Our friendship rebooted itself with pronounced enthusiasm. Although I found myself quite busy with school and work, there wasn’t a singular occasion when I could resist his call. Many evenings we were together, and if, by some chance, I wasn’t able to immediately confirm or otherwise respond to his summons, I would find on my phone beckoning pictures of steaming coffee cups with my name scribbled on them, valiantly pre-purchased and sitting somewhere next to him, in wait of me. I, in truth, was quite transfixed by the entire ordeal, revived and whirlwind as it was. A long time Lonely girl, I found myself relieved for a time of my cumbersome Bête noire and with it my moniker. It wasn’t merely that I no longer felt as alone, or that he wooed me in that obsequiously sweet and wordy way of his; there was also the beguiling lure of innocence to the whole affair. The combination was irresistible and so singularly unique that, against my better judgment, I started to believe we had the makings of something special or at least something that would keep.
Often, at close of evening, we would return to my humble Santa Monica abode and watch together some respectable television programming. I think, somewhat amusingly, the program we watched most of was HBO’s Big Love. My couch wasn’t exactly petit but it necessitated the sort of proximity that, in all honesty, was best suited to romantic entanglements. Said proximity though did, after a while, contribute to a blurring of those proverbial lines which govern physical appropriateness and its limitations. One night he held my arm across his lap and my hand in his, some random other I rested against his shoulder, eventually, on all the rest, we laid together, perfectly melded, without an iota of space left between us. Sadly, I do not think I had ever before been so close to another human being, or so at home. With my head cradled against his chest I listened to the alien mutterings of his heart and was, to my own surprise , conspicuously, completely satisfied. It went on this way for a while turning into a kind of ritual between us.
The obvious observation here would be that the relationship was transforming into something more than a friendship, but truly it was not. Our prelapsarian entanglement was for both of us a kind of experiment in intimacy and diversion. It was this alchemy too that drove us to the climactic eventuality of touching lips. Although the sacrilege of this act, conducted as it were between mere friends, was satisfying, I’ll admit, we both considered it a bit of a fall from grace. Of all the moments we shared, our kissing is not one I remember. I don’t remember it what so ever. I only know that it happened because I recall my subsequent thoughts and our discussion of it. I couldn’t even say if it happened more than once, although my guess would be that it did.
At some point he invited me out to dinner with his family, the patrimonial half of it anyways, as his parents were long divorced. I got the sense that it had more to do with paternal approval than the advance of our friendship. I think he needed a prop to reassure Father of his red blooded American maleness, however counterfeit it was. I didn’t mind, the night was warm and the situation interesting, albeit seasoned perhaps with a subtle pinch of dysfunction. I was by every definition as obliging an actor in that theater as I was an unwitting one in the other.
J treated me always with exceeding care and gentlemanly regard. He had no money, but still insisted on buying my lattes. When he wanted me to watch Pan’s Labyrinth, he got it for me on DVD. His enduring attentions along with many small acts of kindness relieved me eventually and completely of all my reservations. If it wasn’t a seduction, it was a markedly assiduous and well executed persuasion. Admiration grew to a kind of lonely girl love and friendship transformed into a kinship, for me anyways. When fumigation rendered my house uninhabitable, I was all set to move for a short while into my aunt’s home, but J interceded, inviting me to stay with him at his father’s domicile in the Palisades. The rest of his clan was at the time traveling elsewhere, so the house sat empty but for him. I occupied his little sister’s room the very next day, it was a perfect fir, Goldilocks would have turned green with envy.
I believe we cohabitated for about a week or maybe a little longer. A charming little vignette, we were like two odd peas marinating in their special pod. We were, by my estimation, closer than ever. He didn’t talk much about San Francisco or this mysterious crisis that sent him scurrying back to LA, but the one person from his previous circumstance that he seemed to yearn for was a certain Berkeley professor. As I understood, they shared a singularly special intellectual kinship. One night he showed me their online exchanges and emails, his reaction while he reviewed them was more telling than their actual content, which frankly was somewhat beyond my humble comprehension. To say that he admired the man would be an understatement. I considered that this professor was to him, what he/J was to me, or perhaps more. It seemed possible that their relationship was not entirely or even at all platonic.
Things went swimmingly it seemed, until one day I literally went swimming. The first and possibly only time he treated me with sternness and irritation was over his laptop. I had dragged it off with me towards the pool, and the discovery of its proximity to water agitated him completely. While it was a perfectly reasonable reaction, as computers and pools are in fact an ill advised pairing, for the first time he was towards me not very patient or kind, and it sorely surprised me. In retrospect it might have been the beginning of the end, but I don’t know, it certainly seemed like nothing at the time.
In the interest of factuality and not because I think the event was significant or consequential, I must add that during my stay with him we did haphazardly take up our alchemic experiment again. It was a coital effort as anticlimactic in its commencement as it was in its near instantaneous termination. Without getting into details too graphic for my blushing brain, we suffered technical difficulties, amongst perhaps some others, which resulted in hasty and permanent abandonment of the whole ill conceived scheme. It was the most awkward undertaking of my entire sexual history, especially as neither one of us was particularly interested in it to begin with. Regrettably, since you’re wondering, we were at the time stone cold sober. Did we technically have sex, in the strictest and most reductionist definition of the act, I suppose we did. Did we in fact HAVE sex, no, absolutely not. And again, although this piece of the puzzle might seem of note, because so often the involvement of sex is, in our case and in my opinion, it was in fact completely meaningless and changed none of the implied terms of our friendship.
After the laptop incident, there was perhaps a small but perceptible shift in J, I felt like he withdrew some tiny part of himself from me, the warmest part. I was never a daft person, especially in terms of interpersonal relationships, so I quickly noticed a subsequent change in his mood. Although there were no obvious signs, I could feel that he didn’t want me there with him anymore. I tested the water and determined that my suspicions were correct, he wasn’t exactly asking me to stay. Marked by his sudden disengagement, I could feel for the first time between us a kind of ocean. Although it was unexpected, I wasn’t worried about it because I understood well the prevailing urgency of solitude, being quite prone to it myself. I didn’t take it personally either and, in the interest of friendly consideration, packed with great urgency. I am a huge proponent of giving the soul exactly what it wants when it wants it, and so I did my darnest to oblige his.
In the moments before my departure I was more worried about J, than myself, I wanted to relieve him of my company and all of its supplemental obligations as quickly as possible. I had no reason to believe that something was wrong, but my heart did bounce around a bit. I remember how it beat erratically inside my chest for no evident reason when he was ushering me outside, and how I tried to will it into abject submission. Still it sank some, it really it did. Once outside, we embraced briefly exchanging sweet goodbyes. It was as normal a parting as any, except that I could tell he was a million miles away. I had no way of knowing that I would never see him again.