That afternoon, after she landed, after I drove us back to my place, she used my phone to call an old boyfriend. I gave her the other room for privacy. On the couch which once belonged to my mother, I pretended to sleep. Through the door I heard her speaking to him. She said, “It’s been a long time. I thought it’d be nice to see you.”
She said, “Not like that. I just want to talk. Catch up.”
She said, “No, if I stay with you, you’ll try something. I’m staying with Jordan.”
She stayed quiet for a bit. Footsteps broke the horizon of light below her door. “OK, but I’m bringing Jordan. Yes, him. Listen, I just wanted to see how you’ve been. Stop. Get it through your head. I don’t want that. If you want to buy a drink for anyone, you can buy one for Jordan.”
She hung up. A few minutes later she opened the door and I heard the hardwood floor creak as she walked past the couch. I kept my eyes closed. When I opened them I saw her disappear down the hallway, silent atop her tiptoes. She only had on her underwear. She found the bathroom and closed the door behind her. When she turned the water on for a shower I got up and opened a book.
A few pages in and she walked out with a towel wrapped around herself. Her hair dripped on the floor. She said, “Drinks in an hour? I know it’s early but I don’t want to stay up all night. It’s been a long day.”
“You’ve been traveling,” I said. She closed her door behind her. From where I sat, I saw her towel crumple against the floor, suffocating the last of the sunlight coming in from the door.
At the bar, she said, “I miss you Jordan.” She said, “Do you remember that time in the dorms? I got you drunk for the first time, and you thought vodka didn’t affect you. You kept saying, ‘This must not work on me. I’m not feeling anything.’ Do you remember that?”
“I remember my head being in the toilet the whole night.”
My phone rang. “It must be him,” she said. “May I?”
I handed it over. She walked outside. I remembered a conversation I had with an old friend years ago, before we’d all graduated. He said, “She’s playing you. She’s dragging you around.” I told him she needed a guy in her life she could trust. “But why,” he said, “Why does that have to be you? If you want to stop being just her friend, make a move.”
Minutes later she sat down again and handed me the phone. She said, “His car won’t start. Bull. I’ve been intimately involved with those lies for years but still he tries to pull one over on me.”
An older man came by and took our drink orders.
“So. Where is everyone? Didn’t you tell them I was in town?”
“Everyone said to tell you ‘Hi.’ Most of them work early shifts. But if you’re still here by Friday …”
“I won’t be.”
We finished our drinks. She ordered another round.
Soon she said, “Jordan? Can we just finish these and go home?”
“Sure,” I said. “Let’s finish this round and leave.”
Back at my place she asked, “Do you have anything to drink?”
“I have coffee. Only coffee. We can go out and get something if you want.”
“I don’t want to sober up just yet.” I poured us glasses of water but she didn’t touch hers. She said, “Jordan? Can I sleep with you tonight? In your bed?”
I opened the blankets for her and slept near to her as though the sheets weren’t shelter enough. When she closed her eyes, I considered putting my arm around her. I considered how she looked in all her lace, her body covered as though in paper flowers.
In the morning, when I awoke, I didn’t have to check my phone to know where she went or who she called. She was gone, and although I tried to comfort myself with the thought, “I let her go,” it sounded more like a confession than permission.
-Mason Schoen is a creative writing graduate student.