Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Jealousy, with a side order of guilt

Friday, September 30, 2005, 9:15pm
Steve's house

"Hey, Tim! Tim, you awake?"


"I'm going down to the store to get some milk. I'll be right back."


"Do you need anything?'


"If the cashier is cute, can I bring her home and nail her in front of you?"

"Don't be a smart ass."

I drive to the store and arrive back, milk in hand, at 9:30. Tim is sitting up on the couch, fully awake now, her eyes set so that they somehow show anger and concern at the same time.

"Who the hell is Holly?" she demands.

"Holly who?"

"You're telling me you don't know a Holly?"

"Holly WHO?!"

Why do I suddenly feel like Dr. Seuss?

"The one on your answering machine!"

I hit the play button. A cute, young-girl voice streams from the tinny speaker:

"Hey Steve, it's Holly. I was just thinkin' about you, actually thinkin' about you all day long. I was just wondering if you wanted to get together later. I miss you! Call me! Bye!"

It was Nancy's sister, the one I nailed at dad's house about a year ago. Of course, she turned out to be underage, and I took major shit for it, too, which is why I've steered clear of her since then. She still calls me from time to time, and I either rush her off the phone, or don't answer at all. She was a good screw, but not good enough for all the drama.

I look at Tim; she stares back at me.

"That's Greg's sister-in-law," I say, after a long pause.

"How long have you been seeing her?"

"I'm not! We agreed that we weren't seeing anyone else!"

She stares harder, studying my face for any hint of untruthfulness. "If you're not ready for a relationship, Steve-"

She's pushing me. She wants to give me every opportunity in the world to bow out gracefully, if that's what I want. For the record, I think this is a good way of handling it. Girls tend to be too gentle with issues like this; unless they are a bit confrontational, they make it easy to lie to them.

"I TOLD you I was ready. Right?"


"What about you? Are you ready?"


"Because you can get pretty flirty at times. Like at JB's that day?"

One day earlier this summer, Tim and I were at JB's, where Tim buys catering supplies. She was a sight: pink spaghetti strap top with no bra, miniskirt, sandals, and sunglasses resting on top of her head, as if she had just walked in off the beach. As usual, conversations quieted as every male pair of eyes between the ages of 13 and 80 slowly turned and locked on her, their female counterparts sneering bitterly.

A young guy (who obviously won some type of dice game to earn the right) waited on us, blatantly staring at the sides of her shirt, hoping, no doubt, for some type of clothing mishap. She flirted openly with him, calling him by name, smiling widely, flipping her long hair and giggling at his stupid jokes.

Normally, I'd have no problem with a girl using her looks to her advantage. Why not? But in this case, it made me very uneasy, not because this nine-dollar-an-hour kid was going to steal my girlfriend, but because Tim put herself out there that way, so that she was hit on constantly.

And she is hit on constantly, too: It reminds me of when I used to date Lila, and guys would approach her all the time, right in front of me, making crude, and sometimes suave, passes at her. It's the same with Tim. She really does care about me, I know. But am I the absolute best guy in the world for her? Isn't there one, or ten, or a thousand, men out there better suited for her? And isn't it likely that at least one of them will approach her, successfully? Do I have any chance at all of staying with her long-term?

"What, you never flirt with anyone?"

"Not like that!"

"Oh come on, Steve! It wasn't that bad!"

"Tim, you were giving him fuck-me eyes!"

"Steve, it was nothing. What, do you think I LIKED that guy? They give me great deals in there when I do that! You know that!"


"And you are really bad with waitresses, and they never give you discounts! YOU'RE really flirting."

"No I'm not."

"Yeah, you are, and I hate it!"

I have been playing the game for so long that it's sometimes hard for me to realize that I might be hurting someone. I have been eager to get the upper hand on Tim, and finally, it's dawning on me that it bothers her. Maybe now it's time for both of us to stop trying to get the advantage, and to start working together. Although, it does make me feel great to know that she is jealous; it's like peering directly into her heart and seeing what's inside.

"Ok, well, then, I won't do it anymore," I say, softly.

"Thank you," she whispers, peering up at me. "And I won't flirt at JB's anymore."

"Even if you have to pay more?"

"Even if I have to pay more. So are you ready to trust me, Steve?"

"Yeah. Are you ready to trust me?"


"I was with Holly about a year ago, and she calls from time to time. She turned out to be underage, so I never saw her again. OK?"

"How underage? Wait, don't tell me."

"OK. I've kind of been avoiding her, but I'll call her and tell her I'm with someone now."


On the news, they are talking about a girl who was raped. They show her, but only her silouetted profile, behind a white screen. "He gave me alcohol. And drugs," the girl says, in halting tones.

"Do you want me to change this?" I ask.

"What? Why?"

"Well, I mean, doesn't it bother you to see stuff like this?"

Her jaw sets firmly. I just can't win with her today, can I?

"Have you ever been in a car wreck, Steve?" she says, angrily.


"So when they show a car wreck on TV, do you change the channel?"

"No, but I don't speak for you."

"I swear to God. People always accuse girls of being too sensitive, but guys are ten times worse. This is why I don't tell anyone; because people always think they have to walk on eggshells around me! I'm FINE! I don't need you to BABY me, Steve! Why can't you just get OVER it!?"

Her voice has gotten extremely loud, contrasting sharply with the silence that fills the room when she stops yelling. She leaps off the couch and stomps to the bathroom. I jump when she slams the door.

I stare idly at the TV, trying to focus on the news, or the Febreze commercial, anything but my own guilt. Why didn't I just drop it? How could I have been so stupid?

She walks slowly out of the bathroom and stops at the couch next to me, avoiding eye contact.

"So are you mad at me now?" she asks quietly.

"Of COURSE I'm not mad at you, Tim." I hug her. "I promise I won't bring it up anymore. Just tell me if you want to talk about anything, ok?"

She nods. "I'm sorry I snapped at you."