A long time ago, I called up a friend and sometime lover that I have known since high school.
I wanted advice and a strong shoulder to lean on.
No–to be perfectly honest, I wanted someone to solve all my problems, to hold me tight and make feel loved and thaw that frozen core of uncaring that lived in the heart of me then.
I met him at his place, and we took a walk through the neighborhood, bundled up against winter’s chill.
“You see,” he began carefully. “Things have gotten complicated.”
Hope plummeted to the tips of my cold toes. He was not going to be the answer to all my petty problems. He was not going to help me solve the question of who I was in this moment–uncertain, lonely, and bereft of direction.
Still, I made a half-hearted play to change his mind.
“Will she do anything for you, like you know I will?” I murmured, as he stooped down to hear me.
He smiled at that; I have always loved that smile, wide and somehow innocent, even though I know first-hand the sorts of toys he keeps in his closet.
“I’m going to tell her about tonight,” he said, finding my hand and squeezing it tight as we turned back to the house.
“And yet nothing has even happened between us,” I teased, and he looked at me, just looked at me with those bright blue eyes.
This morning I woke up in Lover’s bed. Through the wall of floor to ceiling windows I can see the blink of taillights disappearing into the mist, like a Stephen King story. The city is quiet, its Sunday noises dampened by the thick fog.
I no longer need anyone to save me. Maybe I never did, but it certainly would have been easier to be someone’s pet, without any will of my own. I could have done that, maybe, but the question is for how long.
He knew the answer to that question, seven years ago. He knew because he had seen my moves in high school, and, more importantly, in the dark and strange places away from prying public eyes, the parties no one ever talked about, the ones where you were acknowledged only by the slightest of head nods or the laconic offer of a cigarette.
He knew who I was when I put aside the good-girl mask, and he liked me better that way.
But not enough to keep me, or try to keep me. Just enough for a night, now and then, when I had no one else.
Despite his determined avowals that theirs is an open relationship, I quit seeing him after they were married. No more meet-ups in the suburban wildlife reserves, torn stockings and hasty sex on a picnic table. No more dirty bar bathrooms or open fields on a blanket beneath the stars.
I miss him, sometimes, in an abstract sort of way. He is one of the very few people who has seen every side of me, my serious shortcomings and fall-back superficiality as well as my artistic talents and empathy for all furry creatures great and small.
To be fair, I know a few private things about him as well. But, as he and I both know, I never share secrets that are not mine to give away.