For You, The Stars
Chapter Three: Big Sister’s Clothes
I took a three-hour lunch that day. I could feel my anxiety like a knot in the pit of my stomach. I wandered over the tenderloin and went to one of those peep show arcades where a woman strips on a little stage and you pay to have a metal shutter open for a few minutes to give you a view through a window. Here in San Francisco the windows had glass in them. In New York most of them were open and you could reach through and negotiate tips to touch different body parts. Here you could request certain acts and slip bills through the edge of the glass.
I used up all my small bills and then walked around some more aimlessly. When I got back to the office I had a pink message slip on my desk. Cecilia had called. I called her back and told her I would be talking to Simone that evening. She didn’t seem to understand or care what the big deal was. “I think Simone is in love with me,” I said. “Too bad,” said Cecilia. “I’ve got you now.”
When I got off the N-Judah after work I didn’t know whether to go over to Simone’s place or have her over to mine. I didn’t want to make a scene in public but one way or another the exit was going to be awkward. I walked up and sat on the stairs and dialed her number from memory. “Why don’t you come over here?” I heard myself saying.
Then I got up and paced back and forth in the living room. No one else was around, thank God. I didn’t have the slightest desire to get high.
When Simone arrived I went down to let her in and when she kissed me in the doorway I kissed her back. I had forgotten how nice she smelled and felt in my arms. We went up to my room and sat on the futon. I didn’t see any point in hemming and hawing so I avoided the whole “How was the rest of your stay in New York?” and “How was your flight back?” chitchat and came right out with it:
“I don’t think things are working out.”
“What do you mean.”
“I don’t think we should keep seeing each other.”
“You’re breaking up with me?”
“I just don’t feel like things are going in the right direction?”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I want to end this.”
“You don’t get to decide when we break up!”
“I’m just telling you how I feel. I can’t fake my feelings.”
“Where did this come from? Can’t we try to work things out? Give me a chance?”
She was starting to cry.
“I don’t know…” I said.
“Come on, we can make it work. What’s the problem? You never said anything was wrong.”
“It’s just—” I didn’t know how to say it. “I don’t love you.”
“I never said you had to love me.”
“But you always say you love me,” I said. “That’s not going to work in the long run.”
“Fuck the long run!” she said, in that New York way that I used to find so appealing, but she was blubbering now and her island accent was getting thicker. Her eyes were read and it was getting easier to find her unattractive.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“I don’t know what to say…”
“Let me try. Give me a chance.”
That was when I started crying too.
The conversation went on and on in that vein. She wore me down and I wasn’t being honest about either Dannie or Cecilia, so I couldn’t really make a believable case for how I knew for sure that things weren’t going to work out.
In the end I agreed that we could try to make it work, but I tried not to sound too encouraging. She asked me to give her a hug and I held her, and she she walked herself downstairs and let herself out.
I had hoped for a clean break and instead I had had the whole breakup conversation and still no freedom. It felt like shit. Now I did feel like getting high.
I was nursing the bong with the music cranked loud when Dave got home. He went right to the stereo and turned down the song.
Dear Mr. Fantasy Play as a tune Something to keep us all Happy.
I just sat there not saying anything and Dave said, “What’s up?”
“I just broke up with Simone?”
“You did? Just now?” Dave knew about Cecilia. We’d discussed my dilemma, but he didn’t know I had come to a decision. It was all happening pretty fast.
“Actually,” I said. “I tried to, but she wouldn’t let me. She wants us to try to make it work out.”
“Uh-oh,” said Dave.
I didn’t talk to Simone the next day. We had agreed to take a little time to talk. I told Cecilia that things were dragging out. She wanted to come visit and we agreed that she could come and stay the weekend with me.
I couldn’t stand the feeling of knowing it was going to end with Simone thinking it might continue. It wasn’t till a few years later when I was crying and asking someone else entirely if there wasn’t maybe the slightest chance that the spark would come back and things would be okay and this other future woman agreed that sure, she supposed, nothing was impossible— it wasn’t till then that I realized just what it felt like to have absolutely no say in the end of your relationship.