My plan was to lie low for a few days, not answer the phone. The first time it rang the morning after our date, I nearly ripped it out of my roommate's hand. It wasn't Fabian. I sat in my room trying to read. The words skimmed the surface, wouldn't soak in. Thoughts of Fabian and his luscious lips (and what I imagined was "continental kissing") saturated my consciousness. I read page after page of homework without comprehension. I moved the phone into my room (back then, a complex negotiation). Unfortunately, the plan of appearing scarce grew intolerable by lunch; I was nearly shaking with anxiety. I checked the phone to make sure it wasn't accidentally off the hook. It wasn't. That's when I had an inspiration. Instead of waiting for Fabian to call me, I would call Fabian. Brilliant.
"But won't that make you look too eager?" asked Roberta, my roommate. I explained that I would figure out a way to make myself seem scarce, but actually get to talk to him. (Never mind that I was selectively forgetting the rest of what Bellagio had told me.) Here was my plan: I would make contact, but hang up quickly, thereby making myself look aloof, look scarce. In fact, I reasoned, I'd better call soon since acting nonchalant might make me so very desirable to Fabian.
After a brief greeting, I told him I'd had a nice time last night.
"Yes," he said. "Look," he added, "I'm grading papers, can I call you back?"
I hung up in humiliation. Not only had I not been able to prove myself scarce, but now I was the opposite of scarce. He could smell my desire. Desire, I thought. The bad breath of dating.
Day two: I abstained from calling Fabian. This was my diet.
Day three: I abstained again. A fast.
On day four, I saw him coming out of the library. A sheer coincidence, for which I'd spent several hours calculating. I had donned a stunning white sundress especially planned for this coincidence.
He approached, then spoke. "You look lovely—like a lovely white bird."
He eyed me carefully, searching my face for something.
I stood there. I tried to force myself to look away, tried to force my body to walk away, to turn, but all I could do was look back into Fabian's eyes like a simpering, longing kid...waiting...waiting and wanting.
Bellagio was right about hiding it. Desire is an open-mouthed fool. As much as forcing me to cry out: I am a smoldering cigarette butt. Walk on me. When you feel desire, you can't fake it.
Against all will, all intention, I looked up at Fabian with innocent, hungry eyes. I am air. Cheap as air. Free. Inhale me.
Fabian took a big breath. Was he nervous? Was he going to ask me out? He stared off into the redwood forest that surrounded our library. "Yes, you are so beautiful in that dress. A beautiful bird. Go ahead, bird," he said, "fly away."
Over my dating years I found that Bellagio's prophesy about playing both roles would be true. Sometimes I played the more uncomfortable part in that game of tag in the dark, being the seeker; other times I had the twisted privilege of wanting more freedom. But Bellagio had made me aware that desire sets up a dynamic, a game with rules that seemed to be invented in some torture chamber of the heart—all devised to make seeking real love, real connection, quite simply painful. We want what we cannot have—that is the strange irony of desire, of passion. And when we have it, often we lose that wanting.