The Pretenders (Stop Your Sobbing)

(Site news: 1) Here’s the Saturday post I’ve owed you guys for 3 weeks! I’ve finally written far enough ahead I can post a bonus post! 2) Yes, yes, if you would like to see what happened during the J/Daron make-up sex, make a donation and I’ll write it and send it! 3) And tomorrow, there will be liner notes! -ctan)

The next day I felt better but worse. Better because I felt like I’d gotten a lot off my chest, worse because I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. They use that phrase “through the wringer” to mean emotionally, but physically I felt about the same, tender and stiff.

I had one of those hot showers where most of what I did was stand there with my hands against the tile, letting the hot water hit me in the head. The sound of the water isn’t “soothing” so much as numbing. It blots everything out like static on the radio.

What the hell did you do, Daron? Did you really just agree to stay with him?

No, I broke up with him, just… later.

Do you really believe you’re getting out by Christmas?

I have to believe that, or I’ll go insane.

You’re already insane if you’re arguing with yourself like this.

Jonathan, for his part, seemed in a good, if subdued, mood. “It’s Sunday,” he said. “Let’s brunch.”

“When did that become a verb?” I asked.

“Probably in 1920s New York,” he said, either missing or ignoring my sarcasm. “Come on. I’ll drive.”

He drove us to a place that I felt we could have walked to, but, you know, no one walks anywhere in L.A. We ordered our usual things, but now that I was thinking of myself as broken up with him, it seemed unusual that he liked his eggs runny.

I could not decide whether to feel normal or not. We acted normal, by which I mean we acted like we hadn’t had an epic breakup the night before. But I still felt like we’d had an epic breakup. But maybe I should feel weird about sitting there like we were still together. Jonathan was his usual chatty self, reading me bits of the newspaper as we paged through a Sunday Times someone had left behind.

Then our upstairs neighbors walked past our table. One of them gave me a starkly obvious venomous glare.

More surprising to me was the other one gave Jonathan a look of disapproval, and then they went on their way without saying anything.

Almost simultaneously we both said, “What was that all about?”

“I thought Jerry liked you,” Jonathan said.

“I thought they both liked you,” I answered. “I’m betting they’re disappointed you didn’t toss me out yesterday.”

Jonathan shook his head. “It can’t be they’re mad that we’re moving out on the first. I haven’t told anyone yet.”

“Maybe our ceiling is thinner than we think.”

“Oh, probably.” He folded the paper, then his hands. “Well, I did tell Robert we were having some troubles.”

“Oh, really.” That was my neutral, unemotional “oh, really” not my accusing, warning-bells “oh, really.”

“Jerry thinks you’re sweet, if a little dumb–”

“What?”

“Which made me wonder when he’s talked to you. I was under the impression you never talked to them.”

“I guess Jerry’s the one who gave me the basil.”

“Basil?”

“That first time I did the candlelight dinner in the courtyard? Jerry got curious what I was doing with the furniture outside and he gave me the fresh basil for the tomato salad.” I remembered that both times I’d set up a romantic, candle-lit dinner, Jerry had come to chat. I also remembered that both times Jonathan and I had sex afterward. And both times we’d had a talk about how the reason I’d done it hadn’t been to try to get him to put out. One time we had the talk first, then the sex, and one time after. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It was a good thing we were breaking up so I wouldn’t have to test the theory of what would happen if I set up a candlelight dinner and then we didn’t have sex just to prove that I wasn’t being manipulative or that Jonathan wasn’t that easily manipulated…

My head hurt. “He got all inquisitive the second time, too, and asked me a bunch of questions about your parents and stuff. He thinks I’m dumb?”

“No, not like that.” Jonathan chuckled. “And who gives a fuck what they think? You’re smart, Daron.”

“Just not about relationships.”

“No one is smart about relationships. It has to be learned.” He squeezed my fingers and sipped his coffee. “Trial and error.”

We did some record and book shopping on the way home and then had a quiet day at the apartment, reading and listening to things. Jonathan bought a box of Christmas cards at the bookstore and wrote a bunch of them out to his old editors to remind them he existed. We had mac and cheese with tuna and peas in it for dinner. All in all, a very “normal” day.

Later, we sat on the couch listening to the Stone Roses album. I’d liked what I heard on the radio, and I liked the sound of the band overall, which was unique and interesting. But the album as a whole was kind of bland.

