Sunday, July 26, 2015

Outside Your Door

It's 2am and there's no good reason for anyone to be knocking on my door. Granted, I'm not asleep, but I should be, as usual. And I'm not expecting anyone.

My heart picks up tempo as I slip out of bed, quietly digging my toes in the carpet and padding across the apartment to my front door. I've seen enough Law and Order: SVU episodes to know there's not a chance in hell I'm actually opening the door. But my curiosity has dragged me to the threshold. 

I pull myself up on my tippy toes, straining to see out of the peep hole.
There's a man on the other side, his shoulders slumped over so only the top of his head visible, looking like he's typing out a text.

"Who is it?" I ask, hoping I sound more confident than I feel. I'm greatly regretting the fact that there aren't any guns in the house yet because I'm female and live alone, and more importantly southern; so there should be guns.
Yes. Plural.

"Carly?" he asks through the door, more than a little confused by not recognizing my voice.
"No. Sorry. No Carly here."

By now I can hear his phone ringing and he answers clearly exasperated.
"I'm outside your door... maybe... What's the apartment number again? Oh, shit."

After a few more seconds of hushed conversation, he hangs up. I watch through the peephole as he raises his hand to knock gently once more.

"Not sure if you're still there," he says far quieter than our previous conversation, "but if you are, I'm so sorry. Have a goodnight."

He walks off in the direction of the stairs seeking Carly's apartment and only then do I lower myself from the balls of my feet and exhale loudly. My heart is fluttering wildly in my chest. My breathing is choppy. My skin is radiating heat.

I crawl back into bed, trying to get my misfiring synapses under control. I don't feel scared, I don't think. I was never in any danger. But still, my heart is a drum line.

It's not until later, when I've calmed down enough to start to drift back off that I realize what my body was reacting to; foolishly, irrationally, I thought it might be you. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Wake Up Alone

2007

I'm crying before my fingers can find the alarm clock in the darkness.

The tears are an every morning ritual, so I've at least gotten to the point that I can control them. I can't keep them from coming- there's too much to cry clean for that- but I've learned to cry them softly so that my deep, heaving sobs don't wake up the rest of the house or send me into the throes of a panic attack. 

I lay my head back on my pillow and cry, hot, sticky tears sliding back into my hair. I reach for my phone. Radio silence. The tears come harder, faster.

Never a word from his side of the world.

I don't know how many mornings I've woken up this same way. I lost count somewhere after forty. But every morning for those forty days, for however many days have followed, it's always the same; I wake up with fresh tears streaming down my face, my heart, my stupid fucking heart, already knowing he's gone before I can fully slide into consciousness. I cry myself dehydrated. And then I get up.

I talk myself through the things I must do to leave the house; I gotta brush my teeth. I gotta wash my face. First a bra. Then pants. Then a shirt. Then shoes.

I pull my heartbreak around my shoulders last, like a shawl. I carry it with me everywhere I go.

I do things during the day. What, I'm not entirely sure, but there are things. I say words. I think they make sense. I do my job and forget to eat. I find swift exits when fresh tears unexpectedly surface. I say an innumerable amount of prayers. I curse my choices. I check my phone.

Around 11am or so, like clockwork the messages start.

I'm sorry.
I miss you.
Please.
I love you.

My stomach flops over on itself, the juice I forced down this morning to stop the weakened trembling of my fingers threatening to make a reappearance on the white marble floor.

I fold things. I type. I clean. I talk to people. I'm alone.

I drag myself home long after the sun has retreated. I've cried in the car briefly, anger bubbling up from the pit of my belly and spilling out my eyes so I'm completely spent. The house is dark and silent. So am I.

I sit. I'm so weary. I only manage to take off my shoes before I tuck myself under the covers fully clothed. My eyes grow blurry with new tears and I'm so fucking angry with myself for being this destroyed over another human being. 

I dial his number and, as usual, he picks up on the first ring.
"Duck."

His voice, this pet name, sucks all the venom from my tongue and unlike the morning cry, this one is unrestrained. 
"I loved you," I managed over my thick and bumbling tongue and between broken sobs. 

