The company I work for sent me on a 5+ hour plane ride to help set up our booth at a trade show. Spending a week with my boss and colleagues, I wasn’t expecting to fall into any kind of intimate settings, but I guess it never hurts to wear the nicer clothes paired with a little makeup on an average day. My coworker had warned me that the people we’re sent from the company of laborers hired to help us construct everything were often lazy and not that intelligent. I figured it would be a long day. Two guys showed up and told me they’d been assigned to help us at our booth. One seemed like he’d be pretty typical -been in the company for 35 years and no longer cared about how helpful he’d be as long as he got his paycheck. On the other hand, the other laborer must have been just starting out. He was also handsome to say the least. My eyes ran up and down his body. His upper body was pretty muscular but settled into a cute, clean-shaven face, with sweet bright blue eyes. Between his biceps that bulged under his t-shirt and square glasses against a boyish face, Clark Kent came to mind.
They got to work and I continued to unpack some boxes. Hours passed and I kept glancing at Clark Kent waiting for a moment when his collogue wasn’t by his side and my coworkers were out of earshot. But we’d already caught each other’s eyes a couple of times. He’d be on a ladder and his head would pop up over a wall and he’d smile. I’d smile back and before quickly getting back to whatever I was working on. Then I finally got my moment, while he was on the floor screwing on the legs of a table and his partner was helping us with a platform on the other side of the booth. “So, I was told I should hope the laborers we’d get assigned would be smart…” I started. He looked up at me, face full of worry like he was doing something wrong. I smiled, “I’m glad we did!” I added. He looked relieved and looked back down. “But I didn’t know we’d also be getting such an attractive one…” I continued. He might have blushed, “Well uhh thank you!” he said and asked where I was from. He lived on the same block as my hotel. We continued to chat a bit and he asked if I’d like to go to dinner some time when I was free that week. I looked back into his eyes, he did look a bit young, didn’t he…But I always had been attracted to that baby-face look and convinced I’d always been a cougar in the making. I’d also realized he had a pretty bad lisp, but luckily my ears didn’t judge as harshly as my eyes. I told him it sounded like a good plan.
More hours went by and we decided to call it a night. I had to sign the laborers out. The two of them and my colleague stood by my side while I marked things off on the paperwork sitting on the counter by their boss. He wasn’t going to ask for my number in front of his bosses, was he? Would he get in trouble if I asked for his, pretending it was work related? I didn’t find out, we had already parted ways and were walking back to the hotel without another word to him. Later that night over dinner and drinks my coworker randomly brought him up. They must have had a conversation at some point. “You know that guy who was helping us had been in the military? He hurt his foot and now he isn’t able to run anymore. He’s only-” His age sucked to hear, but at least he wasn’t underage to drink. I cleared my throat, “Did you get his number?” I asked. “No! Why would I have?!” he asked me. I shrugged, “I wouldn’t have minded having it…” A few eyebrows raised in my direction. “What, he’s legal!” I protested. They laughed it off. I guess that’s it, I thought.
Back in my hotel room I lay down exhausted, but mentally awake. He must have been only the second or third guy I’d flirted with in my lifetime. What a rush. It would have been nice to see how far things could have gone. What a missed opportunity. He was pretty cute. I guess he was too young. Although he didn’t seem that immature. It’s not like that much could’ve come of it, I’m only here a few more days. I wonder if he’s on FaceBook…I’m not usually a social-media stalker, I figured I wouldn’t find him, but I was curious to see if I could. Let’s see, I know his first name which isn’t all that popular, and I know he lives in this city. So, I did a search for those two things alone. Okay, that’s a girl, that’s not him, that’s not him, that’s not him, that’s a girl, that’s not him, that…hmm…I click the picture and instead of the floppy short hair I’d met him with that afternoon, he had buzz cut hair and no glasses. That didn’t quite rule him out, and he did have bright blue eyes. His job seemed to be in some sort of labor field, although it wasn’t the name of the company we’d hired him through. I scrolled through a few more of his pictures. His smile was the same. I scroll down the wall and see his foot in a cast, followed by other photos in military attire. This matches my coworker’s story about him. Could it have been that easy? Was that really him? I sent a message, “Hey.” If it’s not him they’ll probably just ask “Who is this?” or ignore the message. Since I didn’t friend him, the message probably won’t show up in his regular inbox and he might not even get notified about it. I close the app and stare at the ceiling a little longer. A message pops up on my phone, “Hey, what’s up?” Would a stranger respond that way to a FaceBook message from someone he didn’t know? Suddenly I have another idea and I jump up. I flip through the receipts and copies of paperwork I’d signed the laborers out on. I run my finger down the page to their timesheet and see two last names. Sure enough, one matched the name of the dude I’d FaceBook messaged. I replied and a few messages later sent my number.
