So beginning, middle – I guess we all know what comes next. Kathy and I certainly did, and were aware of the inevitably of the end from the first words of our relationship. I’d given her my ususal speech at the start, the one about how neither of us should be thinking about anything permanent, how we should enjoy the moment and not get entangled in the future. One day she’d no doubt be happily married to a nice guy in the suburbs, and we both knew I wasn’t that guy, so there was no use in complicating our relationship by pretending I was. There was a whole life ahead of us destined for at least trying for fidelity and ‘til death do us part so why play at it prematurely now when we had the opportunities of the freest time and environment we’d ever know?
But all that was more in the nature of a pre-arranged alibi than a consolation when the time came. It’s easier to think you understand the necessarily temporary nature of things than to actually see them die. It’s really kind of cruel that we humans are so predisposed to thinking about forever when we live in such a manifestly temporary world.
After being so fascinated with Kathy, I gradually found it harder and harder to focus on her the way I wanted to. Maybe it was the spring and the rising sap and all that manifesting itself in a fresh compulsion to really get to know another girl, but with our hard won sympathy I was sure she was feeling a similar dissociation. We both knew our season was over.
I wish I could offer a more dramatic closing to our little love story – one of us getting a fatal disease or shooting the other perhaps – but I’m afraid it ended not with a bang but a whimper – mostly Kathy’s, but even those were few and pro forma.
It’s always uncomfortable to pull away from someone you’ve worked hard to get close to, and our relationship wasn’t by any means casual or disposable. I felt as strongly at the end as I had at the beginning that Kathy was someone it was vital I know and encounter, however brief that encounter might be. But I also think that I was someone she had to know and encounter on her way to suburbs and husband, and even if that worthy gentleman remains ignorant of it, he still owes me a debt of gratitude for the lessons she learned from me in that bed of hers.
We had a brief period of slowly diminishing contact and enthusiasm, as if acclimating ourselves to the break, but none of the raging rows I’ve known in other romantic end games. And it was all done more honestly than cynically, mostly because Kathy didn’t have a cynical bone in her body (whereas my whole body was jaundiced), finishing where it had begun, with just the two of us at a table in the dining hall.
She could tell right away just by looking at me that once again, to paraphrase Mick Jagger, that evil life had got me in its sway. "Don’t you look awful," she said with more asperity than sympathy.
"That’s because I feel awful." I collapsed in the chair across from her and lay my head on the table.
"Then what are you doing here? You should have stayed in bed."
"Yeah, but I just…" A wave of nausea prevented me from continuing for a moment. "I mean, I just had to…"
"UBU, is something wrong? I mean besides the obvious." Her disapproval was almost palpable. There’s a moment in every relationship, isn’t there, when that loving compassion becomes something more like disgust.
"Yeah, Kathy, I want to – I’ve got to tell you…" Keith had often ridiculed me for my unwillingness to embrace the duplicity inherent in sleeping with two women at the same time, but it was one of the few standards I still clung to. "I was with Ellen last night. And…"
"And I think tonight, too."
"Mmmm…." She didn’t react much, taking a carefully measured sip of her coffee, but I could tell from her rapid blinking that she was holding back at least a few tears.
"Don’t be sorry," she answered quickly. "After all haven’t you always said…"
"Yeah, I did, but I mean…" What did I mean? "Crap."
"Besides," she said with a hint of malice. "I’ve been meaning to tell you. Paul’s been asking me out."
"Paul!" Now it was my turn to get upset. Paul was big and placid, tolerable enough for a Deke, but entirely unoriginal, his appreciation of Kathy no doubt derived from my own. "That jerk." But then I realized that he was really much more suited to her than I was, the kind of conventional boyfriend she’d always wanted, my altruism strengthened by the thought that his presence in the wings would make our break up a little easier. "Ah, I guess he’s not that bad."
"He’s a nice guy," she said, leaving her opinion of me and my new inamorata Ellen, the infamous dragon lady of Pierce Hall Dorm unsaid.
We were silent after that, as silent as we’d ever been, what was left of our passion now too feeble to blow up or storm away, only the condensed habit of sitting there together remaining.
"Oh, well," I said.
"Yeah," she said. "Oh, well."
That’s all for this installment kids, but stay tuned for further tales from the pages of a hynagogic journal!