To read part one, click here.
I stayed on the couch that night. As Alice slept in our room, I tried desperately to find the words that might make her reconsider her position. I started several letters, but none of them came out like I wanted. I Googled “love quotes” for inspiration, but nothing seemed to convey what I was feeling. I sought out information from advice columns, but most of them suggested the best thing to do was wait. I wanted to be proactive but couldn’t decide what to do.
After a couple hours of searching I was about to give up and attempt to sleep when I stumbled across a quote that made me feel better.
“As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.”
I decided to give my letter one more try. This time I shut off my analytical mind and wrote from the heart.
Shakespeare said, “As soon go kindle fire with snow, as seek to quench the fire of love with words.” If even he couldn’t find the words to describe love, what are the rest of us to do? And so we compare love to a summer day, a drug, and even war. But no summer day ever made me feel as warm as you. And the quick high of a drug fails in comparison to the sustaining peace I feel in your arms. And, if love is indeed like a war, there’s no one else I’d rather have on my side.
I didn’t sleep that night.
As Alice walked out of our room and headed for the shower the next morning, I pretended to be asleep. Once the water turned on, I pulled the blankets off, already fully dressed. I folded the letter, wrote her name on the outside, and put it on our bed where I knew she’d see it, then headed out the door.
It was finals week and I still had a lot of work to do on my short film. I tried my best to think about the edit, but she was the only thing on my mind. That night she thanked me for the letter, and though the sentiment was sincere, I couldn’t help but think it felt a little like thanking your second cousin for showing up to your weekly barbeque. We fell asleep in separate rooms.
As the week wore on, my resolve grew thin, and I became more and more aware that if she did end up deciding to stay she’d probably always question whether or not she should have left. It was Thursday. I decided to give her until the end of the weekend to make up her mind. Friday and Saturday came and went without any revelations. I hoped Sunday would bring her clarity.
Earlier in the week, in an attempt to swing the odds in my favor, I reached deep down into the well, and said, “There’s this quote from Land Before Time that says, ‘Listen to your heart. It whispers, so listen carefully.’ It’s cheesy, but you’ve got all these voices in your ear trying to convince you to do what’s in their best interest. I just want you to make the right decision for you.” It seemed like the right thing to say, but wasn’t exactly true as I was probably the loudest of all those voices and desperately wanted to be heard. Still, for the last four days Alice had seemed completely shut off emotionally, and I was willing to try anything.
I lay in bed feeling guilty for trying to manipulate the situation in my favor, but secretly hoping it would work. Before I fell asleep I scribbled the truth of how I felt into my notebook.
I said I’d do anything for you to be happy. I never thought those words were a lie. I meant I’d do anything for you to be happy, if you could be happy and still by my side.
Sunday came. Clarity didn’t.
“Did you have a chance to think about it?” I said.
“It’s been such a busy week. Can I have a few more days?”
“What are you thinking now?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’m thinking the same thing. You said my heart would whisper but I feel like it’s screaming for me to go.”
She was set, even if she wasn’t ready to fully commit to it out loud yet. I prepared myself to say the words I’d been dreading.
“I know I said I’d give you as much time as you needed,” I said, “but I told myself if you didn’t make a decision by the end of the week, I would. From now on, we’re no longer boyfriend and girlfriend.”
A tear touched the corner of her eyes. It didn’t fall, but was enough to reassure me this hadn’t been an easy decision for her either. The facades we maintain in romantic relationships can’t help but reveal themselves eventually. We talked for a few more minutes before I headed off to school to finish editing my short film.
The rest of the week flew by. I finished the film and even included her name in the credits. Because “muse” seemed a bit too enigmatic, I decided to change her title to “first assistant director.” We parted amicably, and decided we’d wait a month until I got back from Oklahoma to make any decisions about our apartment.
The gym was my companion over the next few weeks. Any feelings of sadness, anger or regret, I decided to sweat out. For how difficult the process of mending a broken heart had been for me in the past, I was surprised that it seemed to be working this time and I felt like I was moving on.
We didn’t talk for two weeks. And when she finally broke the silence, it was on Facebook for all our friends to see. I’d posted a question asking my friends what their favorite movies of the year were and telling them mine. She responded by describing the plot of the film we’d worked on together.
“She’s flirting with you,” my sister said with a smile. She loved Alice and wanted her to continue to be a part of our family. I hadn’t thought much about the comment but guessed there was a small chance she could be right. Still, my heart was beaten up and I didn’t feel like uncovering it in the chance it might take another blow. Other than replying to her comment and responding to a few texts, I maintained my silence.