"I know."
Of course he does. I always say the same thing. Sometimes it's an accusation. Sometimes it's a question. Sometimes it's a dagger I hope to gut him with.
But always it's the truth.

I hang up and he calls back, once, twice, eight times before he slinks back into silence. I burrow my head in my covers knowing how this goes.

I'll cry myself to sleep, finally passing out on a soaked pillow when my body can no longer manage to carry the weight of this trauma. I will dream, and sometimes I'll be happy, and sometimes I'll be angry and sometimes I'll be running, but he's always there. And I'll wake up to the tears that are my only constant companion, the only thing he left me with after so unceremoniously abandoning me.

Us.

I can't live like this, I think to myself. Except I have been, for what must be going on 50 some-odd days now. Please, I plead to god, to whoever's listening.

Please.

I slip my earbuds in my ears, the only song I can bear to listen to on repeat. I cry so long and so hard that each gasping sob feels as though it'll make my chest cave in. Finally I drift off into a fitful sleep.

I wake up alone. I'm crying before my fingertips can find the alarm clock in the darkness. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

The L Word


"Hey."
"Hey."
We look at each other, awkward in a way that we usually aren't. We aren't sure who should go first.
"You called."
"I called."

The truth is, I'd wrestled with it, turning my phone over and over in my hand like a sorcerer's stone. Debating. If I should call. Weighing what it means about me, who I am, who I've become, if I take advantage of the tender place i live in his life. I chastised myself for being weak, even as I dialed.

He steps through my door frame, backing me inside, and letting it swing shut behind him. He folds me in his arms, holding me tight, and rubbing reassuring circles across my back. Without my permission, I start to cry. 

"Are you okay?" And I know he's not really asking me, that he's doing the thing I do, where I ask the question knowing full well the answer, but offering it instead as an opening, a life vest to someone who's drowning.

"No. No, I'm not. I'm not okay."

We hug and we sway, my tears dampening his shirt and more than I feel relief, I feel shame. Because I am, I should be, I should have been so many times leading up to this moment, much stronger than I have been.

Eventually, we decamp to the couch, on opposite sides like we're opponents. 

"I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what?"
"Because I'm basically using you. And you're letting me."
"I'm a grown man, La. And I'm not stupid. I'm here because this is where I wanna be."
"I wasn't-"
"You keep beating yourself up like you've manipulated me into my choices, and you're really giving yourself entirely too much credit. We didn't make it, but we were friends once."
"Yeah."
"So, why did you call?"
"I saw you were here because social media is the devil. And I was overwhelmed. And lonely."
"Wow."
"What?"
"I've never heard you say that before."
"What, that I'm overwhelmed?"
"Well, that too. But that you're lonely."

That much is likely true. I learned early what it meant to move through the world alone. And so loneliness is an old acquaintance; not a dear one to be sure, but we are intimately familiar with each other. And while I am not someone who gives myself over to loneliness often, when I do, I tend to weather its visit alone.

"I don't think I've ever heard you admit to it. You've alluded to times in your life when you felt lonely. But never said it aloud. You seem almost proud to not need anyone to alleviate your loneliness."
"It's not that-" and he looks at me skeptically before I can finish the thought. "Okay, maybe," I admit with an uncomfortable laugh. "But mostly because I don't think my loneliness is anyone else's responsibility. Seems unfair to ask someone to fix something they didn't cause."
"Your feelings aren't a liability, La."
"We can agree to disagree."
"You're not weak for being lonely."
"We can agree to disagree."

He sighs at me. "I'm at least glad you called. But-" he stops himself before he completes his thought.
"What?"
"Who did you wanna call instead of me?"
"Don't do this."

We eye each other wearily, both of us stark still as The Thing hangs between us, neither of us taking our eyes off it or each other, willing the other to touch it, and hoping like hell they won't. He breaks first with a sigh.
"You have people in your life that give a fuck, La. You don't have to be alone."
"I'm fine alone."
"I know you are. Truly. But knowing that you can be doesn't mean you have to be."
"I never want to be one of those people so incapable of being alone that I'd have a placeholder instead of a partner. Or so pitiful that I call someone I haven't seen in awhile to come give me a hug when they're in town because I'm too in my own head."
"You're not pathetic, La. You're human."
"We can agree to disagree."

