That sort of understanding—that someone treated him so carelessly and he had no idea—would not only make others see him differently but probably make Josh see himself differently, too.
So I get the couch potato inclination, but it also bums me out. Here’s the thing: Josh is hot, as we’ve established, and not only that but he’s incredibly tenderhearted, despite his sarcastic exterior. He’s still letting me stay with him—even though he’s home. He makes a point to thank me when I clean the dishes once for every ten times he does them, and he always brings me a coffee back from his morning run. We talk in a straightforward, honest way: the dreams we had the night before, political drama, stuff that bums us out or makes our goddamn day. It’s like living with a best girlfriend who is actually male and very nice to look at. It’s not that I want to live here forever, but it hasn’t exactly sucked being with Josh Im for the past couple of weeks.
Still, with two days left of his staycation, I’m about to blow. I’ve gone out every day to do something new. One day, Dave and I went hiking in Macleay Park. Another afternoon, Emily and I found a new farmer’s market and Dave cooked up an amazing dinner. Josh sat on their couch, too, staring at whatever was on TV—a summer softball tournament. Today, I went to play with dogs and cats at the Humane Society, and the only thing Josh says when I walk back in the house is that I need a shower.
“Don’t you want to have sex?” I yell.
He stares up at me, slowly pulling his hand from the front of his pants.
“Look at your body!” I gesture to the splendor of it with my hand. “You’re amazing. And your face? Pretty fucking great, too. Come on, Josh, where is your sex drive?”
His eyes slowly widen, and I realize he thinks I’m propositioning him while I smell like a barn.
“Not with me, Jimin, I mean with someone in your league! Don’t you want a companion—not even just for sex, but for hanging out and talking and enjoying life? Getting your dick played with would just be a bonus!”
He does a dramatic sweeping gesture with one hand. “I’m here, aren’t I? Hanging out and talking with you.” He turns back to the Law & Order rerun.
“Joossssh,” I whine.
He mutes the television and looks up at me with a deep sigh. “I hate dating and I don’t want to be in a relationship.”
“I like sex,” he concedes, “but what comes with it isn’t appealing right now.” He groans and repositions himself on the couch. “The games? The getting-to-know-you dance? The putting on of actual pants? No, thank you.”
Sitting next to him, I take his hand. It’s nice and warm, but remembering where it’s been, I put it back on his thigh. “Look. I realize Pussycat did a number on your head, and you think that all women are jerks. We aren’t.”
“You aren’t,” he says. “You’re just annoying.”
“Right. But you don’t want to fuck me.”
“And you don’t want to fuck me,” he agrees. “But Hazel, it’s not like you’re getting out there and dating left and right, either. When was the last time you were with someone?”
“With, as in dating? Or with, as in sex?”
He scrunches his nose. “They’re different answers?”
I look at him as if he’s crazy. “I’ve had sex with guys I haven’t dated, and dated guys I haven’t had sex with.”
It’s his turn to look at me like I might be crazy.
“What?” I say. “You’ve never just … boned someone?”
He hides his blush by pretending to be grossed out by me. “That’s the worst word.”
“Bone. Bone. Boner. Booooones.”
He leans his head back against the couch. “God, would you just go away?”
I ignore this. “What if I set you up with someone?”
“Just listen,” I tell him, pushing up onto my knees and invading his space. “What if I set you up with someone, and you set me up with someone, and we went out together?”
“Seriously. No games, no expectations. Double blind date. Just for a laugh.”
“Come on, Josh, just one time.”
He rolls his head to look at me. “If I say yes, will you leave me alone for the rest of the day?”
“And if I hate it I never have to do it again.”
I nod, reaching up to scratch his scalp. His eyes fall closed. “If you hate it, we’ll never have to do it again. You can die in peace and will never have to take your hands out of your pants.”
He’s quiet for a minute. Is he considering it? Was it really the hands in his pants that sweetened the deal? He opens his eyes again. “Fine.”
I sit up straighter. “Fine? Really?”
“Yeah. But make sure she isn’t a jerk.”
We set the date for a Friday night, almost four weeks from our original deal, and agree to spend the evening at the Rumrunner’s Tree House, a kitschy little bar Hazel found downtown. The location should have been my first clue.
Adam—a defensive lineman for an arena football team—shows up at the house while Hazel is still getting ready. I let him in, keeping my face neutral as we both pretend not to hear the horrible sound of her singing from the other end of the house.
The repairs on Hazel’s apartment are taking longer than expected, but we’ve managed to find a happy medium between my need for order and the trail of chaos that follows her everywhere she goes. Since the house looks presentable for the first time in days, I lead Adam back to the kitchen for a beer.
He follows with Winnie right on his heels and takes a seat at the kitchen bar.
“The place is looking great.” He nods, glancing around. “I think the last time I was here you were just finishing the floors.”
“I did the floors in the spring, and just got the new window casings in. I’ll let you know the next time I have a barbecue. Zach would like to catch up.”
I met Adam at a youth event we were both doing a couple of years ago. We had just started the practice, and Adam was there with the team he played on at the time. He’s a nice enough guy—I mean, obviously, or I wouldn’t have set him up with Hazel—and at six foot four and 235 pounds of muscle he’s definitely good-looking, but he’s a little on the quiet side. My first instinct was that it would be a nice contrast in personalities, but now I’m wondering whether Hurricane Hazel might eat him alive.
“So this is kind of weird, right?” he says, reaching down to scratch Winnie behind her ears. “I mean, picking her up here? The two of you living together? I wouldn’t want to …”
I follow his eyes back down the hall to where Hazel is belting out an operatic version of Quiet Riot’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” and realize what he means. “Oh no. No.” I hold my hands out in front of me. “Hazel and I have never been, and are not, together.”
“So you’re just roommates, then?”
“Temporary roommates,” I correct. “She has her own place, but they’re doing some work on the building and she needed somewhere to crash for a few weeks. Or months, I guess.”
“I wondered what was going on when you called because you’re the last person I expected to want a roommate.” He chuckles as he brings the bottle to his lips, pausing to add, “No offense, man.”
My smile is wry as I take a sip from my own bottle. I turn my attention to the dog. “Winnie? Potty?” She bolts to my side. Bending, I stage-whisper, “You stay away from him, okay? He’s a dick.”
Adam laughs, and Winnie barks in what I take as agreement before following me to the back door and bounding down the steps into the yard.
When I return to the kitchen, Adam is eyeing a drawing of a unicorn Hazel doodled while I cooked dinner last night. It has two horns, a purple mane, pink fur, and a giant yellow penis.