You all remember Reggie, right?
Reggie fed me oysters and ordered a whole bottle of wine and asked me if his voice was turning me on.
Reggie flirted outrageously and only listened to NPR and only shopped at farmer’s markets.
Reggie lived in my building and walked me home and when he said good-bye at my door, he didn’t touch me for the first all evening.
I texted Reggie after our date: You forgot to kiss me.
Reggie didn’t text back, not even weeks later when I asked if I could borrow a cup of sugar. I’ve since been told no one borrows cups of sugar, and there is no possible interpretation for such a request other than its subtext: gimme some sugar.
Whatever. I was making cookies.
And then Reggie moved across the country.
Interpretations for Reggie’s behavior, crowd-sourced from various sundry friends, included: He’s in a relationship. He’s a manipulative flirt. He just likes the chase. He’s an asshole. He didn’t like you. He’s a liar and a dirtbag and that probably wasn’t even his real name. He’s just not that into you. He’s scared of how much he likes you (people who love you love this explanation for people who don’t love you and I’m all awww and this is never true). He wanted you to invite him in and despite the fact that he said repeatedly he was tired from the night shift and had to go to bed, he thought you were rejecting him. He’s in an open relationship and flirtations/hook-ups are fine but he actually liked you and dating around is one thing, but two girlfriends is impossible.
I was having dinner on the rooftop with neighbors in late summer. There were two caprese salads on the table, a farro salad, two bowls of identical castelvetrano olives, figs and balsamic vinegar, a loaf of bread from the Greek shop two blocks away. My apartment rooftop overlooks Capitol Hill all the way to Elliott Bay, from downtown to the Space Needle to Gasworks and Queen Anne behind it. It was beautiful. We were eating food from the p-patch. We were talking about the article, recently published in the New Yorker, about how everyone in Seattle is going to die when the earthquake hits.
One of the women had just left Amazon to work at a company that offers an Air B’n’B–like service for dogs. One of the women is a yogi and English teacher. One of the women is a caterer with her own business who also volunteers clearing trails for Washington State Parks. The one man who was there is the sci-fi curator at a local museum. His girlfriend is a speculative fiction writer.
Our rooftop dinner was disgustingly, spectacularly full of Seattle. Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to live in the city where I grew up, or they say, “So you’ve always lived here?” in a voice that is equal parts bemusement, something akin to but not quite pity, and wonder. At this point, I just shrug. Where else? Why?
And my neighbors all said, their eyes lighting up with curiosity and delight and gossip and olive juice, You went on a date with Reggie?
And I was all like, Yes. He asked if his voice was turning me on before dinner ever arrived.
They leaned forward. Gossip!
And then he ran away and never texted again.
I live near nice people. They looked at me carefully and reviewed my tone of voice. They made sure they were right in thinking I sounded cheerful and unconcerned. Then they eagerly filled me in.
Reggie had a long-term, long-distance girlfriend who used to live in our apartment building with him. First she moved across the country. Months—a year?—later, when he moved, he was joining her. Rules were unclear to the neighbors, who had originally known them both. Two of the women, in a relationship, felt he had always been rather assertive about hanging out with them—yes, yes they nodded when I described how he tried to get me to rearrange my work schedule to go on our date earlier. Perhaps eager. Perhaps pushy. When is enthusiasm demanding and when endearing?
They said when he was with them, he would answer the phone and aggressively establish who he was with to the long-term, long-distance girlfriend—I’m with our old neighbors, that nice couple so-and-so and so-and-so! in a way that made them suspect that she was suspicious. He would ask to hang out at odd hours in a way that made them suspect she was right to be suspicious.
But the neighbors also said their read on the situation was that parameters for Reggie and the LTLD relationship were flexible. Just maybe complicated by the fact that the parameters stated “freedom,” but only one of them was exercising that freedom.
Maybe the boundaries included oysters and wine and flirting and aural arousal and dates but not kissing or sex or texts or sugar.
But they also didn’t know. People are mysterious and unknowable, and our glimpses into our neighbor’s relationships even more so.
For the record, the female neighbors said Reggie had repeatedly asked to borrow kitchen supplies and ingredients from them for late-night cooking projects. The male neighbor—who had lived right next door to Reggie rather than three flights up—said he had never been asked, to which everyone nodded knowingly.
And then he told a story about when he first moved in, and knocked on someone’s door to borrow a can opener.
“Yes?” a voice called.
“Hello, I just moved in, may I please borrow a can opener?” he called back.
“I’m occupied,” the voice answered, leaving us to wonder what sort of situation would keep one from opening the door but answering anyway.
This is dating—knocking on a door and hearing a voice uncoupled from the hand that does not open the door. No further information. No sugar for you, sugar.