In the morning I examined whether my idealism about the relationship being dead was actually the same thing as the relationship being dead. In the morning I felt less fatalistic about it, anyway. Maybe a good cry does that.
These are the thoughts I had in the shower after Jonathan left for work: Maybe I shouldn’t give up. Maybe I should try to work some stuff out. I should at least try to figure some things out for the benefit of understanding. Too much about the future is uncertain. At least this you know it here and is real on Jonathan’s part, even if you’re a basket case right now.
With that in mind, I called Bart. “I need a reality check.”
“You’ve been with Michelle a long time. Do you do your laundry together? If you do, is it like… a thing?”
“Like a thing you do together. Like you’re happy about doing the laundry because it’s something you do together? As a couple?”
“Well…” I heard rustling in the background like he was tearing opening a package. “Before we bought a place with our own laundry machines, I paid someone to do the laundry.”
“Really? I had no idea. That explains why your shirts were never as wrinkly as mine.”
“Yeah, I didn’t exactly advertise the fact. It was my stepmother’s idea. Wanted me to concentrate on my schoolwork and all that, so she paid for it. When we moved here, I kept up the habit. Anyway, now that we have our own machines, you know, whoever needs clothes just tosses them in when necessary. So, no, it’s not a thing. But I get the feeling the question you’re asking me isn’t really about laundry.”
“Jonathan acts like us going to the laundromat together is the equivalent of a sunset walk on the beach. While I agree it’s somewhat nicer to have help doing it than to drag the stuff there by myself, I’m just there to get it done, you know?”
“I didn’t say anything when I was in L.A. visiting. Because you seemed okay. But it’s hard to tell with you.”
“Didn’t say anything about what?”
“About Jonathan domesticating you.”
I sort-of argued. “I think my roommates had me pretty well trained already, don’t you think? Christian’s the one who taught me to separate darks and lights, and Lars was the one who was big on kitchen cleaning and fridge etiquette.”
“I don’t just mean household chores. I mean like a stray cat.”
“I never tomcatted around that much.”
“I don’t mean in the bedroom sense. Well, okay, maybe I do. He’s tamed you a lot. Have you noticed how much weight you’ve put on?”
“I haven’t put on weight.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, no, since I haven’t weighed myself.” The last time I weighed myself was at the doctor’s office in the spring.
“I’m not saying this is a bad thing, because when a tomcat gets socialized, you know, they can make great pets. Sleek, beautiful, happy, devoted pets who never want to set paw outside again once they have it made. Tell me honestly is that how you feel? Or do you feel caged?”
I felt like a sledgehammer was crushing my chest, honestly. “Why do you have to put it that way?” It came out a little whiny.
“Because with every other relationship, that’s how I felt. Caged. Like no matter how much fun it was, I couldn’t wait to find a way out. Then Michelle happened, and it took me a while to realize, holy shit, that urge to break free was completely absent.”
A beep sounded in my ear: call waiting. I ignored it. “And what if I tell you I feel like an indoor-outdoor cat? I can go out all I like as long as I’m home by dinner time.”
“Does that work for you? Be honest, Dar’. You wouldn’t be calling me if everything was smooth.”
I had the urge to hang up and write a song about it, but maybe talking it through was actually the smarter choice. “It drives me crazy that he’s so hung up on domestic things, like doing laundry together. Cooking and eating… okay, I get it that no one really likes to eat alone, but for fuck’s sake would it kill him to have a sandwich without me once in a while? For that matter, laundry…” Another beep. I wondered if it was Carynne trying to call. She was probably wondering why the answering machine wasn’t picking up. “I’d almost rather we took turns doing it. At least only one of us would have to waste a weekend afternoon instead of both of us. Hey, wait, I have an idea. I’m going to go do it now while he’s at work!”
“Danger, Will Robinson. Don’t get yourself into the housewife role or the next thing you know, you’ll be stuck with it.”
“You think so?”
“I’m sure of it. Seriously. Pay someone to do the damn laundry and do something fun on the weekend. If you can’t do something fun together and the whole relationship is about maintaining the household, then you’re not in a relationship. You’re lords of the manor and that’s it.”
