It is the second night this week that he has made you cry.
So, your car idles outside of my house, sandwiched between a cluster of garbage cans someone has forgotten and left in the street and a red SUV that belongs to a neighbor who is almost never home.
I sit in the passenger seat and hold your hand. Is it not enough to calm your sobs, hiccups, or remarks dripping equal parts bitterness and snot. It is something to show that I care, but it is not enough. Really, it doesn’t matter how much I care when the problem is that he doesn’t care enough or doesn’t show well enough that he cares. And that is why you are crying — already for the second time this week.
It isn’t even 10 o’clock in the evening, but we aren’t going to make it to the party we planned to attend.
“I don’t get it,” you say, briefly subdued. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to believe what he tells me or if it’s all bullshit. All I know is that it’s not fair. It’s as though he expects me to stick around until he figures out all the shit inside his own head, and that’s not fair.”
You grip your steering wheel.
In the background, a Nina Simone song plays on your radio from an oldies station that is cycling holiday songs to make us feel as warm and as comforted as we should during this time of year. “Baby, it’s cold outside,” she croons along with Ray Charles.
Flurries blanket the trees in my front yard and the birdbath my grandmother picked out last spring. Tomorrow, I will have to help my father shovel the driveway, I’m sure. Coming home for winter break has its perks and its pitfalls. Minnesota in December: snow covers as much land as the eye can see. Like Nina sang, it’s cold outside. So cold that ice begins to glaze over the rearview mirrors in your car. We couldn’t go anywhere right now, even if we wanted to.
“I don’t think he really cares about you,” I respond after a few minutes that seem like an eternity — infinite silence that hung between us, speaking more volumes than any words could. “At least, not as much he says he does. I think that he’s just used to having you there. It’s a security thing for him. No matter how badly he messes up with other girls, other people, you’ve always been there.”
I want to grab you by the shoulders and shake you. I want to tell you that he takes you for granted because you let him. When all else turns to shit, he knows that you will still find grace in each of his movements and gospel in all of his words. There is comfort in knowing that, no matter what, at least one person will be there for him.
“Do you know how much it hurts to watch him with other girls?” you ask, the color in your cheeks rising again with your voice. “It’s so fucking terrible. Especially when he says things like this to me. Especially when he tells me that he could be with me, that he sees himself with me at some point, but just not right now. I want to think that he’s just stupid, that he doesn’t know what’s going on, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore.”
“He can’t keep you on the side, waiting, while he dates other people.”
He has been able to because you’ve waited patiently for the last several years — ready to pick up the pieces when someone else breaks his heart and willing to let him go when it’s time for him to break yours. This is asymmetrical. This is less a relationship than you holding onto someone, something you will never fully have.
“I told him that,” you insist, and I soften. I know it’s not your fault. You can’t help what you feel. “I said, ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too.’ He said, ‘I can just have two pieces of cake and only eat one.’”
I am momentarily stunned. Partially because this is the exact kind of flawed logic I have come to expect from him, who I’ve never really liked that much. Partially because I don’t know what to tell you that would make you see how worthless you are to him and how worthy you are of something better.
“Honestly, he just sounds like a fucking idiot,” I say finally.
This elicits a light chuckle from you, a break from the soft crying that has caused your eye make-up to smear and pool at the tops of your cheeks. Maybe this doesn’t solve the problem, but maybe reducing him — his words, his actions, his essence — into idiocy is enough to make you feel better at the moment.
After wiping your eyes and nose on the sleeves of your jacket, you ask in a small voice, “Can we go inside? Can we blow our plans off tonight and just sit in your room and talk some more?”
I squeeze your hand.
If he won’t be there for you, I will.