Once upon a time there was a woman named August who had ventured into the land of online dating but was so traumatized by her first Tinder date that she immediately deleted the app.
August went on to fill her days with the unfulfilling daily chores of picking up after her stepsisters and bouncing around the city to fulfill her stepmother’s every whim. One day, her stepmother gave her the unusual task of taking a basket of sweets and wine to her mother’s house. August barely knew her step-grandmother and only saw her during the holidays, even though she only lived in Brooklyn.
Once the basket was ready, she plugged the address into her phone and mapped out the way to get there. It had rained the entire week so she threw on her bright red, hooded raincoat, threw her wallet and chapstick into her reusable tote bag, and headed to the subway. Almost thirty minutes later she was at her destination.
August always took a moment to marveled at how impressive her step-grandmother's building was before she went in. After a couple of minutes, she walked up to the sculpturesque gray and glass building. The door of the main entrance opened to an outdoor courtyard filled with colorful plants, large bushes, and towering trees. The area was completely quiet and well kept, other than a few worn tiles lining the walkway, it was a beautiful oasis away from the noisy city on the other side of the glass. The spacious walkway led to another glass door that opened to the elevator of the rear building.
She stepped in, pressed the button for the seventh floor, and watched the greenery get further away as she went up. The long corridor with forest green paint and gold accents was illuminated by round, dim lights hanging from decorative ropes. When she arrived at the end of the hallway she knocked on the door expecting the cute, petite elderly woman to open it after a slow stroll from the couch.
Instead she was greeted by a tall, tan, dark-haired man wearing blue business slacks and a half buttoned white shirt.
She leaned back to double check the number on the door. Yep, it was the right door but definitely the wrong person standing in front of her. She rubbed her eyes but the incredibly handsome man was still standing there.
“Are you a home nurse?” she blurted out.
He looked at her strangely for a few seconds and then let out a laugh. “No, I’m a lawyer. Can I help you with something my dear?”
“I’m - It’s, uh, it’s just that I’m looking for the elderly woman who lives here. She’s the mother of my ev- my stepmother and I’m here to bring her this basket,” she raised what was in her hand to eye level.
He eyed what was inside and replied, “Well, I’m sorry to say there’s no older women here, just me. I moved in a couple of weeks ago so you must be referring to the person who lived here before, I guess.”
“Um, okay. This is awkward.” She shuffled the basket into her other arm to grab her phone out of her bag. “Just one second, sorry. I’m going to text my stepmother because I’m so confused.”
“Sure, take your time. Let me hold that for you,” before she could object he already had the basket in his hand. He stood back and held out his free arm, “Come in while you wait for her to text you back.”
Since he was already bringing the basket inside August followed behind him and closed the door. “Thanks so much, sorry for the intrusion. I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything,” she said as she looked around for traces of anyone else in the apartment.
“No, no. I was just waiting on my food delivery. That’s who I thought you were. I ordered enough for two if you want to stay. Plus now we have wine,” he smiled as he gestured to the basket.
Her phone vibrated and a paragraph popped up. Seriously, August! Can you do anything right? Mother moved to that nursing home over on the Lower East Side two months ago. I know I told you! Ugh, the cookies needed to be warm when she got them. Just forget it, I’ll deliver them CORRECTLY myself next week.
That was information she felt like she definitely would’ve remembered had anyone actually told her. She looked up from her phone and scanned the handsome lawyer holding wine and freshly baked cookies, with his tone arms and heavily hairy chest visible through his shirt.
“Looks like I can stay,” she put her phone on silent and tucked it back into her bag.
“Great! Since I'm new here, what a beautiful surprise to have you show up at my door. My name is Carlos,” he kissed her on each cheek.
She let out an awkward laugh, “How sweet of you. I’m August, nice to meet you.”
Was he flirting or just being nice? Probably just being nice. She told herself not to think too much into it. He was just a really, really good-looking stranger whose house she was in with his furry chest peeking out of his probably expensive shirt.
His dark-brown hair was kept short while his beard was long and full. He was just tall enough that she had to slightly tilt her head back to look into his hazel eyes. She noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, not that she was interested or anything.
