Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The point of no return

Dad update: He's doing better, still on a little bit of oxygen, and most of the time he is lucid. They are talking about moving him out of intensive care soon. He's very sentimental and he is thankful for all the visitors and attention he is getting.


I couldn't quite believe my luck.

I had sex with Lila, hot sex, so hot that when I think about it I get the overwhelming urge to whack myself off. But I saw her at work the next day and said hello, and she gave me her little work-smile and hello'd me back, just as she always did. For a while, it seemed that we would just go about our business as if nothing happened. I would keep trying to figure out how to get Tim back, and she would keep dating whoever she was dating, and the whole thing would be forgotten. It seemed too good to be true.

It was.

I know I played Lila dirty. I used her as a support system when my mother died, and when I recovered from the loss, I discarded her like a used band-aid. I didn't actually dump her, but I didn't let her down gently, either, and that feels just as wrong. Every time she spoke to me after that, I asked myself why she still bothered with me, why she didn't hate my guts.

I always assumed that we'd get back together someday. She was just a kid, too young for a serious relationship, but any idiot could see that she was going to be a beautiful, smart, successful adult someday. I would keep her close, stay friendly, and assess her maturity level from time to time to see if she was ready. I'd check on her periodically, as if she were a pot roast, then simply pull her from the oven when the time was exactly right, and savor her forever.

How could I view another person, someone so close to me, in such an impersonal way? I don't know. Why is your favorite color blue? Why are you allergic to shellfish? Because you're wired that way.

Thursday, December 15, 2005, 6:00pm
Steve's house

"I need to see you. Can I please come over?"

"Sure, Lila. You ok?"


She taps twice on my door before opening it, just as she always has. She hugs me, and I'm immediately overcome with her perfume, her green-apple shampoo, the way she manages to look like a picture in a magazine, even as she pulls her knit cap away from her staticky mane of dark brown hair.

I am happy to have Lila here. I look forward to hearing what she has to say.

"Steve, I need to talk to you," she says, twisting the cap on and off her Evian bottle.

"I know. That's why you came," I smile. I bet she's going to tell me she's having more trouble with those three bitches at work.

"We need to talk about what happened."

I get stiff. I can't help it. I like that she's talking about it, thinking about it. I like that it might happen again right now.

"What do you mean?" I ask. I know exactly what she means, but if this is going to be a confrontation, I'm not going to make it easy.

"You know what I mean, Steve!"

"I do?"

"We can't keep hooking up like that."


Her lips get tight for a second; it's the same face she makes right before she yells at me. But she closes her eyes for a moment and stays calm. I'm impressed with the way she restrained herself.

"It's not healthy for us. It's not fair to me or you."

"Since when do you not like hooking up?"

"I don't like hooking up randomly with you. I feel like shit afterwards," she says, her eyes wide and pleading.

It doesn't have to be random! We could do it every Tuesday at 3:45, if that would make you feel better!

"That did kind of... take us by surprise."

"I think it's time for us to make a decision."

"About what?"

"About us!" she says, staring at me, letting the words settle. "I care about you so much. I love you. I've loved you ever since Christmas Eve two years ago. I want us to be together, I want us to have a relationship."


"I'm sorry about what I put you through. I'm sorry for all the drunk dialing, and high-dialing, and I'm sorry I was such an immature bitch. But you weren't perfect either. Right?"

"Absolutely right."

"I know I can make you happy, and I know that you can make me happy. So?"

She stares at me again, unflinchingly.

I can't be with Lila. It's not that she's imperfect in some way. In fact, I probably should say yes. But I don't want to. It feels absolutely wrong. I love Tim, and haven't stopped thinking about her since Thanksgiving. I need to reconcile with her.

Lila and I had our chance. Things didn't work out, after nearly a year together. Now it's time for Tim and I to have our chance.

I know there are no guarantees; Tim and I might never get back together, and then I would be alone. But I should be with someone because I can't stand to be away from her, not because she's the safest bet.

"Lila, part of me will always love you."

She slumps a little in her chair. She knows what's coming.

"I love Tim. We're fighting now, but I love her very much, and I think about her all the time. I need to make things right with her."

"She's gonna hurt you, Steve."

"Maybe. But I have to be true to my feelings, and I feel like Tim and I have unfinished business. I have to resolve that. And I just want you to know that, whatever happened with us, whatever went wrong, it was my fault. You were so great to me, probably better than you should have been. I was selfish with you and I'm sorry I didn't consider your feelings more."

She pauses, looking down at the floor. "If you say no, Steve, that's it for us. Relationship-wise. If we don't get back together now, it's over forever."

I'm proud of her. Even though she's putting me in a difficult position, I like how she is taking a risk, forcing my hand. She's taking control of the situation, when I'm trying intentionally to leave things unresolved. She's being mature and decisive. She's being an adult.

She's being exactly the person I was waiting for her to be, and now I'm going to let her go forever.

"OK," I say, even as part of me thinks I'm making the biggest mistake of my life.