(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–”
“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.”
“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.