And so I talked to him. After a long day at school and nearly three more hours of class at the college after, I sat with him on his sofa after dinner, barely able to keep my eyes open. "Why don't you go lie down in my room?" he suggested, and so I did, and he unsurprisingly followed right after. We hadn't seen each other in nearly a week, and I knew he was hungry to be touched. We lied down like spoons in a drawer, and he rubbed my back gently. "So what's going on with you?" I began, a question that could be interpreted in myriad ways. I had wanted to keep the talking separate from the cuddling; after all, a good cuddle can so quickly make one lose one's resolve. But who knew when I would see him again, at this rate, and anyway, accusations sound so much less accusatory when mumbled into ear folds and neck nooks, and I wanted to avoid emotions and high drama at all costs.
"Nothing," he answered back; a fair enough response to my altogether vague question.
"It's just that," I said calmly, coolly, rationally, "well, something seems different between us lately. I don't know what it is, but something's just...different, and I wanted to know if you thought so too."
"Nope," he replied sleepily, still rubbing my back. "Everything's good. I'm just busy, is all."
So, he was going with the non-response, though this wasn't altogether a surprise. I kept probing, gently, gently. "Yeah," I said, "that makes sense. Everyone gets busy once in a while."
"It's just that," I continued, "I can't help but feel that something's changed. In the beginning, when we were first hanging out, you were all about me meeting your family and talking about us taking trips together. You just seemed excited about being together. And lately there hasn't been any of that."
He persisted in his vague non-responses, brushing me off with half-mumbled assurances: "don't worry," "all good," "no problem." I waited, but there was no elaboration, nothing. Like I said, I wasn't altogether surprised. But still. Still.
"You're not very talkative tonight," I mentioned, as silence reigned and we curled up close, so close together.
"Maybe I'm just not a talkative guy," he said, as if that was the answer to everything. I mulled it over. I was willing to consider it, except...
"Well, not to belabor the point," I said, "but when we first started hanging out, you were very talkative. You were always telling me how much you liked me, and when we weren't together you always texted. You didn't have any problems talking, then."
He heaved a sigh, and spoke. "Have you ever thought that maybe I'm afraid of commitment?" he said.
One beat of my heart. Two beats. Three. "Yes," I said evenly. "I had actually considered that." And how could I not? Although at this rate it's beginning to feel like an all too predictable line in an even more predictable movie, and I refrained from telling him that in the future he might want to avoid such blatant attempts at Hollywood cliche. Though he might have felt like a special, unique flower, I, and a long line of commitment-phobes before him, knew differently.
"Well," he said, the shrug implied in his voice, "that's it. I'm afraid of commitment." I did what I do best in these kinds of situations and said nothing, now, and he, forced to pick up the conversational slack, continued. "It's just that, I could be in Colorado in a month," he said, referencing a job he had applied to, "and you're probably leaving in a few months, too. Why make it harder on ourselves?" He went on, saying that he was torn; for a while he was really thinking about settling down, building his own house, and "everything that goes along with that." But now, there was Colorado, and the allure of skiing all the time. "And you don't like snow," he said, as if this was a logical thing to say. Now, instead of settling and house-building, he said, he was itching for the next adventure, somewhere, Colorado, or somewhere else, anywhere. He talked, and we talked, all the way around it and through it, and never did come to any conclusion. What I didn't think to say then, and wish I had, was, "I don't remember asking you for a commitment. So this really is some kind of bullshit. Why don't you just say that you don't actually like me that much?"
What I did say was, "I was ready to break up with you at least twice in the last couple weeks. Well, not break up with you since we're not actually together, apparently, but you know what I mean. I don't do well with ambiguity. I'm either in or I'm out, so, you know, that's where I'm coming from."
And still, even still, all of this, and still there was cuddling, and still there was kissing, like there always had been. When I finally said I had to go home, it was late, he urged me to stay. I didn't, I couldn't, not on a school night and when I still had work to do, and so I left. "I feel like I'm never going to hear from you again," he said, and for some reason this surprised me. No, it was the other way around if it was anything, wasn't it? Or was it? I texted him the next day, bounced the ball back in his court if he wanted it, though it's looking less and less likely. But still, nothing definitive, he's still straddling that fence with his long and tall legs, half-heartedly batting the ball back every once in a while. But this is what the truth really is:
About three weeks ago he asked what I was doing on April 15th, "tax day," he said, though as it turns out it isn't. I shrugged, because Friday, three weeks in advance? Hmm, dunno. Because it was his brother's birthday, he said, and he was having a dinner with some friends, and, no pressure, but he'd really like it if I went along, too. I had previously said no to meeting family, because hello, we had just started dating, and so he extended this new invitation to me hesitantly, but hopefully. You see, this was back when I was the one who was afraid, and oh, how much things can change in just three short weeks. I mulled it over briefly, and said, "Yeah, that sounds really nice, actually. I'd like to go with you." This was back when I felt happy, for once, and hopeful, and confident that the thing we were building wouldn't all come crashing down around my ears, even though it had a dozen times before, even though it undoubtedly would again.
I'm sure it goes without saying that I never heard another word about the dinner, which I can only assume, at 8:23 p.m., is going on right now, without me. I'm sure I will hear from him again, maybe tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, and he will maybe even want to hang out, but it doesn't matter. It's already done.
Maybe the next time a guy comes along saying all the right things I'll finally have learned not to listen.