The last time I talked to him, he wanted to go out for a drink. Then after some back and forth on the phone, all of a sudden it was over, and I never heard from him again. One minute I was talking to him, an hour later he wasn't answering my phone calls. Just like that. I was curious, of course, but I wasn't about to dig any deeper. I had already made two unreciprocated attempts at contact, and that's my limit. Any more reeks of desperateness, and I wasn't desperate, or not for him, at least. I did wonder though, if I would ever run into him. I wondered if it was less of an if and more of a when. We seemed to have no trouble running into each other when we were on speaking terms. (This being Cambridge, and capital of all manner of "It's a small world after all" -type coincidences). But still, nearly two months, and nothing.
And then I changed my routine. Took the bus to Harvard Square instead of Central Square. Then, because I was going to the hospital to vote, I took Cambridge St. instead of Broadway. And le voilà. He saw me first. I was walking with my head down, as usual, but even so, I saw the jolt of recognition in his body. Then, because I had been looking for it for months, I noticed his peculiar, bouncy gait, his hunched shoulders. We made eye contact. He looked guilty, like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar. He half-smiled, a shit-eating grin, looking for a reprieve, an unspoken agreement hesitantly spreading its tentacles in the air between us. So that was it then. He was going to continue walking west, I was going to keep going east, each of us smiling awkwardly and knowingly, and pretending nothing had ever happened. It was decided.
But then I changed my mind. Just as we passed each other, I stopped, turned. "Hey?" I said questioningly, eyebrows raised, equal parts breezy nonchalance and measured defiance.
"Hey," he said warily. Guilty eyes. Shit-eating grin.
"What's up?" I said.
"Nothing," he said defensively. "Just saying hi, that's all."
"Hi...How are you?"
"Good, how are you?"
"Ok...Well, bye then." And I spun on my heel and walked away, heading east, off to carry out my patriotic duty. I didn't wait to see the expression on his face, but I imagine it was pure relief.
I don't care, I tried to tell myself. I'm too cool to care. I refuse to lower myself to accusations, to anger, to groveling, to saying Please, just tell me why! That stuff's for crazy psycho chicks, and that's not me. At least, not anymore. I'm twenty-seven now, and beyond these petty little grievances. I don't give a shit why some flaky art history student whose sexual orientation is questionable at best goes all deer-in-the-headlights when he passes me on the street, I tried to tell myself.
I had almost convinced myself, too, when suddenly the entire left side of my lower back spasmed, leading to crippling, hobbling pain. As I walked home hunched over, my hand pressed into the twitching mass of nerves of my back, I thought back on all the psychology classes I had taken over the years, and reconsidered the effectiveness of repressing my emotions. Let's just say the next time I run into him, he better have something more interesting to say, or else be ready to shell out for all the Advil I'm going to need as a result of him being a giant pain in the ass. Er...back.