I heard a click, like maybe now Bart was getting call-waited. “Do your parents have fun?”
“My parents think being lord and lady of the manor is fun.”
“Ah.” I realized I was standing in the front courtyard on the cordless phone. I didn’t remember going outside. I had been in the kitchen when I’d called Bart. “There has to be something more to relationships than being extra special roommates and just the antidote to loneliness.”
“There is, Dar’.” He sounded amused.
“What? Oh, wait…”
“Ninety percent of pop songs are written about it, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah, love. I get it.” I gave a heavy sigh, trying to dislodge the sledgehammer.
“Fuck, let me get this call, be right back.” He clicked off and I listened to silence for a few moments. Then he came back. “That was Carynne. She said call her when we hang up.”
“How did she know I was talking to you?”
“I told her. Oh, you mean how did she know to call me to tell you. She didn’t. She was going to call me next. But since I’m talking to you anyway, yeah. Call her and then she’ll fill me in on whatever afterward.”
“Okay, I guess I should–”
“Wait wait wait. Not until we’re done here. Daron, listen to me, just because you’re not in love with Jonathan doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”
Oh jeez. “Is it that obvious?”
“No. Like I said, it’s hard to tell with you. From the outside you two seem perfectly happy together. I’m not judging you. I don’t care if you were in love and you fell out, or if you never got there but it seemed like a good idea to give it a try, or what. None of that matters. What matters is how you feel now.”
“I feel like I don’t know what to do. I mean… is it that I don’t love him enough?”
“Have you told him you love him?”
“No.” I hurried to add: “But here’s why! Because when he says it to me I feel like it means more to him somehow. So if I say it back, he’s going to assume I mean the same thing.”
“Maybe that’s your real problem with the laundry, you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“What bugs you about it is that he’s got so much more invested in it than you do. For you, it’s about getting the clothes clean. For him, it’s about your partnership and his investment in your partnership.”
“So I’m a bad boyfriend if I do the laundry when he’s not home?”
He made a frustrated noise. “Yes, you’re horrible. How dare you deprive him of the laundromat.”
“Okay, okay, I was being ridiculous. But seriously, what should I do?”
“As long as you separate the whites from the darks, you’re probably fine.”
“About the relationship, asshole.”
“Oh. Honestly, Dar’, I think you could both benefit from couples therapy. I think you’re making a lot of assumptions about him, and he’s probably making a lot of assumptions about you, that if you got past all that you could find out if you actually have something there or if all you have is… is…”
I went in the house then and tried to write a song about it, because the idea of what was going on between me and Jonathan at least seemed to have crystallized in my mind into something clear. But the song didn’t make sense and there was too much there and I worried too much about how he’d feel if he heard it. So I went for a walk.
I ended up in the drug store which was a mile from the house at least, but I had a lot to think about so a long walk was a good idea. And once I was in there I walked up and down the aisles not really looking for anything, just sort of enjoying the air conditioning and the brightly colored stuff all arranged, even if I didn’t need any of it at the moment. There was something sort of comforting about it.
And then I realized I was in front of the nail polish, and I thought about the time Ziggy had shoplifted some. I still didn’t know what to think about that, but for the first time in a week or two the feeling of missing him hit me like an ocean wave, one of those sudden ones that knocks you over and fills your head with salt water.
I coughed and tried to focus on reality. My eyes were drawn to a bottle of clear nail cover. Hm. It had been a while since I’d really grown my nails out for playing finger style. Maybe now was a good time to try it again. I picked up the bottle and had a moment where I considered slipping it into my pocket and walking out. Just to see what that felt like? To see if I learned anything about how Ziggy’s mind worked? That seemed a flimsy reason to do wrong. I paid cash and walked home.
Halfway home I remembered I hadn’t called Carynne yet.
(Update: you guys are awesome. Not only have you up-voted DGC Vol 1 into the top 30 on the “Best Gay Rockers” list on Goodreads —https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/2535.Best_Gay_Rockers — you guys added the other ebook volumes and the omnibus. So all of them are there to be voted on now! I’m always trying to find ways to help new readers find DGC and hopefully this is one that will catch the notice of a few more…?)