“A Man and His Phone”
His phone vibrated and this time he heard the sound. But Chris was so comfortable on his couch. The highlights from last night’s Sixers game were just coming on… (Read all of part one here.)
Chris thought about answering. He knew it would be Jane. She sure was persistent. He should have just powered off his phone, but it was too late for that now. He liked Jane…a lot, but he was nowhere near ready for more. It was true that they had something. They grinned at each other nonstop when they were together, but once or twice a month of that was enough for him. Anything more would require a label, and work. Just thinking about it made his muscles tighten. He didn’t want to be a boyfriend and he most certainly did not want to discuss it with Jane tonight. Their meeting at Zadar’s had been a bad coincidence.
How many more times would she call if he didn’t answer now?
Chris got up with a groan and picked up his phone. Jane’s number displayed on the screen. He swiped to answer. “Yo”
“Hey, Chris, it’s me.”
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Not much. What are you up to?”
“Just relaxing, thinking about dinner.”
“Oh?” Was that an invitation? Jane wondered.
“Yeah, I can’t decide whether to get pizza or a hoagie.”
“Hmmmm. Tough decision.” She was trying to act casual, but her stomach was knotting. She hated that she was so uncomfortable talking to him now. If they only spent more time together, they would be more natural during these ordinary moments. She was more than willing. More was what she wanted. She took a breath.
“Hey, do you want to get together tonight? I could help you decide on the pizza or hoagie.” She knew this was lame, but it was all she had.
Pause. Chris was stuck. He didn’t know why he felt stuck. He didn’t know why he didn’t want to make plans. He just didn’t. When he felt trapped, even in the smallest things, he could not do anything except try to escape. He reasoned that if he truly felt a certain way, he shouldn’t fake being any different. It didn’t matter that Jane was a great person.
Chris tried to think of something clever to remove the tension between them because his charm usually worked with her. But tonight he had nothing. “Well, my internal pizza/hoagie debate might take a while. I don’t know if tonight’s a good night.”
Jane should have taken this as a definite “no,” but still she pursued. She could feel a sticky sweat under her arms. She had to see him, had to make sure that things were right between them.
“How about if I bring you a pizza? Then you won’t have to worry about deciding.”
Chris thought he had gotten away. When they were both in good moods, their conversations together were playful, but tonight there was only fake lightness. This moment was a bad sign. Jane should have seen that.
She saw her mistake, but could not help herself. She had noticed a change in him at Zadar’s and she was anxious when he hadn’t called. She had to call and now she couldn’t help but push the point.
“Well, Darling, I think I’m just going to hang around here for dinner tonight. And I might go into Philly later.”
The ‘Darling’ part did not charm Jane this time. She snapped.
“Okay, Chris, but I need to know. Were you ever planning on calling me?”
“I don’t know. I might have…”
“Might have? Doesn’t that say something about us?” Jane took a second to think about what else she would say. She hadn’t planned on talking about this, but now she felt she had no choice.
“Chris, I wanted to see you tonight and you clearly have no interest. So please tell me what’s going on with you. I thought things were going well between us, but when I saw you at Zadar’s, you wanted to get away from me fast.”
Now Chris was beginning to sweat. And to think he had just been living the life, drinking beer and watching ESPN, the night wide open, just as he wanted. Now he was being summoned for the relationship talk. The rehashing of events. The analysis of feelings. He was in a corner and there was only one way out. Straight through, no matter the casualties.
“Jane, I can’t change who I am. Why can’t you understand that when I feel like getting together with you, I do? And we have a great time when we’re together. Don’t we?” The words sounded stale. They were, in fact. He’d used them before.
“That’s a little too casual for me, Chris. I need more than that. We’ve been together all this time and still you dole out your attention to me in small bits. If you don’t want more than that, then we have a problem.”
“Jane, all I want to do is get off the phone. I don’t want to talk about anything. I only want to sit on the couch and have a few beers. Then, like I told you, I will probably get some dinner maybe I’ll go into the city. But maybe I won’t. I don’t want to be pressured into seeing you or anyone for that matter. I’m always going to be this way. I will never change and you shouldn’t want to change me. I like spending time with you. You know that, but not now.”
Jane should have known it wouldn’t go well. She’d called him up, tried to force plans on him, and then picked a fight with him. She had made her point. It was out there now. She’d lost.
“Okay, Chris. Fine. I’ll see you. Bye.”
Chris ended the call, powered off his cell phone and threw it on the kitchen table with too much force for an expensive piece of technology. He watched it fly across the surface and hoped it would fall off the end. It slid and spun and instead, slammed against the biography he was going to read next, The Secret Life of Houdini.
Jane stood in her own apartment, furious at herself. She gripped her iPhone. She would keep it close, with the sound turned on. Chris could call her back. She wanted to be ready.
“What am I doing? I’m a fool,” she thought. But then she had an idea…
Part three will appear next Friday…
Thank you for reading.
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