‘Look,’ he said down the phone. ‘I get it, and you’re right: it would be easier if we didn’t see each other again. But… I want to. Just for lunch, for an hour. So I can wish you luck for your trip properly.’
I. Did. Not. Want. To. See. Him.
‘That makes me really uncomfortable,’ I said. ‘Let’s just leave it. I’m fine, you’re fine – it’s…fine.’
The night before he’d come over, late, after work. I knew, inevitably, that we’d capital-t Talk, even though his 10 p.m. arrival meant our evening was essentially
a booty call designed for spooning. In texts and phone calls my trip away had been coming up more and more frequently, and whilst he was as excited for me as I was to share the details of my plans, it also served as a stark reminder that no matter how much fun getting to know each other might be, it’d be on temporary hold soon enough.
That’s kind of a passion killer.
And look, this isn’t my story to tell, but I was very aware that the last woman in his life to take a trip away for two months did A Bad Thing (cheat), and he found out when he flew halfway around the world to do The Ultimate Good Thing (propose). I understood that no matter how hard I tried (how hard do I want to try? I asked myself, over and over) there was no level of communication I could feasibly maintain to reassure him I wasn’t doing the same. See also: do Sicily know that the Internet has even been invented?
So I’d told him. I’d said, ‘I can’t go away with a man to my name.’
I was keeping things light. Breezy. Non-committal. What’s the big deal? I reasoned with myself. Two months isn’t anything. Anything can still happen when I’m back. The fact that two months seemed like forever with this one made me think twice.
I’d protested too much, though. When he came over, that night, he was characteristically to the point: he couldn’t get any more attached. It was what I had said I’d wanted too, right? Or was it? Weren’t we going to see other people and see where things were when I got back at the beginning of August?
I couldn’t find my words to respond. I didn’t want him dating other people. But… I wanted to date other people. I think. At the very least I didn’t want to be held responsible to a man I barely know as I travelled. Between you and me, Internet, I knew I’d be crossing paths with more than one ghost of my
sexual romantic past this summer.
And so that became the lay of the land, a few weeks ago, not long after I’d admitted to myself that I might in trouble with this one. We decided not to take things any further, but we were friends, we were friendly, and who knows what the future could hold?
That almost right away he wanted to meet wasn’t what I’d had in mind when we said ‘future’, though, and no matter how cool I’d played it -- sure, yeah, have a great summer, we’ll catch up soon -- it smarted that he didn’t fight for me.
Oh! That’s interesting. I didn’t know that until I just typed it. But yup – it’s absolutely true. That I feigned uncertainty and he didn’t argue with me on it – insist that I should continue to fall no matter how awkward, inconvenient, confusing it might be. My pride was dented and I didn’t want it to continue to be dented as I boarded my plane. It would be easier to pretend I didn’t care if I didn’t have to see him again before I left.
‘But… I have a birthday present for you,’ he said.
And that’s how we came to lying in Cavendish Square Gardens, not 24 hours after I’d written him off for at least the next little while, me marvelling at an obscenely thoughtful gift as we lay without touching, side by side, and then (because of course) wrapped around each other lazily in my bed hours before I flew. It’s when you’re definitely not supposed to that you absolutely have to.
That version of see you later was what we both deserved, though. Not the angry, hurt feelings one. Thoughtfulness, some tenderness, a sweet final kiss and a genuine promise that, ‘Just because I don’t call, it doesn’t mean I’m not thinking of you.’
And I am. I’m thinking of him. And I’m thinking how lovely – there’s no other word for it – to have had a short-lived but quite perfect affair with somebody of such upstanding calibre.