i talked to him on a wednesday. he sighed on my bed. i was skyping my sister, who was trying to teach me how to knit. i told him i needed to go to bed early, i had a test in the morning. he said he had things to discuss and i’m a patient person so i listened.
this is, i learn, how our “friendship” works. hours of my life become his sanctuary. he texts me constantly. his problems fill up every space in my planner. often he demands my attention rather than asking. i feel bad, because i’m the type to feel bad, so i listen. i offer advice that goes ignored, i sit in contemplative silence even though i should be studying, i nod my head and support him.
he doesn’t notice i start drinking wine as soon as he shows up. a few times i make the mistake of trying to bring my own problems up. they are always overshadowed by his own, or else i am given an odd supply of uncomfortable comments. “i don’t feel good lately” is met with “a girl as pretty as you isn’t supposed to feel sad.” i say “i don’t like my writing recently” and he spends forty seconds saying i’m beautiful and intelligent and a perfect girlfriend before saying “unlike me, i’m awful” and before i know it, i’m comforting him again. we don’t have real conversations. once, as an experiment, i spend two hours completely silent, just to see if he’ll notice. he doesn’t.
once he bursts into my room while i’m scheduling my week. he’s taken aback by how much i’m doing. “you look so busy!” he says, “where’s all the time you’re planning on spending with me?” he doesn’t ask about any of my other activities. he knows nothing about my life except that i’m good at listening. i feel myself under a rolling pin. he flattens me out to use me. he punishes me if i don’t give him attention - all i hear is how he is useless without me, how he’s barely holding on, how he doesn’t know what he’d do if one day i was gone. he doesn’t know my middle name. he misses my birthday.
it’s wednesday again. i’ve been drinking. he took some of my wine without asking. he lounges on my couch with his arm casually around me. my actual friends know i don’t like touching. i asked him to move but he just laughed and said “you’re so funny.” he’s too heavy for me to move physically so i just let him lay there, complaining. i stare into space, thinking about the news i got that day. about how my life has changed.
he looks up to me. “can i ask you a personal question?”
i don’t say “that would be a first,” because my mother raised me to respond politely. i tell him go ahead, as always, i’m listening.
“why do girls like you date jerks?” he asks me.
i stare at him, uncomprehending. he is a runaway train, his mouth still moving. “I just mean,” he says, “you’re all always going after the worst guys like you don’t even see people like me. like i’m always being friend-zoned, even you did it, and you’re one of the only people who is nice to me. but girls like you never say yes to boys like me.”
i don’t know what he’s saying. i’m dating a girl, and he would know that, if he knew anything about me; a clever and talented girl who means everything to me.
he sighs and sits back when i’m not immediate in responding. “this,” he says, “is what i mean.” looks up with puppy dog eyes at me, “i mean could you ever date someone as awful as me? am i just a friend? am i doomed to be nothing more than the friend to pretty girls?”
we aren’t friends. we aren’t friends. we aren’t friends.
he moves the topic before i can reply, back to his problems. i text my girlfriend, “men are animals” and she sends me back a poem about how much she loves me. he tries to kiss me when he leaves, and when i duck out of it, i later get sixteen texts on how scared i am of sex. his facebook posts are all about how women don’t know how to find the right men. how we’re blind to the good things. how we don’t see fate when it’s happening.
he says, “i wrote you something.”
it’s a poem about him.