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After barely talking for a year, J messaged me and asked if he could take me out for dinner for my 25th birthday. I was still embarrassed, but accepted the chance to start over.

I showed up at Koi on 40th Street, wearing a sequin t-shirt and leather shorts.

We caught up and ate the most amazing sushi I’ve ever had, not to mention a few lychee martinis. By the end of the meal, I was feeling good. “Let’s go to Flannery’s,” he suggested after paying the bill. “It’s my favorite bar.”

We took a taxi to 14th Street and went inside, the skinny guy behind it smiling wide. “Hey J! And you must be Ian-Michael.”

I blushed. “Uhm.”

“I told him I’d be bringing you around for a birthday drink,” J explained.

So we had a birthday drink. And a regular bought us shots. And then we had another drink. I went to the bathroom to pee, and while I was at the urinal I heard someone come in. “Ian- Michael,” the regular’s feminine voice rang out. I slowly turned my head to the side, mid-pee. “Uh. Hello.”

“He talks about you a lot, you know,” she said, standing in the doorway.

I finished peeing and zipped. “He does?”

“Yes,” she went on as I washed my hands. “Do you like him?”

“Romantically? I don’t know. We’re still getting to know each other, I guess.”

“Well, he’s been talking about you for a long time.”

I went back to the bar, not sure what to say, excited but nervous. The regular bought us another round of shots, and J bought us another round of drinks, which I drank—quickly.

By the time we left, I was wasted. “Want me to get you an Uber?” he asked. I shook my head no, stumbling along. “We can get you a taxi if you prefer?” I shook my head again. My head was spinning: No way was I getting on anything that moved. “Do you want to come back to my place?”

I nodded eagerly. He lived just around the corner and up three flights of stairs. I ran into the bedroom, stripped to my underwear and collapsed onto the bed. My stomach churned: I knew if I moved, I’d throw up.

J came into the room, saw me in my underwear, and curled up behind me. I felt the vomit, right in my throat. I pushed him away. “Are you OK?” he asked me. I couldn’t open my mouth to speak: I knew if I did, I’d throw up all over his sheets. I just shook my head. “Are you uncomfortable? Should I sleep on the couch?” I shook my head no again, still unable to speak. He got up, and didn’t return before I passed out.

I woke and rolled over to a note: “Decided to spend the weekend in Paris.” He was gone. I blew it, again.

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