When things wound down the next day I noticed a text message from Clark Kent asking how things were going and letting me know he was free. I asked him if he wanted to get something to eat and within an hour or so I was in one of my few packed changes of clothes greeting him in the lobby of my hotel. “Are you cold? My place is right over there if you’d like a jacket,” he suggested. I declined. Mostly we walked around. A lot. We passed by nice places, meat places, bars, salad places, a mall food court, and so on. Eventually I decided I really didn’t mind where we wound up so we stopped by a pretty simple place for some pasta and he paid for my dish. Again he mentioned his apartment and how he had a bottle of champagne he didn’t remember how he obtained over there. I’m not big on champagne. Next we hit a bar. I ordered a martini the way I prefer them and he got a margarita because he wanted “something with tequila.” This young he hadn’t been to too many bars and clearly had no idea about what he preferred to drink. I tried to ignore this. I told him I liked his glasses –as he’d opted for contacts that night. We talked about travel, pets, jobs, relationships, and religion. Then we talked politics. He’s planning on voting for someone who I believe is clearly a horrible choice, but I ordered another drink and he seemed to admit that he wasn’t even at all confident in his candidate, so I let it slide. I looked down at his empty drink glasses and pointed to one, “That one was your limit. You just got this one here because I got another drink. You didn’t have to do that. I know you just started going to bars, but you’ll learn that eventually.” Now I was teaching him and getting too close to when our age difference gets weird. “How old are you?” he finally let out. “I’m older than you, but I’m not in my 30’s.” I said. He apologized for asking and told me what his guess would have been. “Older, but it’s not important,” I told him. For the first time I realized how terrifying my age sounded as a number when you’re his age. I waited for him to down another drink before I randomly spat out the actual number. By that time it didn’t seem like a big deal anymore.
I’m not sure how I wound up inviting him up to my hotel room…But that’s how that night ended. I hurried him out the next morning before meeting my colleagues in the hotel lobby and brushed off their, “How was your night?” questions. “How’s the show going?” he checked in later that evening. My boss had taken our team members out to dinner. I’d be free that night after eating, and there was a movie theater across the street from my hotel, so I decided to ask him to see a movie. “I wore a jacket this time in case you were cold,” he told me. I thanked him and smiled. I noticed he’d also worn his glasses that night after my comment. He’d probably make such a sweet boyfriend to some girl his age. The thought didn’t bother me or make me jealous –We lived on opposite sides of the country and I wasn’t interested in anything serious with someone his age. He needed a few more years before he planned on settling down, and even outside of that it was clear this wasn’t the perfect match. It’s really an interesting experience dating someone when you’re both aware the maximum length of the relationship won’t exceed 3 days. I actually said a lot less than I normally would have with someone who I might have had a future with and would have felt should have a better idea of who I am and what I like. I selected a children’s movie which was quite a letdown, but I rested my head on his shoulder and he put his hand on my leg. It was cute and made me feel like I was back in high school and practically innocent. I asked him if he remembered when this or that movie came out and he seemed to draw a blank. The age gap thought entered my mind again. When I was preparing to enter my twenties, he hadn’t even entered his teens yet. “You know you were __ years old when I was __?” I put out there. He sighed, “Well, I hadn’t thought of it like that before…But we’re both in our twenties now!” I nodded, “Yeah, now we’re in our twenties. It’s fine.” I ended another night with him at my hotel again. The nights weren’t that notable, and there were definitely a few things I could have taught him had we more time, but what -who- else did I have planned out there at night anyway?
The last day I hadn’t planned on seeing him. We had to break down our booth and were assigned other labor workers, but when I realized we were assigned some of the lazier ones and it was getting late I decided reaching out to Clark Kent wouldn’t hurt. I knew he lived nearby and had already finished his shift so I figured I’d mention how long the process was taking. Sure enough he offered to head over and help out. I told my coworker he was on his way and he made a face. “We’re not paying him or anything, he’s just coming by as a friend,” I said. My coworker replied, “Well maybe it’s not money you’re paying him with, but nothing’s free.” Alright, it had gotten a little weird but it wasn’t like I was just using him to help us, I did think he was cute and I’d have hung out with him either way. It got me thinking about the double standard, though. A few days earlier, one of our clients was about to step into a meeting with one of my collogues who was hoping to close a deal with him. As they headed off the guy handed me his business card and told me if I called him he’d buy me a glass of wine at the business event that evening. He was at least twice my age so I’d politely laughed it off, and although I was somewhat annoyed by his suggestion, I was afraid of messing up the sale for my company. “How dare he suggest such a thing to me when I’m so much younger than him!” I thought, only how different had it really been with my reversed situation with Clark Kent?
I spent my last night at the hotel with him again. At this point I felt the cat was out of the bag, and there was no longer any shame in stepping off the elevator at my floor with him, though my coworkers were still in the elevator. I watched him get dressed the morning of my flight, while he was running late for work. “Well, uh, it was nice meeting you,” I said. “Likewise,” he replied. “If you’re ever in my city…” I went on. “I’m sure I’ll make it there one day,” he said. A quick hug goodbye and he stepped out the hotel room door and out of my life, excluding the occasional check-in text/FaceBook message. -It’s odd how these days no one is ever really out of your life forever with social media. All the ghosts of your past relationships, all the skeletons from your closet, forever accessible in virtual form…