James called the next day, contrary to the advice to wait whatever amount of time from date to contact. He called the next, and the next, and eventually he started coming in just as I started to wonder when he’d get there.
We went to dinner in every neighborhood the city had to offer. We went back to the symphony. We went to plays. I had dinners with his family. He asked me if we’d ever have dinner with mine. We saw the ballet and went ice skating.
We stayed in and cooked, watched movies and made out. Roommate was hooked up with Karen, so there was space. We fucked everywhere there was to fuck, and found our favorites. We spent every possible waking, and every sleeping, moment together for months.
And then I got sick. Just a cold, with a little strep throat. Nothing major.
“It’s strep,” I said.
“Oh,” James said.
“When will you be here,” I asked.
“Uhm,” he said. “Funny thing…”
Not the reaction I was expecting.
This was the guy who took a day off work to clean my apartment because he knew I liked a clean place when I went out-of-town, and because he knew cleaning it for me would give me time to pack (and give him a bit extra head).
On the night of my company holiday party, a party which disallowed couples not legally recognized as bound, James arrived at the Concordia house an hour before I was to leave. I was fresh from the shower, skin still warm. James sat on my bed and watched as I put on make-up and dressed for the party. I slipped on my heels and he stood. He wrapped his arms around my velvet-wrapped waist and whispered, “save some of those shoes for later.”
His car was nicer than mine and I was driving it to the party. James took my keys and promised to have pizza, beer, and bad movies waiting for me when I returned. We kissed at the door, and I took off.
A few hours later I returned, slightly buzzed, and ready to take off everything but my shoes. As I drove past the front of the building, I noticed a strange glow. It was not unsettling. As I drove by the side of the building, I wondered what lights James had on. As I parked, I wondered why the landlord hadn’t replaced the light over the back door.
James met me at my door and as he opened it wide, I saw what made that strange glow. White lights traced the windows. A tree stood trimmed with all of my favorite ornaments. A poinsettia was centered on the coffee table. Jingle bells hung from the front door knob. Santa and Mrs. Claus stood on the window sill. Stockings hung from the wall above a poster of a lit fireplace. And there was beer, pizza, and bad movies.
So when I got sick, “Uhm,” he said. “Funny thing….” Hesitation.
Not the reaction I was expecting.
“…See .. the guys … well … we talked about all going up to Joe’s cabin for the weekend,” James said.
“And we really don’t want us both sick,” he said.
“I can’t, you know,” he said. “I can’t get sick. I don’t have insurance. You know?”
I went to bed alone that night. And woke up alone the next day. I made tea. Roommate stopped in with soup and popsicles, and some 800-milligram ibuprofen he got off a friend.
James called the next morning. “I’m fine,” I said. James called the morning after that: “I’m so sick,” he said. “And we’re iced in.”
It was one of those freak Spring snowstorms, the kind that comes with a vengeance. Temperatures dropped. The day’s rain froze on the roads. It snowed. Though we weren’t buried, we were covered enough to be stuck. Were schools not already closed for Spring Break, school would have been called out.
“Should have come over here and taken care of your girlfriend,” I said. “She might be inclined to take care of you in return.” And I hung up. I refused his calls for a couple of days, and then I broke up with him. Because he wouldn’t take care of me when I was sick. He called a few years later and asked if that’s really all it was. It was.