Friday, June 17, 2005

"I should go," she said, looking at her watch.

Outside the sky was alight with an agry sunset. The clouds were on fire, bright vibrant, but only minutes from disappearing in the night sky.

"You won't," I said. "You're having too much fun."

"I have to work in the morning," she said, but the smile she hinted at told me that I was right.

"I do too."

"And you're not leaving?"

"I'm having too much fun," I said. "You're having too much fun. We're both having too much fun. We're having too much fun together. Why go someplace less fun to do something less fun?"

"I'm gonna regret it in the morning. So will you, I'm sure."

"I'm sure I will," I said, lifting my glass in a toast. "Regret when the time comes, but never before." I drank it quick -- a touch more than a mouthful -- and caught the waitress' eye. She smiled and nodded.

"Shouldn't we have learned our lesson by now? Why do we do this to ourselves? I'll be a mess tomorrow."

"And will it matter the next day that you were a mess the day before? Will it really make any difference three days, four days, a week later, if you're a little hung over tomorrow?"

"I'll be more than just a little hung over..."

"A month from now, will it matter if you're more than just a little hung over tomorrow? No. It won't. Whatever we do now, it doesn't really matter six hours from now. Sex hours from now will be six hours from now, and there will be dozens, hundreds of other things that will define that moment in time. It won't be this moment right here."

"So why bother with this if it's not going to matter six hours from now?"

"Because," I said, as the waitress set our drinks in front of us, "for right now, this is the most important thing in the world."

She takes her drink casually, without a thought. "That sounds awfully nice, but if you strip away all the pretty words all you're really saying is that you're here because you have nothing better to do."

"Why is that a bad thing? Shouldn't we always be doing the best thing that we could think of doing? Why should you feel lessened because I have nothing better to do, because spending time with you is the best thing I could possibly think of doing."

A hint of a smile showed again, but it only toyed at the corner of her lips. "Yes, you're right, that's nice. But how much of it is really that? And how much is it just not wanting to be alone?"

I thought about that. I wanted to tell her that it was all about who we spent time with, and not just spending time with whoever was handy. But I couldn't because I wasn't completely sure that was the truth.

"I don't mind being alone," I said. "Most times people are a hindrance. They're dumb and they're boring and they laugh at bad jokes, not because they're funny, but because they hear the sound of their laughter and are reminded that they're alive. Most times I'm better off without people. So most of the time I'm at home, in a house, with walls a and surfaces and structures, and there's no warmth, there's no blood surging through any of it. I can laugh at as many jokes as I want to, but not even the sound of my own laughter can really remind me that I'm alive. At times like that, it's not that I think I'd be better off dead. It's that I think it wouldn't make any difference if I was."

My words settled over the table, and we sat in silence for a few minutes, each of us nursing our drinks to give ourselves something to do in that midly awkward moment.

And then I said, "It's not so much that I mind being alone. It's just that I wish it wasn't so goddamn lonely."

"I'll drink to that," she said, and we did.

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