The tension that surges into my back when I see your name flash across my phone cripples me. I had deleted everything you’ve ever sent me, erased it from a piece of plastic that serves as an extension of my memory. I deleted your name, which only forced me to remember your number.
And every time I see you, I still want to kiss you hello. I still want to feel your hand grab the small of my back as you tilt your head down and your lips meet mine. I want you to look at me sideways as you quickly read my face. Instead, we give each other a half-hearted hug.
As we sit down by the bar, I remember I owe you nothing. I remember that this was your choice. You talk to me about the dates that you’ve been on as you try to move on, and how you still haven’t slept with anyone, and the tension builds again—the way it does when your name flashes across my phone.
But we’re friends. We’re learning to trust each other because the cheating you did emotional, not physical. I trust you not to lie to me, but I don’t know if I’ll ever again trust you with the whole me. I don’t know if you’ll ever be allowed back in.
I’ve stopped listening about the Hobby Lobby lawyer you saw. I think back to last weekend…to a lover from a nearby city who knew how to touch me, how to hold me, and how to whisper in my ear. How it came to him intuitively. How little he challenges me and how easy it is to just fall into a rhythm as our bodies rock back and forth. How we ignore the gunshots and drunken laughter outside.
I look at the menu. I can’t eat. So I drink.
One beer. You tell me you want to watch a movie. What is this—the seventh grade? I order a second beer.
So we say goodbye. You ask me to text you so that you know I get home OK. I say “no” to spite you, but we both know that I will. I sit in the back of the car, riding eastward from the high-rent district. And the hardest part is that no one can ever know why we won’t be together. I can’t ask for the help that I need and the comfort that I crave. I can never explain the hurt.
And as I climb into my bed alone, I’m still filled with the guilt that comes from sleeping with someone new. I’m still filled with the pain of rejection from you. But as we know that I’ll always do, I text you to let you know I got home OK. And I cry. I thought I was done crying.
It is so hard to be your friend now.