I thought things were on an upswing, I really did. I swallowed my stupid pride and made nice and we went out on Saturday and had a really good time. Dinner, a play, his house, then a bar and a band and a drink. Doritos were had, but we went out again after, so staying the night wasn't an issue. And yes, he dropped me off at home at the end of the night, but it was late and I had to work the next morning, and it was fine. I was fine. Then last night, dinner and an Indian music and dance performance. Back to my house for some down time and a Netflixed episode of Ally McBeal, which in retrospect may not have been a wise choice. (Ally, could you not be a bit less whiny and clingy and utterly terrifying to males everywhere?) And then, out of the blue, he was saying that he couldn't even believe he was bringing this up, but, well, he'd been having conversations with friends lately, and it had him all uptight because, well, what are the unspoken rules of relationships, anyway?
Um? I said.
Because these friends, he said, they were making all kinds of assumptions about him and us and his obligations towards me and it was making him feel very chokey and tense because, to be honest, he's feeling very commitment-phobic lately.
If this had been Ally McBeal, you would have heard a low hiss as I slowly deflated and shrank into nothing. Maybe a shot of me with a chest full of arrows, pierced through the heart by a bow and arrow-wielding CGI-enhanced dancing baby. But it wasn't, and so instead I just said, "Oh." Then, "Are you commitment-phobic in general, or just...now?"
"No, I haven't always been commitment-phobic, I think I'm just reaching a point in my life where I am."
So just this time, then, I thought. Just with me.
"What's the opposite of phobic?" he asked.
"Philic," I said, because that was what I could do. I couldn't for the life of me come up with an appropriate response that would encompass the depth of what I was feeling, but Latin suffixes I could do. Hydrophilic. Francophile.
"Is that what you are?" he asked. There didn't seem to be a word to describe someone who is neither phobic nor philic but who is happy taking the middle of the road, because everyone knows that any time there is something to love there is also necessarily something to fear. But I didn't know the suffix for this, and so I said nothing.
"I'm sorry," he said, "I guess that's a dumb question." I still said nothing. "You're very quiet," he said.
"I... I just... I don't know," I said. "I don't know."
"I'm sorry," he said again. "This is obviously not what you were expecting to hear."
"No," I said, my voice sounding unnaturally shrill, "actually, it is. It is."
But I couldn't give voice to any of the thoughts that were running through my mind, namely, Why are you telling me this? Why now? What do you want from me? What do you want?
"Well, maybe you need some time to think," he said, (No, I don't, I thought). "Then we can talk about things and figure out if we want to keep seeing each other on a more casual basis."
"More casual," I repeated dumbly. "More casual?"
"Now you're just repeating what I'm saying," he said, obviously missing the point.
We see each other about twice a week. I have never pressured him for more. On days I don't see him I don't call, and I hardly ever text. We don't e-mail and we aren't friends on Facebook. We have never discussed a future further in advance than next week. He's mentioned my upcoming birthday and I brush it off, saying, "Let's not talk about that." I've made it clear he is under no boyfriend-type birthday-celebrating obligations whatsoever. We have sex and we go home to our own beds. One time I slipped up and asked him to spend the night; one time. And now this? More casual, he says?
As if reading my mind, he said, "It's not anything you've done; I think we've been having a really good time just hanging out. I have fun with you, and I'm obviously really attracted to you. It's just, like I said, these conversations with my friends. They say there are certain expectations involved, and when I feel like there are expectations, I start to feel really...trapped." He waited expectantly, but I couldn't say what I knew to be true. That this was the last time I would be seeing him. Oh, sure, between yoga and trivia nights and the smallness of Mythaca we would surely run into each other again (and again and again), but this night, this was it. The last time we would lay on my bed with our legs intertwined, which we were, we still were, even through all this. Our torsos had by now separated in self-defense, our hearts protecting themselves via the safety of the chasm growing between us, but for now, by habit, our legs still clung together. A slow cleaving of ourselves.
"Well..." he said in response to my non-response. "This is what I'm guessing you're thinking, and stop me if I'm wrong here. You're thinking you probably don't want me hanging out here for much longer..." (I almost smiled. It was the one thing he had gotten right all night.) "...and you probably want some time to think things over." (Nope.) "So it's good if I go, then?" I nodded. He put his shoes on.
The sound of a front door closing can be the saddest sound in the world.