I was living some strange form of Metal Gear Solid 2. Crawling around the rafters of a four-story building, trying to avoid being spotted. This went on for hours and I can’t remember any of it now. But at some point I failed. All the bad guys saw me. They didn’t get those exclamation points over their heads. They just looked sick with disgust, and turned away.
So I drop down into a populated area. Now it’s a house party, I must be back in New Hampshire. A bunch of people are in line to use a urinal, which is for some reason right in the middle of the room. I get in the line, about three back. I really have to go.
And I spot a friend from high school. She’s got a new hair color and a new boyfriend, but she’s ashamed of me and won’t introduce me to either. She admonishes me, I can’t recall the words, and wanders away. I think about the night that she sat on my bed, crying her eyes out in that small cotton dress. I could have fucked her then. Now I think she wanted me to. But I didn’t, because these things have consequences. She never understood that.
So it’s my turn at the urinal now. I unzip, and wait for the flow. Then a group shifts beside me, and I see her there. Not the previous friend, another. She looks amazing as ever, and she’s grinning. She went out with one of my best friends for a while. I never thought they fit. I wanted her for my own. She knew it. By the time I made a pathetic excuse for a move, she was into some other guy at college.
But that was five years ago. And I’m so different now. I’m a man, not a boy. I have a degree, a job, an apartment. The city is my home. I’m not so shy, or angry. I smile and laugh more. And most importantly, I’ve been with a woman. In every sense. (I think) I know how they think, what they want, and how to give it to the ones that deserve it. And the delirious happiness that can bring. This is perfect.
Except, you see, I’m standing there with my dick in my hand. How charming.
She says, “YOU’RE here?” Her tone says she was just about to leave. But not now.
I pause just long enough so that her remark seems silly, but not stupid, and say, “Yes.”
She says, “You look SO good.”
I mumble something about how that can’t be true—I’m still sweaty and breathing hard from dodging the commandos—and forget to return the compliment. My vulnerability here is really weighing on me. I ask her to meet me in a corner in a bit, and she agrees.
Now I’m so excited that I can’t make it happen. But slowly control returns. I remember the wisdom, and I RELAX the muscle, not contract it. It comes.
And, you see, I was so wrapped up in how fun and serious my life could get, so lost in my own daydreams of this ridiculous potential I seem to stumble upon, that I walk right out the front door and begin staring at the full moon. And when I’ve had enough of that, I start around the block, reveling in the fresh night air.
Forgetting my obligation. This is entirely within character.
Suddenly, it drops on me like a lead weight, and I panic. It’s daylight now, the morning. How long has it been? I’m still on the same block, but I can’t remember which fucking house it was. Would it be quicker to backtrack, or keep going around? I make the wrong choice. God, I screwed this up too.
My cell phone rings. It’s my dad. He says, “I thought you had to work today.” I realize he’s right, and lie, and say no, and then I remember that I really didn’t. I’m standing on someone’s stoop, scanning the sidewalk. And that’s when she walks by.
I can’t shout at her with my dad still on the phone, so I wave frantically. She says “Yeah, bye. I get it.” And keeps walking.
I run after her. Somehow I get her to stop. There are tears all down her face. I say, “Dad, do you actually have something important you need to tell me, or can this wait?” He does, and he starts to say it, but he sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, and I know I’ve failed her just by asking in front of her. I hang up and she says, “It’s okay”, that first falsehood they throw you. I say “No it’s not.” She takes my hands, and says, “Say it with me.”
And I do.
“I’M SORRY, I FORGOT, AND I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN.”
It was a line from a (nonexistent) movie I had only seen the first half of. I’m lucky that scene was in the beginning. She hugs me.
And then I woke up.