I’ll take cheap coffee but not cheap love

I get up 20 minutes after he leaves for work, long enough that if he forgot something and came back in, he’d still get to have the imagery and fantasy of me in his bed. And long enough that I can pretend my getting up is a separate act from him getting up, so that I can still imagine the start of my day is not influenced by the start of his. (When of course it is.)

But not so long that I can’t still get up early. Because I want to get up early, too — I miss that. Because that’s his thing and not mine right now.

I am dutiful when he leans over me just before leaving every morning, says goodbye and tells me to “have a good day;” dutiful when I say “thank you — you too” and then give that soft, contented sigh as I roll back over against his sheets. Dutiful for those few minutes I wait, check my phone, until the time is right and I get up.

I pick up his t-shirt from last night off the floor, turn it right side out, and pull it over my head, then wander into the kitchen and pad across the hardwood to make myself some cheap coffee in the cheap coffee pot I bought for his place.

It’s the only thing of mine that’s permanently here. The only other traces are the cheap backpack slumped on the floor, the boots haphazard near the door, and the motorcycle key, with its faded service shop fob, tossed onto the counter. And all of that goes with me each time I leave.

I think he hates it when I leave.

I think this because he’s told me — with increasing directness — that he wants me to live there with him. But I think he doesn’t quite understand how these “living together” things work — namely, that they require sacrifices, like closet space. And compromises, on things like the household rules and idiosyncrasies, all of which are currently his. But, above that, that both people have to want to and he doesn’t understand that I simply don’t, because I can’t yet bring myself to say so and explain the real reason why.

I tell him I want to bring him into my neck of the woods — which is in the literal woods, which I fucking love — even though I don’t want to actually show him the house. He’s disappointed that I’m “guarded” and “not opening up.” I’m disappointed that he doesn’t understand that me bringing him even that far into my world is, for me, opening up. Because the house isn’t about the house — it’s about the trees, the drive, the time, the space, which nobody else has ever seen. He gets things I don’t share with any others, but sort of rejects them and then gets grabby about not seeing “enough.” And that’s hard.

I have watched this scene play out before.

I struggle with the question of personal agency in relationships. Namely: I want agency over my own self. I want final say over the definition of my person, and I want that same person to be the one that’s seen and cared for by others. I don’t think it’s fair for other, separate beings orbiting you in the universe to claim to care about you while simultaneously assigning things to you you don’t want, or taking from you what wasn’t offered.

The romantics and sentimentalists and, let’s be real, 99% of people, look at this and chastise me. They swoon over the possibilities and want this rosy picture; they spell out the word “Love” with a capital “L;” make long, heartfelt explanations about the fact that I’ll never have It if I don’t “let people in” or “open up” or “share.” And I listen and nod but I’m really thinking: I have no issue with the sharing part. It’s the taking, not the giving, that causes concern. The real problem isn’t being seen, but being seen differently, or lesser, or wrong.

I share the side of me that matters most, that I don’t share with anyone, and they want something else, and everyone else is pushing me to go along, and the whole thing makes me feel cheapened, both overlooked and under-seen.

I still have the oval, off-color mark on my right calf from when I pressed it against the hot pipe on an ex-boyfriend’s bike. I was fucking around; being stupid — climbed into the saddle in cut-off shorts and grabbed the handlebars, mocking as though to ride, and for a split second brushed my leg against the pipe.

He said it’d eventually go away, but two years later, it’s still there. Part of me still believes him that it will; part of me doesn’t. Most of me doesn’t bother about it too much either way.

We make ourselves vulnerable for others; we get burned. It almost doesn’t matter whether those marks do or do not fade away. What matters more is not doing it again.

I still read blogs and sites intended for mid-20’s people, and I guess I should feel weird about that. But then I consider what my women my age are maybe “supposed” to be reading — shit about weddings and babies or corporate ladders — and that feels like bigger bullshit than finding a purpose and wandering around would-be love.

On the one hand, I’m lingering around in a group that increasingly won’t be mine. On the other hand, however, I’m already eons older; some little old bitty leaning over the railing of a boardwalk somewhere, white hair loose and ragged in the wind.

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