I walk away from her hotel trying to convince myself that I didn’t just fuck up. My ego tells me that I did the best I could, that I’ll see her again tomorrow, that it would have been dumb to push my luck.
I’m halfway up Z Street when I hear a familiar voice.
“Hey man, how did your date go?”
Somehow I’m not surprised that I’m bumping into Joe right now. He wants to know everything. I start at the beginning.
I’ve just parked my rented scooter, usual spot. As I walk into the heart of Thamel I pass the cutest Asian girl. She doesn’t look Nepali, more Chinese, wearing jean shorts and a white t-shirt. Her hair is big and puffy, and it somehow suits her perfectly.
She’s headed the other direction, but I know I’ll hate myself later if I don’t go talk to her.
So I do.
Her name is Bella, and she’s now sitting with me at a coffee shop. She’s traveling alone, her first time outside China. After just a few minutes of small talk, she’d volunteered to hang out with me. I didn’t even have to ask.
I’ve learned fast that she has the spirit of an adventurer and a heart of gold. She shows me pictures on her phone of a one-armed street kid she met earlier. She’d dragged him to her hotel room so he could have his first shower in months, then bought him fresh clothes.
I make her laugh, and the conversation flows easy. I drop several poorly disguised hints that I think she’s hot — Example: “I think you’re hot.” — and never once does she shy away. I agree with myself that this couldn’t be going any better.
Until she tells me she has to leave.
Before I can feign indifference and casually suggest we meet up later that evening, she proposes we grab dinner together at eight.
Inside I’m doing cartwheels. Outside I say evenly, “Okay, sounds good.”
I offer to spin her back to her hotel, full sure that she’ll find me even more irresistible when she gets a ride on the back of my 125cc hog. She’s down for that, and within minutes we’re zipping and weaving through the pothole-infested streets.
Dinner went well. We shared stories of past romances and current vulnerabilities. I’ve learned she’s scared of the dark and has a crush on some uninterested hotelier back home. My attraction to her has only grown wider.
But as we sit in her hotel lobby and sip banana lassis, I find myself holding back and I’m not sure why. I know she likes me. We’ve closed the emotional and intellectual gaps between us. All that’s left is the physical.
I make some lame attempts to get closer. I take her hands playfully and touch the scar I notice on her left leg. She offers no resistance.
But I do. It’s all internal, and right now, for some unknown reason, I’m too chicken shit to overcome it.
As the minutes tick by, I wave the white flag at that resistance and accept that this is as far as our relationship will go, at least for today. She has no phone but says she’ll call tomorrow eve, her last in Kathmandu.
As I hug her goodnight and head for the lobby door, she waves me off with the brightest smile and not a hint of disappointment. I cling to that final image as I walk down Z Street, my mind trying to bend it into some kind of assurance that I played my cards just right, that it was best not to push it any further, that I’ll have another, more appropriate shot with her tomorrow night.
And now I’m trying to convince Joe of all this. But he’s having none of it…
“Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling me that she asked to hang out with you when you first met, she invited you to dinner, and you were just having drinks together in her hotel lobby. Am I missing something, or shouldn’t you be up in her room right now?”
Finally undeniable, the realization that I’ve just wussed out of a golden opportunity comes crashing down on me like a Himalayan avalanche. The thump hits especially hard because I’ve done this before, many times: talked myself out of taking action, listened to my lizard brain preaching patience when the moment needed to be seized.
I know from experience that if such moments aren’t seized, they’re usually gone forever.
I know but I haven’t learned.
Joe recognizes the depressing realization I’m having right in front of his eyes, but he’s not about to coddle me. Instead he offers six words that fill me with hope and dread all at the same time.
“Hey, you can always go back.”
It took about three seconds to make up my mind. It came down to this:
- Worst case scenario: Temporary embarrassment, freak her out, no chance of a second date.
- Best case scenario: Great sex with a girl I’ve quickly come to adore.
Risk absolutely worth it.
And now I’m standing outside Bella’s door, having smoothly extracted her room number from hotel reception.
I take a deep breath before I knock. I’ve already run through what I’m about to say and do several times in my head. My heart beats wild but I feel optimistic, reminding myself that fortune favors the bold.
Shit. My visualization didn’t account for her asking who it was before opening the door.
I say nothing and knock again.
— Who is it?
I have to speak.
— It’s Niall.
— Oh… you can’t come in.
This wasn’t part of the plan. I’m forced to improvise.
— Um, I just wanted to leave you my email address in case I miss your call tomorrow. It would be good to keep in touch.
— No, it’s okay. I’m tired now and ready for bed. You go and I’ll call you tomorrow.
I flip to damage control, realizing that I’ve freaked her out and that the best case scenario I’d envisioned is definitely not about to happen.
— No problem. I’ll just write it on a piece of paper and slip it under the door.
The streets are dark and almost empty as I race home on the scooter. I feel foolish, but console myself with two things my brain knows to be true:
- The embarrassment will soon reside.
- Never take, never make. At least I’d given myself a shot at living that best case scenario.
“And besides,” my ego chimes in, “she might still call tomorrow.”