Friday, February 19, 2010

Friends and Lovers

Don't tell my mother, but I'm going to see my lover tonight. The fact that I have taken a lover is probably pretty high on the long list of things I'm sure she doesn't want to know about her oldest child. She doesn't know that the way I tell her I have a new lover is to call him my boyfriend, even though he isn't. I haven't had a boyfriend, a real boyfriend, in the two years I've lived in Chicago. It's easier this way, really - much in the same way no child wants to know about their parents' sex lives, I'm pretty certain my mother doesn't want to know that I get laid about as often as I can. Even though she told me the facts of life when I was twelve or thirteen, we just don't talk about sex. I've never told her about the night I lost my virginity, and she's never asked. Part of me is grateful for this, because well, no parent wants to know about their child's sex life. But like a lot of milestones in my life my mother missed out on (I didn't even tell her the first time I kissed a boy, let alone the first time I kissed a girl), this is one I wished she knew about. I wish I could tell her that that it was one of the most amazing, most romantic nights of my life, or that even though I am no longer with that man, the man I thought I would marry, I know I chose well. I think if we were ever to talk about it, she would have been proud to know that I waited for love. She never told me about the importance of waiting for someone I loved and someone who I knew loved me back. If I ever have a little girl someday, I'm going to tell her about that night, and ask that she waits not for marriage, but for love. I've had more than enough lovers to know that it's always better that way. When I moved in with my last serious boyfriend, I didn't even have the heart to tell her that mattress shopping was completely unnecessary, because our second bedroom would be used as an office.

The west-bound Brown Line train almost vibrates beneath my feet as it rumbles passed the old, faded brick buildings. Of all the things I love about Chicago, riding the train is my favorite. The train is mostly empty at this hour of night as I glance around my car at the bored, tired faces of my fellow city-dwellers. I can't help but feel a little naughty as my thoughts drift to my lover. I had gone away the last several weeks for something of a mental vacation, and this will be the first time I've seen him since my return. I let my thoughts wander between wondering what he will want to do together tonight and giggling a little, feeling deliciously naughty. Oh, if they only knew what I was doing, where I was going, and what I wanted him to do to me when I got there. I don't really have much chance to have lunch or drinks with my close friends in whom I confide such things, so I usually keep my naughty stories to myself unless such an occasion arises. I've been told that I have one of the most interesting and shall we say inventive sex lives of pretty much everyone I know. Looking back on some of the most deliciously naughty stories I could tell just from the last three months I've been seeing my most recent lover, the lover I am going to see tonight, I would almost have to agree.

Oh, how my mother would die if she only knew anything about the things I have done or would very much like to do. What would she say if, say, she knew of the threesomes (the most recent of which happened last week), the one-night stands, why my last serious boyfriend and I had scarves tied to our bed, or what he and I did together behind the orange trees in their backyard just before we moved in together, and I can only imagine what she would say if she knew what I was going to do with my lover tonight. Well, I don't really know what I'm doing with him tonight, either. Since we've been seeing each other for a little while, I've become much more vocal about what I want and what I like to do, and I had told him earlier in the day that I wanted him to think about what he wanted to do, anything at all within my limits, and not to tell me what it was until it was time to go to bed.

These thoughts consume my imagination as the train roars to a deafening stop. People stumble forward. I almost skip out of the car and down the stairs. He isn't here yet. He's on another train, headed here to meet me. We've agreed to meet at the El station, and I have arrived before him. He's the only reason I have to come to this neighborhood, so I'm vaguely unfamiliar by my surroundings. Because this is Chicago, there is a bar across the street from the station, where I ordered a drink. No, I'm not in the mood to nurse my usual beer. I'll have a Maker's Mark neat with a splash of water, please. I wait in the window of the bar, watching for him. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see my lover stepping out into the unseasonably warm November night, patting his pockets for his cell phone. He is looking for me. My heart beats faster as I dial his number. I can see you, I smile seductively around my words, as he crosses the street to meet me. I take a last swallow of bourbon, which sends a smooth, pleasant burn searing down my throat, calming the butterflies in my stomach, before I step out into the night.

He has arrived. He is as handsome as ever. We embrace. We kiss. He holds my hand. For a moment, I feel like the luckiest woman in the city. We go home. We have a drink together as he prepares to settle in for the evening. We kiss. His mouth tastes of good Scotch. I smile, still unaware of what he has in store for me, but looking forward to it all the same. We fall back on the bed in each other's arms as the dance begins. He roots around in the canvas bag on the door by the bed. I sigh with pleasure. When he's finished, we make love, the kind of which I have rarely experienced. I hate that phrase, love-making. Sex is sex, love is love. It's not that I don't love him - part of me does. I'm not in love with him, though God knows the phrase has escaped my lips in the throws of passion. I love you, sweetheart. I whispered under my breath as he holds me, after. I am exhausted. I am content, truly content for the first time in weeks. We sleep, tangled up in one another.

It's the next morning. I am the first to rise. I watch him sleep for a moment before I kiss his shoulder and lay there with my limbs entangled in his. We kiss as he smiles into my eyes. It happens again. No, not like last night. He has to work today, and there is little time. I step into the shower with him. The hot water soothes my tired bones as he washes my hair. A sigh of pleasure escapes me. I love it when he washes my hair. He makes a light breakfast of hot tea and bagels.

I cannot help but remember that this was once my life. That once, I had a man I loved, a man who loved me. My lover doesn't know that I live for mornings like this, mornings when I can allow myself to remember what it was like to be in love, to share these kinds of mornings with him every morning, to share those kinds of nights like last night every night. To pretend for a moment that we're more than lovers, if only for a few fleeing moments. It seems so long ago, and yet it was only two years. An eternity. Sometimes I catch my lover's eye and wonder if I am alone with these thoughts. The wound of loosing someone is much more fresh for him than it is for me. I cannot tell him how I empathize with his loneliness, how deeply he hurts, how he loves her, how he misses her in the smallest, most absurd ways. He hasn't told me any of this, but he doesn't have to. I can see it in his eyes and in the way he looks at me. I wish I could take it all away for him, just as I once wished it could be done for me, but I know I cannot. This kind of hurt can only be endured alone with friends and perhaps the occasional lover. I know he will endure. He must. He will. And so will I.

It is time to leave. We walk the short distance to the train. He's quiet this morning. I hold his hand as we watch the faded brick buildings whiz outside the window of the train. One day, I sigh, as I settle back into the uncomfortable seat on the train as it weaves through sky scrapers and old brick buildings in a long, rectangular loop that gave this part of the city its name. Round and round I go, watching passengers get on and off the train. I have nowhere to go, nowhere to be, and I am content to simply enjoy the ride through the city, taking him to work. Someday, I will be ready. One day, he will be ready. I do not fool myself into thinking we will be ready at the same time. I am two long years into that journey and his is only just beginning. I content myself with days like this, dring the train with him to work. One day, I promise myself, I will share the kind of love I once shared with the man I loved two years ago, the man I still love, if I were to be truly honest with myself. One day, I will have someone to come home to. Someone I won't fear is thinking of one of their other boyfriends or girlfriends, because I will be the only one they want. Some day, I, too, will have trouble remembering what this kind of loneliness is like. Someday, someone will look at me the way my best friend and her boyfriend have looked eat each other for the last five years. Someday, I will have the kind of love I have been waiting for all my life, the kind of love that for two years, I had a brief taste of. Someday, I will be ready to love again. Someday, someone will love me back.

He has reached his stop, and it is time for him to fade into the swarm of commuters, until I can no longer see him. We kiss. The illusion is broken. See you next week? Yes, he smiles. Yes.