He gives up on me as silence settles over us before he opens his arms up to me, and I fall into them gratefully. He wraps us around each other like we used to, and kisses my head, tracing absentminded circles on my back, signing his name when he thinks I'm not paying attention. 

"You want some sushi?"
"Yeah."
"You wanna watch Die Hard?"
"Always."
"I'll order."
"Thank you."
"It's just sushi."
"It's not just sushi."
"I love you too."

I turn my back to him, pretending to look for the movie. I feel rubbed raw and exposed. I feel weak and pathetic, running to him because I couldn't stand to be with myself. I berate myself for using him, for knowing why, for not being stronger.

I'm glad he's here.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TMI Tuesday

Shamelessly stolen from SBG. Because, writer's block.


1.      Are you privy to a secret about a famous person? Do you read gossip about famous people in magazines or online?

I am. Quite a few actually. But no one else will ever know them. I really don’t read gossip. I used to. Lost much of my appetite for made up, snarky stories about strangers. 

2.      Do you know of a co-worker, friend or neighbor who is currently having an affair? Are you having an affair?

I do. And I really wish I didn’t know. I don’t wanna be involved in any way. I am not. And would not. 

3.      Have you ever had a secret that made you the subject of gossip?

I have. Although technically, it wasn’t my secret. It was my SO’s at the time. I was just helping keep it because, love. And dumb. 

4.      Do you like hearing gossip? What kind interests you most, e.g. sexual behavior, drug use, lying, betrayal, etc.?

Nah. I really don’t want to know or be involved in gossip or the types of things people tend to gossip about. I will admit to getting a kick out of hearing about the new and inventive ways karma has bitten someone in the ass though. 

5.      Do you pass gossip on when you hear it?

Nope. Because passing it makes me involved to a level that I don’t want. I tend to be a vault. And that’s why people tell me things.

 

6.      Do you consider telling your spouse or partner to be consistent with a promise not to tell? Is he or she trustworthy with secrets?

I don’t. If someone asks me not to tell anyone, that generally includes my partner for me. If they don’t ask, I might share it with my partner if it’s relevant. But I also tend to date people who practice discretion, so it’s never caused any problems. My only bae is Jesus, so yes, he is trustworthy. 

 

Bonus: What is one private thing that you would like to know about someone?
really wanna know if someone is down with something I’d like to proposition them with. But I really don’t need to know the answer. No good can come of it. Lol

Well, that’s not true. Some good can come of it. A lot of good, actually. But it’s still a terrible idea. Lol

I’d also really like to know how someone actually felt about me. Because what I thought it was, it wasn’t.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

No Church in the Wild

I first found out I was black when I was about 8. To be fair, I knew that I was black before then, but I didn’t know that it meant anything. Certainly nothing bad.

But it was at 8 when, upon meeting me, the parent of one of the friends I’d made at my very exclusive, very white private school looked at me in shock that someone their kid had grown fond of, with a name as plain and “acceptable” as mine, was also a little black girl with unruly ponytails and penny brown skin. I don’t know what happened after my friend was hustled into their waiting car, but I do remember we didn’t seem to play as much after that. 

There weren’t many invites for sleepovers or birthday parties. And there was the assertion, at that same school many years later, that I had to have cheated on a science test because “you people usually aren’t this good at science.” There was the time I wrote a paper so good that my teacher was sure I plagiarized it, because she couldn’t believe that I was smart enough to write it. It wasn’t until a black teacher’s aide I’d had the year before came to my defense that the ‘A’ I’d earned was allowed to stand. All these years later, I still remember the stinging humiliation of it. It would be years before I ever wrote another thing for pleasure.

In high school, there was the time someone assumed I was a janitor. And when an employee followed me around a store I’d just been hired to work in to make sure I didn’t steal. There was the time when leaving a club, a cop assumed I was a hooker, not just a college student trying to get home. There was the time when leaving my job in a wealthy part of D.C. late one night when a cop pulled over to question me, and wouldn’t believe I was just leaving work until some of my white coworkers also left and vouched for me.

