I honestly didn’t realize it until he called me.
I had just called Steven—who continually claims that he will call me back after work, or after his workout, but hasn’t done so in months; this time it was the workout. It’s a sort of sinking feeling in the shallow pit of my stomach partially encompassing the grief I’ve allowed into my heart ever since I abandoned Steven along with the lusty weekend we spent in Oklahoma—half the time being naked in bed and half the time enjoying joking conversation where his family clearly fell in love with me as I fell in love with him. The feeling is alarming, heavy, and all at once. It pierces the temples of my forehead to consider the idea that we aren’t what we were or what I’d hoped, but it’s not Steven calling me now. Mark is.
Mark’s voice muffled on the phone, “I feel like I haven’t talked to you in days”. I suppose that should be a sweet sentiment, but I had been ignoring his texts because I’d begun to realize that I didn’t really know why I was spending all this time with him.
I suppose it just feels good to be wanted. The way he looks at me, the way he texts me every day and calls when he feels I’ve been distant, the way he kisses me at the absolute most unusual times, and I’m never expecting it because I never desire it—filling that gap between my heart and my mind that I haven’t been able to repair since Jimmy broke me down exactly one year ago, and left me to pick up the pieces of myself that night in the TK Lobby. And now there’s Mark filling the gap between my heart and mind and the one between my thighs.
You see, Mark’s a nice guy. Cute too. He maintains broad shoulders, bluntly rounded biceps and strong forearms. He wants to do what I want to do. And though he’s never been able to make me cum, I think he could probably go for hours at a steady pace in efforts to pleasure me more than anyone has before. He doesn’t though.
Thing is, I don’t really know what I’m doing with Mark. Fooling around, hanging out at first, but now, I’ve been trying to justify our “thing” with the necessary date-type events to compliment our sex. Now our time together mostly revolves around an awkward date—usually over dinner or Netflix—where he asks me the same annoying questions like how my day was, all of which he often asks again after a half hour of conversation, forgetting that he already heard about my day at work, Accounting Information Systems, and reading my poem in front of my Third-Year Writing class when my poem was about grief and they all wrote bubbly poems like aspiring Dr. Seuss’s or Shel Silverstein’s. Of course, then I make the uninvolved decision to either have sex or not with him that night mostly based on whether I shaved my legs or my room is clean.
I’m quite tired of the hefty, burdening pressure that follows each minute I spend with him—the pressure to make something very obviously something that it’s not. My efforts to relieve myself of the hindering guilt that handicaps my self-esteem and poised emotions fail each time he leans in for a comforting kiss, tries to make breakfast for me before I can sneak out in the morning, or waits for an awkward silence to gently tell me how beautiful I am as he romantically tucks the Curly-Q flyaways that branch out around my eyes back into the wreckage of hair that’s clearly protesting his biscuit-brown pillows.
This call made me feel guilty. You see, Mark’s a nice guy. Cute too. And he was calling to make sure everything is alright because he felt like he hadn’t talked to me in days. But that just bothered me more. Why does he care so much? Why does he even like me? He doesn’t even know me. I suppose he should now though.
There was a first realization—I didn’t really enjoy the run-ins we had where I’d give myself to him a couple times a night, exchanging sweat then grossly caressing each other as Lost or Parks & Rec continued on my Smart TV. Our clothes scattered around the room (sometimes I can’t find mine after) would portray an interesting image if anyone were to ever walk in. They’d probably assume a sexual, misty love affair between two passionate college students, but the reality is I don’t really give a damn about him. He annoys me, and the only reason I share my body with him over and over again is an effort to bridge that gap between my heart and brain. Who would think that that gap is the very reason that I’ve chosen to give my time to Mark opposed to hope for Steven or continue to press my mind against the sadness Jimmy left behind.
It would be quite beautiful and perfect if Mark could be that guy. The guy who either breaks my heart and leaves me crying—broken, useless, dissolved, and empty—or whisks me away in a romantic, sexy love affair like Steven but remain 773 miles away, a lengthy 11 hours and 51-minute drive (probably 12.5 hours if I’m driving since I got a speeding ticket this year that left me in tears with a court date 2 hours from where I live—fuck that police officer).
It would be quite perfect if Mark could be a guy like that, so that I could be in pieces, an overwhelming mountain of jigsaw fragments that probably don’t amount to anything that meaningful. But I suppose it feels good to be wanted.
He asked me the usual questions, and I responded, almost monotone and blatantly expressing my disgust through the tone in my voice. He made side-comments like “well I don’t want to bother you” and I politely said, “you’re not”—simply trying to get through the phone call without openly admitting to the guilt and distaste that rested in the pit of my stomach. He asked me what I was doing Friday (the Friday of Valentine’s day weekend). Stupid me, how could I not remember that that is why he called? I told him about my date with a guy from Vanderbilt. We finished the conversation with “talk to you soon’s” and “it was nice to hear from you’s”. It was then that I hung up and continued with my reading.
And it was also then, after I’d humbly accepted how deteriorating and haunting my relations with Mark were, that Steven called.