Even though the decorations were scarce, the apartment was just as visually appealing as he was. There was a teal blue accent wall in the living room and all of the decorations reminded her of an island villa. The room was full of wood furniture with light blue, white, and gray accents.
He walked her over to the couch, “Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. I’ll open a bottle of wine - my own of course - while I check on the food.”
She carefully sat down on the tan sofa as she was absorbed into the pillows. “This is very comfortable. Your place is really nice.”
“Thanks!” he called from the kitchen, “If I didn’t go into law, I think I would’ve gone into design or architecture.”
He came back in hoisting one glass of white wine in each hand. “Here you go my dear.”
Drinking on an empty stomach wasn’t necessarily a wise thing to do, but she didn’t want to get into how she hadn’t eaten all day because her stepsisters sent her out to look for a specific brand of vegan face masks that took four stores in three different boroughs to find. If Carlos hadn’t invite her in she was going to eat everything in that basket on her way back home.
“So, you said you just moved here. Where from?”
“Barthelona in Spain,” he lisped.
“Barcelona? Ah, nice! What a lovely place. I mean, I’ve never been but I’ve always wanted to go.”
“Maybe one day I can take you.”
She paused to take a sip of wine, “Wow, how confident you are."
“Better to charm you with my dear,” he winked.
Another awkward laugh escaped as she tried to avoid eye contact, “So, what brought you to New York?”
“Well, actually I grew up here but my family is from Barthelona. I went home for a little while to volunteer with my family’s nonprofit for refugees but now I’m back, practicing at my buddy’s law firm.”
Great design skills. Extremely attractive. Gave up work to volunteer. Offers wine and food. How did she end up at the door of such a magnificent man?
“Wow! That’s quite an impressive backstory. Your wife is a lucky woman.”
Carlos choked on his wine, “Wife? No, no. Sadly, I’m still single. But now that I’m back in New York, I think the woman of my dreams might just show up at my door.” He laughed as he scooted closer to her on the couch.
“Ha, ha. Yeah.” In an effort to change the subject she continued, “So, were you sad about leaving Barcelona or were you looking forward to coming back?”
“I was excited for the change. Barthelona is where I’m from but I feel at home here. Life is all about saying yes to new opportunities. You never know what that one yes will lead you to.” He inched closer again.
He paused to take a sip of wine and continued, “I was just talking about this. I went out to dinner with some guys from work last week, one of them brought his friend. The guy’s working in the job that he hates and when he said that, I was like, ‘Well, what are you doing to change your situation?’ You’ve gotta be open to change.”
“People think a life like this is just going to come to them,” he circled his arm over his head gesturing to the apartment, “but you’ve gotta participate in your life. Things don’t just happen, you’ve gotta will them, you’ve gotta want them, AND you’ve gotta work for them.”
His speech about how people were simply just too lazy to live better lives went on for another five minutes. The sun was starting to set outside his floor to ceiling windows. The bright pink sky was being replaced with a darker hue of purple. She stared out the window as Carlos talked. No longer making “mm-hmm” sounds because he kept talking regardless.
Her empty stomach was starting to make whining noises. She hoped that Carlos hadn’t heard it. He didn't stop talking so she assumed not. When there was finally a slight pause in his speech she blurted out, “Wow, how talkative you are.”
“Better to get to know me, right my dear?” He had somehow managed to get even closer.
“Sure, but what have you learned about me?” She winked to make the burn seem more friendly.
“Ah, of course, you’re right. Tell me about this family of yours. How long has it been since you’ve seen the woman who you thought lived here?” Was that meant to be a burn of his own?
“Well, we’re not close. She’s the mother of my father’s wife. I’m not that close with her side of the family, even though I’m living with her and her two daughters.”
“And your dad?”
“He’s out of the country on business.”
“Sounds like he’s a hitman or something,” Carlos proceeded to be the only one to laugh at his own joke. “So, do you travel as well? Do you know any other languages?”
“I actually love —”
He interrupted, “Not a lot of people from here know more than English, right? It’s sad, the school systems here, they’ve really failed this country.”
