It was a few days before I resolved to try and hash things out with Rafe. I didn't mean to leave him twisting in the wind but we weren't working together much that week, and then I got self-conscious. It felt strange to be thinking so much about it. Both in the sense of, it felt like I should be able to handle this maturely as an adult, and because woah, I was seriously having to negotiate my way around my feelings for a man, one who was born that way. I must have drafted and deleted a dozen texts. And don't think I didn't notice that he wasn't texting me. Just a game, I reminded myself... that's all it is to some guys.
I considered playing it off and letting it be a one-time thing but I kept getting this nagging feeling that this was something I would be better off leaning into.
Finally early the next week, we had a shift together and it was... weird. He could barely look at me, wasn't joking around or being crude the way he usually was. Finally, when he went for his lunch break, I cornered him.
"Hey," I said with a deep breath, "So I've been thinking."
"That's never good," he smirked.
"I think it wouldn't be the worst thing if you and I... did stuff together."
He stood up and nodded, "Cool, cool." Like I had just suggested we go get pizza.
"That's it?" Forgive me for thinking giving my body to him might have warranted more response than that. "All you have to say?"
"Well, what kind of stuff?" he asked, "Because if you're talking about what we did the other night, I'm down for that. But... if you mean like boyfriend-girlfriend relationshippy stuff, I'm not..."
"Oh, no, no," I said, perhaps too eagerly. "I'm talking about... casual stuff. I think it could be good between us."
"I know it would be good," he snickered. I rolled my eyes. "I dunno, though... you're kind of a commitment gal, I can tell. You almost got married. I'm really not the kinda guy you're looking for."
"Don't worry about it," I said, "I really need a break from all that stuff. I don't see you as boyfriend material either."
"Thanks a lot," he said, implying that hurt, even though he said it about himself. "You promise not to fall in love with me?"
"Yeah, I think I can manage," I said flatly, reconsidering the whole thing. But I didn't. We did agree, however, to keep it a secret from our co-workers.
By the end of the shift, I noticed a text on my phone: "So... how about tonight?" I knew he couldn't wait.
I went over to his place, which is very dingy, 25-year-old-bachelor-y, but more private than mine. When I showed up, he wanted to get right to it, but I objected - "You can't even offer me a drink first?"
He winced, "I thought we were just casual."
"Casual doesn't mean I'm your own personal sex slave, okay? A few weeks ago when I came over, you were a good host. Don't act like this is a done-deal and you don't have to..."
"What, romance you?"
He grumbled as he went to the fridge. "Beer?"
"That'll do," I sighed. Admittedly, I downed it pretty quickly. Part of me did want it over with quickly, but I wanted to keep a little dignity to the proceedings.
I hate to admit it but it's clearly part of the reason I went along with it -- he's good at sex. That's the most annoying thing. If I'm giving in and just being a heterosexual girl playing the field, he is a good playmate. I just don't want to admit it because he's got a big enough ego as it is, and god forbid I pay him a compliment and make him think I'm in love with him or something. Still, I have to appreciate that it's some of the best times I've ever had as a woman, even if it's a little emotionally hollow.
It's not all "business," you know. As much as he talks about not wanting to lead me on, he's still his goofy, flirty, borderline-likeable self around me, before and after we've done our thing in the bedroom. He tries to drag compliments out of me and we talk about life and almost, dare I say it, get along like we are in a relationship.
Then he indicates it's time for me to go and shows me to the door unceremoniously and I feel bitter and lonely and a little dirty about it. But the next day I feel better, knowing some of my needs are met and if I have any emotional needs, now is not the time to pursue them because I'm only Valerie for a short while longer. That makes this arrangement tolerable... if I were long-term, I doubt I would let myself get wrapped up in this guy.
It just annoys me that we can't be "casual" by his definition and still do stuff we had been doing before, like getting drinks occasionally, or hang out watching movies. Strict boundaries, he says, and I feel like I'm selling myself short by buying into it. And the playful interactions at work have all disappeared, which I think is a bit more suspicious, since girls like Maddie notice these things and then wonder why the resident perv isn't drooling over you as much as he used to.
Speaking of Maddie, she is quite industrious. In addition to working at the shop, she does catering gigs, housesitting, and canvassing. "Lots of time to work since I don't have a boyfriend," she says with a cute smile. I don't want to think this way, but if the odds are in my favor and somehow I wind up as an available male in her age group... I mean, I'm not saying I'd go for it right away (it's hard to picture at this point because I'm deeply invested in the narrative of myself as a functioning straight girl) but she deserves a good guy.
It also gets a little hard to nude up with a guy if you can't help picturing yourself with the roles reversed, so I try not to indulge that....
Anyway, she's offered to get me some jobs, since hours are low at the shop this summer (lots of old staff coming back who are tight with the manager) and it's probably best if I phase myself out of there anyway. The tips are supposed to be good.