Sometime after I’d lost interest in the Stone Roses, Jonathan began coming on to me, tentatively, like he wasn’t sure it was going to be okay.

I caught his hands and kissed him. “You sure?”

“Well, we are technically still on vacation,” he joked lightly, “plus you did say you thought every day was reasonable.”

“True. I meant it when I said I’m game whenever you are, J.”

“Let’s go to bed, then, before I chicken out for some reason.”

So we had considerably gentler sex than we’d had the day before, with considerably less crying. I’m not sure it was any quieter than usual, though.

Afterward we lay there and I wondered about our upstairs neighbors again. “If they can hear us, though, how come we never hear them?”

“Maybe they neither fight nor have sex,” Jonathan suggested. “I’m pretty sure they see us as the sitcom that moved in downstairs. The nerdy writer and his heavy metal boyfriend.”

“You’re not nerdy.”

“And you’re not heavy metal. But they don’t know that.” He sighed, and I guessed he was thinking about how we had run into them earlier today.

“Good things looks can’t kill,” I said.

“Yeah. Oh well. I guess they didn’t like us as well as I thought. You’re probably right. They think I should kick you out. How wrong they are. About everything.”

“You could still kick me out if you decide it was a mistake to talk me into staying for another month.”

“Not likely,” he said, and squeezed me tighter.

“I guess I should book my flight back to Boston,” I said. “I already told Carynne and Courtney I’m coming back around the holidays, but that was it, haven’t made any plans other than that.” I left unspoken that I hadn’t firmed up the plans yet partly because I had been thinking I needed to be in New Jersey at Christmas.

That was what did it, you know, said the voice in my head. The last straw. New Jersey at Christmas? You dodged a bullet.

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Comments 8

  1. M.C.A. Hogarth wrote:

    Still very much not liking this situation. At all. It is squicky.

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    This. I second this.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    It’s so fraught. We’re both emotionally battered and in need of comfort, and here we are in a strange city where the only people we have to lean on are each other. So we are.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Dec 2013 at 11:53 am
  2. Nona wrote:

    I’m with the upstairs neighbors.

    Cover your part of the month’s rent and either stay with Remo or head back to Boston. Y’all are still playing happy boyfriends. Not good for either of you.

    [Reply]

    Linda Reply:

    Couldn’t agree with you more!

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Does nobody believe in gentle breakups? I refuse to believe the only way to do it is to rip free and leave a gaping, bleeding wound.

    [Reply]

    Cris Reply:

    Because there’s no such thing. Breakups suck regardless of the circumstances. You’re both going to bleed. Might as well acknowledge that than to try and pretend it’s not happening.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I just don’t/can’t/won’t believe that. If I believe every breakup in my life is going to mean carnage, I’m never getting into another relationship ever again.

    [Reply]

    Linda Reply:

    I am not against gentle break-ups, I just think you are being so gentle that Jonathan isn’t getting the message. I really thinks you are still a couple and that it is going to work out. Especially if you start having sex with him daily.

    [Reply]

    Linda Reply:

    I hate this little comment box, hard to proof read comments…meant to say “he thinks you are still a couple….”

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    You can make the comment box bigger! Just drag it from its corner.

    [Reply]

    sanders Reply:

    Linda, you can stretch the box with the little cluster of dots in the lower right corner.

    Daron, the tag says “being broken up is a weirder state than being together,” right? And that’s because you’re thinking you’ve broken up and still treating it like the relationship is just fine. You agreed to keep dating, shagging, and living with him for a month for god’s sake. That’s not broken up. That’s not a “gentle break up.” That’s still being in the relationship and still playing house, still humoring Jonathan. Sure it’s an easy lay for you, and you get some measure of support from him, but it also means you’re leaving the door wide open for things to go right back to where they were.

    There’s a mile-wide gulf between a gaping hole break up and what you’re doing, which is the anti-break up. In between lies things like you could have gone to stay at Remo’s instead of keeping up the charade of playing house. You could move things actively into being friends and meet up for meals or coffee or whatever instead of continuing to share a bed and an apartment. You could even trade handjobs at those meet ups if you had to, but you could be doing anything else except continuing to do the exact same things you were doing (albeit with a different mindset on your part–not at all convinced it’s changed on Jonathan’s) before.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I feel like moving out but still meeting up regularly would be pointless. If the point of staying there for another month is that he needs me, then me moving out but still getting together with him is worse for both of us. No one gets what they want in that case, and it would feel way weirder to me. That, to me, would feel a lot more like we were trying to reboot and rekindle than doing what we’re doing.

