My first day back at work after being home for the weekend is determined to be one of those truly shitty days culminating in me having it out with my boss. By the time I leave I’m so wound up, so irritated, so tired, I can’t stop grinding my teeth. I fish my phone out of deep caverns of my purse, and start scrolling through the hundreds of contacts because I just need to vent. I can’t find what I’m looking for. And then it hits me.
I’m looking for The Mexican’s number.
I can’t find it because I erased it from my phone.
I erased it from my phone because he isn’t the guy I can call anymore when I’ve had a hellascious day.
I sigh. This is always one of the hardest parts; learning to disentangle your everyday habits from “us” and settling them quietly into the singular. I’m still for a moment in the darkness, feeling swallowed by the wide expanse of the empty parking lot, staring at the phone in my hands. I feel small right now.
I have about 2 seconds to feel the weight of that moment.
“No need to call me babygirl, I’m already here.”
His smile is like a blanket warm from the dryer. Before I know it, he’s folding me into his big arms, kissing my head through my hair.
“You’re supposed to still be in Chicago,” I say, the sentence partially muffled by his muscled chest.
“No, I’m back for a few hours, then off to Miami in the morning. And since I was already packed I thought to myself, ‘self, what do I wanna do right now?’ Before I could answer, self had gotten us in the truck and I was parking beside you.”
“Aww, that’s sweet… in a felonous, stalker kinda way.”
“You could ruin even the sweetest thing.” We laugh and for a second I’m enraptured by the way his mouth moves.
“So,” he says, his eyes settling on mine, “get in.”
“Where are we going?”
“Just get in.”
“Are you gonna dump me in a river when you’re done?” He shakes his head at me.
“I just wanna feed you.”
“You watch too many Chris Rock movies.”
We laugh again at the inside joke.
“The only way I’m coming is if I drive.” Without a word, he tosses me his keys and walks around to the passenger side. I step back, get a running start, and jump up into the Rover. I start adjusting my seat, but I’m still pretty tiny in comparison to the truck.
“You need some phone books there, chairwoman of the lollipop guild?”
“Blow me.” I start the engine.
We end up at Waffle House, laughing and talking shit, he’s telling me about his trip, I’m telling him about mine. I’m looking at him, watching the way he looks over me, the way he smiles and laughs.
“So did you see any exes while you were in the A?”
“Yeah, I saw First Love.”
“Should I be concerned?” I burst out laughing.
“Concerned about what?”
“That I got some competition.” I laugh even harder.
“You only comp right now K.B. is me, and I’m a hell of an opponent.” He stares me down.
“Why you gotta be so hard all the time?”
I lean back and away from him.
“Everybody plays the game. Some were born to do it. Others, like me, are taught as a result of how others play.”
“I’m not playing.”
“But you’re trying to win.”
“No maybe. You want me because I told you that you couldn’t have me. You can’t be wrong.”
“Why can’t I want you just because I want you?”
“Why do you want me?” He hesitates.
“Checkmate.” We’re silent, gone are the giggles from mere minutes ago. I exhale hard.
“Look, I like you. But-“
“There’s always a but.” He looks me square in my eyes. I keep waiting for him to shrink away from my gaze. He doesn’t. I try again.
“I like you, but I can’t be with you right now.”
“Because I like you.”
“WHAT?!?!” We try to hold it, but we burst into laughter.
“I can’t date you because I like you. And I’m not looking to like anyone right now.”
“Tell me you realize that makes no sense.”
“If you dealt with me right now, I’d fuck you over.” He’s quiet again.
“He really fucked you up. Didn’t he?” I shift uncomfortably. “Seriously La. You don’t have to be so damn hard.” We’re quiet again, him looking at me intently.
“You miss him?” I consider his question.
“I miss who I thought he was. I miss who I thought we were.” I consider my next point carefully. “I miss who I was back then.”
“You could be that woman again. I’d like to meet her.”
“I don’t wanna be that woman again. Spaceships don’t come equipped with rearview mirrors.” We’re looking at each other, barely blinking, eye to eye. He softens around the edges. He reaches across the table for my hand, his big one engulfing my tiny fingers.
“I know you got fucked over. And I’m not trying to push. Well, I’m trying not to push.” We giggle.
“I can recognize your head is a little fucked up right now. And I’ll try to respect that. But La, I’m not that nigga. That’s some childish ass shit to pull on somebody. I’m a grown ass man, lil mama.”
“Ooooh that was sexy. Say it again.”
“You’re such a nigga,” he tells me, and we laugh.
“Question,” he says, running his thumb over the top of my hand. “Do you think he really loved you?”
I consider it for a long time.
“No. No I don’t. If he did-,” I clear my throat, “it wouldn’t have been so easy for him to-” I falter. “Just- no. No I don’t. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been so easy for him to forget us, to forget me.” I clear my throat again, the backs on my eyeballs stinging. I blink rapidly.
“It’s ok to cry.”
“No.” I clear my throat. “No,” stronger this time. “Not wasting the tears. He’s not crying over me.”
“I doubt he’s forgotten you. You’re not the kinda woman a man just forgets or tosses aside. Or, hell, anyone for that matter.”
“The evidence speaks to the contrary does it not?”
“Why you gotta be so goddamn HARD?!?”
“I’m soft in the right places.”
“And goddammit why are you such a nigga?”
We laugh again, loud enough to attract some attention.
“Maybe,” he starts and then I guess he thinks harder about whatever he’s about to say. “Maybe, you should try to patch things up with him.”
“WHAT?!?!?!” I look at him like he’s grown another head.
“Seriously, hear me out. You obviously loved this man, and if even half the things you’ve said and written about him are true, he loves you too. Do you really wanna just walk away from it without giving it everything you’ve got? You said he texted you Thursday night and wanted to talk to you-“
“I haven’t heard from him-“
“So why don’t you call him?”
“Because I’m not the one that broke us.”
“But you are one of the people who cares about fixing it so-“
“Is there a point?”
“My point is that you should at least get some closure. Maybe you don’t go back to him but-“
“It might help.”
“You miss him.” Our rapid fire convo screeches to a hault. He looks at me with soft eyes. “Just call him La. Blind people could see you miss him. At least try.”
“Goddammit stop being so stubborn and prideful and-“
He looks me over and leans back. I sigh and try to explain myself.
“To me he used to be the guy that would never, ever do anything to hurt me. He’s not that guy anymore. And maybe he never was. I dunno if there’s coming back from that.”
“You don’t know? So why don’t you find out.” I’m silent. Suddenly, the peeling paint on the wall is terribly interesting.
“Look La, real talk, this is all I’ma say about it then I’ma leave it alone-“
“Doubt that shit-“
“Oh would you just shut the fuck up for once? DAMN.” I smirk at his irritation.
“Don’t be that girl babygirl. Don’t be that girl that most men couldn’t build to be any better, but you’re just all fucked up over some childish ass nigga playing little boy games.”
Am I that girl?