i had just started dating This Guy, when he suddenly dropped his lead. i didn't quite get it at first. i couldn't think of anything i'd done--how could he reject me without logical grounds? naturally, i talked to his friends before i talked to him. but the point of his continued absence eventually made itself evident.
still, i wanted to hear him say it. so i told him, "i still have your book. come up and get it." when we were in my room, i looked him in the eye and, cutting right to the heart of the matter, i asked him,
"do you not want to kiss me anymore?"
his shoulders hunched, his chin lowered, and he looked back at me with the caught-but-you-can't-prove-anything look of a little boy standing next to a broken vase.
"i don't particularly want to, or not want to," quoth the prevaricating bastard.
i remember feeling a little bit sorry for him, but also impatient. i also remember thinking, "what's wrong with you? you were such a confident man up till now. at least be confident about why you don't want to be with me anymore."
though i don't remember verbatim what was said next, i do remember that i was honest--a rare feat of courage. and that he said he didn't want to be in a relationship that year. and that i told him i wasn't trying to argue him into it, but i liked being with him.
the only other quotation i remember was his saying,
"well, what did you want out of it?" It being the noncommittal pseudo-relationship we'd had, up to that point.
to me, the question made no sense. what did i want out of it? i had never thought in those terms, not once. i hadn't gone looking for a relationship with anyone; if anything, i had planned on not having one that year, too. but i liked being around him--he made me feel sexy, and reckless. being around him made all the crazy things i wanted seem possible. he lived in such a way as whatever he wanted, he went out and took; i liked being close to that.
what did i want out of it? as if i'd counted the minutes that i invested with him, balancing them against the probability of a return. as if the time i'd spent with him was like the time we spend waiting for the waitress to bring the food we've ordered. as if he thought i'd been putting him through a test and he was defending himself from failing it. so strange, when for me the whole experience had been nothing more than an intoxicating draught of freedom.
but not quite freedom, i guess. because after that night, throughout days and months without him, i felt like all the crazy things i wanted were only crazy. taking what i wanted left me alone in trying to enjoy it. feeling sexy made me nothing more than a candle smoldering in a hallway.
what did i want out of it? i answered him, after a moment,
"a close friend."
it seemed ridiculous, when it came out of my mouth. true, but ridiculous. because, as he responded, "that wasn't what was happening." that was true, too. i hadn't noticed, because i had so enjoyed becoming who i really wanted to be. and, as i discovered, i wasn't brave enough to do it alone.