When I told him that he should come to my friend’s birthday party that weekend, we were lying naked in my bed, sharing a joint. He looked at me, holding in his hit, and cocked his head to the left. “What?” he said, exhaling, “why?”
I explained that I would be alone, and that it was the kind of thing you should bring a date to. There would be dancing, there would be a lot of couples, there would be free booze. I told him that he would love it, and implied that I would make it worth his while. I don’t know why I thought that sex would be an incentive, because he knew that I would be sleeping with him regardless. The more I described it, the more silly I felt. I took the joint back and held it for a while, waiting for him to respond, hoping that he would spare my feelings.
“Hey, I mean, yeah. But we’re not…” I knew what he wanted to say. We’re not dating. We’re not a thing. We’re not in the kind of relationship that would make events like this something that was expected of him. He was fucking me, smoking my weed, sleeping in my bed, eating my cereal in the mornings — but we were not real. He could carve out the places he wanted for himself in my life without ever having to be inconvenienced. He made me feel embarrassed for having asked, like there was something wrong with me for wanting to be with him. There were things I was allowed to ask for, and things I wasn’t. My mistake.
He got up to take a shower, and I finished the joint by myself. I texted my friend, asked her if she knew anyone to bring for me. She didn’t even ask why he wasn’t coming, because she knew. She wasn’t stupid, and had enough exposure to our setup that she never anticipated he would join us. She knew better than to ask about him. I told her how excited I was to go to her party, even as I held back tears. I listened to the water running in my bathroom and imagined him naked on the other side, completely vulnerable and in my home, so close to being what I wanted him to be. I hung up the phone and turned on my TV.
“Are you okay?” he asked me, touching my leg, wrapped in his towel.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, “just watching my show.”
He started rummaging around in my drawer, looking for my bag of weed. He saw it on my nightstand and got up to go get it, still wearing his towel. He sat on the chair in the corner, rolling a joint on one of my hardcover books and looking up every now and then at the show I was watching. “Why do you like this shit?” he asked. I didn’t answer him, or look at him. He laughed a bit, a tiny, condescending puff from his nose that he always made when I didn’t answer a mean question. He lit the joint and started smoking, his hair wet and sticking a bit to his forehead. Even in his sloppiness, he was handsome. He had a good jaw and deep-set brown eyes and a broad, defined chest. His arms were long and lightly muscled and felt so good wrapped around me, when he decided he wanted to hold me.
“I was meaning to tell you,” he said, “I’m not gonna be around for the next couple of months. I’m going to do a project with my cousin up in Vancouver. I’ll be back, though, for sure.”
I could feel tears burning along the edges of my eyes and filling my throat. I swallowed, and concentrated even harder on my show. “Yeah, that’s cool.” I could feel him looking at me through his smoke, appraising my reaction, and maybe even looking for something in it. He smiled halfway and offered me the joint. I shook my head, and pulled the blanket up around my knees. He shrugged and took another hit, looking out the window.
“Hey, I’m glad it doesn’t have to be a big deal with you. You’re always so cool about these things.”
I turned up the volume on my show.