The Last Move

It’s a well-known rule in my code of conduct that I will never make the first move. Not because I’m afraid of rejection; not because I don’t have anything to say; not because I get easily intimidated.

Maybe it has to do with the fact that, believe it or not, I’m a pretty shy guy, especially around a very particular breed of guys, whom I refer to as “beat skippers.”

Yes, I can usually muster up enough bravado to strike up a lively conversation with a bunch of strangers. But with those certain boys that make my heart skip a beat, it’s a completely different story. When it comes to interacting with potential bedmates, I tend to freeze rather than flirt.

Besides, I’m not the type of guy who walks up to you at the club with the sole intention of taking you home. Transparent is the one color that you won’t find in my stylebook. If anything, for me, the giant dance dens of New York are platonic spaces where most of the time is spent bumping into old friends and making new ones, with a few scattered breaks to savor the eye candy, of course. Not to mention that nothing screams desperate like scanning the floor for unsuspecting victims, and nothing whispers great catch like dancing like you just don’t care.

So here I am, at Sugarland in Brooklyn, on a Saturday night, standing by the bar, swirling the ice in my drink with my straw and looking at this guy that just walked by. Dark complexion, scruffy beard, a hard jaw, and my heart just skipped a beat. He seems like a cocky fellow, someone difficult to impress. I know that if I go up to him now, like a missile zooming in straight towards its target, the only thing that will go up in flames will be my ego. So I consider taking a more subtle approach.

He’s talking to some friends by the stage, so I grab a few of mine and suggest we relocate from the bar to the dancefloor, not far from Skipper. I don’t subscribe to the whole fixating-gaze-leads-to-sex mating ritual, mostly because I feel like it’s fucking creepy and would be just as subtle as shooting a wide-eyed Bambi with a rifle and carrying the body back to my lair. I know that place has a reputation for being kind of lax when it comes to getting crazy, but I’m pretty sure that the Sugarland management and staff would not stand for that shit.

“Do you guys want a shot for a dollar? It’s bright, bright purple and comes in a test tube—OH MY GOD, YOU’VE KILLED BAMBI!”

So just think about it: every time you give the stare down treatment to an innocent cutie at the club… it’s like you’re shooting Bambi all over again. Most importantly, the cutie immediately files you in the Dahmer/Dead Disney/Date Rape drawer. A very difficult drawer to get out of, I’d say.

What is this post even about? Oh yeah… so the Ting Tings come on, and I’m dancing in front of Skipper, trying to get him to notice me. We’re so close, I could take a step back and we’d be grinding. Once in a while, I make sure to unceremoniously brush my arm up against his torso. Did he? Didn’t he? Yes, I did. I get pure satisfaction out of causing a commotion and drawing the attention of the crowd, so this doesn’t seem particularly shameless.

What comes next does. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Skipper head upstairs to the outdoor patio to smoke a cigarette. Of course! I have been trying to quit smoking but… fuck it! I follow him by myself this time, and realize that, no I have not quit smoking cigarettes; I’ve just quit buying them.

I linger on the outskirts of Skipper’s conversation for a minute and then randomly bust in to the half circle of friends to ask if anyone’s got an extra cigarette. Their apologetic expressions break the bad news. It’s ok; I wouldn’t give me a cigarette either. Besides, I’m not really out there for a smoke break. I figure that if I’m not going to make the first move, my best bet is to carefully situate myself within Skipper’s frame at various moments throughout the night, and making it seem like I’m not stalking him by playing it all up to be just mere coincidence. Like it’s meant to happen, caught in each other’s radars.

All right… yeah, basically, I’m throwing myself at him.

Out on the Sugarland patio, he looks at me, and I’m not sure if he’s intrigued or disgusted. Either way, I feel unbearably transparent. Then he reaches deep inside his messenger bag, probably trying to dig up the last remains of my dignity? No… a pack of Parliaments!

“Oh, do you have a light too?” I say delighted but interrupting the conversation yet again.

“What? Do you want me to smoke it for you too?” He says with a childish sneer and reaching into his pocket for a lighter. The teasing gives my hopes one last thrust. But right after I finish lighting the cigarette, I notice that their smoke break is over and he’s making his way back inside.

“We’ll be down by the dancefloor,” he says, taking my hand in his when taking back his lighter. I stay out there and finish the entire cigarette, giving him just enough time to take my file out of the stalker drawer.

After I’m finally done, I step back inside still adamant about not breaking the first move rule, but at this point, I’m more than ready to make the second, third, fourth and fifth.

Skipper is standing by the door with his friends, looking around. Is he looking for me? I look around. Where did my friends go? Is he going to make a move? Or is he just going to go?

As I walk down the stairs back to the foggy dancefloor, I start to think: What if Skipper has a first move rule too? What if he’s just waiting for that great guy to notice him on the dancefloor and come say hello? What if we’re all like that? Waiting for that touch, that gaze, that cigarette that will break the silence and form a lasting bridge.

It’s last call. I shouldn’t keep focusing on who approaches whom, who is the predator and who is the prey, who is worthy of the attention and who deserves better. There’s something surprisingly empowering about wearing our hearts on our sleeves and hoping for safe landing.

Maybe I should just start walking in his direction. Not think about what I’m going to say. Not worry about coming off transparent, silly, desperate or drunk (or all of the above). Because I can assume all night long, but I’ll never really know his side unless I ask.

Sometimes, we forget that going out should be about having a good time, not about proving you can find a tipsy guy that will let you shove your tongue down his throat—making the first move as meaningless as casting a net and settling for whatever you catch.

But if we genuinely feel the sparks and believe that the scruffy guy to our right is right, right now, then what’s stopping us from going for it, not like a mindless missile but like on a mission? The worse that can happen is old and rusted rejection. But we’re all big boys here. We can deal.

Any given code of conduct is pointless if it’s rigid, final and fixed, without exceptions and footnotes, especially if sticking by the rules leaves us standing alone, in a closing club, frozen yet reluctant to make a move.

Right after last call, if you still can’t come up with the clever words that will impress… then just kiss him. Anything’s better than watching a guy that makes your heart skip a beat walk out at the end of the night, leaving you regurgitating empty “what if’s” and regretting all your subtle, indirect, absurd moves and thinking: “I should’ve said hello.”

Every first move we make might very well be our last.