Being black in America is being followed in your own neighborhood and called a nigger bitch by a group of white boys in a pickup truck adorned with a rebel flag. Being black in America is being pulled over on the side of the road in southern Georgia while on a road trip with your mother. Being escorted from the car and questioned at its back bumper about whether or not you’re running drugs for your boyfriend. It’s being asked if you’ll consent to a search of your rental car, as two more cop cars pull up. It’s the flippant remark over a uniformed shoulder when they realize there’s no wrongdoing here that you “sure are pretty for a colored girl.”

It’s being followed in stores, and the assumption that you’re the secretary or that you can’t afford anything in the expensive store you’re shopping in. It’s strangers asking to touch your hair, and waiting on pins and needles for white people you love that you know love you to say something off color about a black issue and you never again being able to regain the full warmth you once had for them. It’s people assuming you have children and being shocked when you don’t, and telling you how articulate you are. Being black in America is watching the news and feeling scared and helpless and stricken and having your racial PTSD reinforced for you.

As I watch the coverage of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, trying to choke back tears and still work, I wonder how I am to exist and function in this white space of work, of the world, all while recognizing that there is no safe haven for me and for my blackness. I wonder how I could, in good conscience, bring a child into a world knowing that their skin is a target on their back. It is why I will never support the Rachel Dolezal’s of the world and people like her who use blackness as a cloak or costume or convenience. 

Because being black in America is a great joy and a great burden that I cannot take off at my leisure. It is a responsibility and a reckoning. It is the idea that even as you exist, you can become a martyr. It is the recognition that even as you walk the land of a country grown from soil stained with the blood of your ancestors, you are not a citizen. That you cannot live the full breadth of human emotions in public, lest you be gaslighted or arrested or murdered. Being black in America is knowing that even the aisles of your house of worship can run red with your own blood. 

And that there’s nothing you can do about a country where blackness is the enemy.  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Roots

I am often consumed by the desire to lay waste to my life and start it over again. I don't mean some overly dramatic Eat, Pray, Love kinda reset. I don't see me setting fire to my world just to watch the flames. But sometimes in the morning, when I turn the key in the lock on my door, I imagine that this might be the last time I do it. That I could, if I really wanted to, leave this apartment full of things in this city that I love and simply walk into a new life.

 

The thing about growing up not really moored to anything, is that you recognize that you can always leave. You can start over; you will start over. You'll cry and you'll mourn and you'll miss, but you'll also rebuild and adjust and move on. You'll wake up and the life you had that you so earnestly, so dearly loved will earn a collective shrug. You'll get up and make coffee and go about your day. You'll be fine.

 

It's a precarious sort of being present and itching to make a break for it; the way your heart forms attachments but your head says, "You can leave this too." It's an unfairness really, to you who needs a rock even if you don't need an anchor; to those who try to show up and be present for you. 

 

Being is a skill. Staying is a skill. And if you don't know what it means to be, to belong to something or someone or somewhere other than yourself, it's hard to ever learn it. When you have spent your life turning inward, fixing and mending yourself, self-soothing, you are especially ill equipped at forming the attachments that might help heal you in this way you don’t always recognize you are broken. You are whimsy. You are wind. You move through the world as if you belong to no one. Because you don't know how.  

 

It's how you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this life you've built, you could leave. It’s why you have such a hard time connecting. Why you forget things other people hold dear. Why people find you warm, but distant. It's why the people in your life don't totally trust you; they see you eyeing the exit even when you don't realize that you are. 

 

I fantasize all the time about leaving my life and starting a new one. And I'm really trying to stop. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hunger

It feels like there's an invisible cord linking us. Each minute that slides by cranks the tension a bit tighter, pulling me toward him or him toward me, or both. I can't tell which anymore. But the distance between us, the minutes he spends not touching me feel like agony. 

I'm talking myself down off this ledge, calmly and levelheadedly telling me not to jump. But my body isn't listening. It too is winding tighter at every clock rotation. My breath has quickened and grown shallow, but my pulse has slowed down, leaving me disoriented and foggy. I can feel every single fine hair raise to attention on my arms, up the back of my neck, the goosebumps like Braille across my skin that only he can decipher.

