It moved fast. We kissed intensely in his car on our first date. It happened in the parking lot of a 24 hour taco place. He was eager and not graceful when trying to move from the driver seat to the passenger seat to be closer to me. His eagerness was flattering. He wore two rings on his right hand. One was given to him by a homeless man, the other was once worn on his left ring finger. He said he continued to wear it to remind him not to repeat past mistakes.
Much of our time was spent in the front seat of cars or in my bed in Long Beach sleeping or the preamble, hormones dictate, to sleeping. We met a couple times at a park in between our two places of work. We both got off at midnight and so we would lay on the picnic benches and look up at the spider webs in the corners of the canopy covering us. We talked. I was quiet around him. I find that I do that a lot with men. I allow them to speak and I ask them questions. I wait for them to ask about me but that rarely happens. Or it does happen and I don’t know what to say.
My silence would frustrate him.
“I feel like I am talking all the time.” He said to me one evening on the phone. “Talk to me.” He pleaded.
“I don’t know what to say.” I said. “I enjoy listening to you.”
It was a lie. My need for affection was greater than the truth. I found it exhausting to talk to him. He sought pity. But I did not have that for him.
We continued this way for some time. He would come over at 1 am. He had a corner of my room for his backpack and motorcycle helmet and his toothbrush found its way to my bookshelf. He would strip to his undershirt and boxers as I cleared my bed of GRE study materials.
One night I asked him “How would you describe me to your friends?”
“ I would just show them a picture of you.”
“Ok, but how would you describe me?”
“Well, you’re smarter than you think you are. And you dress weird. You dress more like you’re from up north, not Southern California. And your hair is questionable at first, but it grows on you. And you’re awkward, but then you realize it’s a good kind of awkward.”
I think I asked because I wasn’t sure why I wanted him in my life. We didn’t laugh together. I wanted to know if he understood why he continued to come over. I don’t think he did either.
I would fall asleep near him but not touching him.
We would get up late. I would make coffee for the two of us with my French press. Those mornings were the most domestic I have ever felt. I would walk him out to his Harley and he would kiss me on the forehead or the lips before he put his helmet on. His helmet is completely black so that he cannot be recognized. He is connected to a biker gang. I thought this was stupid. He wore it like a badge.
There was a night I made the decision to go on a road trip with another man who was a friend and nothing more. That night we yelled at each other over the phone. I was in my white Toyota station wagon and he was in an empty office at work.
“Why can’t you just commit to me and be happy for me and be here when I get back?” I asked.
That’s not what I really wanted. I knew this was unfair. I needed it to be unfair.
“I know you’re not the man I am supposed to marry, so this is probably for the best.” I said near the end of our heated argument. He remained calm and detached as I yelled into his ear. It is a talent he has, that I don’t. I found it frustrating that the roles had switched. I was making noise and he was very quiet.
Tears were rolling down my flushed cheeks. I wiped them away checking my makeup in the rear view mirror. I went back to work. It was a slow night and I ended up crying with my colleagues because I could not keep my mind off of him.
There was silence between him and I after that night and the other side of my bed remained empty for the next few weeks. My bed then became the front passenger seat of a car. And I roamed across America with another man whom I was not romantic with but whom I laughed with daily.
I found out that he was roaming across Costa Mesa with a girl who was my friend. They ended up being romantic. I ended up being hurt. When I found out, I had nobody to tell but my roaming friend. We were in Chicago, driving to the market. I yelled and cried. It was an ugly cry with snot and running makeup. He was supportive but unsure of what to say. He said some wrong things and he said some right things.
He asked me “Why do you care? You don’t want him.”
“I really have no idea, because I really don’t want him at all.” I replied as I was catching my breath. “It just hurts really bad for some reason.”
The hurt settled below my skin and I continued life after moving back to Long Beach. It was a simple life. I would think about him and then brush it away because he was dust.
The text message read, “Did you hear about Austin?”
“No,” I replied. “We don’t talk and I don’t care.”
I was at work. My cheeks flushed with the sight of his name. An indication of a burning within me.
“What happened?” I asked a few minutes later, because I did care.
My friend sent me a message detailing the accident. A car had hit him on his motorcycle and then a truck ran over his head. He survived with a few broken bones but nothing that wouldn’t heal with time. His plain, black helmet saved his life. He posted images of himself on a gurney at the scene and I thought it was tacky.
I drove home that evening on the 405 North, distracted. I parallel parked in a spot a few streets over from my house. I called him sitting in my white Toyota station wagon. I talked and he listened.
“I’m sorry I hurt you. I want you to find a good guy and be happy again.”
“You don’t get it do you? I am happy right now by myself. I am going to do amazing things with or without a man in my life.” This part I had rehearsed for months.
I believed what I said. I don’t think he ever did. Or he didn’t care.
I yelled and he was still detached. I didn’t cry this time. I was sitting in my car and he was lying on his couch with a concussion and a broken something and something. But he was happy, because this is what he wanted from life: Sympathy
“You think I deserved what happened to me?” He asked.
“No I would never wish that upon anyone. But I do think you hurt me when you didn’t have to.”
This was not the full truth. But our relationship never was.
I drank a beer that evening with a friend. We laughed together, something I seldom did with him.