It was New Year’s Day. I was coming home in a week. She wanted to talk about the apartment. We both had five months to live in New Mexico before we left.
“I think we should do month-to-month for the rest of the semester,” she said. “Are you okay with that?”
“Yeah, I think that’s probably the best plan,” I said, trying my best to conceal the relief I felt. I knew the only thing worse than living with her for the next five months would be living without her.
“Okay, good,” she said. “So, what did you end up doing for New Year’s?”
“Just laid low. Watched the celebrations from my mom’s house. How bout you?”
“You remember Nick?”
“Yeah,” I said, wondering where she was going with this.
“I went out with him, his friend Jake and his girlfriend.”
“Sounds fun,” I said breathlessly as my heart took another jab. I’d known Nick for a while. He was a nice guy and always did his best to conceal his crush on Alice, but it was obvious. I had to end this conversation now. “I’ll see you in a few days.”
“Okay, can’t wait to see you,” she said.
The next day I flew to Phoenix to hang out with my best friend BA. I couldn’t wait. BA has an uncanny ability to help me forget about all the perceived shittiness surrounding whatever current predicament I’ve found myself in. This time was no exception. We hung out in Phoenix for a day, then drove to LA to spend a couple days with my cousin, then headed back to Phoenix for two more days before I flew back to New Mexico. Each night he drank to celebrate and I drank to forget. It was just what I needed.
The day I flew back to New Mexico I almost felt like a whole person again. I realized it would be tough living with Alice but had committed to trying to be friends. I knew I’d want to be with her physically, but should abstain, as it would only complicate things. I truthfully believed this situation would be a really good thing for us.
My flight landed. As I walked out of the airport and saw her car, my heart skipped a beat. I climbed inside. Her happiness was palpable and the smile across her face was the widest I’d ever seen it. I couldn’t help but be affected. We embraced.
We were both hungry so we decided to stop to get something to eat. As I got out of the car, she came around to my side, jumped in my arms and wrapped her legs around me. She had been flirting with me, I thought. I carried her up to the door of the restaurant. She felt weightless.
As we ate she quizzed me about my trip and how my friends and family were taking the news of our break up. I told her the truth, starting with my family and all the encouraging things they’d said about her. My friends’ counsel hadn’t been quite as positive. Loyal friends tend to disregard anyone who tries to make a playground out of their loved one’s heart. I treasure every one of mine, but take their advice with a grain of salt in situations like these.
Taylor, one of my closest friends, was particularly direct with his assessment of the situation. He’d met Alice once and thought she was amazing. However, he’d also lived in LA for a year and before I could finish explaining the details of our break up, he said, “She’s an idiot.” He went on to explain how he’d seen hundreds of girls vacationing in LA do the exact same thing. I argued on behalf of Alice (playing Devil’s Advocate is a compulsion that I picked up from my father), but he wasn’t having it.
I saved his assessment for last. It was an immature thing to do, but I was using it to gauge Alice’s current feelings on our situation. As I told her what he’d said, she began to cry. I decided to play Devil’s Advocate again, explaining all the reasons I thought she was justified in feeling the way she did. She must have picked something up from me in our time together because she countered with all the reasons she felt she might have made a mistake. “I know the next five months might be hard, but there’s no one else I’d want to do this with,” she said. I agreed.
Our conversation continued inside our apartment. We kept it light. My instinct around girls I like is to do anything I can to make them laugh, and tonight was no different. It felt like old times. I was happy, and also tired from a long day.
I made my bed on the couch as Alice changed clothes in our room. She walked out in gray sweats and a pink spaghetti strap shirt. I’ve never understood why Victoria’s Secret lingerie is so popular. This was the sexiest I’d ever seen her. She hesitated in the doorway. I’d rarely seen her this vulnerable.
“Can I hug you?” she said.
“Come here, kid.”
I moved my pillow and scooted over a few inches so she could sit down next to me. She took a seat on my left side, all her weight was placed over her right hip. I reached my left arm around her shoulder. She rotated toward me slowly, lifting her left leg from the floor and over my waist eventually settling with each of her knees placed on either side of me. I looked up at her.
For five minutes we sat in silence, communicating only with our bodies. My hands moved to her waist, hers to my chest. Mine to her elbows, hers to my neck. Both of us wanting each other and each afraid to make the first move. Those five minutes lasted an eternity.
Despite my deepest desire, I knew this moment couldn’t last forever. As I traced circles on her back, she let out a sigh. I kissed her.