Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Thursday, April 6

The Sleep of the Just

When you returned the Fireman’s message he suggested you have dinner with him, so two nights later you find yourself knocking at his door, ready to pick him up. You can hear his shoeless feet padding toward the door and see the handle turn and the door opens a bit.

‘Hey Buddy,’ he says, already padding back toward the bathroom, turning his head to make brief eye contact, wearing only his white BVD’s. “I’ll be ready in just a sec.’

As you open the door and walk into his living room, you watch him walk. His back is more muscular than it used to be. He’s been working out.

It’s going to be a long night.

You’re looking at his fish tank, talking to him as he finishes dressing in the other room. You ask him about his father’s health. How his brother’s doing, the one that likes Elvis Costello. You tell him he’s still wrong and his brother’s still right: there’s no such thing as too much Elvis Costello.

You head to Mudville, a sports bar, and share a pitcher of Bud and 25 wings—volcano style with blue and celery. You’re not talking about a year ago. There are two moments when he turns from the pre-season football show and catches you staring at him.

The first time he politely ignores you.

‘You’re staring at me,’ he says when he catches you the second time, ‘like you’re thinking about fucking me.’

Fifteen months ago, long before you broke up—or rather before he broke up with you—and even before a curious half-second pause preceded his voice before saying ‘I love you’ and before the timbre of his voice changed when he said it, you knew he was slipping from you.

When someone pulls away from you, you usually deal with it in an obvious and predictable manner: you become surely, you raise the stakes. If someone’s getting shaky, you make certain to rattle them loose.

But the Fireman was a grand experiment: you stayed the course, you didn’t waver. When it became clear you were going to lose him, you did what was either the single most heroic or idiotic act of your life.

In the moment when you knew yourself to be the most vulnerable, you didn’t lash out or walk away. You didn’t do any of the tricks that would keep you safe. Instead, you just told him you loved him and you’d do what you could to make it work, if he thought it was possible to make it work.

Though you didn’t realize it at the time, at that moment, you were Obi-Wan Kenobi powering down his lightsaber and allowing himself to be slain.

Now, you could argue that you were being sadistic, that you were making things difficult, raising the bar to prevent the breakup. But that argument would be wrong. You weren’t thinking of even the simplest of Jedi mind tricks.

You could also argue that you were being masochistic. You were allowing him to brand you, knowing how much it would hurt, knowing how many months you’d spend alone and watching Netflix, reading Harrisons, and thinking of last year’s roses. But that argument would be wrong as well. You derived no pleasure or thrill from it. You were, in full possession of mind, not outfoxing, not controlling, not manipulating. You were admitting to another human that he controlled the situation.

If you knew an onomatopoeia for the powering down of a lightsaber, you’d type it into this point of the story…

So when he told you that he couldn’t do this anymore, that he couldn’t continue leading a double-life and hiding you—and what he was doing—from his friends and family, that he ‘had to stop,’ there was nothing left for you to say but ‘okay’ and walk out of his apartment.

It was this year of isolation—not fucking him—that you thinking of when you were staring at him.

‘We’re out of beer,’ you say, pouring the last of the pitcher into his glass.


Blogger Erik writes:

This song reminds you of him. Sometimes you listen to it twice.


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

I was on fire for you once, but things were so complicated. My need for certainty overruled my hope that something would come of us. Most would call it fear. I could not take a chance then, and I regret it. Might we try again?


Blogger brent writes:

I thought I was the only one...

This is not a song, but a band's name fits his behavior:

I Love You But I've Chosen Darkenss


Blogger Erik writes:

The anonymous commenter is not the Firefighter. I have no idea who it might be, or if they actually know me.


Blogger Damon writes:

The plot thickifies!


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

can you say narcissism?


Blogger dan writes:

The answer is "zzzyyowm." And it cuts off abruptly at the end.


Anonymous Anonymous writes:

Two things:

You write in the second person when things get vulnerable. I do not know if it is on purpose, but it both diminishes and intensifies your vulnerability.

The second thing is that, in context, I think the 04/07 anonymous post is someone fucking with you.


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