"Kind of, yeah. I won't be able to stop myself from pestering you," he sounded seriously miffed at this revelation while I gawped at how the conversation had turned.
"I kept all your messages," he said quietly. "Every one of them since 2009. Should I delete them?" I hated him instantly for telling me that, then realized this was precisely how he felt. "No," I sighed tiredly,"it's your history, I've no right to tell you what to do with it. Besides, I kept yours too. And I wrote you stupid messages I never sent." This was misery. I stared at my phone willing it to burst into flames.
I was pretty sure my face had at least 7 indescribable expressions. What ring of hell was this now? I opted for calm reason, "Look, I know you just took a hit, and it was..yeah, you're right, it was great. But I'm sure the chemistry with whatserface is probably even better."
"Yeah - No. No, it isn't, We didn't get that far,"he informed me. I felt the air get thicker but was relieved when he joked that perhaps I ought to give him an endorsement. I laughed at this, glad to lighten things up but my stomach pitched when he suggested that perhaps we should consider repeating it.
"The endorsement?," I played dumb.
"No, I'm saying we're amazing at it and we should do it again," he repeated. "It'll make us both feel better." I muttered something and made some excuse about having to go, "please think about it,"he asked.
I really didn't want to, because I always did anyway. There were so many twists in this story it'd begun to look like an Escher painting.
Three years ago, this had all started out of my need to choose a post-Sewer rebound, who as it turned out, wasn't even really that. Rebounds are by definition, so unsuitable that their very appeal immediately expires once they fulfill their purpose. It's a little impossible to claim that if you're still engaged in a romantic Paso Doble with them years on.
And now this sudden turn of my "rebound" asking me to well, be his rebound? He didn't seem drunk at the time, but in pain, sure probably. Still, I stayed silent after this request, quiet except for some kind of ire dangerously bubbling away. At any moment, if I never said anything, we would see that edge again and he'd fall off, predictably disappearing. He probably loathed himself for saying it at all and he'd just go. Disappointing but familiar.
A few days later, he chirpily reported he'd chosen not to think about the rejection at all, who needs love anyway? "You know how it is with me in relationships,"he quipped rather merrily. I wondered if this was all by design, the reappearance days before my birthday, the supposed love interest and the conveniently timed dumping barely a week or so later. They all fell into place like over-orderly dominos. Was it too paranoid to suspect a man who made his living concocting stories to actually furnish one in aid of having me land where he wanted? Never mind that I made one up too.
I didn't hesitate, "Actually, no, I don't know how you are in a relationship. You kind of ran away before I could form an opinion." He chose to ignore this, repeating the latest crop of consolatory advice his friends had offered, how in fact "it's always better when things don't work out because even when a relationship's good, there's always the headache and you're better off at home with air-conditioning."
"You mean to preserve yourself in refrigeration?," I asked. I couldn't laugh at all. Why did he even come back? What did he think he was doing, talking to me all this time, returning year after year like I was his chosen icon for pilgrimage? That now, tired of viewing me in the box he'd packed me in, I was meant to come alive for this hope and cynicism that apparently, I actually didn't inspire. I promptly lost it.
"WHO, do you think you are?," I hissed. "Obviously someone better than me, if you think I'd sleep with you based on a knee jerk reaction so you can feel better. I at least chose you before, remember? I didn't just go How Bout It? Or that I'd even consider it after telling you I'm in love with someone else. You think me so disloyal I'd do that? I wish you judged me better on how I've treated you, which has been nothing but kind. I know you're surrounded by disingenuous people if that passive-aggressive stunt your little girlfriend pulled is anything to go by. Are your views so rigid and so safely cynical you can't see what's real and what's not? You need to know I'm not like that. I'm never going to be like that. And I won't be treated that way. Don't even bother saying you won't email me again or start fruitlessly flogging yourself. Been there, done that remember?"
We were both so afraid of everything wanting one specific person does to you, that neither one of us could ever really relax. We each employed space to defend ourselves, once he told me he didn't want to get too comfortable with anyone for fear he'd lose his appeal. I thought this the anti-thesis of what loving someone should make you feel. But I couldn't judge him too harshly, I was the same.
And now, we were both lying to each other, and we both knew it, I thought ruefully. If either one of us were really interested in someone else, we really wouldn't have spent this much time talking, arguing or irritating each other. The jig was up, but who cared, right? We didn't know what to do with ourselves the second we knew we were both free. I sniffed and squared my shoulders, a little ashamed I'd lied so much about wanting someone else to the one person I was actually drawn to.
Hope, I thought, was really just another form of awful tyranny.