We head back to his place. As we pull into the driveway he mentions he feels a cold sore coming on.
“Does that mean I can’t kiss you?”
He is apologetic. I hear him, but I don’t hear him.
“Are you disappointed?”
“Yes, of course. Look what I brought…”
I pull out the box of Magnums from my brand new white pocketbook, purchased to match my shoes.
“I’m sorry. I’ve definitely thought about sex with you.”
“I’ve thought about it all week long. Every time I see you, I think about it. I think our first time was pretty good.”
“Yeah? So do I. I think it was great.”
“I want to get together this week. I want to give you something.”
“Yeah. The whole thing. Not just half.”
“I don’t see why we can’t, tonight…”
“Because I don’t feel right with my cold sore. I can’t kiss you. It wouldn’t be the same.”
“I’ll try not to take it personally.” My frustration is hard to hide.
“We’ll get together this week, I promise, ” he says.
“Keep the condoms ’til you can put one on me!” We hug and then he gets out of the car.
My feelings swing between attraction and repulsion in the weeks that follow. We work side by side without talking about the potential “us” I feel slowly slipping away as the pain of his rejection takes hold.
He seems oblivious. I watch him flirt with other women. I still burn for him. But, I repress. I act nonchalant, sometimes I ignore him.
Eventually I call his phone and leave a message, just wondering if we will ever get together again and why won’t he just say something, one way or the other. He never calls. I toss the black and gold box, still unopened, into the bed of his red pickup after work one night.
I watch him hook up with that brunette college pothead girl Courtney, the one with the boys’ haircut and the disproportionately long neck. I endure her polite condescension while we roll silverware and napkins at the end of the shift.
“You’re smart, you know…you could have really been something.”
“I think I am something, Courtney, thanks.”
“You know what I mean…”
I do know what she means. To everyone around me I seem like such a “together” person. And yet, there is this gnawing, secret obsession. This compulsive belief that nothing will be right in my world until I have what I want. And I still want Brian.
“We have a trainer position at the new location opening in Dallas. I think it would be perfect for you. Are you interested?”
Gail can see what is going on. She’s been in the business too long not to recognize the daggers in the eyes of a woman scorned. She’s going to send me away to help ease the tension between the two of us. She’s a smart lady.
I join the crew heading to Dallas–only to cross paths with his ex-girlfriend, Vanessa, daughter of the boss– who can talk of nothing but HIM. If only she knew what we shared in common. But I stay quiet.
He never calls again. By the time I return from Dallas he has taken another job. A better job. My fever eventually cools to a hardened lump of calcified memory.
One year later, he visits the restaurant with some friends. I pretend not to notice. But he catches me by the kitchen door, cutting bread for my tables.
“I want to tell you something.”
I look down. Look toward my table station. Anywhere, but his eyes.
“I’m in a program now. And I want to make an amends to you.”
I watch his eyes now, with my heart in my throat.
“I didn’t mean to fuck you over like that. You are a really special girl and you deserved better. I was going through some shit with Vanessa and I shouldn’t have started things with you. The timing was wrong. I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“Thank you for saying that. I’m okay,” I stammer.
And I finally was.