This is Part 9 of the story of How I Met Superman. To get caught up, you can find the preceding chapters here.
As soon as I untangled myself from Orly’s embrace, I realized my terrible mistake.
He looked at me with surprise, but mixed with just enough triumph to make me understand the gaffe. In rapid succession, I realized three things: He wasn’t even close to Edward Darcy; he seemed to think he’d “won” something; and Superman probably didn’t know this was happening.
I glanced into the kitchen where I’d last seen Chris, but he still wasn’t there. I knew I’d blown it. This was his friend. I wondered if Orly would tell him he kissed me. I wondered what Chris would think, and if he’d ignore me now forever – assuming I was fickle or silly or easy or simply interested in any male who happened to be standing in front of me at any given second. I slowly backed away from Orly and his sweater just as the last strands of a Styx song were ending. The song hadn’t ended yet, but it was close enough.
“Thanks for the dance,” I said quietly.
Orly gave me a crooked smile and asked if I wanted to dance again, but I just shook my head. I had no words. I’d blown it.
Down the hallway, I saw Superman emerging from the stairs. He’d been upstairs. And he was coming around the corner into the room where we were dancing.
He saw me and Orly both standing there, then saw Orly turn away. And then he came barreling toward me. He strode with so much purpose for the small space we were in – as if he were counting his steps, and paying too much attention to the ground to note that he was going to mow us over. But when he landed in front of me, he looked up shyly. “Do you want to dance?” he said in almost a whisper, as if he weren’t sure he was ready to ask it.
I nodded dumbly, staring at Superman on the square of carpeting that had become the dance floor. The sounds of the Eagles’ “Desperado” strained from the stereo in the corner of the room. Orly had disappeared. People were talking all around us, laughing within their own conversations. He and I stood, in the middle of friends, but I felt like we were alone, arms at our sides, facing each other.
I was embarrassed to touch him. I’d thought about it for so long – wondered what his arms would feel like, how firm his shoulder muscles were, how taut the muscles of his chest would be – that it was suddenly difficult to realize I was in a position where I could find out for myself. I hesitated a long time. But so did he. He clearly was not going to make the first move.
I finally reached up touched his shoulder. My palm couldn’t even span it. I reached for his hand at the same time he reached for mine, and he finally pulled me toward him, though he looked uncomfortable. I surreptitiously dropped my hand to his chest – dragged it across, just for a second, just to see – then let him take my hand again. I leaned in close. He was as muscular as I’d imagined. It was thrilling to be held like that. Never had I imagined – even during those rainy basketball games – that I’d be in the arms of this guy I’d been staring at for months. Never had I imagined I’d be dragging my hand across his shoulders, or discretely touching his hair as it ended at the nape of his neck.
We swayed to the music, carefully avoiding bumping the other couples on the floor, but I eventually forgot they were there. I dipped my head toward his neck. He smelled like soap and Coca Cola. I had the strongest urge to kiss him there, where his skin looked soft beneath his collar. It would have been so wonderfully easy. But I was also the type of girl who cared what he might think of that, and naïve enough to believe he might think badly of me. I already had the Orly mistake hanging over my head: I refused to make things worse. So instead I just let my lips hover above his skin and imagined it.
The song ended, and we stepped back a little. He didn’t let go.
“Want to go again?” He gave me a shy smile.
A friend of ours, from the dance floor, lifted his hand. “Wait!” he said. Everyone stood poised for the next move, as our friend leapt over the arm of the couch to fix the music.
Superman still avoided eye contact but kept me there, still, as if he had no intention whatsoever of letting me leave.
“Do you guys like The Eagles?” our friend said from the stereo. I realized, through the dim lighting, with great surprise, that he was talking directly to me and Chris.
We nodded. He flipped the album over – “One of These Nights.”
“Here you go,” said our friend. He smiled to us. Someone nearby gave Chris a good-natured shove. It seemed we weren’t the only two wondering when we’d finally get together…
We slow-danced to the entire side of that album – even during the up-tempo songs – and didn’t let go. He didn’t keep asking me to dance longer – we just silently understood. He didn’t let go of my waist. We didn’t even speak. We seemed to both have an understanding that we’d waited for that moment, yet we didn’t have the words to express that thought. We just danced.
About 20 minutes later, toward the end of “Best of My Love,” Orly suddenly materialized beside us.
“We need to leave,” he said in a monotone.
Superman looked over his shoulder toward Orly and Tommy. He nodded once to them, then turned and met my eyes. “Thank you,” he said.
And they left.
Only ten words were exchanged between us.
And I still had no idea what to think.
Click here for Part 10: The Fallout. …
*Names changed to protect the Don’t-Want-To-Be-Googled.