I'm coaching myself, and I'm succeeding, but I'm weakening. Just breathe, I tell me. Keep talking. Keep your hands busy. Don't let go.

I'm not sure who touches who first, but at first contact I can hear the cord sizzle and snap, breaking under the weight of this astriction. I don't remember stepping closer or if I was pulled, but here I am pressed close and breathing the same staccato air as him. He takes his teeth to my neck roughly, his hands heavy and possesive on my ass and hips like they're his. My mouth hangs open but I, usually so loud, so vocal, can't manage to make a sound.

At some point I pull away from him, not because I want him to stop but because I need a minute. I can't breathe. I want him to devour me whole. But, Jesus, I need a fucking minute.

I don't even realize I've slipped my thin shirt over my head, slung it away from me like fire. I've reached behind me, unclasping my red bra and dropping it on top of my toes. I stand there before him, topless, panting, my breath so guttural I'm dizzy. He's on me before I can ask him to take me.

His mouth feels like fire and his hands feel like home. He's pinned me to the wall, his fingers slipping and probing, one elegant finger telling me to come here, his thumb making light, pressured circles. The room shrinks around us and my legs start to give out underneath me. I try to get away- I'm still fighting to regain some control- but he's not letting me go. He's watching me as I tremble and shiver beneath his touch, his eyes on mine as I slide down the wall and he comes down with me. I'm still trying to get away and he's chasing me every inch of the distance as I pull myself across the carpet, my back earning a carpet burn for my effort. He's on top of me, watching me, telling me to stop, to stop fighting, to let go without ever saying a word and his weight on me is so perfect, so fucking perfect, I can't believe I ever thought I could live my whole life without feeling this feeling. I feel myself come undone in his arms. 

I'm getting loud, curses painting my lips like lipstick. I've gone blind, my body shuddering and jerking without my permission. I don't know that I've ever so intensely, so wholly surrendered to someone else. I've never been so exquisitely out of control in the entirety of my life. 

He takes me like I'm his, like he's travelled my body a million times before. He's stroking, long and deep, his hands on my ass, his palms leaving stinging indentations on my skin. He's talking to me, telling me what to do, and I am completely relieved of the ability to form rational thought, my body slipping away from my control and the taste of prayers and curses in my mouth.

His name is a song he makes me sing more times than I can count, with him coaching me through every debilitating orgasm, watching me, reacting as my body responds, telling me to let go, to stop, to look at him, at turns commanding and tender. I am so completely overwhelmed I feel like I'm going to cry.

We fall away from each other at some point and I feel so dizzy, so drunk I don't even trust myself to stand. I am stumbling and disoriented as though we've spent the whole night drinking. The sun streaming through the windows is a surprise. I feel exposed in a way I am unfamiliar with, laid bare in a way I have steadfastly endeavored not to be.

How the fuck did this happen to me?

I feel like I've lost my mind. It's been slipping away slowly, unwinding itself from my ironclad grip and spiriting away by inches into the ether. But I was good. So good. And then he touched me. And I was gone. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Run, Baby, Run

The sun is sneaking down into the basement of the sea slowly, casting the world in soft pinks and oranges in its decent. The wind is blowing soft and cool off the water and making the humid air more bearable. A bird I can't place sings a song that sounds like a melodious car alarm. Beneath me, the ocean swirls and swishes like a heartbeat, reaching fingers up the shore.

I'm on the balcony, a thin white robe slicing open at my bare breast and bare thighs. I'm admiring my newly tanned legs in the diminishing sunlight, smoking and snapping pictures. I lean back, the wind sliding up my thighs like a whisper, the robe falling open a few more inches less decent considering I am naked underneath.

I could do this, I think to myself. I could live this life. 

I could spend my life flying from place to place, letting the sun warm my skin and learning new languages and cuisines. I could reasonably take up a life of pleasure, indulging my whims and my desires across continents. I could swim in every body of water. I could climb mountains. I could hike jungles. I could take a new name and a new lover every place I went, slipping away in the middle of the night, leaving only a fond memory in my wake. I could wake up with the birds or with the bats. I could see the world. I could travel and experience, tethered to nothing, responsible to no one. I could actually, finally, live in the world rather than just exist in it. 

