“I dunno. I wish you quit more.”
We’re somewhere around the thirty-minute mark of this chat and I wasn’t expecting it to escalate so quickly.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you don’t quit things. And I love that about you. I know that you’d do anything for me and by extension for my wife and my kids and probably the damn dog. But sometimes, you should quit things.”
He takes a beat to peel his youngest off the back of the couch from where she would have surely jumped to great injury had she been left to her own devices for another 2 to 4 seconds. I try to contemplate why someone who knows me so well would be advising me to quit, as though that doesn’t go against everything I believe in.
“I know it’s not really how you operate,” he says, returning and reading my mind. “But maybe you should.”
“What should I have quit that I didn’t?”
“You didn’t quit your last job when that woman was stressing you out so bad your hair fell out. You refuse to quit that girl who ain’t really your friend. You didn’t quit that nigga I couldn’t stand that I told you was gone pull the same shit he pulled the time before. And what did he do, La?”
“He pulled the same shit he did before.”
“Cause you shoulda quit him the first time.”
“Did you just dunk on me with a, like, 4 year old I-told-you-so?”
“Statute of limitations is up. It’s no longer an I-told-you-so. It’s just part of our shared history.”
“I feel like we got beef.”
“I’m really not worried.”
His wife peeks her head in, hoisting the baby up on her hip and chatting with me about Thailand a bit. She tells me she has some supplies to send me to keep me safe, because she is the sweetest human in the whole world. When I tell her that being quarantined alone is lonely, she offers to send one of the kids.
“Or the dog,” she says. “She’s great company. Hell, I’ll come, and leave him here with the girls and we can drink and watch horrible movies.”
“I’ll leave the key under the mat.”
“Babe! I’m leaving you for La.”
“Honestly,” he replies, “I’m surprised it’s taken you this long. She’s irresistible, that one.”
She and I say our goodbyes, recommitting to stealing a few months together locked in my apartment, and he wastes no time jumping right back to the subject.
“Maybe the irresistible is part of the problem.”
“So, now just how I am is part of the problem?”
“I don’t really wanna talk to you anymore?”
“That’s unfortunate, cuz I’m not done talking and you ain’t going nowhere.”
He does this when he has a point to make, when he knows he’s right. And because he only does it like once a year and he is always fucking right, I know I am going to shut up and take it.
But I’m not going to like it.
“You give so much. All the time. Without it being requested and without expecting repayment. You ain’t always nice, but you are good through and through. And because people don’t know what to do with goodness, you’re going to have to learn to quit. To stop being so understanding when people you love can’t or won’t or don’t reciprocate. When people refuse to give you your due for what you’ve worked hard for. You gotta learn when to say when, kiddo.”
I am thinking of a million responses in my head and feeling even more. But all I can muster is, “I know.”
“I love you.”
“I know that, too.”
“I just want you to be okay.”
“Gonna go try to keep the kids occupied while the wife cooks so the little one doesn’t set the house on fire.”
“She’s my favorite.”
“A woman that sets things on fire is your favorite? Imagine that.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“One last thing.” He leans closer to the screen, his face kind and earnest.
“I know you’ve lost a lot. And I know you haven’t always given people a chance when maybe before you should have. And you feel a certain amount of guilt around that. But not giving up on friends and partners isn’t a guarantee of reciprocation and it is not the penance you pay for what you’ve done in the past. And honestly, aren’t you tired, yet?”
His question hits me like truck right in my gut.
Being friends with a therapist is the worst.
A screech and a loud crash from the kitchen break into the silence.
“I gotta go. I love you. Think about it.”
“Love you, too.”
We disconnect and I sit in silence for awhile, feeling raw and exposed.
Aren’t you tired yet?
Yeah, I am.