A response to love.
“I think I still love my ex-girlfriend.”
“What about me?”
“It’s just that…”
We both knew it. I’d said no too many times, and eventually you stopped asking.
“Okay,” I said. “So where does that leave us?”
“I’m going to try and get back together with her.”
I couldn’t eat for a week.
“Someday,” I said “I’m going to tell you to go away and mean it.” You wrapped your arms around my waist and put your head on my breast, your face turned inward. You got tears on my yellow linen shirt. I would button the jacket to my suit until they dried. “But I guess that’s not today.”
“I can’t do this,” I say to you over the phone. I’m too weak to do it any other way. I know you’ll cry and I can’t deal with that. “You want things I can’t give you.”
I hear your tears across the line.
You shrugged off my hand. Our friends were around, and our relationship had always been a private one so I didn’t think much of it. We went back to your room and took a nap. It was hot and the sun came in through your window to make it worse. You were sticky and I was sticky and I thought neither of us cared.
“m.,” you said. “I think we need to stop doing this.”
I swallowed hard and forgot what else you said. It took me years to forget how you smelled. Sometimes I still wake up remembering how you felt.
After months away, I was home. I lay on my bed and called you. Or you called me. I’d seen you only a few days before. The taste of you was still on my fingertips. Over our time apart, our last fight faded through first stilted and then flowing messages sent across the world. When we’d been together, everything had suddenly made sense.
“There’s something I need to say,” you said. “You can probably guess what it is. You know, J, I just can’t stop thinking about her. I know she said no, but I’m just going to keep hoping and hoping.”
That wasn’t what I was guessing.
We were drunk, again. It’s how we were together so frequently. You were telling someone a story, about something or another. I was zoned out, wondering how I’d gotten there and how I was going to get home.
“…my girlfriend…” I heard you say.
“Back in the US?” Someone asked you.
“Canada,” you said.
I looked at you. “Family business,” you said to me quietly. We’d talk about it later, you meant. We never did.
We sat on the front steps. I think it was hot. I don’t remember. I remember you wearing your beige t-shirt and those shorts I secretly thought made you look ridiculous.
“We’re making each other miserable,” you said. “I think we should stop.”
I nodded. We’d been going back and forth with that for months.
“We’ll see each other in October,” you said. I knew we wouldn’t. All of me was numb.
The next time you spoke to me, you told me you had a girlfriend and your dad was dying.
We’d barely slept since Wednesday night. We’d fought the night before. You said you didn’t want to live with me, you didn’t want to think about us having a future together. That wasn’t why we fought, it didn’t come out of our fight. It came later. After things made sense again. Then, what you said was with us and next to us. It slept between us that night.
In the morning, calm, I asked you why.
“I couldn’t deal with people saying, oh, look at him, another girl who’s–”
This was something I’d heard before. I felt cold.