I can’t be the side chick, the fuck buddy, the 1 a.m. whiskey call.
Early on I believed he might care, and perhaps early on he still did: he came by my apartment, unannounced, to say hello; he read my unpublished writing and sent his compliments; his texts came in hours before nightfall, asking about my day. I introduced him to my bartenders and he was kind to all my friends. In those conversations, somewhere in the time it was just he and I, I found pieces of him appealing, handsome. I have since chalked up his sensitivity to foreplay. That is fine. I’m not mad. I’m just ending things.
I have tried to do things his way. Millions of people, men and women alike, do things his way: they acknowledge our animal instincts, our need for companionship, and they have taken fondly to the no-strings-attached quasi-relationship. What works for some – and more specifically, what works for him – does not work for me. I shouldn’t be shamed for desiring nothing short of a committed relationship.
As it stands, I feel good enough for short-term company, good enough for the length of a TV show and a sleep over, but never good enough to meet the parents under any preferred title. I am the company he keeps for cheap Thai food, the company he prefers when he prefers to not be left alone with the World Series, now that the Dodgers are out and all. I get his weekdays. Our societal infrastructure is built to wall off intimacy. By keeping me on the side, keeping me at a comfortable distance, as a selfish afterthought, I can only question: is intimacy dead? We let chivalry die: are relationships, as our culture has known them to be, a thing of the past?
With time – what I have learned to be inevitable – I will feel insecure. I will wonder about the other girls with whom I share his time. I will wonder which side of the bed she sleeps on, or whether he stays at her place. I will wonder if the brown strand of hair on the pillowcase belongs to me, or to her. Or, to another her. Does she enjoy the shows he records on his DVR? Does he take her to the MOMA or a jazz club or the movies, all the places he offered but was too busy to take me? I will imagine them over a bottle of wine, eating the same bowl of spaghetti. I will ask myself: what about her keeps him distanced from me, or, on other occasions, what about me keeps him distanced from me? Ultimately it will end, six days or six months from now, and I will receive the news via an Instagram upload, them two riding Citi Bikes in Central Park in Lo-Fi.
The role I play in his life is replaceable; my stay is transient. What we share is convenience, a cure to fight off loneliness, an answer to too much pornography. It is hard to swallow that I am the person in his life that he would be OK with losing. He and I are an extracurricular, a hobby to pass the time. Once the time has passed, he and I are the awkward goodbye at Christmas parties. I am the archived slew of drunken text messages, the “hey bro, do you remember that girl?” at an overcrowded bar. He will make eye contact and I will run my fingers through my hair, regret my shirt, turn to Maggie and say: “Do I look all right?” I will take my whiskey from the bar top because my hands need something to do. He will tell me about his web series and never mention his girlfriend, but I know all about her – the blonde of her hair, her mutual respect for reggae – because, in care of appearances, I never deleted him from Facebook. He will say, “Do you remember that time we raided Duane Reade for Mac N’ Cheese and Doritos?” And of course, I do. I also remember that he didn’t call again for a week.
So, no, we are not just hanging out. No, this cannot just be casual. No, it is 2 a.m., I am sure you have someone else you can call. I, for one, have better things I can do.