She’s so pretty when she sleeps, you know?
When she’s sleeping, I can’t see that vague shadow of anxiety lurking deep behind her blue eyes, I can’t see her cringe slightly when she thinks we’re going to fight, I can’t hear her breath catch in fear when I tell her I am headed out for a night with the boys. When she’s sleeping, she’s just peaceful, and innocent, and, incidentally, damn sexy. Her brown hair just kind of curls around her shoulders and her lips, those lips that I’ve always found so tantalizing, are ever-so-slightly parted as she snores her little kitten-purr snores.
I watch her sleeping and think about all the time we’ve spent together, how she tries so hard, and changes herself to be just the woman she thinks I want: learning to cook, remembering what clothes I need to have cleaned by what day, remembering what kind of beer I like, my favorite cocktail, my pants size, my shoe size, remembering all the little things I like and need in some sort of superhuman effort to make my life as easy as possible.
So why do I feel this way? Why does my stomach turn over just the slightest bit every time she does something thoughtful for me? Why do I turn my face away sometimes to avoid seeing the love in hers? Why do I do my best to burst her contented bubble every time I sense that she’s on the road to thinking of us as a permanent couple? As in a house, and a dog, and…oh God…kids?
I don’t know. I just don’t know, and with a sigh I heave my legs over the edge of the bed and shuffle off to the bathroom for my morning constitutional.
An hour later, I emerge from the bathroom waist securely wrapped by a large (thoughtfully placed near the shower) fluffy white towel and scrubbing my damp hair with another one (even more thoughtfully placed on the bathroom counter), sniffing the air and smelling coffee brewing with deep pleasure. Sophie is seated at the breakfast table, dressed in her pink robe and fluffy slippers, one leg tucked up underneath her, hair all sloppy and touseled and with her glasses perched on the end of her nose as she peruses the morning paper.
“Good morning, honey,” I say as I breeze past her on my way to the coffee table. I bend briefly to kiss the air above her head, then busy myself with cream and sugar and pouring it all into my usual mug, emblazoned with the slogan “Best Lover In the World”. Another Sophie gift, in case you were wondering.
“Good morning, sweetheart,” she responds, a little absentmindedly, turning to the real estate section in the paper. I can see it from the corner of my eye and my heart sinks like a lead bowling ball, right down to my feet. Recently she’s been thinking that we should buy a place together. Somehow I just can’t get my mind around the idea, and I haven’t had the heart to do more than just hem and haw every time she hints, suggests, or downright brings it up. This morning I am most definitely not up for a discussion about it, so I hurriedly slurp down my coffee, mumble something about an early meeting, get dressed and make my escape, leaving her looking bewildered and oh-so-slightly hurt, alone at the table.
I manage to make it through the day all right, submerging thoughts of Sophie and my ambivalence about her and our relationship to the back of my mind. By the end of the day I have even managed to convince myself that I look forward to going home, that maybe we’ll get dressed up and try out that new bistro down the street, that maybe tonight I’ll look at Sophie and suddenly I’ll feel this great wave of adoration crash over my head like a ton of bricks and I’ll be able to handle all this affection she showers on me, and more, be able to return it.
But as soon as I step through the door, I know it for the impossible wish it is. Here’s Sophie, still in her robe and slippers, vacuuming the already-spotless floors and looking up at me with the most pathetically puppyish look on her face I have ever seen, and all I want to do is turn around again and walk out. This whole sabbatical thing she’s doing is turning her into a housewife, for the love of Pete. How did this happen?
“Uh, we need to talk, I think,” the words out of my mouth before I really think about what I’m saying or what I’m feeling, and oh GOD, what have I said?
