One thing we don’t share is our real lives. They do not overlap or intersect at all. We don’t mention this, because it points out the glaringly obvious truth that what we have isn’t real, and neither of us wants to spoil the fantasy like that.
I am with my real-life friends, though, the first time I am weak enough to admit needing him. I leave my friends to step outside, stand on the porch, and call him. I call him because why shouldn’t I, which is the worst possible rationale for doing so. I have never called him before, which is probably the only reason in the world that he actually answers.
All of this -- the fact that I have never called, my shock that he actually picks up -- should have been glaringly obvious warning signs. I wish they had been; but I have never been the type to second-guess my own self-destruction. On that, at least, I am bold. On that, at least, I am consistent.
What a counterargument for false bravado.
The man who answers isn’t the man I know. It is physically him, of course, but everything about him is somehow changed. He is restrained, quiet, careful. I barely recognize him.
I am too distressed to notice, or maybe to care, and I tell him that I need him. I need him to meet me somewhere. I need him, just for a moment, to be near me.
“Come on,” I say, “break a rule.” I know better, but pretend that I don’t.
It’s an unfair request and I wait for him to tell me so; without missing a beat, he does.
What a devastating and poignant moment to be predictable.
Through my heartbreak I suddenly understand, without him needing to say so, that these disconcerting changes in his personality can only indicate one thing, something I somehow failed to consider: his Queen is there with him.
Who did I become in this horrific, mortifying moment? Who is this girl who needs things? I silently berate her, this girl who dialed my phone. What was she thinking, imagining she had the right? What came over her, that she thought she meant enough for that? She knows he doesn’t love her, doesn’t need her, doesn’t want her; she knows he will always put the Queen first. And yet childishly, naively, she was fool enough to believe he cared.
She thought that today, maybe, she would matter. Stupid girl.
I back out of the conversation as quickly as I can, giving any excuse I can to end the call. I begin to shake the moment I hang up. I feel relocated, out of context; like I’ve been dropped into a story that is not my own, or possibly into a bathtub full of ice. I shake completely apart, my breathing and my pulse accelerating to self-destructive speeds. Eventually I clutch my body together hard enough that it responds, and I somehow return, somewhat disheveled, to the present.
After a long silence I feel the rubber bands containing the universe snap back into place, where they belong. I invaded enemy territory by peering over the wall between my private life and his. We don’t do that.
I hate him for it, but I hate myself more; making this call gave me the answers to questions I never wanted to ask.
I have learned my lesson, and I never ask him about it later.
I simply make a point never to need anything from him again.
This is Part Five of a ten-part series. Click here to start at Part One, and please consider leaving a tip!