the last time
it was warm when i woke up; maybe it was the sun itself filtering through the apartment-issue mini blinds that stirred me from my sleep. we'd managed to pass the night without the expected shared-bed controversy. i kept my word and to my side of the mattress, and he kept, typically, to himself.
this time he remembered that i like to start the day with a cup of coffee, and so he served me a watery cup of folgers instant shortly after rising. by character he was thoughtful, though, so i took the act as no sign of romantic interest.
"i thought we could go to the park today and look at the gardens," he told me, and i eagerly agreed. he'd left not a minute of our saturday to chance; not the coffee, the theatre tickets, the evening bar-b-que, nor the cavern of early afternoon time that necessitated the employment of activity would leave room for error, misstep, or, worse, misunderstanding.
i was the chatterbox in contrast to his routine of silence. every leaf, stem, petal or shrub was subject to my commentary. it was a gorgeous late-august day in golden gate park--how could i keep from gushing? my lungs were readily drinking in the clean air, my eyes the breathtaking views of the city by the bay. and i was bound and determined for him to see that i'd moved past the hurt of his dissolution of our intimate ties in the haze of early summer. i was hell-bent on my happiness, high on a katharine hepburn joie de vive, optimistic and keen on maintaining out friendship. when it was his concern that i would take advantage of the mutual sleeping space scenario, it was my mission to remain staunchly platonic. i promised myself i would under no circumstance initiate a darn thing.
his silence was maddening, and as the hours of the day marched on, and our feet marched us through the streets of san francisco, it became of game of tolerance on my part. as we rode knee to knee on the bart train to berkeley i realized i no longer felt a shiver of delight buzz through me as we touched. he was tiresome. and so i endured.
the evening was pleasant; i was chatty, animated, conversational, freed from the dumb-struck bonds of infatuation. i could hear my own laughter, sparkling, during the dinner we ate on plates perched on our laps in the backyard, and then during a raucous improv show where we saw friends perform brilliantly. but our last stop on the jam-packed itinerary was to some kind of hipster cowboy bar, where we were to make an appearance at some one's birthday gathering. inside the faux-ranch saloon i was finding myself physically shut out of conversations by people stepping in front of me. i couldn't breathe, i couldn't play the social game. i slid out of the fray and sought refuge outside on a slatted bench. he found me there, a cigarette and a half later, angry at my having left without informing him. he mocked me, he made a show of giving me a hard time in front of some friends of his. but i refused to accept it, so i spat out some retorts. finally he asked: "do you want to go?" and i asked back: "why?" he replied: "because i hate this place and i want to leave."
and i exhaled.
it was cold, dark, and rather late at night. my feet ached from our journeys, my mind tired of banter. we collapsed on the bed and rehashed the day. "i had a nice time," i told him, and asked if he had, too. "yes," he replied, "but not the part at the bar." i was too tired to argue, so instead i curled up and closed my eyes. he followed suit, his face just an inch or so from mine, and we lay there, sideways, wrong-ways, on the bed.
it must have been he who started the kiss, but my response was so remarkably instantaneous that it might well be argued that we started at the same time. and so we kissed.
my eyes were heavy, though, and i couldn't keep from yawning. i knew sleep was impending, so i insisted we shift to lie right-ways on the bed. i glanced at the clock. it was past one a.m. and so i slept. we slept.
i heard my name being called out in the dark. it was coupled with his exclamation of "what does it take to get some attention from you?" as well as an errant hand lingering on my body. i peeked at the clock. it was now well past three in the morning. i cited the time, the fact that i was, or had been, sleeping. but he persisted. it seems he felt i owed him something, that i was selfishly withholding sex from him. and i thought of an old conversation of ours, where he had said in no uncertain terms that he believed firmly that we should never be intimate again. that he felt that i took our sexual relationship to have more meaning than he was ever willing to invest in it. yet, here i was, awoken in the middle of the night, charged with one count of lack of willingness for reciprocity, one count of being rude for not giving him pleasure.
i didn't know what to do but laugh, and loudly at that. i laughed so much so that i feared i couldn't stop, even as i sputtered "i'm sorry!" and excused myself to the restroom so that i might splash water on my face and regain my composure.
when i returned he'd burrowed himself in the blankets, like a child, his face to the wall, leaving me nothing to address my words to but an expanse of back swathed in a t-shirt. i asked if he would turn over, which he begrudgingly did, so that i might talk to his face. i reminded him of the time on the digital clock display, of my exhaustion, of the very words he'd said to me on this very topic. he pouted still, and i offered an apology for not expressing gratitude for the attention he'd given me; our kissing had, after all, led to just a tiny bit more activity that was, i gather, geared more towards my satisfaction. and i told him, finally, that quite frankly, i was so confused by the events of the late-late night that i'd hoped to take what remained of the time to see how i felt, and if i was even comfortable with it.
and so we slept, wrapped in each others' arms, and when the morning sun woke us up we lingered in bed, and we both broke our promises to ourselves, and maybe each other, and it was geared towards mutual satisfaction.
it was the last time i saw san francisco. it was the last time i saw him.