Slowly, Sophie shuts off the vacuum, wraps the cord neatly and returns it to the hallway closet. Then she comes to join me on the couch, and I can see that familiar anxiety lurking there, the one that says, please, oh please, don’t hurt me, not this time, not when I’m being so good and trying so hard, please, please…
Unable to stand seeing it, I look away. At the framed photos on the mantel. At the doorway to the bedroom, where we’ve spent many a lustful night over the last four years. To her collection of Starbucks mugs collecting dust on the bookshelves, to my books lined up neatly behind them. I look around, at our home, our home, the one we created together and have turned into a comfortable place, reassuring and solid and familiar, and I wonder once more, what the hell am I doing?
“Dan?” Her voice, so uncertain, brings my attention back to her. Her glasses are sliding down her nose again, and I resist the urge to playfully push them back up where they belong, to where they actually can perform the function they were designed to do, but I don’t, because at the last moment I decide that it’s better, perhaps, that she can’t see my face, can’t see what must be written across it plain as, well, the glasses on her face.
“Right,” I say, taking a deep breath, a fortification against what I’m about to say even though I only half know what that is, “Right. So here’s the thing, Soph. I don’t know what to do here. I don’t know what we’re doing, I don’t know why this is so hard to talk to you about, but…but…well, I don’t think I love you anymore.”
She is silent. Her eyes are on my face, boring into my brain, reading about all the things I want to say, should say, but can’t. Not yet.
“I mean, I don’t mean that, I mean, I love you, okay? I do. It’s just, well, I don’t think I’m in love with you anymore.” She still says nothing, but before I can continue, before I can start talking about how it’s not her, it’s me, and I’m just not ready for this kind of commitment, and how I thought I could be, but I’m just not, and how she’s such a great person and how I know she’ll find someone else in no time, and how sorry I am, and blah blah blah, naively thinking that she’s never heard those words before, never felt this way before, never been turned down before, and I feel just awful.
No, instead she places her hands on her fluffy pink robe-covered knees and rises up off the couch. I hear her pad silently into the bedroom and shut the door.
I sit on the couch, bewildered, wondering what she’s doing, what she’s thinking, what I can say to help, but I realize there is nothing. I just need to sit here and be a man and acknowledge my feelings and try to let her down easy.
Five minutes later, she returns. She’s exchanged her robe and slippers for a pair of jeans that I can’t help but notice show off her ass to perfection, and a tight t-shirt that I imagine I can almost see her nipples through, but then she sits down in at the other end of the couch from me, glasses once more firmly atop the bridge of her nose so she can see me for what I am, a sorry jackass of a jerk that can’t figure out why I can’t just feel it for this woman, why I can’t open up and let her in and let myself love her as she most obviously loves me.
“Yes,” she says, gaze still steady on my face, no sign of tears, yet, but in my certainty and egoism I know that they are just around the corner. “Yes, I couldn’t really stomach hearing you dump me while I was still in my robe and slippers.” Her gaze sharpens a little, and suddenly I wonder, who’s really in charge of this conversation here?
“So, you were saying?” She picks up her coffee mug, which I only just realized was there, and takes a sip, eyeing me over the rim.
“I, well, I mean…I was just saying that, well, I don’t know, I just think that we’re moving in different directions, and maybe we don’t want the same things out of life, and maybe, well…”
She sighed. “Let me guess. It’s not my fault, I’m a really nice girl, it’s not me, it’s you, et cetera et cetera. You’re not able to give me the love I deserve, you’re not good enough for me, yadda yadda yadda.” Another leisurely sip of her coffee, as if she’s got all the time in the world. “Am I right?”
“Well, I mean, sort of, I mean yes, I think you’re a nice girl, and I do love you, it’s just that…” I’m floundering, I know it, and I am simultaneously cursing myself for ever bringing this up and wondering with shock where this calm, collected, and dignified Sophie has come from. Where are the tears? The begging? The protestations of love and undying loyalty? The recriminations? What the hell was going on here? Why the hell can’t I even seem to spit out a sentence?
“I see. So you’ve decided now, after, what, four years? That you are no longer ‘in love’ with me, and that you can’t handle a commitment, and you’ve decided that taking the blame and praising me to the stars is going to make you feel better about yourself, then?” Another sip of her damned coffee. I’m at a loss for words, I just kind of gape at her with the horrified feeling at the back of my mind that perhaps, perhaps I’ve misjudged her. Just a little bit.
