Back in sixth grade when every relationship was a long distance relationship, not merely because your mom had to drive you to the movies and pick you up, but because none of your friends could know you had a girlfriend lest they label you something awful like “girl lover,” lending a certain emotional long distance to the relationship as well, I remember thinking, even then, “I don’t know how people do it.”
I’m an instant gratification kind of person. Rarely do I make plans more than a day in advance for the sole reason that why wait? And almost never do I keep friends who move away. I remember when my friend Tara told me that she had accepted a job in Boston and was moving there to be with the man she had fallen in love with and would eventually marry, and I thought, “How sad, I really liked you.” Or when my friend Shereen decided to move to
So imagine my consternation when I found out that my current girlfriend lived in
What this means for the relationship is that it involves planning. (See: the part where I say I never make plans.) If this were a sitcom and I called “Brooke” at 5:00 to ask her if she wanted to get a drink after work, she would say, “Sure, let me run home and change first.” Then, after an hysterical interlude involving two friends, one possibly gay, discussing in hilarious detail how the other can’t get married because he’ll never sleep with another woman ever again!, it would cut to “Brooke” and I walking down the street seemingly minutes later. Well in real life there is no “Let me run home and change first,” unless you plan on “meeting up” for a late dinner. For us, seeing one another requires foresight and a well executed plan; it involves talking on the phone the night before and, in some rare instances, diagrams. And most of all it means that you be prepared, that you carry a Jack Bauer bag everywhere you go and in that bag is the essentials – underwear, deodorant, batteries, phosphorous matches and water. Because if you are not prepared, things like last Tuesday happen.
Flashback to Sunday night, New Years Eve. Plans include two parties, neither of which I am comfortable at being “the guy with the bag.” The “plan” though is to go back to “Brooke’s” apartment after the second party. In a move I would later recall as “stupid,” I decided I would simply spend the night at her place, wake up the next morning and then go home – nothing more than a glorified all-nighter.
Flash forward to Monday night. Me, still in the same clothes. My choices: tear myself from her couch, which has become for me the definition of comfort, and take the hour long commute home, or stay the night again. And just as my mind is about to contemplate the drawbacks of Option Two (e.g. needing to be at work in the morning IN THE SAME CLOTHES), a new episode of the Twilight Zone came on and the take-out arrived, sealing my fate.
Flash forward to Tuesday. I am a mess. My walk of shame has turned into a trip to the diner, walking the dog, half hour commute, entire day of sitting at my desk wondering if that was foot scrub I used to wash my face journey of shame. No shower can replace the want of a fresh pair of underwear. There are plenty of places a man can go commando – work isn’t one of them. The notion that halfway through a meeting I could suddenly remember that should my fly accidentally be open that I am letting my boss into a world very few people have ventured into before is gut wrenching. My underwear is no better. My hair? Smells like a girl. Dove? Not strong enough for a man. The dichotomy of scents (Is it flowers and sweat?) confuses me as all at once I am nostalgic for my girlfriend and sick of myself.
On the subway ride home, looking down at the stain on my pants wondering how many days that had been there, I knew three things for sure: That if this is what being homeless is like (only without the sex and the food and the home) then it really must be as awful as all the rumors say; and that all good relationships really do require sacrifice, and sometimes that sacrifice means the woman sitting next to me on the 6 train making that “What’s that smell?” face before noticing the stain on my pants and then making the “Oh” face and discreetly turning away; and though I am positive the sixth grade version of me never thought it would come to this, he may have overestimated the question in the first place.