brought him back to my apartment- all in less than 6 hours. Apparently when I have a huge crush on a someone who is leaving the country in 6 weeks, this is how I roll.
[To continue The Safa Boy Series, click for Part Two]