She began to respond, “Umm, well I wouldn’t say that. Many people here know more than English.” She wasn’t one of those people but she went on, “I’m actually learning Spanish using this app called Babbel. Learning a new language is hard, especially as an adult, but —”
“Yeah, it’s hard but it’s important to learn another language. You know, this is how I learned to speak Japanese. What you do is…”
Whenever he did ask her a question, without fail, he would eventually interrupt her.
The sun had officially set, her stomach was sending SOS signals, and she was beginning to enjoy this guy’s company less as the time passed. She decided it was time for her to do the interrupting. “Cool, cool, cool. Um, are you sure the food is still coming?”
“Let me check the app” he jumped out of his seat to get his phone from the charger. “Looks like it will be here in two minutes, I’ll get some plates.”
While in the kitchen, he suggested something with a bit higher percentage of alcohol than wine. He opened several cabinets, finally finding what he was looking for. He set a bottle of tequila and two glasses on the counter, added a splash of orange and pineapple juice from the fridge along with one cube of ice. He proudly emerged from the kitchen with his cocktail concoctions and handed her a drink. They clinked their glasses together and let out a collective, “Cheers!”
As she took her first sip she almost choked, “My, how strong this drink is.”
“Better to loosen you up my dear,” he clinked his glass to hers again and sat down nearly on top of her. She could see the hair from his back attempting to climb out of his shirt.
A monotone buzz rang throughout the apartment.
“Thank goodness,” she whispered as he got up to answer the door.
After a brief exchange, he returned to the couch holding two bags filled with containers of Chinese food. “I couldn’t decide what I wanted so I got plenty of options. Hope there’s something here you like. Help yourself!”
They passed the white, flimsy paper containers back and forth, different sauces piling up on her hands with each pass. With their plates filled with general tso’s chicken, shrimp and broccoli, fried rice, lo mein, and spring rolls August’s stomach could finally stop sounding like a muffled cat in heat. As she threw out a polite, “Bon appetit!” Carlos was already shoveling food in his mouth.
She watched silently in horror as lo mein hung from his lips, dangling there as he piled in even more food. Rice began to cover the table as it was pushed off of his plate with every spoonful he tried to retrieve. Were they in a food eating contest but he didn’t tell her?
“My, how hungry you are.”
“The sooner I finish, the sooner we can move on to something else my dear.” There was another wink with that same piece of lo mein still not making its way fully into his mouth.
Not even three minutes ago she was starving, but watching him eat like fat Thor in the latest Avengers movie made eating impossible. She tried to shield her eyes but the smacking sound with every bite did her in.
“You’re not hungry?” he asked as he took a break to take a sip of his drink.
She cleared her throat, “Oh yes, I am. I think maybe I just eat at a slower pace.”
“Look at you, so lady like. I could just eat you up.”
She silently gagged thinking about how messy that would be.
With his plate finally cleared, August was able to stomach a few bites. The rumbling sound from her midsection had stopped so she was clear to move on to the next part of the evening: her exit strategy.
Carlos picked up his phone, “What kind of music do you like? Maybe we could do a little dancing.”
Before she could catch herself, she let out a heavy sigh. When she arrived, she would’ve loved nothing more than to be held against his hard, hairless chest while swaying hand in hand. But that was replaced by a strong desire to get away from him as soon as possible.
“Uh, I like pretty much everything, I guess.”
“La Negra Tiene Tumbao” by Celia Cruz began to blast from a bluetooth speaker somewhere in the room. Carlos held out his hand, “Can you salsa?”
Now he expected her to do a choreographed dance? And how was he going to dance salsa after all that food he ate?
August let out her best fake laugh, “Oh, no. It’s been too long since I’ve danced salsa. I’m just going to step on your fe—.” Before she could finish, she had been flung off of the couch and into his arms.
He dug one hand into her lower back and the other hand holding hers they began to glide across his living room. She wasn’t even sure if her feet were touching the ground they moved so fast. Suddenly he spun her around and by the time she made her way back to him, his lips were pursed for a kiss.
There they were, swapping soy sauce scented saliva. His left arm was holding her body against him so tightly she could feel all six of his abs pressed against her not as tone stomach. With her body pinned, he was not so gently holding the back of her head in place with his other hand.
