We have not yet met and we can’t stop talking. We text late into the night, me on my side half-asleep and bruised by the fold-out twin sofa bed. There were too many things to say to have goodnight be one of them.
Tingles knowing that we were both in the same city. New Year’s Eve, a holiday I’m not wild about, seemed rife with promise. I cuddled on a couch with my best friend and her baby and watched the ball drop on TV. I was hopeful because of you.
The day we are supposed to meet. I poke you to see if we are still on. You want to see me, you say, but you’re hungover.
I am so nervous that I make myself late. My shoes hurt and halfway to the train -- sweating -- I realize I should get in a cab. I do. I send you the funny Uber-tracker. Black polo shirt, chest hair, green eyes, awkward hug. Lobster rolls -- you ordered and it was waiting when I got there.
“It’s funny,” you say, “because it just showed the cab spinning around and around and around.”
I nodded, “Yeah, that’s because that’s exactly what it was doing.”
You have to leave my apartment because you are allergic to cats. “Should I do that thing where I wait and pretend like I don’t want to see you again?”
I am too shy to walk you to the door. I don’t want you to see me naked. From your cab you text “the cab just keeps spinning around and around” and I fall asleep smiling.
You text me and ask me if I want to meet you at a bar by your house. “I know you’re probably busy.” I come, I sit on a stool next to you, we just stare.
“Oh hello,” you say.
“Oh hello,” I say.
Your poor friend chuckles. “Hi guys,” he says.
Then just the two of us. “I was worried you didn’t like me, I want to travel with you, I think you’re great.”
I’m floored that you don’t know I feel the same way. “You’re stuck with me,” I say.
At an awards show together. It feels like television. I can see you up there next year, I say. And I believe that. Your eyes get glossy. I don’t remember what I say after we’d been drinking, some probing question. You say, “I brought you here with me, didn’t I?”
Arm in arm and racing down the wet streets. “I’ll fall, I’m going to fall!” And laughing, and I didn’t fall, not then. Later, darkness, dress over my head, my poor glasses caught in the crossfire. The bruise on my arm from your teeth.
You are going to meet my friends at trivia night. You get off the train and are in a terrible mood. You feel sick, you say. You are silent and surly. I tell you that you don’t have to go. You say you don’t want to disappoint me. You are relieved. I kiss you goodbye. I am inexplicably weepy.
You’re out of town. You’re at your mom’s house. We text late into the night and there is more longing now than there was when we didn’t yet know each other. You want me and I want you. We could explode from it. We are crass and brash and you, I think, a little drunk.
You are home. “Two weeks is too long,” I say to you.
“You look cute in just your glasses,” you say.
And I remember it because it’s the first compliment you’ve ever paid me. You will pay me two more.
Easter brunch. You say you will come and meet my friends. Brunch starts too late. You’ve got a lot of work. “You don’t have to come,” I say.
And you don’t. You can tell my feelings are hurt. You buy me dinner. I worry I am bothering you too much. I worry you don't want to see me or hang out with me. "If I don't want to see you or hang out with you I won't," you say.
Hand on my knee while we talk to your friend and his girlfriend. Hand on my knee under the table. I start to demure when asked “what do you do” but you don’t let me -- you are so proud of me. You are so proud of me. You are so proud of me.
Later in bed, on top and looking into your eyes I am saying “oh no, oh no, oh no,” and you finally say “oh no?” And I laugh instead of saying “I just realized I’m falling in love with you.”
You say you hope I don’t feel like you’ve been neglecting me. I do. I feel like an obligation. I feel you pulling away. We haven’t had sex for a while. “You are one of my favorite people,” you say and I believe you.
We spend the day walking. In the park, we hold hands and you make me laugh harder than anyone else has. We spot a woman eating French onion soup with her parrot. We walk for miles in the rain.
In your office, you tap me on the shoulder and I turn around and you kiss me. “I like your dress. It has cubes on it.” Second compliment.
I am traveling for work for one month and it’s coming up. “Will you miss me when I’m gone?” I ask. You say you will be relieved because you feel guilty for not spending more time with me.
I can’t help but get teary. “Are you my boyfriend?” I ask.
“I mean, yeah? Why this that label so important to you?”
I can’t think of what to say in response. You warned me you went slowly. But it’s been about six months now. Then you do it. Then you say it. “Maybe if you made yourself a little less available --” and you don’t get to finish the thought because I try to leave the bar.
To your credit, you come after me. You call me by my whole name because you think “Becca” sounds childish. You are scared to lose me and you tell me your deepest darkest secret and I hold you on the street while you cry and later I hold you on your bed and we fall asleep in our clothes, laying the wrong way. "I like-to-love hanging out with you," you say. It's the last compliment.
We haven’t spoken for a week. “Are you okay?” I text. You’re sick, but you don’t tell me that. You’re basically gone at this point and I’m too stupid to put it together. I’m too dumb to realize that you are freaking out and leaving me forever. You text me, but less now. I can’t fathom losing you.
It’s my birthday. You were taking me out. I wait until 6 and then I ask you if you would still like to do something. “We can hang out but I’ve got an early morning.”
I put on a dress. I hesitate to hug you and make up a lame excuse about some interesting architecture that catches my eye, but you put your arms out and look at me and I melt and we hug. We don’t talk about anything serious. In the cab we split home, you lean into my lap to look out at the moon and we hold hands and I think that it is going to be okay. It is the last time I saw you.
We are supposed to meet for dinner, but you’ve had a crazy day at work and it’s taking you some time to finish up. I text that I understand. I wait an hour and don’t hear from you. I am annoyed and I tell you I am annoyed.
“Actually, I don’t understand,” I write. I write that I wanted to talk to you but I guess I’ll email instead. Nothing. I say I’m sorry for the dramatics, my feelings are just hurt. I still want to see you. Nothing. I call you, I call you again. Nothing. “Please,” I text, “I won’t be able to sleep.” Nothing. I send you an email. You do not answer.
I have been crying for 50 hours. I cannot fathom you not being a part of my life. I cannot hold the idea in my head without panicking. I cannot believe you will just be gone. Without a word. I cannot believe that our kiss goodbye on my birthday was our last kiss. I lose all pride and I text you. I beg. I plead. I bargain. It’s like death.
I text you to say that today is the day I am leaving town. I text you to say that after six months you should at least talk to me. I text you to say “J---, you were my friend.” That afternoon you email me. You say you need a couple of days to process. You ask me not to text you again. You tell me to have fun while I’m gone.
No more emails. “He might not ever email you again.” I try to say that out loud and can’t. Instead I think it. I work all day and think of you, made young in my hurt. It’s hot. At night the AC blasts and I pull my blanket up over my head in my twin bed and try to conjure the smell of your scalp.
I text you a video of a pair of ravens and then feel crazy for doing it. “He asked you not to,” I think. “You said you’d give him all the space he needs,” I think. I stare at the mountains in the distance and in the noonday sun your smell comes back to me and I slap my chest in pained surprise.
This is me without you.
“If I don’t want to see you and don’t want to talk to you, I won’t.”
Image credit: Tuncay Coşkun / CC