“I came over here for you.”
There’s so much truth embedded in my words that I’m surprised when she laughs, a single, breathy chuckle. It’s either disbelief or relief.
“What are we doing, Mills?”
She laughs again, pressing a kiss to my neck, sucking in the exact way that I like. That she’s learned that I like. We’ve done this three times now, it’s no longer just an accident. “Having sex, Reid.”
And it’s that—the condescending words, yes, but also the tone, so lighthearted—that hits a dissonant gong in my head. Her response is the verbal equivalent of a marshmallow, a Peep, something with shape but no volume. I wanted her to say something better, maybe even “I don’t know”—that at least would invite conversation, at least show that she’s as confused and affected by all of this as I am.
I step back, surveying her flushed chest, her weak legs and sated smile. Turning, I head to the living room, gathering my clothes as I go.
“You can stay,” she says behind me. Relief flushes warm through my bloodstream, until she adds, “I have to run to my office to grab a couple things, but you’re totally welcome to hang.”
At this, I actually laugh. “I mean, don’t get all needy on me, Mills.”
“Oh, no fear of that,” she says, and it doesn’t feel like a joke, it feels sincere. It’s as if she really doesn’t know why it would be weird for her to take off right after we have sex, without any emotional understanding, and expect me to just hang out here and wait for her to come home. In the past I would have gone with her, to keep her company in her office or do something at work myself, but she doesn’t want that or even expect it.
I feel half-oblivious and half-chauvinistic for assuming that recurrent sex with Millie would eventually mean more than sex to her, but I’m not sure it ever will.
“It’s cool, Mills. I’m gonna head home.”
My car door closes heavily and I let my head fall back against the headrest. Postsex, I feel like a well-used glove, a warm blanket, a body pillow. Soft and warm and sated. But inside, somewhere deeper, I’m a knot of angst.
I want Millie. I think I’m falling in love with her. And she just does not see me that way at all.
I text Chris.
Can I come over?
His front room is lit warmly, and from the street I can see him standing behind his couch, facing his television, fiddling with something. He looks up when he hears my footsteps on the stairs, moving to open the door.
I don’t even let him get a word out: “I’m going to tell you some shit, and you cannot freak out on me.”
He glances at me, dropping the remote on the couch. “Oh, boy.”
“It’s about Millie.” I pause, and his eyes narrow. “And me,” I say.
“Millie,” he says, “and you. As in . . .” His brows go up. “Oh. As in, you’ve been banging her?”
“Three times.” I stop, wiping a hand over my face. “No, like seven times. But three separate occasions—”
“Wait, wait. You’re telling me there was a night where you had sex more than two times with Millie Morris?”
“The fact that I had sex with Millie at all is what I expected to be shocking.”
“What’s shocking is you’re fucking virile, son.”
I groan. “Chris.”
“I’m saying,” he says under his breath. “We’re not in our twenties anymore.”
I push my hands into my hair, wishing I could reach into my head just as easily and shift everything around until it made sense. “But she doesn’t like me that way.”
“She . . .” He scrunches his nose and looks at me with suspicion. “What?”
“I mean, no, no, she liked the sex—that was both of us—but she doesn’t want more.”
“You know this?”
“I sense this.”
He laughs again. “Oh, boy. I don’t think this is the kind of thing you can assume, especially where Millie is concerned.”
“How else would I figure anything out?” I walk deeper into his house, into his kitchen, fetching a beer from the fridge. “We have so much fun together, and the sex is . . . God, the sex is unreal, but when I try to imagine having an actual relationship? Where we talk about feelings and goals and fears?”
At this, Chris bursts out laughing, harder now.
“So you see what I mean.”
He nods. “Yeah, man, I see what you mean.”
“Then there’s Catherine,” I say, and Chris whistles long and low. “I’ve never met her, but online it’s like . . . we just click. We talk about everything—about family and work, and life. It’s good. I feel like we’d really vibe.”
“So, ask her out.” His tone says, What’s the problem?
“Tonight with Daisy was a bust. So I went right over to Millie’s.”
“Aha. And let me guess—”
I nod. “Yeah . . .” I scratch my chin. “I want to be with Millie.”
“So tell her that.”
“But if she isn’t on the same page, it will honestly make everything so awkward.”
Chris shrugs. “As opposed to now?”
“Maybe you’ll want to be with Cat, too, once you meet her,” he suggests hopefully.
“I can’t really imagine wanting someone the way I want Millie. I just want Millie to be . . . more.”
Chris pulls out a chair at the counter and stares at the floor for a few long beats. “I don’t know, man. The Millie thing doesn’t surprise me, because I sort of assumed you guys hit it a while ago and got it out of your systems. But if you’re with that, and into it, I can’t exactly tell you to walk away just because Millie isn’t exactly the most emotionally deep person. I feel like maybe she could get there, with you.”
“So you do think I should tell her how I feel?”
“Then again,” he says, holding up a hand, “I’ve seen you after you’ve read a message from Cat. Why not explore that?”
“So you think I should ask Cat out?”
Chris looks up at me. “Do you need me to write out a flow chart? You can’t calculate your way out of this. Shit, Reid.”
I throw my hands up. “I just don’t know what’s the best decision!”
He stands and gets himself a beer, too. “What I think? Ask Cat out. See how it goes. If it bombs, either because there’s no chemistry or because you know you want Millie, then at least you know. You’ll have to tell her.”
From: Reid C.
Sent: 1:28 am, April 7
I can’t tell you how hard this last message from you made me grin—well, the end of it, at least. Not that the things you were talking about were funny, but the stream of consciousness is honestly refreshing.
I’m lonely, too. I know that feeling, and the energy threshold to do something about it sometimes feels insurmountable. Seriously, I get it so hard, even if I don’t necessarily think I’m bad at asking for what I need—I’m just not finding it anywhere. But it sounds like you have a good group of friends, and as someone in a group of friends myself, I can say that being needed is a really important part of feeling connected to people. I’m sure if you asked more of them, they’d step up. They might even surprise you.
And I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to my parents. You’ve lost your mom, and now your dad is sick—of course you’re feeling emotionally loose and filterless (even if I will never forgive you for the phrase “emotional diarrhea”). Ramble at me anytime.
All that said, your message threw my night into turmoil and I don’t know what else to do but to tell you about it. You’ve always been honest with me, so I’m going to keep being honest with you.
I was on a date tonight with another woman. I’m sure you’re talking to multiple people too, so I don’t feel the need to explain that away, but I’m sure you can understand that it wasn’t the right time to be reading a message from IRL (yours). This woman, we’ll call her D.D. (endless jokes), went to the restroom and stayed there for a while. I got restless, started reading your message and was absorbed in a second read when I realized she was standing there, waiting for me to look up so she could tell me she was leaving.