I was driving home from work late one night, and I was crying. The lines on the road blurred in and out of focus. There was a thick, heavy pain in my chest and cement slowly hardening in my veins. The night before, I sat on my sofa with the phone pressed into my ear, convinced that if I listened hard enough, I'd be able to figure out what was going unsaid in the awkward, halting conversation with the man who had just spent a weekend at my house, talking and eating and drinking and fucking.
"Please," he had said, "please want to kiss me. Please kiss me." And I had kissed him as we lay intertwined on the same sofa where I now found myself alone. I remembered his head on my chest, his legs nestled between mine, his arm wrapped around my neck. I had articulated the curls on his head with my fingers, traced the outline of his lips, touched my own lips lightly to his temples, happy. And then he had asked and we had kissed and then slowly walked upstairs, holding hands, to spread out on my bed and then fuck and fuck. Only it didn't feel like fucking. It felt like making love. It's just in hindsight that I can call it fucking.
He was a former colleague from a high pressure job, and he had been brilliant at the work. After a few years, I had moved on and he had stayed, and slowly, he had stagnated. And then, over a decade later, he had appeared again, saying "I just had to find you," and "I feel . . . optimistic . . . about this. I feel like this is meant to happen," and "can I come visit you?" I had advised him to be careful, that we had a shared history we needed to respect, that we shouldn't play fast and loose with our own hearts. That's when he had said the part about feeling . . . optimistic. So I said yes, come visit.
He stayed an extra day. We slept with our arms wrapped around each other. We talked about that old job. He said "I feel like I'm making peace with that time by talking about it with you. You were there. I feel like I'm back in our past." And I had a sinking sensation that the thing he liked most of all was that I could remind him in ways he had never heard before how good he was at the work. I brought this up, but he brushed it aside. "We are our pasts," he said. We talked as if we were figuring out how to have a long distance relationship. "I want to buy the house next door to you and just be around you forever," he said.
Then he went home and disappeared. Then he updated his facebook page to say he was thinking about a tough decision. Then he told me someone he used to date asked him to move in with her. Then he told me he had turned her down. I asked if he'd been dating her when we were together. He said no. I asked if she thought they were dating and he said a slightly less emphatic no. I asked if he wanted to be dating me. Instead of answering, he said that he needed to take a long walk in the desert and just . . . think. He asked if we could continue this conversation in a week. I told him to enjoy his walk and that I was done.
Periodically, he sends me little text messages, saying "I'm thinking of you" or "I hope you're doing well" or "do you want to come to a party?" and I ignore them. Until he figured out what it was he was . . . thinking . . . about, I wasn't interested in his well wishes or party invitations.
So I was driving home that night, and I was sobbing, and the road was blurring in and out of focus and there was a pain consuming my chest and my heart was forcing something hard and unyielding into my very circulatory system, and I just thought, enough.
This is not a very exciting story. It's an old story -- the same old story, really -- one I see repeated all around me enough to know that I'm supposed to conclude he's just not that into you and quietly walk away. And I decided that while I might walk away from this man; I would not walk away from that behavior until I had named it as the bullshit it was. The next day, I called up an old friend and propositioned him because he had not taken the coward's way out. And then I looked up another man and fucked him. And I started writing my manifesta.
Over the months, I get the same question from people who have found my livejournal: who did this to you? And my answer is this story. One man too many came on with all the ardor of love, only to waft away in the cold light of early morning. It's a boring story because it's so fucking old, and I'm sorry if you were expecting fireworks, or gang rape, or a denouement at the altar, or a cheating spouse. The truth is, what pushed me into this choice was the sort of thing that men do everyday without so much as a fleeting thought. It was the callous disregard for my heart, the almost tactical deployment of a romantic narrative to kink up what should only have been casual sex, the roughshod swath cut through my life by too many men who don't understand that the emotional microaggression that passes for dating these days is like the steady dripping of a leaky sink. Give it enough time, and your house is going to collapse around you.