I’m such a coward. I told Chet over the phone. (You last read about him in How Not to Impress a Woman.)
I had the best intentions to do it in person. Truly I did. I set off to meet him for brunch Sunday morning fully intending to tell him that he was wasting his time with me.
I had a farewell gift for him, since he’d been generous to me. Purchased at a book reading, autographed by the author, something I knew he’d enjoy and would flatter his ego. Alphabet Juice by Roy Blount Jr. Subtitled, “The energies, gists, and spirits of letters, words and combinations thereof…,” Perfect for the guy who bragged of having a million-word vocabulary. At the time of purchase, I’d thought it would make a good birthday gift, if we lasted that long.
Clearly, we wouldn’t. His waves of ardor could carry me along only so far; not very far at all, as it turns out. My response to him was persistent coolness.
The horrified words of my friend, Reggie, finally brought me to my senses. When talking about my pathetic love life, he blurted out, “What, you haven’t fucked the poor schmuck yet? For God’s sake, Georgia, put him out of his misery. Either fuck him or ditch him.”
Blunter than I’d put it, but he was right.
So in the restaurant that Sunday morning I handed Chet the package, meaning it as, “Farewell, thanks for everything.”
He opened it, whisked off his seat opposite me in the booth, face transformed by a smile, and plopped next to me, nudging my hip over with his.
“You totally get me, Georgia. No other woman would ever have given me this. You’re one of a kind.”
He didn’t get it, that after a couple months of dating I still only found time to see him once a week. This week that time amounted to only a few hours on a Sunday morning. I usually met him at our destination, avoiding having him even pick me up. I was always hurrying in from somewhere else or hurrying off to somewhere else.
You’d think he’d get it, that we weren’t on a fast track, or any kind of track at all, into his bed.
Instead he read the barriers I set up as the reticence of a shy, fawn-like creature.
“I think of you as a fawn,” he told me, “poised to dart off if I press too hard or too fast.” Those are his exact words.
Can you believe that one? Now, while there’s really nothing of the vixen about me at all, neither is there anything of the fawn.
Looking at his smile, his eagerness, his actual joy at my gift, I dithered. For another two weeks, through another two awkward dates.
Until I faced how unfair to him my dithering was, and called him. Last night.
He answered the phone on the second ring with a cheerful, “Hi, Georgia.”
“Hi, Chet. Hope I’m not calling too late. I just got home.”
“I’m glad you called. Aren’t you curious about how I knew it’s you?”
“I suppose you have caller ID.”
“Nope. I programed my phone with a special ring for calls from you.”
I sure didn’t want to hear that. This was only the second time I’ve ever called him.
I said, “Chet, I have something to tell you. It’s clear to me this relationship’s not going where you want it to go. I’m not shy and fawnlike. I just don’t respond to you the way you respond to me.”
“I’m willing to be patient for a while longer,” he responded.
“No. You’ll only be wasting your time and setting yourself up to be disappointed.”
“Does this mean you don’t want to go out again?” he asked.
“Yes, it does.”
“Yes, never again,” I responded.
Silence. Then he said, “I figure I’ve got 80% of what you need from a man.”
So, he’s been rationalizing all this. Coming up with some sort of equation about how he’s the guy for me. I wonder what in the world does he suppose this 80% that’s right is composed of? And what’s the 20% that’s missing?
But I didn’t ask. I thanked him for his gifts and the things we did together.
How do you close a conversation like this? Being totally out of practice, I said the lamest thing.
He said, “Yeah, right.”
And that’s that. My first late-in-life break up.