After it’s over, you wake up in a hungover fog, unsure of what to do. The room is quiet except for a long-darkened laptop still insistently blaring Mississippi Fred McDowell in an unseeable corner, that as well as his soft snoring and the distant ringing of the whisky in your ears, all of it an uncomfortable reminder of what had transpired just a few hours earlier. There was an agreement, you remember. You gather your clothes up from the floor, trying to discern through the darkness the feel of his skimpy summer clothes from your own. You know if you asked him, he wouldn’t say you had to leave but his opinion isn’t supposed to matter anymore. You get dressed and knock over a comical number of things on your way past his roommates’ doors. No one who writes songs about gorgeous summer romances ever mentions the awkwardness.
Out in the pre-dawn street, you make that exact same walk you’ve made an embarrassing number of times before. Back in your youth, you would’ve been stupid enough to think this romantic. You wouldn’t have been repulsed by the joy that springs up when you realize you can still smell him all around you, like this big gorgeous ghost haunting your senses. You are an adult now and don’t have time for anything unrequited.
You are tough and a post-modern feminist and you don’t need anyone. Ever.
Someone on the internet tells you that the reason assholes still behave the way that they do is because there are people like you stupid enough to keep letting them. There is no sympathy in cyberspace. There is less in your one-bedroom apartment when you get home, at your friend’s party later that week, even in your art when you are at your most alone. You are sick of writing about men who are emotionally unavailable but other people love the stories, so you keep telling them. Fiction writing almost always costs less money than a therapist. Even in the minutes you spend miserable, the exchange rates break even.
You are too old to re-route your walk home past his favorite bar even though it adds an extra mile to your commute. You have to get off an extra train stop down but you already paid, so who cares. Someone attractive and intelligent who wants you just the way you are sends you a text message but you hit delete and make it a point never to respond. You are an adult and don’t have time for anything unrequited. You switch over to his brand of cigarettes and start taking your coffee the way he does and when people ask, you say it’s just a new thing you’re trying. You think the word “gnaw” over and over and over again, like something you’re trying so hard to consume without ever getting nourishment. No one but a crazy person would call this love and you are not crazy.
But in the beginning, even as this all races through your mind with an absolute certainty, as you repeat to yourself “facts facts facts” as hard as you possibly can in the back of your mind while you see your ship-wrecked heart self in the future so vividly that logic loses all hold over you, somebody switches the playlist on the stereo over to John Lee Hooker and this man, this bizarre mysterious broken ghostly handsome mistake of a man, pulls you close and whispers “come on.” And you know what’s going to happen. You are doomed, you were doomed as soon as he looked at you, doomed the moment he walked into your life and brought this symphony of incomplete in without shutting the door behind him. You know there is only one way it could end and that’s badly. But, for at least a moment, you don’t care.