“Why are you looking at my phone?” I asked. It was all I could think to say.
“You left it on the table,” Peter said. “I thought it was mine.” He tossed the phone onto the bed.
Peter and I did have the same white iPhone 5. And I do tend to walk around with my phone in my hand, putting it down wherever I land. But had I left it on the table or had it been in my bag? I honestly couldn’t remember.
This was all secondary to whatever it was that Peter had read. I dug around in the sheets, found the phone, and turned it on.
‘I really have nothing to say for myself except to say I’m sorry. Not that it matters, but I didn’t sleep with her.’
THANKS FOR THAT, RICHARD. I looked up at Peter. The expression on his face was a mix of confusion and sadness, and it broke my heart.
“I don’t want to pry into your life, Josie,” Peter said. “You’re not my girlfriend, but I mean…if you saw that on my phone you’d want to know too.” He sighed. “What the hell is that about?”
I folded my legs underneath me and wondered where to begin. I didn’t feel like it was deceptive to keep this from Peter before, but it definitely would be deceptive to lie when asked point blank about it. So I told Peter everything, starting with the Social Media party. Well, I guess I didn’t tell him everything. I skipped the part about our conversation at work, the one where Richard asked me if I felt anything for him and I didn’t know how to answer because I did.
“I remember this guy,” Peter said, when I finished.
“Yeah, from your Hamptons house. I could tell he liked you.”
“I don’t think he likes me. I think he just wants to sleep with me and he isn’t used to girls who don’t want to sleep with him,” I said. Off Peter’s expression, I instantly regretted saying that. For some reason I remembered this one lesson from my Intro to Psych class in college. The professor was trying to demonstrate how different men and women are when it comes to love. She asked the room which scenario would be more hurtful—for your partner to fall in love with someone emotionally—no sex—or, for your partner to have meaningless sex with a random person and feel nothing. All the girls in the room raised their hands to show that they would prefer their boyfriend to have meaningless sex with someone, and all the guys raised their hands to show they’d rather their girlfriend fall in love with someone emotionally. The point is guys just really don’t like the idea of another P near their V.
“But I don’t want to sleep with him,” I added, quickly.
“You sure?” Peter asked, quietly.
I would have said anything to make this situation better. And even though it wasn’t entirely true that I didn’t want to sleep with Richard (a little part of me is curious, I can’t help it—the vagina wants what the vagina wants), it was true that I would never actually do it. So I didn’t feel like I was being dishonest by saying, “Yes, Peter. I’m sure.”
Peter sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. “Here’s the thing, Josie. It’s not that I don’t believe you. It’s more…I feel like you just like to court this kind of drama.”
“Says the guy who gave it another go with the biggest drama queen I’ve ever met,” I shot back. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe you like the drama?”
“Yeah,” Peter said. “I have. And you’re right, I was like that once. Over the last year, I thought a lot about the choices I’ve made, and what I was doing wrong, because I wasn’t happy. I don’t want to play these little mind games any more. I’m too old for that shit.”
“I’m not playing mind games,” I said. “You popped up into my life out of nowhere. I had stuff going on, okay? This Richard thing, this had been brewing since summer.”
“I had stuff going on too!” Peter said. “I had a girlfriend.”
“That’s not fair,” I said. “You wanted to revisit things, and I told you to call me but only if you were single, which, I’m sorry, is a normal and decent thing to do. But at the same time, I’m not going to just drop everything in my life the second you show up. We agreed to take this slow.”
“I never asked you to drop everything for me.”
“Fine, then don’t be mad that I didn’t.”
We were both silent for a moment. “So what are we even fighting about right now?” I asked.
“I just don’t like it,” Peter said. “Would you?”
“No,” I said. “I’m sorry for that. But at the same time I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily done anything wrong. Are you seriously telling me that you’re not playing a little bit on your own too?”
Peter was silent for a moment, and it was like a punch to the gut. I suddenly understood what he was feeling. “It’s like friends trying to set me up,” he said. “But the whole time I’m with these women I just wish I was with you.”
