Friday, February 23, 2018

Here's how I ended up having a first kiss - six days into rehab



“Hey,” he says getting up. 

I lick my dry lips and pop a forbidden, cherry flavored, Spree candy into my mouth. 

Scottie is sitting on the balcony floor with his arms draped casually over his knees.  I marvel at the absolute sense of ease with which he stands and rests his hands on the balcony rail.

How can anyone be comfortable here?  Isn’t he hurt and ashamed too?  Doesn’t he hate being watched twenty-four hours a day? Doesn’t he resent having every move we make cross-examined and analyzed?

He is looking at me now with questioning eyes.

“You alright?”

“Sure,” I breathe, although I am far from all right.  Six days earlier I'd flown from Los Angeles and checked into Wickenburg, Arizona's, The Meadows treatment center (now made famous by clients such as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey).  After trying to leave for home that first day (twice), I’d been persuaded to stay by The Meadow’s Director of Services.

“I think I’m in the wrong place,” I'd sobbed, pointing to the 'Love and Sex' section of their brochure.  "You understand that I'm only hooked on pills, right?  I've just gotten out of a 13-year marriage!   So it's not like I'm a sex addict or anything like that.”

Sex addiction?! Is that even a real thing?  It just sounds like an excuse for guys to cheat on their wives...

“Please stay, Laura,” he’d responded calmly.  “You’ll find that we treat all addictions here, pills too.  We can help you.”

And now six-days in (ironically), I find that I am developing an ill-timed, preposterous crush on this blond haired, blued-eyed, outdoorsman from Park City, Utah (who checked himself into The Meadows one hour after I did).  

I am someone who used to scoff at those people who fall for each other (so fast!) on shows like Survivor or The Bachelor.  But now I'm totally getting it.  Just like all those "Big Brother" type shows, everyone here at The Meadows is completely isolated from the outside world.  No magazines, no cell phones, no TV (except for the golf channel every Saturday).  So all we really have is each other.  And people end up -- well, bonding.

Maybe I'll pitch a rehab reality web series when I get out of here... 

“I’m okay  -- thanks,” I say, mustering a smile.

And anyway it’s just a matter of time before our counselors separate us.  Because of all of the sex and love addicts here, men and women aren’t allowed to even sit together. If anyone ever catches Scottie and I sneaking up to the balcony to watch the sunset “concert,” we’ll both be kicked out for sure.

As if on cue, a single cow begins to low. 

Scottie puts his finger gently to his lips and then points down the pasture beneath us.  I get quiet, turning my complete attention to the cows.

Suddenly, the air is filled with a cacophony of mooing.  I smile widely and clap in delight as the mooing goes on, crescendo-ing and then ending as abruptly as it started.  There is an air of contentedness about everything as the cows settle in closer to the base of a large, shade tree. 

Cicadas start to sing now, but they can’t compete with their opening act. Their song is more like a pleasant hum, a denouement.  It is the heralding of the (mildly) cooler evening, which is now on the horizon.  Both Scottie I and are awash in gold and pink tones as the sun dips beneath the far-off, purple-tinged, mountain range.

The molten, metal railing begins to burn our fingers, so we drift down to a shadier (and more secluded) section of the balcony. Scottie starts telling me funny story about a time he was "guiding" (fly fishing) for some famous movie producer on the (Colorado?) River.  

I try to listen, but despite my efforts, I find that I am being hypnotized by the deep purr of his voice and the cadence with which he speaks.

It's probably for the best if I stop hanging out with him now — before I get into trouble.  And really, the timing (and location!) couldn't be worse for even contemplating a new relationship.  

"I should be careful," laughs Scott.  "Since you're from Hollywood, you might know him."

And besides which, I think he's at least four year's younger than me...

“What?” He says.  He is looking at me with that same bemused, questioning look.

Jesus! Did I say that out loud? 

“Nothing, sorry,” I shrug my shoulders in what I hope is a nonchalant way, but I feel my chest tightening up.  “You were talking about camping, right? Wyoming?”

He laughs and puts his hand on my shoulder.  I flinch wildly, as if his fingers are searing a hole through my thin, V-necked t-shirt.

"Fly fishing," he says, piercing me with his eyes.   "I'm a fly fishing guide -- in Utah."  

All at once, I am keenly aware of the lack of space between us.  He narrows that distance even more as he waits for my response.

“Oh…?” My voice sounds as though it's coming from someone very small.

Without warning, he leans in even closer.  I feel my heartbeat still in my chest as his lips touch mine.  My arms go limp and remain motionless until he’s done.  I stare at Scottie as he pulls away slowly.  His eyes are closed, his breath tastes vaguely like vanilla. 

He kissed me…

“Is that okay?” he says softly.

We aren’t allowed to have any sugar, caffeine or table salt at The Meadows.  So after six days of blandness, his kiss is even sweeter than my contraband, Spree candy, which has now dissolved completely against the inside of my cheek.  I am silent for what feels like minutes, folding and unfolding my lips -- breathing in his scent.

“Oh sh*t,” he says.  His eyes are wide with concern now.  “Did I overstep?  I’m so sorry.  I thought you were… I mean, I thought it would be okay.”

My mind whirls crazily before screeching to a complete stop.  I stare back at him frozen, unable to blink. 

Say something.

“Laura, I’m really sorry,” he says again.  “Was that a mistake?”

Suddenly, blood begins to flood into my face and ears with a pounding rush.  Released from my paralysis, I pull back slightly and touch my lips in slow motion, as though they’ve been burnt.  

“You kissed me,” I say.  I have to force the words out. 

“Was it too soon?  Are you mad?”

I shake my head and take another step backwards, unable to get in a full breath.

“I just didn’t expect that.  I, we've never talked about anything like that.”

“Like kissing?”

He starts to look relieved.  “Do you usually talk about kissing before you do it?”

“No..."

I'm too embarrassed to look at him, so I decide to examine my white, toenail polish instead.

“Oh right, of course,” he looks wounded as he lowers his gaze to catch mine.  “You just got divorced.”

“It’s just that’s it’s been a while," I say quietly.  "Since I’ve been kissed — by anyone. Anyone else, I mean.”

He looks up at me.  His eyes are cool, blue water.  I’m so hot and flustered that I just want to jump inside them.

“Are you mad?” He says again.

“I’m not mad,” I say slowly.  “I was caught off guard, that’s all.”

“So our first kiss caught you off guard,” he smiles as he tentatively puts his arm around my shoulders. 

I feel electric shocks running up and down the places where his arm and chest come in contact with my body. I want to pull away from him, but I feel myself leaning in closer, as though we have both been magnetized.

What is happening here?

“Next time I kiss you, I’ll ask beforehand, okay?” He is grinning at me again. 

I try to suppress a smile.

“Next time?!” I say, trying to sound indignant.  I look at him from the corner of my eye as we descend the staircase.

“Oh, there will be a next time,” he says with complete confidence.  “But I’m not in any hurry.  After all we’ve got, what?  26-more days here?”

“22,” I say with a laugh (it feels so good to laugh). “We’re here for 22-more days."  

My sandals make a loud, clip-clop sound as we walk in lock step down to the gravel path. We separate from each other automatically as we begin to pass other "clients" heading to their respective counseling appointments.  I look over at him after we've gone a safe distance.

"Well, don't worry, Laura.  I have to be patient for a living," he says with a wink.

I stop walking and regard him with a puzzled stare.

"Fly fishing guide, remember?" He says.  "All we do is bait and wait.  And I'll wait for as long as it takes."

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