The friends with benefits term never agreed with Joey, mostly because he thinks friendship has all the benefits to start with, and none of the complications that arise from attempting a sexual relationship. I’ve tried to explain the reasoning behind these casual rendezvous to him a hundred times already, but he always turns up his nose at my excuses. After all, that’s what they are. If I believed what I was doing is smart, I wouldn’t be rationalizing it in the first place. This is lesson number one in the textbook on me: if I spin a long story around something, it’s because I know it’s bullshit.
„I know plenty people love me, thank you very much. Doesn’t help to soothe my biologically-triggered urges!“
A lie, followed by another lie. It seems I’m on a roll today – not even noon and I’m already beginning to trip over my words. Since I’m having a bad hair day, though, and it’s summer – the most hated season of all – I decide against reaching deeper into the suitcase of reasons behind my relationship-related atrocities. I’m giving myself the permission to be dishonest, most of all because neither of us can handle the truth in this heat.
„Sometimes I wish I had your proclivity for self-deception. It’s like a superpower, really, the way you bend logic to justify your actions.“
I roll my eyes at him and take a sip of lemonade. Bitter. Much.
„Anyway, what did you want to talk about regarding this latest foray into the world of Cosmo girls? I’m sensing there’s a reason you’ve mentioned it, or did you just feel like rubbing it in?“
„How is talking about my sex life rubbing it in? You don’t even want one, mister I’m-so-much-like-Morrissey-it’s-ridiculous.“
Joey finally smiles and gives his best impression of The Man Himself, waving a hand arrogantly over his head. I roll my eyes again, this time out of fondness. Truth of the matter is, I actually don’t know why I’ve even mentioned my latest slip into „Cosmo territory“. The most likely explanation: I’ve done nothing but fuck and eat in the last couple of days, which leaves the other salient conversation topic being zucchini. Who ever had an engaging exchange about that?
„Fine, fine. I’ll bite. Let’s hear how amazing it was, how much easier than when you actually care about someone, how life can be so simple when you ignore all the monogamous, hetero-sexist norms pertaining to relationships… this is where you were going with it, non?“
He’s got my number, of course. This is exactly what I was planning to say, but I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of being completely right, so I decide to add a pinch of sincerity into the mix.
„That, yes. And the fact I think I’m beginning to actually like him.“
„What do you mean, you’re beginning to like him? You’ve always liked him! That’s why you’re screwing around in the first place.“
„Well, yes, I’ve always liked him, but now I think I may be falling in love with him a little. Just a touch, to make it more interesting.“
Joey bursts out laughing and makes a show of not being able to breathe for all the entertainment this is giving him. I toss a toxic look in his general direction, avoiding his eyes.
„Can you hear what you’re saying? A few days ago you were all about getting rid of the complications that arise out of unsavory love stories, and today you’re falling for the most inappropriate person imaginable! Wow! Kudos, Missus, you’re really going for a record this time.“
„Shut up,“ I quip. Then, unable to keep my curiosity in check, „What record?“
„The how-many-stupid-mistakes-can-I-make-in-a-week’s-time record. Also, the how-to-bore-my-faithful-friend-to-death-by-rehashing-what-we’ve-already-been-over-a-million-times-before.“
What I’m trying to say is not that I want to get involved again, I’m just stating a fact. Joey can be a bit single-minded where his outlook on like and love is concerned. Having very little experience in the field, and wanting none to begin with, it’s difficult for him to grasp why we mortals dabble with it in the first place. It’s not some big secret or revelation I’m after, either. It’s a simple truth – liking someone who makes you marginally happy without the added bonus of misunderstanding or heartbreak at the end of the day. No one who snores by your side after you fall asleep pleasantly spent.
„It’s not like that. I’m not being all lovey-dovey, I want to carry his children, or anything. I’m just mindful of how easy this is, this hanging out and enjoying each other’s company without the drama.“
„We enjoy each other’s company without the drama.“
„We have plenty drama, Joey.“
„Okay, you’re right. But how is this different from Mister Y, then? Wasn’t it easy with him, too, in the beginning?“
I like that he’s picked up the nickname I gave the latest victim of Hurricane Missus. Talking in code somehow makes the conversation less serious, like discussing characters in a book we’re both reading at the same time. It makes the people less real, as well as the emotions they might evoke.
„It just is. I don’t expect anything from him, I guess. And he doesn’t expect anything from me.“
„The latter being key. Also, complete BS about you not having expectations, but I’ll let you finish to see if you can take this in any reasonable direction.“
„Thanks for the consideration. I was saying, he doesn’t expect anything from me. And so, I feel like I can be myself with him. Because he doesn’t want me to be anyone else, he doesn’t care. It’s… refreshing, in a way. Also, pretty damn liberating.“
„Would you fart in front of him?“
„No! Shut up, you’re vile!“
„Vile? It’s a biological necessity, you know.“
„Girls don’t do that in front of other guys.“
„Oh, then you’re no girl, because I can distinctly remember…“
A slice of lemon flies straight into his eye and he curses, throwing it back at me. This is exactly the kind of morning I wanted, carefree, spent in relatively safe banter.
„To sum it up, we have fun. Do you remember the last time I said that, about anyone? Pure old-fashioned, uncomplicated fun. And maybe you’re right, maybe I do make-believe for a few seconds a day that he loves me, or that it’s all perfect and can stay that way. Is that so wrong, do you think? I know that’s not what’s going on, but I’d like to pretend otherwise, at least for a while.“
„No, as long as you know it’s make-believe, I’m down with it. Knock yourself out. I like seeing you less frustrated, even if it won’t last.“
„Thanks for your blessing, Father.“
A slice of lemon hits me square in the eye and I can see why Joey was cursing at me. It stings. I rub it like you would a war injury, which naturally only makes it worse.
„Don’t cry yet, child. You’ve still got two months of debauchery left until September-induced reality kicks in. Why don’t you call him up and see if he can kiss your eye and make it better?“
I ponder his suggestion, but decide against it. It’s a bad hair day, it’s too hot, and I don’t need any benefits other than the ones of my friendship with Joey at the moment. We order another round of lemonades, tell the waitress not to serve them with half-moons this time, and spike them with gin. What a perfect, drama-free day, I think to myself. It’s almost as if summer could turn out to be a bearable sort of season, after all.