“Hmmm. Okay, so what did you think I would do? Fall down in hysterics? Beg you to stay? Cry?” Her gentle smile turns amused, and if I didn’t know any better, I’d almost say slightly mocking. “Did you think that you’re some sort of prize yourself that I wouldn’t be able to let go? Did you think that I’d be devastated with losing you?” She sniffs in disdain and sets down her mug.
“Let me tell you something, my friend. I have treated you well. I have loved you, I have stuck by you through all your crap over the last four years, I have taken care of you, washed your clothes, tried to be as thoughtful as I know how. And through it all, you never say a word of thanks or appreciation or even acknowledge all the effort I put into this relationship. Frankly, I’m glad you brought this up, glad you decided this on your own, because if you didn’t, I was going to.” She was leaning forward now, hands clasped on her knees, staring directly into my eyes, and so help me I couldn’t avoid noticing how her breasts strained the front of her shirt and how forceful and assured she looked, and oh God, I’m getting a hard-on. She’s breaking up with me and I’ve never been as turned on by her in our entire relationship. What the hell ishappening?!
“So, Dan, tell me again how you think you’ve fallen out of love with me. Please, do. Because I can’t wait to hear how your feelings have just faded away while you haven’t even had to put any effort into this relationship at all, just sliding through the days and years totally happy to let me do all the work and shoulder all the burden of making our lives run smoothly, making sure we both have a nice place to live, keeping it clean, making sure you were comfortable, and happy, and content. Tell me again how you just feel like letting that go, okay? Tell me again!” By the end of this her voice is rising and she leans back, away from me, where I can’t smell the fragrance I bought her for Christmas last year, the smell of apples fades from my nose, and I open my mouth but nothing comes out. Nothing at all.
She waits for a few minutes, arms crossed over her chest, then sighs. “Okay, Dan. You got it. We’re done. Obviously you can’t even come up with a good excuse as to why you want to end things, so I’ll just make it easy for you. I’m tired of cleaning up after you, I’m tired of playing the housewife, I’m tired of being taken for granted. I want out, too. See? Not as hard as you thought, is it?” She stands. I just sit there, gazing at her, and I’m fairly sure that my mouth is still hanging open and that at the moment I resemble nothing more than a hooked fish just yanked out of the water.
She stands there for a minute, gloriously angry, sexy, assured, and just freaking beautiful and gazes down at me. Her eyes are blazing, and I mean it. They are on fire. Shit, I’m on fire. I can’t beleive how strongly I am attracted to her right now.
“I’ll tell you what, Dan. I’ll go to my mom’s for the night. Please take the time to get all your stuff together and I’ll come back tomorrow afternoon. I sincerely hope that when I do, you and all your crap will be gone.” She turns and walks from the room, tossing back over her shoulder, “I think there’s still some boxes left in the closet you can use. You wouldn’t want to forget anything, now would you?”
Through it all, I STILL can’t move, only now…only now, there’s something inside me that’s starting to hurt a little, and I don’t know what it is. I look down, but there’s no knife standing out of my chest, no dagger buried in my stomach, but I’ll tell you what, it sure feels like it. What the hell just happened? I still have no idea.
I hear her exit the bedroom and the front door opens and then shuts, a little firmly I think to myself, (okay well it slammed) and then I am alone. Alone in this room with all our stuff and our pictures and her apple perfume still lingering in the air, and I can’t hardly even breathe. There is a pain in my chest that I’m just starting to realize is my heart. Breaking. Literally.
Hopefully the powers that be at LFB will forgive my lateness of this post, I was without a computer all yesterday and couldn’t finish or post my blog.
Today’s topic: A man and a woman are in a long-term relationship but he won’t commit. Men, you write from the woman’s point of view, and women, write from the men’s.
Hope you enjoyed!