The band-aid is off, and I haven't even had time to feel the pain. Oh, sure, I moped for a day or two, but it's been nothing compared to my usual ability to fixate. I have effectively replaced one James with another, it seems; one whose wife has been conveniently out of town for the last two weeks. I was in his living room, in fact, when I gave my final, floundering break-up speech, as he and his friend S. waited in the kitchen, pretending not to listen. The last thing Jimmy said to me: "Are you on your period?"
With that, and his not-so-subtle implication that I was acting irrationally, something inside of me snapped. So, rather than accept any responsibility for his part in our falling apart, he gets to blame it on my hormones, just by virtue of being a man? Well, fuck that, I decided. "Maybe," I fumed. "Anyway... shut up!" Like the wordsmith I am.
"Do you want to call me tomorrow?" he said.
"Sure," I said. "I guess. Whatever." But then I didn't. And it was finally over.
After that my phone still rang, still said James, but it wasn't him, anymore. Now it was my friend James, my married friend James, and we went to pub trivia together, yoga together, movies together. He made dinner at his house for me and his friend S., S. falling asleep in a chair after. There was the night he brought out the guitars and he and S. played and I sang, pulling up guitar tab on the laptop, looking up the Beatles, Dylan. That night we stayed until two in the morning, and every time a beer bottle emptied a new one appeared, as if by magic, when I wasn't looking. S. fell asleep again, but for us sleep wasn't even a question, and we huddled by the laptop watching Pulp videos, our heads bent close together. We looked up at S. as his eyelids fluttered and he breathed a deep sigh, and then we looked at each other. "I feel like he's the dad," he whispered, and I giggled, and for a second we both imagined ourselves as teenagers, and wondered what we could get away with under S.'s drowsy, paternal eye. What we could get away with being nothing, of course. Of course it was nothing. He was married, and I went home.
Then S. went to visit his sister for the weekend, and James and I met again in his living room, just the two of us this time. There had to be a line, I knew, but where was it? I started a mental list. Things That Are Not Crossing the Line: both of us hanging out at his house alone. And then, back massages also apparently were not considered to be crossing the line. I closed my eyes and gave in to it. "Isn't it uncomfortable to not wear underwear with jeans?" he asked.
"I am wearing underwear," I said. "It's low rise." But where must his hands have been to come to that conclusion?
I wanted to kiss him, imagined the possibility of it, but then thought, What if that's crossing the line? But, maybe there is no line, I almost convinced myself. Maybe the line is an illusion. I finally talked myself out of it by imagining how I would feel the next day if I did (like a fool) and if I didn't (relieved.) I decided to go with relief. He gave me a hug, and I went home.
Last night seemed to be a safe enough situation: a group of us at the bar playing trivia. Three guys drinking and talking and all the bawdiness that goes with it, and me. "But Rachel," S. said as I rolled my eyes, "it's a compliment. It just means we're comfortable with you!"
"Lucky me," I groaned, and then smiled. We all joked and laughed, and James and I teased each other and flirted as only a guy and a girl who have never had sex can do. He walked me to my car, we said goodnight, hugged, and my lips pressed into his cheek because they couldn't not. I got home, thought we were safe, but then, he called me.
"Do you think it would ruin our friendship if we had sex?" he said.
I paused. I couldn't say I was stunned by the question, but its timing, at 1:00 in the morning, threw me. "If I was worried about ruining something," I said carefully, "the first thing I would be concerned about wouldn't be our friendship."
"Right," he said. "My marriage."
"Right," I said.
"I do love my wife," he said. "I really do."
"I know," I said.
"But honestly, I'm more concerned about you," he said. "You deserve someone who's not attached. I know that."
"I know," I said.
"It's just, I've been having such a good time hanging out with you..."
"I know. But I can't stop thinking about what happens when your wife gets back. We're not going to be able to hang out like this anymore; I won't be able to come to your house. Yeah, I'll still see you at trivia once a week, but...this sucks."
"I can't pretend it's going to be the same," he said. "It's not."
I remembered how it felt, wanting to kiss him so badly, I remembered him touching my hair, once, twice, briefly, and pulling his hand away.
"If you didn't have to get up early tomorrow..." he said.
"I do have to get up early tomorrow," I said.
"Well, goodnight," he said.
I didn't know if I should post this. It's too personal, too private, too much, and I know this. I guess I'm still learning my boundaries. Still looking for that elusive line, and hoping not to trip over it along the way. But. Just don't crucify him. Don't crucify me. We are just two fucked up people, though certainly not the only two in the world. Nothing is done, and yet everything is; what we've done already is far too much. But, ultimately I am selfish, and cannot bring myself to give up one of the only friends I have here. And so I find myself sliding further and further into this morass, and I don't understand how something can be wrong and feel so right. (And you know it must be bad when I slip into such nauseating clichés.)
I might turn off comments; I don't know. Just, please, please, be kind.