theme for a late winter fling, part four

Saturday morning, he texts. Small talk for a bit, then we drift into more serious territory. Before I know it, we're having a state of the union discussion. I tell him I don't want to be physically intimate anymore. That I still haven't recovered from the emotional devastation wrought by the relationship I had late last year. Which is true, and a large reason why I've never wanted to sleep with him. I've been associating sex with negative emotions since then, and, much as I've tried to get past it, I haven't yet. I've been dialing it in. It's sucked.

I try to explain. That part of me got very badly hurt last year, I say. So to protect itself, it packed the fuck up and left town. I don't know when it's coming back. I miss it, but I don't know how to get it back. This isn't actually the first time I've told him this, but he hasn't seemed to really get it. He seems to now, finally. He tells me he understands, and respects it completely. I like hanging out with you, he writes. You're amazing.

It's not easy to admit something so personal about what I'm going through, and I say as much. Part of why I'm so upset is I fear you'll jet. And I like you in my life. I love who I am around you. I'm not usually so relaxed and confident and clever.

That's just you being you, he says back. You are relaxed, confident, and kinda clever. We spend a few lines arguing over who's the bigger mess emotionally, and promise to still hang out, provided we can manage to be truly just friends and not ride the fence. However, he says, he likes that I used the word "jet" because it suggests that were he to leave, it would be quickly and in style. And I appreciate that, he says. Better than prop-planing it out of there.

A little bit later, he makes a crack about visiting a wedding chapel downtown. When I don't answer, he nudges, Harhar? I had been busy getting ready for the housewarming party, and explain as much. That's very nice of you. All those cold houses need help. Is it with a housewarming organization?

Stop it, I say.

I'm sorry, he writes back. But if it's a volunteer thing, I'd like to donate my time once or twice a month.

I have nothing to wear, I whine. I hate all my clothes.

Well you're gonna need to wear some if this place is as cold as it sounds.

This morning, I have computer trouble and text him for help. He tells me to bring my laptop upstairs for a look. We walk his dog together and go for breakfast afterward. I ask him if he has any nicknames for his dog. "Yes," he says. "Bad dog."

"No really," I say. "What do you call him? You must have some cute little endearments, that you say just when you're alone." He looks at me, his eyes laughing but his mouth serious. "Syd. Syd Vicious. InSydious. Sydmeister. John Smalls. Mr. Nixon. Fluffy McGee. Malaysia." He goes on for another two minutes, the names growing ever more ridiculous. He doesn't stop to think once. They just pour out of him. I can't get a bite of food down, and I beg him to quit it. "What?" he asks, deadpanning. "Those are all his names. You asked."

Back at his apartment, I sit on his lap while we reinstall software on my laptop. He plays a song for me. A pair of hot tears catch me off guard. I jump up abruptly to collect myself privately in the bathroom, but he sees my expression and grabs my arm before I can escape. "What is it?" he asks quietly. "Why are you crying?" His eyes are soft and understanding. It still amazes me how amber they are.

I just shake my head, and he doesn't press. "Come here," he says, and uses the corner of his shirt to wipe my face. There's no point in either of us saying what hangs heavily in the air: that the situation sucks. That it's a shame. That we get along perfectly, and we're crazy about one another's personalities. That there is chemistry and strong attraction, despite my temporarily damaged sense of sexuality.

That it would never, ever get off the ground because he's ten years younger than me, and that it's better to rip off the bandaid now before we grow any more attached.

We go to the couch and he holds me on his chest for the last time. "Your shoes are filthy," he says. "That's because they're shoes," I reply. "No, really. Look." He grabs my phone. "Bend your knees," he commands, and snaps a picture. "See?" He holds up an image of my soles, grey with grime.

When my desktop and files finally appear on my computer, I get up to leave. He walks me to the door and kisses my cheek. I hear the door latch shut behind me as I turn the corner of his hall.

Back at home, I add the photo he took to an iPhoto event I've titled "Upstairs." There are less than twenty photos in it.