Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I hope guilt is not a cover hog

Friday, February 25, 9:30pm
Steve's house

"How are you?"

"I'm still sick."

"Your voice sounds all scratchy."

"I was talking all day today in study group."


"Would you mind terribly if I didn't come over tonight?"


It's actually a relief. I don't know if I could face her. Would she know? Would there be some telltale look on my face to give me away? Would the corner of my mouth curl up in a way it's never done before? Would my eyes narrow cynically? Would my brows furrow just a bit more, making me look like someone else?

"I just have to get rid of this flu. I've been sick for a week."

Yeah, you have. And I haven't had any that whole time.


"Are you ok?" she says.

"Yeah, fine."

"You keep giving me these one-word answers. Are you doing something?" she asks.

"No, I'm just tired. And I have a lot of work to do."

"OK, well I'll come see you tomorrow. I promise."


Guilt is new for me.

It feels like when I got a cavity filled for the first time. Sure, I had had needles before. Though they hurt, and they were scary, they were something I knew. But a big, long, horror-movie needle? In my mouth? It was a new kind of pain, a new kind of fear. The unfamiliarity made it much worse.

There's a twenty-something couple in line in front of me at Dunkin' Donuts, giggling as they lean towards each other, their foreheads almost touching. They probably fucked all night, then slept in late, then rolled out of bed and decided to go for a nice, leisurely morning-after cup of coffee. Those two don't have a care in the world. THAT guy is truly in love. HE never would have looked at another girl. HE wouldn't have cheated.

There's an old, fat guy at the hardware store with his old, fat wife. He could never be unfaithful, could he? He wouldn't have it in him. The thought would never cross his mind. Sure, he probably notices hot young girls like all of us do, but if one ever came on to him, he'd look at her strangely and move away, as if she were nuts to even think such a thing.

I think about Jim Belushi from According to Jim. Every week, he gets into a different mess, a new, madcap, funny series of mishaps. But underneath it all, he's a good man. At the end of the day, he sleeps fine, because he's a good husband who would never do anything to hurt his wife. And why would he? She is beautiful and perfect and loves him very much, just like Steph loves me.

She does love me a lot. And I let her down. Maybe I am not cut out for a relationship. Maybe this just wasn't meant to be, and I should break up with her to spare her the pain I am inevitably going to put her through.


Sunday, February 27, 7:00pm
Steve's house

I don't like Sunday nights. My body knows that the weekend is almost over, and tries desperately to squeeze out the last bit of rest before it's Monday again. I feel lazy and lethargic; all I want to do is lay down on the couch and flip channels until I fade off to sleep.

Steph arrives. She looks horrible.

She's thin and pale, with bags under her eyes.

"Steph! You look like you haven't slept in a week!"

"I'm so tired. I think I did too much."

"Do you want some coffee?"




"Chicken soup?"

"uh-uh. I just wanna sit down."

"Have you seen a doctor about this?"

"I will tomorrow."

She plops herself on the couch and her eyes immediately slide shut.

"Steph. Come on. I'm gonna have you lay down in bed."

She follows me upstairs and into the bedroom, kicking off her sneaker clogs and rubbing her eyes. She climbs into bed and I pull the covers up to her chin. She looks like she's asleep already.

"Good night." I kiss her forehead. She doesn't answer.

I turn off the light and head silently for the door.

"Sweetie?" she says, weakly.


"Will you please cuddle with me?"

I climb into bed and hug her from behind. She drifts off to sleep, silently and smoothly, the way a hot air balloon sails out of sight.

She snores softly, and then it's just me and my guilt.