Charles takes a drag from his cigarette. He doesn't know where I'm going with this.
“You leave it all behind – you go away together, on the run.”
“To India. It's always India.”
“Yes – why is that?” I laugh.
“Do you really think you could do that?” he asks. “You're a big talker. A few minutes ago I couldn't get you to turn off your phone for dinner and now you're saying you'd leave everything. Could you really? I mean, really? Everything means just that: everything.”
“You don't think I can?” I ask. “I'll show you. Let's throw our phones into the ocean. Right now. Let's go.”
“You know damn well we'd be at the AT&T store tomorrow,” he replies, putting out his cigarette. “The only reason people like us throw their phones into the ocean is because we want new ones.”
I take a long drag of my cigarette.
The restaurant door opens and the maître d' steps out, all apologies. They've searched every bakery in Los Angeles for a dessert I'd mentioned to Charles in passing and failed to find it. The maître d' wants to know if anything can be done – have they ruined our dinner? They're so concerned over this cake.
I laugh as we make our way to our table.
“At the end of the day,” Charles says to me as we sit down, “I love being somebody.”
That's the bottom line. That's why we can't throw our phones into the ocean and why we never became anything. To be a couple you need to become “us” and no matter how adversarial our relationship with our public personas, we refuse to part with the “me” we have come to know as ourselves.
Earlier that week, Charles had sent me a message that said, simply, “While I was away, I realized I am actually in love with you.”
“We need to talk about this.”
Our relationship – once a friendship that enjoyed the benefits of a physical relationship whenever we shared a zip code – was fractured after I'd met a man who'd made my world explode. Being unable to focus on anyone but Tristan, I'd ended every other relationship I had at the time, including that with Charles.
Time had passed, now here was Charles. No more “I almost love you.” Now he actually loved me.
“We should be dating,” he said.
“Will we ever get back to that place we used to inhabit?” I asked him. “Ever since you sent me that message I wondered what it would mean to date you – really date you. Would it be what we wanted? Would we know how? What if it isn't enough?”
Earlier that day, I'd been on Facebook when I'd chanced to see a friend's profile photo of said friend kissing his girlfriend.
I've never done that – I've never put up a picture on my Facebook profile kissing or holding anyone. Even when I was married, my Facebook never had any representation of this relationship. My relationship status says I'm married – to my best friend.
Facebook official, that's what they call it when you make these overt displays on the social network, these displays that say, undoubtedly, “I'm with someone.” I've never done that.
“Let's do it,” I say at the table as appetizers of bacon-wrapped scallops and oysters arrive. “Let's put a photo of us on Facebook making out.”
The idea makes me feel so uncomfortable, I can hardly say the words, but I do. I want to break this standstill. Is it fear? I don't know what it is.
A relationship exists whether people know it exists or not. But a picture on a social network is the modern equivalent to an announcement on the newspaper and an announcement like that is a social commitment. It doesn't strengthen the relationship, it simply makes it a part of a social circle's consciousness. It forces the world to accommodate itself, to create a space where it's not just you, and someone else, but you with someone else.
Suddenly, I understand the social implications and reasoning behind marriage. Suddenly, I feel a little bit ill.
Can I do it? Can I put something like that on Facebook?
“I didn't bring my camera,” Charles says, picking up an oyster and putting it to my lips.
“I have an iPhone,” I say, before pulling the cold, salty smoothness into my mouth.
“Too bad our phones are turned off,” he says.
We both know damn well we can turn them on whenever we want. But neither he nor I make any motions to state this or do it. I feel relief wash over me.
We're big talkers. Social announcements, running off together and starting over – a strange part of both of us craves this, but we don't have what it takes to do either.
I wonder whether it's us – whether it's that we broke this, or, rather, I broke this, and that's why we can't go there. But then I think about our relationship as it was before: the ideal relationship, the kind that left no trace.
Is it that we, individually, simply could never make that kind of commitment – not to each other or anyone else, either by running off and being simply one for the other, or staying put and making a place in our respective social circles as a recognizable unit?
I think about Tristan, suddenly, and a part of me stings.
“Would it be the same if I weren't married?” he asked me once as we were lying entangled in bed.
I was honest when I said I didn't know. But that's the thing: with a married man, running off or making any public statement about your relationship is never an option. There is no question of you never having enough together or never being enough to someone when you're never meant to have or be everything.
I think I'm ready to admit that commitment terrifies me.
AV Flox is the editor of Sex and the 405 -- what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.BLOGGIE TREATS
Falling Happens, But Jumping Takes Courage by Sarcastic Mom: “I had to force a situation that would make me let go and step away. Inside, I knew I had to take a leap, to make myself learn how to stand alone. Jumping, after all, always seems easier than falling. It is not. Falling happens. Jumping takes courage. He did not disagree with me that we should part ways. Even though it was my suggestion, I have always been pained by that.”
The Fair Vow Breaker by Darla: “Before there was sex, there was history, and in this history there is a man by the name of Gerald. Gerald is middle aged and has a family. He believes in the scientific method, conservative politics, philosophical pursuit and all things adventurous. Adventure was hard to come by once he became a husband and father. His days had become inseparable from the plot to the film Groundhog Day. Nothing was fresh or worth savoring. Until he met me.”
“I mean it, I miss you,” he repeated. “Stay with me, and then come away with me tomorrow. We can leave in the morning.”
“Trust me. By this time next week, you’ll forget that you miss me, and you’ll start missing someone else.”