    [Reply]

    Kunama Reply:

    Doing it the way Remo does is probably the gentlest. There’s always going to be some hurt and tears.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Maybe I’ll try the Remo way next time…

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Dec 2013 at 12:24 pm
  3. Linda wrote:

    Well, Daron, I am sticking with what I said about the last post. Even if you book your flight, I think you will be heading to meet Jonathan’s parents. You don’t see it but you didn’t have an epic break up, you are still a couple. Jonathan sees it as a little bump in your relationship that he is going to work on fixing. And as arrogant as he is, I am sure it will be you that still needs fixing! I think continuing to have sex with him is a bad thing. You see it as friends with benefits, he sees it a mending the relationship. Nona is right, cover your part of the rent, book your flight and LEAVE now while you can!! Sorry, but he will just keep guilting you into staying. One month will lead to two, etc…. *screaming* ZIGGY, where are you????!!! Please come back and save Daron from this mess!

    [Reply]

    Connie Reply:

    Ditto what Linda and everyone else says. except the part about Ziggy saving you from this mess. Ziggy MAKES messes, he doesn’t fix them. I still miss him, though.

    [Reply]

    Linda Reply:

    Connie, you are right, I didn’t word the part about Ziggy correctly. Ziggy does make messes but I feel that if he was around, Daron might find it easier to leave J. I am also hopeful that if and when we ever see Ziggy again, things may be different for D and Z in a good way. I hope that as much as Daron is learning about relationships, maybe Ziggy is growing and learning too. *fingers crossed*

    [Reply]

    Bill Heath Reply:

    Daron has already left Jonathan. And Jonathan acknowledged that when he said Daron loves Ziggy.There will be no Christmas in New Jersey and Daron will be back in Boston soon.

    Jonathan is seeking comfort and companionship from Daron, and I believe accepts that it’s all he can hope for. Therefore, it’s enough for him.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    LOL. Sometimes two wrongs make a right?

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    It’s true. If Ziggy waltzed in, snapped his fingers, and said “get over here” I would go in a second. Which is everything that is wrong with my relationship with Ziggy.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Dec 2013 at 12:45 pm
  4. Lenalena wrote:

    I am going to spare you all the projecting of my own past break ups, so I am just, yeah.

    *small voice* I am ready for Ziggy to come home now.

    [Reply]

    Nona Reply:

    Yeah, I think most of us relate too well to what’s going on.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Just think of all the epic breakup songs I’ll be able to write later, though. (Only half joking here…)

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I realize everything I know about breakups I learned from pop songs, but I have to figure this out and feel my way through it.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Dec 2013 at 1:05 pm
  5. sanders wrote:

    This comment system still befuddles me.

    Linda, are we psychic twins? I do agree with Connie on whether Ziggy would save Daron or not (although not about the messes part), though. Everything else, I’m right there with you, especially the part about Jonathan just seeing that as a bump in the road and Daron still needing to be fixed.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Dec 2013 at 2:30 pm
  6. Janie Friedman wrote:

    I third this.

    [Reply]

    Janie Friedman Reply:

    (M. C. A.’s comment)

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Dec 2013 at 4:01 pm
  7. ed69 wrote:

    Daron run baby run

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Well, I’m not running, but I’m at least limbering up before the race. One step at a time.

    [Reply]

    Posted 07 Dec 2013 at 4:41 pm
  8. mb wrote:

    I like Jonathan but this type of situation rarely ends well. I did this in reverse once…we broke up on Christmas morning (which was awful enough) but we’d already make a month’s worth of backpacking arrangements and I couldn’t change my ticket back to the States. It’s frankly impressive that neither of us pushed the other off a mountain. Disappointed upstairs neighbors aren’t a patch on the looks you get at breakfast when you have angry gay sex in crowded hostels for three weeks. That said, I think it’s actually much harder to salvage a friendship out of a breakup when you put the relationship in limbo for so long.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Yikes. Is it something about the holidays that brings everything to the surface? At least we’re at home. And since we’re moving out I could especially not care less whether the neighbors disapprove now.

    [Reply]

    Posted 08 Dec 2013 at 11:55 am

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