He was sitting in his car watching me as I walked up to my apartment and let myself in. I didn’t know he was there.
I was looking through my closet for something to change into when I heard the knock. Strange to hear a knock at 5pm. It was my boyfriend.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” I asked. He fixed engines in the evenings. He needed his days free to finish his engineering thesis.
“I wanted to see you,” he said.
“Oh. Well, sure.”
I left him in the living room while I went back to my closet. Only now I wouldn’t find something comfortable to change into. Now, I wanted to wear something attractive. Not that it mattered, I told myself. “What happened to you last night?” I called through my open bedroom door.
My friend C. had been in town and we were supposed to meet her for drinks. He didn’t show up for our date or call, which was a first. I wasn’t worried. He’d have a good reason.
I stared at my closet. None of these clothes would work, I thought. Why was I trying?
“I was on a date,” he said.
I stopped looking at my clothes. I stepped out my bedroom door and into the living room. He was sitting in an oversized chair, picking at loose threads in the armrest.
“I,” he hesitated. “Thought I ought to tell you.”
I sat down in a chair on the opposite side of the room. “I see.” I clasped my hands together and placed them on my knees. “Well. Sure. Okay.” I looked at the floor next to his chair. Could you even break up with someone you hadn’t kissed after eight months? Maybe we weren’t even dating. Maybe all along we’d been friends and I’d misunderstood. We hadn’t kissed–what did I have to be upset about?
I don’t know what he said then.
“It’s fine,” I replied to whatever he asked me. My sweater itched. It did that when I got hot. “I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised considering…”
Considering hung in the air, and it was a while before he spoke again.
“Considering what?” he asked.
Considering you won’t kiss me–that my friends think I’m crazy–that I defended you–made excuses–spent hours trying to figure you out–changing my make up and my hair–crying almost every night because I couldn’t make you like me. “Nothing,” I said. “I mean, it’s not like we…well, it’s to be expected I suppose.”
I would have to stop talking. He hadn’t kissed me–he wasn’t going to see me cry. “Don’t you have to be at work?”
“I still want to be friends,” he said.
“Sure,” I said. I never want to see you again.
“Can I call you tomorrow?”
“Sure.” I won’t answer the phone.
“And we can still work on our papers together, right?”
“Sure.” I can write somewhere else. “You’re going to be late to work.”
He stood. “I met her at the Bally.”
It struck me then. This girl didn’t know he didn’t kiss. Or rather, she’d already kissed him because it never occurred to her to wait. The night before with C. when I was dissecting our relationship, this girl was kissing him like it was a normal thing to do. She wasn’t uptight.
“Oh. Well, just call me tomorrow,” I said, walking with him to my front door.
“You’d like her,” he said. “She’s a musician.”
“Great.” I was racing now. Get him out before I cry. Get him out. “Well, see you later.” I had seconds left.
“And you’re okay?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” I opened the door for him.
He lingered. “I want to stay friends.”
I heard the cracking in my voice. “I do too. Well, you’ve got to get to work.” There we were. On my doorstep again. “Bye,” I said.
He walked out onto the landing. I looked at the floor and knew I was going to be caught in my lies, but he turned down the stairs and I shut the door.
It wasn’t, however, the end.
All stories need endings. In fiction, they get to be as final, neat, and tidy as you want. I’ve rewritten the ending to novel I’m working so many times I think I may have lost the ending all together. Why are endings hard? The ending can’t be predictable but must feel right. It must be climatic but not melodramatic. It must tie up the right number of ends but not too many. It must leave an impression but not because it is ridiculous. It must show how the characters have changed but not feel forced.
It must somehow all come to an end.