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We could have done something. Made out, had sex, something. We were teenagers, sure, so it would have been a fumbling and deeply unimpressive something — a something that, as these things went for me, would have been the embarrassing end to potential future somethings. But she was inviting me into it anyway. Came right out and said it, in fact: "I have a crush on you." Those were Rosa's words. And she was, and remains, the kind of girl guys have crushes on, not the other way around. Wavy hair, devastating cleavage, Latina allure. At the time, though, she had just broken up with my best friend, he was pretty upset about the whole thing, and so a wave of righteousness came over me. I would turn her down. I'd honor my friend and turn her down.
These days, a decade after the fact, he's still apologizing for this.
But it turned out fine because, although he lost touch with Rosa, I haven't. We're still friends. That's what happens when you have an adolescent, boy-girl friendship that never converges in a bed: It lives on past its expected lifespan, like a Mars rover that roves long after scientists run out of experiments for it. We don't flirt anymore. It'd be pointless. We've already processed that data.
For years, we lived in different cities — she in New York, and I in Boston. And whenever I'd swing through New York, I'd stay at her place. She had a great one-bedroom in a high-rise building, with a view that stretched to the Hudson. We'd catch up while I stared out from it, lusting after this city. Then she'd retire to the bedroom and I'd curl up on the couch, and the next morning we'd have breakfast.
So that's why I called her two years ago, when I scored a job interview in New York. I needed to travel down the night before, sleep on her couch and head out early the next morning to beg for a job. She was out of town, though, and offered me another option: "I'll have my doorman let you in," she said. "And seriously, don't sleep on the couch. My bed's way more comfortable, and it's not in use, so just sleep there."
That was a great offer. Her couch really wasn't that comfortable.
I showed up at her building and the doorman gave me a key, as instructed.
My arm brushed up against something unusual, something rubbery.
I settled in, checked e-mail, stared outside that beautiful window of hers, and then brushed my teeth, stripped down to my boxers and went feet-first into her bed. It was softer than I'm used to, with a pillow-top pad and one of those fluffy down comforters that make whooshing noises as you tug them. But as I sunk in further — mostly naked and under her blanket — my arm brushed up against something unusual, something rubbery. I reached down to grasp the thing from the darkness, and pulled out a vibrator. A Rabbit, actually, with those little prongs, the whole thing a girly shade of purple. I turned it on for a minute, for my own amusement. It hummed.
She'd left town before I'd asked to use the apartment, so I'd found her bedroom in its unfiltered state, the way she must leave it for herself. Which is an interesting insight into an old friend. But now I had a problem: What do I do with this thing — this thing which, given that it was abandoned in the same place it's likely employed, was probably recently used and probably remained unclean? If I moved it, she'd see it when she came home and discover that I'd touched her vibrator — and what else? What else!? I'd already turned it on! But if I left it be, if I left the Rabbit in its cushiony Rabbit-hole, she'd find it when she got into bed the next night, and then she'd think something terrible. She'd think, "He slept with my vibrator."