There is nothing much in this evening to suggest a dream, but, I am en route to see one of my Romeos, hair on my head clean & coiffed, all other offending bodily locks stripped or shaved, done wholly away with–
“I want you,” I tell Z. later, & not, mind you, for the first time, “to only ever think of me, or know me, or whatever the fuck, as hairless & charming & smelling of honeysuckle. You know. The way all American men want to think of all American women.” Upon saying this, I realize it’s yet another reason he & I could never work as a couple. We are always play-acting. Tap-dancing. Role-playing. Ratcheting the discourse: I am the smart-aleck teacher, he is the student. Except, of course, when we take our clothes off, at which point all bets are off–
After six weeks, one day, seven blogs, at least nine million texts, & one hot night of sex with his best friend later, Z. & I are finally getting together. The previous weekend, we tried–
“Where ARE you?”
“20 minutes, i swear, im almost done”
“I am SO TIRED, hurry UP, I have to be a mommy tomorrow.”
“i cant kick customers out, em”
In my wildest dreams, the iPhone 6 has an italics function. For now, it seems, capital letters will have to do. & capital letters have played a crucial function in our little tete a tete, as I finally became irritated enough with Z.’s disappearing act to throw the proverbial book at him: when 20 minutes turned into 40, which turned into a whiskey & soda & a lonely episode of Girls on the couch, which turned into 2 am on a Friday night, I finally lost it:
“Where the fuck ARE you? This is such bullshit, it has NEVER taken ANYONE this long to get from Winchester to Dudley Avenue, EVER. And you should BE so lucky to date me, or fuck me, or even come close to dating me, or fucking me, or WHATEVER…” & c & c. A laundry list of my pros, of his cons. We have all been here, before… I shove the phone in my back pocket, crawl into bed in an exhausted rage, & open my laptop. & there he is again– not just his face, but his name, sidelined in my Facebook contact list, that little green dot shrieking, “I’m here! I’m here! Talk to me!”
& I can’t take it anymore. Because the thing is? I always do. I always talk to him. Quick, fancy, clever spurts of flirty, smarmy, fun– tailor made to make him talk back. Which he doesn’t always do.
Which I have, finally, tired of.
So, I do the unthinkable– as in the ridiculous, the pathetic, the extreme:
I defriend him.
One click! & good-bye beautiful face! Good-night curling forelock! Adios smug smile! & sayonara to 11 blunt letters that spell a knot in the stomach & a butterfly in the heart, the same cruel monarch who’s been fluttering away, on & off, for the last ten months. I stare at my screen: he’s gone. My list of friends on chat now ends not with his penultimate character, but with a poet friend, a lady, instead, a figure of comfort, relief. He. Is. Gone. I close my eyes to blessed sleep.
Not three minutes pass before my phone goes bzzzz-bzzzz:
A typed (tapped? texted?) apology, & yet another request for a phone call. Which, of course, I give into. It’s nearly 3 am. Another voluntarily sacrificed evening of sleep. & for what? Where was the payoff with this guy? Days upon weeks upon months of this coy mistress bullshit, & here I was alone on a Friday night– again: dialing his stupid number, which, of course, pulls up his stupid accompanying photograph, which I didn’t even add– the fucking iPhone. It is responsible for a myriad of troubles, having “synced” my Facebook contacts with my phonebook without my knowledge or consent– so now, in addition to staring at Z.’s handsome mug every time he calls or texts or vice-versa, I also have to worry that I’ll accidentally send C.K. Williams, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, random texts: he’s my Facebook “friend,” & is alphabetically listed one above my son’s father. C.K. Williams: virtual baby daddy. But, anyway–
“Hi,” Z. says.
“Hello,” I say, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.
“I… am really sorry, I–” here he pauses. Am I nuts, or is his voice shaking? “I care about you… deeply.” Somewhere down the road, he takes a deep breath. & exhales. “Of course I do. & I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
In bed, in the pitch black, I don’t know what to say. Which doesn’t happen often. I sigh. I sigh again. I want to hold his stupid, lovely head against my chest, & knot my small fingers in his thick, chestnut hair. I want to forget everything but him. An hour ago, I thought that’s what we’d be doing, at this moment. Most of the nights we try to get together are a wash, & really, it’s no one’s fault– Z. is flaky, but our schedules are black & white: he’s a bartender, I’m a teacher, & the addition of my son makes it next to impossible to see one another. When I finally speak, I stun myself by– wretched! wretched girl!– crying. Not much, not even, maybe, enough that he can tell. But there it is.
I’m crying. On the phone. At 3 am. To a boy. About said boy.
“I– can’t– keep… doing this, with you,” I say, & the moment it leaves my mouth, I know it’s true. I can’t. “I tried– I mean, I thought– I even started this stupid blog, I thought I could see you, & talk to you, & not care, but. I can’t. I can’t be that way. Not with you, anyway. & I’m fucking sitting on my parents’ couch, fucking waiting for you, watching Girls, & it’s like, there it is! I’m Lena fucking Dunham! I am sitting there buying the same bullshit I’ve been buying from you since 2004!” There it is, again. Buying. Exchange. I have bought the mansion of a love– well, bully for you, Jules. I have bought line after huckster line from a series of a-holes. Where is my Romeo? My Birkin? My Mellors, for fuck’s sake? Can a girl get a gamekeeper & some forget-me-nots, por fa-fucking-vor? Which is why– despite his trembling voice, despite my tears, despite the fact that, whatever else I’ve told him or anyone, he is bar none the best sex I’ve ever had, will probably ever have, despite the fact that we end our conversation with promises to see one another, for real, & soon– that when he texts me the following night that he’s stuck at work late, again, I write back,
“I think we should throw in the towel. This is never going to work.”
There’s a long, silent pause. Then he writes, “Oh, jeez, ok, well, I’ve gotta get back to work.” & I can hear it, somehow, even through its bland green thought bubble– I’ve hurt him. For real, this time.
It feels awful. So awful, actually, that for the next three days I send him a series of light-hearted messages– funny lines from student papers, saucy notes about sexy panties I’ve purchased in the hopes of seeing him. I even call him, & leave a genuine message, apologizing– “I’m a jerk, sometimes. Forgive me.”
Nothing. Despite my best efforts to be cold, my heart sinks a tiny bit. For four days, he’s silent; then, out of the blue, a phone call. Which is how I end up standing on his doorstep, at 10 on a school night.
“Hi,” he says, & kisses me politely on the cheek. “Um, come in.”
& there, on the couch, his twinkling eyes squinty & stoned, is J., grinning his aforementioned devil-may-care grin, the one I love to love. “Hi, Em,” he says, & pulls me in for a bear hug.
“I had a feeling this might happen,” I say, & sit, & pluck a Newport Light from the open pack on the table.
& light it. & inhale.