On Monday night Daniel came over. He’d got a haircut – short back and sides, with a funny looking little tuft in the front. I’d forgotten all about it, but Michael once had a haircut just like that. “Oh, it’s cute,” I exclaimed, and stroked his hair. It was stiff with gel. “Ah!” Daniel looked sheepish. I giggled.
In my room he stretched his long body out on my bed. I cuddled up to him, and he started to laugh. “What?” I said.
“No, you just nuzzle up so close,” he said. It was true, may face was buried in his neck. My turn to be sheepish. “I like it,” he reassured me.
“How’s Wendy?” I asked. Last week his roommate had been broken up with by her boyfriend of a year and a half, without warning. This reminded me of my break up with Michael, so I felt particularly sympathetic. And because I believe that the best way to get over one man is to get under another, I had had a brilliant idea: she should come to an orgy, and have sex with Jefferson! I’d promptly emailed Jefferson and he’d been game.
“They got together; I think they had sex,” Daniel said.
“Really? Jefferson didn’t tell me that.” Sometimes he is so discreet. “I’m so glad,” I went on. “I think it’s really important to have sex with someone else as soon as possible after a breakup. I think it really takes your mind off the breakup and reminds you that you are attractive.”
“Yeah, well,” and here Daniel smirked, “Wendy and I had sex last week.”
“Daniel!” I socked him on the arm. “You did?”
“Yeah, we were just hanging out in my room, lying on my bed together and…”
“But Daniel,” I said, mortified, “Last week the whole time I was going on about how important it is to have sex after a break up you’d already had sex with her?”
“No, that was later.”
“Oh,” I said mollified. But still. The thought of Wendy’s post-breakup sex life, and my efforts to encourage it, somehow seemed less appealing now.
We lay there for a minute, not talking.
After a few moments Daniel said, “I think this woman I’ve been dating and I are getting serious.”
I didn’t move, but I felt tears prick my eyes.
And then I felt guilty because it wasn’t so much that Daniel was ending it, but that, coming on top of my debacle with Evan, not to mention my still-simmering misery over Jeremy, I felt I was owed a little karmic good will. Now this?
I hadn’t cried before, when Daniel had been in tears and I’d comforted him. I wiped my cheek.
“OK,” I said. And sniffled.
Then Daniel started to cry, too. So there were the two of us, weeping and cuddling and nodding emphatically at one another. Eventually I had to go to the bathroom for a roll of toilet paper. I handed him a hank of paper, and noisily blew my own nose.
“It’s just sad,” Daniel cried. “I don’t want you to think I’m choosing her over you. It’s not like that. I wish you could love two people at once.”
Well, of course some people do that. And maybe Daniel is one of them. I’m not, however.
“It’s OK,” I kept repeating, even though I couldn’t stop crying. And I think he was right – we don’t have a future together, and he wants a serious relationship, and he’s attracted to someone new. But still.
And, hesitating, I said, “Was it because I want children? Was that the reason?” I had refrained from asking that question before, because I make it a policy not to ask for information I may not like. But now I was risking my pride in the hope that he would say yes, the only reason he was choosing this new girl was because I want kids and he doesn't. But what if it was because he felt something for her he'd never felt for me? What he just didn’t see us together? I didn’t see us together, for that matter, but still.
“I don’t know,” he said slowly. “I don’t know if that was all of it. I do know that knowing that about you [that I want kids] made me hold myself back.”
“You made yourself hold yourself back?” I said, distracted.
“I didn’t know it was hard for you. I didn’t know you had to hold yourself back. That makes me feel a little better.” I started to cry again, sad, relieved tears. “And that’s why I couldn’t respond to your emails right away,” I went on, emboldened. “That was my way of holding myself back.”
“I know,” he said.
“You knew?” I hadn’t figured Daniel for that much insight. I squirmed in his arms. “The whole time I was trying to be detached and you knew it was just a front?”
“Well, not the whole time,” Daniel admitted. “But I caught on eventually.”
“Oh,” I said again, embarrassed.
There was more in this vein – tears interspersed with cuddling and kissing and as our clothes came off, I half-whispered, passionately, “Listen, tonight I want you to let me say all the things I haven’t let myself say to you, OK?”
I climbed on top of him in the dim light and started to cry again. “I love you,” I declared, my voice clogged with tears.
“I love you too,” he said.
We had sex and the funny thing is, I have no recollection of it whatsoever. I think I came. I think he did. And then I think we cried some more, and then we went to sleep.