„What’s this news you want to talk to me about?“
Joey doesn’t waste any time. He asks the question while entering my apartment as if it were his own, casually removing his shoes in the hall and slumping on the armchair closest to me.
I’m equally excited to share my news, so I don’t tell him off for his lack of manners.
„Right! So, I’ve been talking to my mother and…“
„Oh-oh. I can already tell this is not going anywhere remotely good.“
„Shush. Don’t diss the old gal! Also, I think you’re gonna like this one.“
My mother isn’t normally the person I’d turn to with my problems, but sometimes it can’t be helped. When you live with someone, they tend to pick up on the subtle shades in your mood and then beat the reasons why out of you. Metaphorically, of course.
„Alright. Give it your best shot.“
I take a deep breath. Then two.
„So, my mom asked me what was going on with Jim, right. And we talked about it for a while and she said I should just be honest with him. About what I may or may not want, and about how we stand. Because, she says I’m a bit difficult to read sometimes and you know.. I get that I am. It’s just that I don’t really like to show people what I think or feel, unless they’re you. Or my mom.“
Joey opens a can of lager and looks at me intently.
„So what’s this plan of yours, then?“
„Well, I thought I’d write him a letter. I’m shit at expressing myself orally, and please, no sex jokes. But I’m pretty good at writing, or at least better than speaking it out loud anyway. So I wrote him a letter, and now I need you to tell me if it’s a wise decision to post it.“
„No, it’s not.“
I squeal and make the best puppy dog eyes I can muster.
„You haven’t even heard it yet!“
Joey sits next to me on the couch and makes a spectacle out of taking my hand and sighing.
„Missus, it’s never a good idea to post a letter to someone you don’t even know that well and to whom you haven’t talked to about anything except red lingerie versus black, or whatever it is you two talk about.“
I push Joey’s hand away and pretend to be insulted.
„We talk… sometimes. About philosophy. And books. And music.“
„Fine, then. You talk. About philosophy and books and music. Never mind that only a couple of days ago you swore that nothing was going on. Whatever. Let’s hear this letter, then. I’ll try to be objective, Scout’s honor!“
„You were never a scout, Joey.“
„It’s a form of speech, for fuck’s sake. Go on.“
I know I’m delaying reading the letter, and it makes me think about how I’ll ever find the courage to send it if I can’t even share it with Joey. It’s not as if he doesn’t know what’s written in it, or that I’m expecting a critical appraisal of my literary prowess.
There’s something far scarier, though, in baring your thoughts and feelings naked for someone else to hear or read, than it is in bearing your body for them to see.
„Alright. Here goes nothing.“
The room goes quiet and Joey looks at the table, knowing full well I’d find it too embarrassing for him to stare at me while I’m reading. The moment morphs into a movie-like, voice-over sequence. The words spoken in the background are as follows.
I’m aware that we only met a short while ago, and that we said we would keep these things between us simple. I have my own issues, and yeah, you have yours (although, I guess I’m kind of the winner in that department). I’ve been thinking really hard these last couple of days as to why I’ve been sad. When everything is taken into account, I’ve done well in my job interviews, I’ve had fun with my friends, I’ve had a pretty darn amazing few weeks, I should feel ecstatic. But I don’t.
The thing is, I miss you.
I miss you if you don’t call or if we don’t see each other. I miss the smell of your hair in the morning. I can’t get used to not having someone force-feed me breakfast. I am well aware of the fact that this was NOT how our arrangement was supposed to turn out. Go ahead, this is your time to swear and curse women (well, don’t condemn all of them, it’s only me really, with the oddly masculine yet emotional streak – I might as well have been born a gay man. Or a straight woman. Or maybe I should just stop with the stereotypes altogether).
In any case, I know this is not something you want to read. If you do, I’ll be glad, but for the most part, this letter will probably serve for me to spill my guts out and to be able to tell myself, a couple of years from now, sure there was a guy I was into, and we spent a couple of months fooling around, and then it turned out he didn’t really like me all that much, but at least I tried.
I need to know that I tried, Jim. Can you understand that? You’ll probably be pissed off at me when you get this letter because you’ll think (rightfully so) – why didn’t she just say what she wanted from the beginning? You’ll probably think I’m unstable (no arguments here) and selfish and a little bit insane.
Jim, I want to tell you, I am all of these things. I am as unstable as people get, I cry one day because it’s raining and the next day I’m overjoyed even though the weather hasn’t changed. I want things to happen my way, and then – even when they don’t – I go along with them just the same. Because I’m afraid of losing, people or the bets I put on life itself. And yes I am insane, I always put those bets on the unlikeliest people or situations imaginable. I like to pretend I’m a gambler. Maybe I am.
Jim. I don’t know why I keep writing your name down, by the way, sorry about that. Force of habit, I guess, I like saying it too. But that’s not important at the moment. What I wanted to say is, and what it took me a couple of unimportant paragraphs to write – I want you. Not it the way you think I do, either. Not in the I-have-nobody-else-to-call or let’s-have-sex kind of way. Not in the you’re-the-only-one-who’s-here-at-the-moment kind of way.
I want to act silly with you. You know how, we’ve done it a million times already. Like when we packed up our stuff and went to the nearest big city without even an idea of where we might stay and it was the ugliest place in the world, but it felt so great just walking and fooling around, we were laughing at the decrepit old buildings and you held my hand in yours because you knew no one would see us. That was the first time I thought you might fall in love with me, once. It’s not a matter of difficulty, or severity. I don’t want these little things to change, ever.
I want to know that you don’t want them to change, either. That is, that you don’t want them to stop.
Jim, I’ve spent such a long time now dealing with what if’s and maybe’s and when-the-time-is-right’s. I’ve given up on the idea that anything could be as simple as binge-eating pancakes in the morning and then laughing aloud to some ridiculous song one of us remembered. I forgot how it felt to be really free. And I was free with you.
That’s what I miss, really, most of all. It might sound like a paradox but it isn’t, not in my mind. You’re the one who has shown me I can be free while at the same time being in love with someone. So, if not for anything else, I want to thank you for that. For teaching me you’re never too old to enjoy young love.
There you have it. Do with this what you will. Call, don’t call. Answer. Kiss me when we meet. Don’t mention it for fear of embarrassing the both of us. I don’t care. What I care about is, as I’ve already written – I care that I’ve tried. That I cared enough to try. That’s the best any of us can do, really.
A long time passes before Joey says anything. My stomach is in knots and even though I think it couldn’t get any tighter, with every passing minute, the knots multiply. The hand that holds the paper shivers violently. I would say something, but I fear I am liable to break down in a blubbering heap of bones. When I finally can’t stand the silence anymore, I open my mouth to speak, but Joey raises his hand. It’s shivering as hard as mine.
„Send it. We all need to place our bets on the improbable, sometimes.“