When I was in high school my father was probably the best track coach I’ve ever had, because he always helped me get out of my head. Being an accountant, a solid and logical man, he would just use math. He would take the goal time, the time I wanted to improve to, and divide it by each lap of the race distance. He would then give me one consistent marker I needed to hit every lap, seventy-five seconds, forty-two seconds — depending on the size of the track and the length of the race. Just do the same thing each time. That was all I had to do in order to get what I wanted.
I walk in the front door and put my keys in the green porcelain dish. Lucy is already home and in the shower. I’m tired from the show, but I head straight to the computer without really thinking about why. “Wish we got to talk more because you’re a funny guy.” I reply to the first Facebook message he’s ever sent me. “Well, we could always go somewhere to a non-musical setting sometime, and talk.” He quickly writes in response.
Lucy walks into the bedroom while I’m thinking of what to write back. “What are you doing?” she asks me. “I’m just writing back to Greg’s friend from tonight. He liked the show and I might sing back up for something he’s working on.” Lucy slides into bed next to me. “Oh that’s cool.” She says. “Yeah, we might meet up to talk about it.” I say, as I close my laptop, put it on floor next to the bed, and lay down. “Does he know you’re queer?” I shut out the light.
I walk in the front door and put my keys in the green porcelain dish. “Me too, thanks again for tonight.” I reply to the first text message he’s ever sent me, telling me he had “an amazing time and enjoyed our conversation.” We have just spent the last three hours talking about music at a bar with a broken jukebox. Lucy’s asleep so I don’t turn on the lights in the bedroom. “Did you have a good time?” she asks, startling me. I feel a rush of guilt for jumping at the sound of my girlfriend’s voice. “Sorry, I thought you were sleeping. Yeah, it was fun.” I climb into bed and she puts her head back down on her pillow. “Good.” She says. I reach for her in the dark. She pats my arm and then turns over. “I’m just so tired, love.”
Email: Yes, I would like to hang out again. However, I think before we do I should tell you I have a girlfriend (bi, if it matters) and we live together. This is something you would have no way of knowing from our limited conversations. I didn’t mention it earlier because I didn’t want to be that conceited asshole who assumes anyone who is really nice to her is looking for something more. But I also didn’t want to be an oblivious jerk. I think you’re cool and funny and I’m slightly intimidated by your musical talent. Hopefully, you don’t know what I’m talking about and I have just embarrassed myself — wouldn’t be the first time. Thanks for letting me inject some Nora Ephron-level sh-t into your morning.
I walk in the door and put my keys in the green porcelain dish. “I’m sorry,” Lucy said. “I don’t want to fight anymore.” I’ve just returned from a walk I took to cool off. She sits on the couch in a cloud of exasperation. “Me neither.” I say, looking down at her. “Things will be better when I get back from Chicago; it’s just work stress.” She tells me. “Well, that and our entire future is unsettled.” I say. She smiles at me. “Yeah, that too.”
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t asking you out on a date. I am kind of into you. More than ‘kind of,’ you’re pretty much exactly the woman I am looking for, but that is partly because you love music as much as I do — so we could be friends or something, too.” He said, on the first voicemail he’s ever left me.
If this were a movie, I would have found that “exactly the woman” line cloying and rolled my eyes. But this isn’t a movie. I decide to wait a day to respond, without really thinking about why.
At first, I don’t see him in the bodega. Then, I do see him, so I try to hide behind a dust-covered display of laundry detergent. Suddenly, we’re walking together by the Hudson River drinking beer in brown bags, eating Gummy worms and talking about Sam Cooke. Then, three hours later, we’re standing at an unsafe distance on the sidewalk outside of my apartment, suspended in an awkward silence.
The silence continues while I don’t tell him my girlfriend is in Chicago. His eyes catch mine, and I don’t tell him she’s deciding if she wants to take the promotion the firm had offered and move there permanently. He put his hand on my shoulder and steps forward — now a breath away from me — while I don’t tell him that if she does move, I’m not going with her. He leans into me.
“I don’t think we should go out again this Saturday.” I tell him. “Oh.” His hand falls off my shoulder and he stumbles backward. “Maybe some other time.” I lie. “Um okay, well I should head home. Thanks for the walk.” He says. His dirty Chuck Taylors make no sound when they hit the concrete, as he quickly walks down the block away from me.
He is already at the corner when my cellphone rings. “Hey, I’m in the airport.” Lucy says. “What happened,” I ask. “I thought you were coming back tomorrow?” She pauses long enough for me to look at the screen of my phone to check the time. When I put the phone back to my ear she still hasn’t answered me. She takes a breath. “I didn’t take it. I’m coming home.”
I walk in the front door and put my keys in the green porcelain dish. Just do the same thing each time. That was all I had to do in order to get what I wanted.