We Are Trying to Be Good

Tonight he came to my house after work. He took his dirty work boots off and placed them neatly next to the back door. He sat at my kitchen table in his socks and drank a glass of water. I offered to make him dinner but he said no. I should have made him dinner. He was some kind of hungry and the only thing I could give offer him was food.
“Janine finally paid me for the work I did on her stable last year. They settled her lawsuit and all that money came in that she was always talking about.”

“That’s great.” I said.

“Richard’s daughter had her baby. He’s a grandad now,” he said. “It was a boy.”
“I heard that,” I said. “He must be pleased. Named it for his Daddy.”
“Is that right?”
“Yes it is.”

We talked like this.

I sat on my kitchen counter sipping wine and looking mostly at my bare feet hanging below me. He got hungry and walked to my fridge, pulling out sliced cheese, a leftover chicken leg wrapped in foil, a yogurt. He picked the food from my fridge like it was his own. He had unpacked groceries and beer and leftovers into that fridge so many times, like it was his own. That was before, but he still knows where everything is.

Suddenly, it was late. The wine was gone. He’d eaten more than he meant to. “I better go,” he said, standing suddenly. I hopped off the counter, a little unsteady from the wine.

I walked him to the back door. He put his shoes on without lacing them. He bent over with his butt holding the screen door open while he shoved his sock covered feet in. When his shoes were on he turned to look at me.

I walked toward him. This was where we had our goodbye kisses. He was so much taller it was easier to kiss like this, with him down a step and me at the landing. Some nights he would lift me up and I’d wrap my legs around his waist, grasping onto his neck while we kiss like lovers who would never stop loving.
He stood at the bottom of the steps and looked at me while I stood back a little thinking about his lips. He was still dirty and sweaty. He had tiny hay flecks on his forehead. He smelled like salt and bug spray but I wanted to put my lips on his mouth. I wanted to feel my skin on his skin and drink him up. Instead I gave him a hug.

He pulled back and looked at me. “I’m trying to be good for you,” he said. “I don’t want to mess up what you’re starting.”

I nodded. He could never give me what I needed. That’s what he had said to me. “I want you to have everything you deserve.”

He thought there was someone out there who had more to give me than he did.
Finally, I did meet someone. “I guess I need to see where this goes” I told him on the phone after the fourth day.

He agreed.

I never hated anything in my life more than the fact that he agreed.

I hadn’t seen him in a long time. Not since before that phone call. He was in the neighborhood, asked if he could stop by and see me before he went out of town again. I agreed and here he was about to leave again.

Everything in my body was reaching out to him. I wanted to kiss him. Or slap him. How dare he stand in front of me with those lips and those eyes stirring up so much desperate, unfinished wanting? My heart started to race. I was a breath away from grabbing him by the neck and pressing my lips against his; pressing my body against his and pulling him into me so hard we would merge permanently.

He cleared his throat, said It was great to see you again and turned to walk to his truck.

“You too,” I said the way I reply to the cashier, the telemarketer, the stranger on the street and to, apparently, the man I would never stop loving.
I closed the door and went back into the kitchen. I heard his truck start up and pull away. I listened to it drive all the way down the street, slow to an idle at the stop sign, then rev up again as he pulled out, going left toward town. Going away. I stared at the chair at my kitchen table as if I’d never seen it before.

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