But not if it's running, I say to myself and I know it to be true before the thought even finishes.

I take a hard drag and pull my hair down from its perch atop my head. It's heavy with salt water and smelling like fruit. I tug at the mangled curls and think about where I go next.

I could live this life. I could. I know.
But not if it's running.
This I know too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

La La La

I couldn't figure out why today was bothering me. It's just a Tuesday. Nothing significant or even insignificant happens on Tuesdays. Tuesday is neither here nor there. Tuesday is meh.

But it kept nagging at me, an ever-so-slight twinge in my gut anytime I saw the date. It's that feeling I used to not be able to name; that feeling that things were slightly askew, sliding off balance, but the tilt was so subtle I could hardly perceive it. 

It didn't hit me until later, as I was stressing and muttering to myself while moving some meetings around on my calendar why I felt so uneasy all day; it’s your birthday.

I choose to gloss over what it means that my spirit still knows your birthday even when my mind is paying it no attention. It's better that way, probably.

If this was six years ago, I know what we'd be doing. We'd be packing and we'd be heading some place we'd never been. Probably somewhere with a beach, with you needing the sunshine and me needing the water. We'd be plotting on what to do and how to get around and where we were going to eat. We'd be excited and anxious checking in constantly; did you pack sunscreen (me)? Who's gonna smuggle the shorties on the plane (you)?

We'd both be planning dates the other would love in celebration of our birthdays barely a week apart. And we'd be trying to one up each other, because it's always a competition. We'd be staying up too late and talking about our plans.
We'd be talking, at least.

Unlike now.

We aren’t talking. And we aren't who we were six years ago. We might not have ever been. And we aren't going anywhere. And we probably never were.

But we were dumb, stupid in love, weren't we?

It kills me to feel like I'm not sure of the answer to that anymore.

I want to call. I want to call because not talking is new for us. Because birthdays are important to us, and because whether or not you'll admit, all day you'll be wondering if I might. And you'll be disappointed when I don't. And it won't ruin your day- I don't have that power anymore- but it'll sit, quiet and small in the corner as you celebrate, and you'll glance over it at least once right before you go to sleep.

I won't call. Because I shouldn't. Because it's done. And it's the right thing to do, even if it's not what I want.

Instead I stop by the liquor store on the way home. And I sit out on my patio in the twilight sending you love and light and hoping you feel it, listening to My Cherie Amor and taking deep, shuddering breaths rather than crying.

We are hole-in-the-wall restaurants and we are cheese fries. We are Baltimore and the life we never had in LA and kisses on a street car in Memphis. We are a silly shorthand language only we know and love letters and AIM messages and slow sex against the wall in a darkened stairwell. We're a CD where every song says my name. We're strip clubs in Yonkers and tiny clubs with dope music in Chicago. We are turkey burgers with the plastic still on and slow dancing in the kitchen to Stevie Wonder.
We are done.

I unload my brown paper bag from the liquor store, and line shorties of the rum we used to drink on the altar of the railing like an offering. I shoot them all back to back without taking a breath in between. The taste is less familiar when not mingled with your tongue and your cloves and your Chapstick.

I look at the empty bottles, the last vestiges of sunlight shining through their emptiness. I arrange them just so and look at them until it's dark out. And then I knock them over on my way back inside.

Yet another shrine I erected that feels like ruins.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Curtains

I was hitting my marks perfectly. Finding my light and delivering each line with grace and wit. I was being charming. I was being funny. And sexy at the right time. And smart at the right time. I was listening and reeling him in and saying the right thing, because that's what I do.

And I was fucking exhausted.

Thirty minutes ago when he walked over to introduce himself, a bit of a smirk leading the way, I knew who he was immediately, even before he told me his name. I recognized the confidence in his stride. The way he found the perfect way to invade my space without being overbearing. I knew the tone of faux intimacy in his voice meant to disarm me. I recognized his easy charm and the privilege of his handsomeness that carved the room open before him. I know him. Because I date him all the time.