That got the water works going. I felt like I was back at square one, wishing Peter and I had better timing, and that we both wanted the same things at the same time. “I just don’t know how to be casual with you,” I said, wiping a tear off my cheek. “I feel like we’re all or nothing, but I don’t know if I’m ready to be all right now.”
Peter bit his lower lip, but didn’t say anything.
“Are you ready to be all right now?” I asked.
“Sometimes, yes,” Peter said. “But sometimes, no.” It was exactly how I felt.
He came towards me then. He sat down on the bed and hugged me. I was so exhausted I could have fallen asleep right there on his shoulder. Eventually we crawled back under the covers, curled up, and went to bed.
When I woke up in the morning, Peter wasn’t beside me. I checked my phone—it was almost 11am. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept that late. I rolled out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom. I brushed my teeth and splashed water on my face. My face looked like Mama Elsa’s from Real Housewives of Miami—swollen and puffy.
Peter was in the kitchen, making eggs, when I finally emerged from the bedroom. I pulled up a bar stool and took a seat. “Hi,” I said.
Peter turned around. “Hi.”
“Any epiphanies in the middle of the night?”
Peter smiled. “Not really. You?”
I shook my head. Peter pointed at the eggs in the pan. “You want any?”
Peter divided the eggs between two plates and pulled up a seat next to me. We ate in silence. When we finished, I said, “So, are we going to talk about it?”
Peter shrugged. “Didn’t we?”
“I mean, where do we stand?” I asked.
“What do you want?” Peter asked.
“I want to keep seeing you,” I said. “But I meant it when I said I want to take things slowly. I don’t think we should just jump back into things. I hate the idea that you’re dating other women, the same way you hate knowing about this Richard thing. But it’s just the reality of the situation, I guess.”
Peter toyed with a lone piece of egg on his plate. “I don’t want to see other women. Do you want to see other guys?”
“Not necessarily,” I said. “But if we decide we’re going to be exclusive, then it’s not really taking it slow, is it?”
“So maybe we don’t take it slow.”
That gave me pause. I fiddled with my napkin. “I just feel like I made this promise to myself that I wasn’t just going to jump right back into a relationship. I need to be okay with being single sometimes. It’s something I’ve never really been able to do.”
Peter pushed himself off the bar stool. He took our plates and dumped them in the sink. “You need to do what you need to do.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that you need to make a decision. Just be decisive. What we are right now, it’s not really you being single, is it? So decide to be in, or not.”
Was he ultimatum-ing me? It sure sounded like it. “I don’t want to lose you,” I said, my voice cracking over the words like a prepubescent boy’s.
“So don’t,” Peter said. I wish Richard could have been a fly on the wall right then. Peter didn’t just want to sleep with me. He wanted more. A lot more, and I wasn’t sure if I was ready to give it.
“I need time to think about this,” I said. “I don’t know if I’m ready to be in a relationship right now.”
Peter shook his head and smiled, but it wasn’t a nice smile. “Go for it,” he said. The words were dripping with sarcasm.
I helped Peter clean up, then changed back into my work clothes. It was awkward saying goodbye to him—I stepped in to give him a kiss and he basically negged me by turning his cheek. Hell hath no fury like a hot guy’s ego bruised.
I decided to walk back to my apartment to clear my head (Peter lives about twenty-five blocks from me). On my way, I texted Nina and Ashley, ‘Brunch emergency!!!’ I expected Ashley to be in Westchester with her man, but to my surprise, she wrote that she’d come back early that morning.
‘But I’m not really feeling up to brunch,” she wrote. “I think I’m coming down with something.’
‘Please?’ I begged her. ‘I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t an emergency. We can pick a place near you.’
After a few moments, she wrote, ‘You win, you always do.’ A quote from one of our favorite SNL skits with Will Ferrell.
The next person I needed to text was Richard. I wanted Richard in my life, but I also needed to keep him at a safe distance. No good could come from us hooking up, and I couldn’t put myself in a position where that could happen again.
When I arrived at my apartment, I’d decided to text Richard, ‘Thank you for this. Want to just pretend like the last seventy-two hours never happened?’
Then I showered, changed, and hurried out the door to meet Ashley and Nina. Maybe they would help me find some clarity with the situation.