Thursday, March 10, 2005

Bless me Steph, for I have sinned

Thursday, March 3, 2005
Steve's office

I have good and bad moments.

I'll crack a good joke, and make Bonnie laugh, or have a warm, friendly phone conversation with someone I've not spoken to in a while, and I'll feel light and buoyant. I can do this, I'll think, and I'll resolve to keep my computer-repair escapades to myself. It's no big deal, I'll tell myself. It was just a kiss, and a half-ass kiss at that. After everything I've done, it doesn't even amount to a blip on the sexual radar screen. In a week, it will be forgotten. Maybe less than a week.

The bad moments sneak up on me. I'll be leaving a voice mail message, or typing an e-mail, and my mouth will lock open, or my fingers will stop tapping keys, and suddenly I'll be watching That Movie again.

It's a movie that I've seen 47 times. At this point, it no longer just annoys me: Now, it makes me feel a little crazy. I can't change the channel, move my head, or avert my eyes; I'm being forced to watch, like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. I find myself clenching my jaw, racked with anxiety, as I wonder why I can't shake the guilt over having betrayed Steph.

Steph hates Dom. They'll never be friends, especially since Dom is not even much of a friend to ME right now. And if she's not going to associate with Dom, she'll probably never get to know Tim, and even if she does, Tim is not the type to talk about what happened. I'M certainly not going to open my mouth about it, either, so that means that in all likelihood, Steph will never hear about it through the chain of gossip.

I keep thinking back to the talk Steph and I had on Thanksgiving day, when we both promised to tell each other everything, even if it might hurt. I've been consciencious about doing that, telling her about Holly, and about the auditor chick from PWC. I put up with a lot of gut-wrenching cross-examination as a result of doing so, too, and my reward is the knowledge that I have no secrets whatsoever. But everything that I have done up to now will be for naught if I hide this.

I'm not in love with Tim. I don't even particularly like her. I find her very attractive, and obviously I did not give in to my carnal desires for her. She isn't any kind of a threat to what Steph and I have. By the same token, though, I am sure Stephanie would want to know about something like this. She SAID so!

I feel like I let her down by kissing Tim, and that I would be letting her down again by not telling her.

I have to tell her.


Steve's car, driving to Stephanie's house

I need to accomplish four things today:

1. A full confession of everything that happened, so that details never need to be rehashed again;
2. A reminder of why I am telling her (i.e., that we had an agreement and I am sticking to it);
3. Apologize. I also need to make it clear that I won't be apologizing again for this; and,
4. Tell her I love her.

One mistake that some guys make is that every time an issue like this comes up, they apologize again, and pretty soon they are begging her forgiveness, grovelling like a spineless wimp. I am going to tell her that I am sorry, and I am going to say it ONCE. And she'd better remember, because I am not repeating it.

I sit in her driveway for almost a full minute, playing out the various scenarios in my mind. She knows about Dom and Lila; that is almost certainly going to come up. She'll be angry; she might tell me to leave. I'd say that's fairly likely, in fact. She'll probably ask me why, or maybe just make a lot of broken-hearted comments about how shitty I made her feel.

My job is to focus on the four tasks I listed above. I will hear her out, but as soon as she starts making the same point three and four times, that will be my cue to leave.

This is almost certainly going to go badly. She might break up with me, or want to take a break for a while. I have made my decision to tell her, and I am convinced it's right, so I am prepared to deal with the consequences.

I promise myself that, if she does dump me, I will treat myself to something nice. Maybe I'll fly out west to visit my old junior high school buddy, or go hang out with Paulie and his friends for a few days. And yeah, I'm sure there are a few girls out there I haven't screwed yet, so there's that, too.

Here goes nothing.

I open her door. She is sitting up on the couch in sweats, still looking a little thin and pale, but better than she did on Sunday. She smiles up at me. "Hi, honey!!" she chirps.

She's got sore-looking little red patches around her nostrils. Wadded-up tissues litter the floor under the couch. I look down at them, grinding my teeth.

"I know, I know, I'll pick them up," she says, "Mister ANAL!"

She walks over and hugs me tightly, then kisses me, slowly and softly. "I missed you," she whispers.

"Steph, I have to talk to you."

She pulls away and sits down on a kitchen chair, looking concerned. "What's wrong?"

I sit down across from her and look at her eyes.

"On Thanksgiving day, we made a promise that we were going to tell each other everything, no matter what."

She closes her eyes and sighs deeply, then opens them, staring at me with a hard, angry face. "Who was it, Steve?"

"I kissed another girl."



"Dom's girlfriend?"


"Why are you kissing Dom's girlfriend?"

"I went over there to fix her computer. There was a little flirting going on, and it just got out of hand for a second."


"Steph, I kissed her for, like, FIVE seconds."

"You just kissed her and left." she says, cynically.

"I ran out of there. I felt terrible."

"What, you didn't feel her up?"

"I think my thumb brushed against her boob," I say, curling my lip and waving a hand dismissively.

She shakes her head. "Every time I think I can trust you, Steve..."

"Well, I didn't expect you to be happy about it."

"Do you mean to tell me this is just a coincidence? That Dom has sex with Lila, and then you're kissing his girlfriend? You're still hung up on Lila!"

"No, I'm NOT!"

"Yes you ARE!" she shouts.

"It's NOT about Lila. It's about me being STUPID. For FIVE SECONDS!"

"So it didn't mean anything," she sneers, sarcastically.

"No, of course not. Steph, you know I love you."

She crosses to the couch and flings herself down, grabbing the remote.

"I knew you'd be pissed, but I had to live up to my promise."

"Yeah, you're such a sweet guy," she says, her voice dripping with irony.

"Steph, I-"

"Get the hell out."

"I want you to listen to me, because I'm not gonna say this again."

She looks at me through narrowed eyes.

"I'm really. Really. Sorry." I say, softly.

"Whatever." She's turning away from me before I'm even done saying it.

She stares at the TV, flipping channels with the remote held straight out in front of her, as if warding off evil spirits.