“Good morning,” she whispered in his ear.
“Hmmphh,” came the response.
She laughed, “Pleasure to see you again, too.”
“What time is it?”
“Christ. What time did we get back last night?”
“Around two.” She paused. “You don’t remember?”
“Do you remember anything?”
He turned his head to meet her eyes, a mischievous gleam in his. “I remember some things.”
“Oh? And what exactly do you remember?”
A grin spread across his face. “A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.”
She found herself laughing again. “So you’re a gentleman, are you? That’s certainly news to me.”
“It’s a work in progress.”
“Clearly.” But she was still smiling.
His eyes left hers and worked their way down, and then up her body, not in appraisal, but admiration. His eyes stopped at the infinity sign tattooed above her right hip. He traced it over once with his finger, stopped, and traced it the other way.
“I remember this. What does it mean?”
The smile left her face, and a whisper of sadness crept into her eyes. Her response was soft, “It means don’t forget the past…or give up on the future.”
He was silent for a moment, finger still resting on her hip. He looked up at her once more. “And the present?”
“It’s a work in progress.”
He kissed her then, and the rest of the morning melted away. Afterward, she said she was going to shower, and he told her he wanted to buy her breakfast when she got out. She smiled at that, and made her way to the bathroom.
But when he heard the sound of the shower head pulse to life, he slid quietly out of bed and slipped on his pants. He quickly pulled on his shirt and jacket, found his shoes, and, after double-checking his pants for phone, keys, and wallet, let himself out the front door.
When his feet found the city pavement beneath her apartment, he paused for a moment, taking his bearings. Then he turned to his right and set off into the the early spring day, sun harsh against his eyes. After a few blocks he felt the buzz of his phone against his thigh, but left it there, and kept walking.
He had meant what he had said, about wanting to take her out to breakfast. He wanted to, but also knew he wouldn’t. He could see it all stretched out ahead of him as the words left his lips, the two of them sitting in a corner booth at the corner cafe, him sipping black coffee, her nibbling on toast and glancing shyly through the hair she couldn’t keep from falling across her face. The conversation would come easy, and afterward he would walk her back to her place and they would share a surreptitious, uncertain kiss on the street before parting ways, with plans to see each other in a few days.
They probably would, too, and maybe it would actually turn into something. Eventually he would “introduce” her to his friends, even though they had all met that first night at the bar, and likewise he would be put on parade for her judging friends, who would come away slightly less convinced in their belief that it was impossible to find a good guy at a bar. But then, inevitably, somewhere in the second or third month, when the itch for labels was starting to grow, his emotional brakes would begin to pump and she, like so many before, would be left out in the cold. Worst of all, somehow she would feel it was her fault. Her friends would offer their sympathy while collecting their vindication.
No, far better to tear the band-aid off quickly and endure the sharp, swift pain, than to let it die that slow death of something never truly alive. He didn’t flatter himself with thinking the cut was particularly deep to begin with, anyhow.
Or maybe he was just chickenshit. He recognized that also as a distinct possibility.
The phone buzzed again in his pocket, and the sun was still harsh to his eyes.