We do the things people our age do when they're single and living in this city and trying to figure out if the person in front of them is someone they might one day see naked; we talk about where we work and where we live, where we're from and where we went to school, and compare notes about who we might know in common, which is really code for have you fucked anyone in this too small city that would pose a problem for me if I fucked you too?

He's telling me a story about a trip he recently took to serve as best man for his best friend and frat brother, and he's hitting all the notes of the song and dance. Sure, he's telling me the story. But what I'm supposed to be hearing is that perhaps he might be getting to the point where he's ready to settle down too, though we both know that's not true. And look how exciting my life is; don't you wanna be a part of it?

He's performing his monologue, and I'm listening and asking questions when I should and laughing when I should, and in my mind I'm saying to myself, "Six weeks. It would take me six weeks to break you."

And how do I know this? Because I know. Because I know this guy. I date him all the time. He's all young and handsome and full of swagger, drunk on the attention he gets from women and the success he's no doubt finding at work. He's smart and funny and charming as shit. He's probably amazing in bed, and thoughtful in that way that you are not when it's in your nature but because it's a means to an end. There's no doubt in my mind that he's not an asshole, but he's emotionally unavailable for some reason or another that has nothing to do with me. And that would be convenient for me- for us both really, but definitely for me- because I wouldn't have to invest. I wouldn't have to be connected or responsible. It could be all fun and flirting and great sex until it wasn't anymore.

Until one of us inevitably got bored or frustrated. Or started to wonder why the other wasn't wanting more, and couldn't handle what that might do to our ego. Or one of us wanting more and recognizing we'd never get it in this situation where we've wasted time building a bridge to nowhere.

I've just delivered a line that went over flawlessly. I pause and let it sink in. I time it perfectly. He reacts just like I knew he would. He and I have good chemistry and we play well off each other.

This shit is a disaster waiting to happen.

He asks for my number before he and the crew he's abandoned to come flirt with me for the better part of an hour leave for the next spot. They're much of the same; young and handsome and cocky in that mildly predatory way. 

I want to give it to him. I do. Because he's handsome and funny and charming. Because he's probably a great lay. Because this- this predictable back and forth and it's inevitable fall out- this I can manage. 

"I can't," I say instead. I watch his face fall a bit.
"I, um...," He falters and sputters. "Are you seeing someone? I guess I should have asked that."

But of course he didn't ask that. Because men like him don't ask that. Because there's some part of him that believes- in many cases probably rightly- that if he wants something, the answer is irrelevant.

"No, I'm single. But the problem is, I've dated you before. Dozens of times. I know how this goes. And I'm going to save us the trouble."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you came over here to talk to me because I'm pretty, yes, but also because I draw men like you to me all the time. If I had to guess I'd say you're probably already casually dating," I pause to decide on a figure, "two women. One of them is probably bad as fuck, but dumb as rocks. The other is probably a really good girl that you should be serious about, but you're not because you aren't really ready. But at your age, not wanting something serious is rapidly starting to feel less and less cool than it was in your twenties. Your friends are getting married and having babies and while you probably, maybe, want that too, you really don't want it anytime soon. But you don't wanna admit that because people judge you for it. Instead, you remain unavailable in every way for some reason- for you it was probably a heartbreak you don't ever wanna feel again because you don't seem like a predatory asshole- and pick women where you know deep down it will never be anything real. Because then you're just a victim of your circumstances, you just haven't found the right woman. Rather than it being what it really is; you just don't want it. Any of that sound about right?"
"No, you're wrong. It's three women."

We laugh, and it's probably the first time in the whole conversation where we've laughed heartily and genuinely.

"I'm not judging you. I just... I know how this goes. I date you all the time. And I think," I take a deep breath, "I'm ready to stop."

He nods at me over and over, a smile spreading across his face.
"I get that. I do. It was nice to meet you, La."
"It was nice to meet you, too."

He heads back to his boys, no doubt lying about having exchanged information or spinning some story about how he didn't ask me for my number because of some fake sin I didn't commit. I turn my attention back to my Makers and sigh heavily.

I think I'm growing up. Sonofabitch.