while waiting for the microwave to finish cooking my taquitos, i put my leg on the counter, lean over its length and stretch. i’m impatient with cooking, especially microwaving, and i have to do something to occupy myself for 48 more seconds. when i switch sides, lifting my other leg to the adjacent counter, i notice for the umpteenth time that the counter to the left of the stove is an inch higher than the counter to the right of the stove. the microwave dings, my taquitos are done, i move to the counter across the kitchen to eat, staring at the inch difference between counters where i stretch. i think of him, someone i haven’t thought of in years and wonder if he still does carpentry work, knowing the counters he built would never exhibit an inch difference from each other in height.
when i met him i instantly liked him. he was the best friend of someone i was almost dating, of someone i was not quite interested in. i was still young, not yet thirty, and therefore dumb with the ignorance, naiveté, and lack of experience endemic to twenty-somethings. he presented himself as friendly toward me. i didn’t recognize that our meetings for coffee and lunch were dates. i thought we were becoming friends. besides, he was the best friend of the one i didn’t quite date but spent late nights with (talking, drinking beer, not fucking) and i assumed at that point in my life that i was off-limits to him since his best friend was trying to fuck me. i didn’t realize from their perspective i was still in play since i hadn’t fucked either of them. i didn’t realize they thought i was dating them both.
the carpenter was in his 40’s with graying hair and a muscled body that ached from a lifetime of physical labor and pick-up basketball games in the park. because he was 15 years older and i was a youthful version of dumb, i didn’t perceive him as dating material. (his best friend, the one i spent late nights with, was only 8 years older than i was.) i thought of the carpenter as almost uncle-like. he had dated girls younger than i, so he thought i was ripe. it took me months to comprehend he was like every other man who’d ever tried to fuck me. my younger brother had advised me when we were both still teenagers that every guy who wants to be my friend also wants to fuck me, the guys who want to be my friend are just playing a different angle, playing the long game.
the carpenter and i stayed in touch for a few years. i traveled during those years and was abroad more than i was home. i’d write him long emails about my travels from internet cafes while jetlagged. he’d write me long emails about things forty-somethings think about, things i wouldn’t understand until now.
while remembering him this morning, i thought of his three-day unshaven face, his powerful hands, his long sinewy arms, and it wasn’t until i was putting my plate in the sink that i remembered his name, a name as handsome as the man. i didn’t recognize him as handsome back then. i perceived him as older, strong, and wise. i wonder where he is now but don’t consider contacting him. by now i’m sure i’m too old for him.