This should’ve been exactly what she wanted. Meeting a handsome, successful man who was so attracted to her that he invited her in for the perfect evening filled with conversation while they watched the sunset, dinner, wine, tequila. After being pressed against his hairy body, sure to feel as comfy as a long haired body pillow, while salsa dancing that led into a steamy make-out session should've been a dream come true. But his domination of the conversation, perpetual mansplaining, and his disregard for her personal boundaries made him repulsively unattractive.
When she was finally able to pry herself out of his grip she knew she needed to deploy a hard stop of the evening.
“Well, okay. So, I actually think I should go. It’s getting late and I told my family I would be back after I dropped off the basket. I don’t want them to worry.”
He reached out to pull her closer but she strategically spun herself out of grabbing distance disguising it as a dance move. “Just text them and tell them you’re fine. You can spend the night here.”
“Oh my, how presumptuous you are.”
“Well, what did you expect my dear?”
He sat down on the couch and took a huge gulp of his drink. “I mean, you said yes to coming in here. Yes to dinner. Yes to drinks. You’ve been flirting with me since you got in the door. And now you’re trying to act all prude?”
She threw her head back, stunned. Somehow, her simple presence in his home meant her physical space was no longer her own and her boundaries were to be left at the door.
“I said yes to dinner. And that’s all I agreed to. Not whatever you felt like you were entitled to.” She drew a circle around him with her finger. “I’m not going to hook up with you, just because I’m in your house. That’s not how it works.”
He blew out a mouthful of air and chugged the last of his drink, slamming the glass back down on the table. “Yeah, right. What a tease!”
“Look, I didn’t mean to give you the wrong impression. But this takes two people,” she swung her same finger back and forth between the two of them. “If I’m not comfortable being physical with you, it’s no reason to get upset. You can’t have something, just because you want it. There is such a thing called consent.”
“Oh, don’t give me that consent crap. I’m a feminist!” He went back into the kitchen and came out with just the bottle of tequila.
“You come into my house, enjoy yourself, obviously, get me all hot and bothered then just say you want to leave? Like, I’m not the one with the problem, you are!” He took a shot straight from the bottle.
“Okay, so, just so I’m clear. What signs did I give you exactly that made you think you could suck my face and that I was going to spend the night with you? Someone I just met two hours ago.”
“Don’t play dumb. You were obviously eye fucking me the entire time. Whenever I moved closer to you on the couch, you didn’t move away. You laughed at all of my jokes. I know you want me, things just got too hot and now you’re trying to run away from the kitchen.”
August couldn’t hold back the laughter. After a hearty laugh she asked, “So, basically, what you’re saying is, me being polite made you think I wanted to sleep with you?”
“Whatever! I'm not going to argue with you about this. Thanks for wasting my time,” he gripped. “Do you know how many women would jump at the chance to be with me? I’m one of the hottest guys you’re ever going to meet, I’ve got a great job, a great place, AND I speak more than one language.”
“Umm, okay, cool. That’s good for you. But, tonight, I’m not one of those women. Soooo, I’m gonna go.”
When she went to grab her bag and the basket of goodies Carlos jumped up from the couch and snatched the basket out of her hands.
“You can deduct this from the food and drinks you had,” he pouted, growling at her as he hugged the basket to his chest.
August’s mouth hung wide open. She didn’t know whether to laugh or put him in time out for his adult temper tantrum.
“You know, you’re a man child. And if this is the way you behave when things don’t go your way, you’re going to have a hard time finding any woman who will put up with this shit — no matter how hot you are or how many languages you speak.”
As she made her way to the door, flinging it open, she added, “For the record, I wasn’t flirting with you, I was tolerating you. Your rants and mansplaining are seriously unattractive. And if you’re this self-centered out of the bedroom, I’m sure you’re just as selfish in bed. That’s why I wouldn’t want to sleep with you, asshole!”
She slammed the door behind her and confidently strutted to the elevator. Content with her final words to Carlos, and with the fact that he didn’t notice she had moved the bottles of wine to her bag.
As she twisted off the top, she walked out of the building and drank her wine happily ever after.