“I want to go down to this card tournament in San Jose this weekend. Are you free? Maybe we could take your jeep down there and stay the weekend?” Jeremy asked Rebecca one morning, as they lay spooning in his bed in his co-op. They had barely slept the night before—instead devouring each other in the shine of the moonlight.
“Sure. Sounds like fun! I have to find someone to watch my dogs though.” Rebecca replied.
“Perfect. We can stay at my friend Greg’s house. He lives a couple miles from the venue. He’ll probably have a party, he’s always doing something.”
“Sounds like fun.”
Jeremy rolled off the bed, wrapped a towel around his naked body, and went to take a shower. While he did, Rebecca got herself dressed and collected her things into the small backpack she was accustomed to bringing to his place. They were sweaty and flush, but Rebecca wanted to wait until she got home to her own shower to wash off. It was bigger and cleaner.
She went downstairs to have breakfast and bumped into her friend Mark.
“Have a good night?” Mark asked with a cheeky smile.
“Sure did. How was yours?” She replied.
“It was good, played some video games, did some homework.”
“Are there bagels today?” She asked.
“Yep.” He replied, and walked over to one of the long, wooden, grand hall tables that filled the dining room and sat down and ate.
Rebecca made her way into the kitchen. She toasted a bagel in the industrial toaster. As she waited, she checked her email. One was from a professor, she had gotten an A on her most recent paper. When the bagel was done, the toaster dinged, and Rebecca took it out. She smeared it with organic cream cheese. Then she walked over to the industrial coffee pot and poured herself a cup of regular, added some sugar, and went to sit down at one of the big tables.
A few minutes later, Jeremy walked into the dining room. Rebecca smiled at him, but Jeremy turned his head away and ignored her. Maybe he didn’t see her. So, when she was done with her bagel, she waited for him to finish making breakfast, so she could say goodbye. When Jeremy came out of the kitchen, he walked over to the opposite side of the dining room and sat down at a different table. Rebecca didn’t understand what was wrong. They had a great night together and they made plans for the next weekend. Maybe she was being rude by not waiting for him to get out of the shower, maybe something else was on his mind. She walked over to him and tried to give him a kiss on the cheek. He pulled away and gave her a look that made her heart fall through her legs and smash on the ground. He looked at her confusedly and denigrating. His eyebrows were twisted, one down and one up. His lips were pursed into a half frown. But it almost looked like he was trying to keep from smiling.
Rebecca asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I’m just trying to eat my breakfast.” Jeremy said, with a contrarian tone to his voice.
“Okay… I’m going now. See you tomorrow for our trip?” She asked.
“Sure. See you then.” He said, without a change in his harsh demeanor.
Rebecca left the co-op sad and confused. Her heart was beating out of her chest and her mind was racing with all the things she might have done wrong, with all the things that could be bothering him. A dozen possibilities shot through her mind in quick succession. She decided not to take it personally, to just keep being sweet and flirty and he would come back around again.
The next day was Friday, the day they were supposed to leave on the trip. Rebecca packed her car, said a long, loving goodbye to her dogs and headed to Jeremy’s co-op to pick him up. When she got there, she parked outside and gave him a call.
“I’m out front.” She said.
“Okay. I’m coming down. Stay there.” Jeremy replied, with the sound of rushing in his voice. Rebecca waited patiently, opened her trunk and leaned against the car. When Jeremy got downstairs, he seemed upset again.
“You didn’t have to get out of the car.” He said brazenly.
“It’s no big deal.” Rebecca replied.
“Whatever, let’s go.” He curtly announced. They got in the car and started driving away. They sat in silence for the beginning of their trip.
Once they were a couple miles out of town, Jeremy finally broke the ice.
“How about I put on a playlist. I made one for today.” He said, without really asking the question.
“Sure. You know how to do it.” Rebecca replied. She had given Jeremy plenty of rides in this car, so he knew how to connect his phone to the tape-deck audio jack. They listened to music the rest of the way. To several songs, they sang along together. At some points, looking in each other’s eyes with that twinkle and smiling.
When they got to Greg’s house in San Jose, Jeremy jumped out of the car to hug his friend. He introduced Rebecca, and Greg seemed happy to meet her. He smiled widely and when she went to shake his hand, he gave her a hug.
“It’s so good to meet you finally.” Greg said.
“You too!” Rebecca replied.
The three of them spent the rest of the night telling stories about each other and laughing together. They watched a movie shoulder-to-shoulder on Greg’s bed. They drank beer until Greg was too tired to keep his eyes open. Rebecca went and laid down in the hammock outside where she planned to sleep, swinging herself into slumber. Jeremy slept on the outdoor couch beside her.
In the morning, they got up early to go to the card tournament. At the tournament, Rebecca made it to the third-to-final round. Jeremy made it to the final round with only one other opponent, but lost. Rebecca watched his final battle with awe. She felt honored to be involved with someone so impressive. When it was over, they high-fived each other and left with puffy-cheeked smiles on their faces.
When they got back to Greg’s house, a party was underway. It was a pregame—everyone was going out barhopping afterwards. Rebecca had a few drinks and mingled with the other people at the party. Jeremy wasn’t paying much attention to her, but she figured he never got to see these people so no harm, no foul.
When they went out barhopping, Jeremy walked along with some friends on the other side of their line, while Rebecca walked with Greg and a few of his friends. She asked Greg, “So what has Jeremy told you about me?”
“That you’re really funny, really smart, and that you traveled the country backpacking alone. He also said you have two dogs he’s scared of.”
“Oh, they’re good dogs though! I guess those are good things. And I wasn’t alone, I always had friends or a boyfriend with me when I was traveling.”
“Still, that’s really brave.”
“I could never do that.”
“Sure you could. You just need someone to travel with, and the drive to do it.”
“I guess I never really wanted to.”
Rebecca spent the rest of the night mingling with Greg’s friends. Jeremy still wasn’t paying attention to her. She felt abandoned, which really hit home for her. She consciously knew he had a right to hang out with other people, that they had all the time in the world to spend together. But she couldn’t help how she felt. She was used to boyfriends being attentive with her, and she wasn’t used to not getting what she needed or wanted from them. She wanted his attention.
Rebecca walked up to Jeremy and poked him in the side, playfully. She smiled at him and expected him to poke her back or tickle her. Instead, he pulled away and made that denigrating face again, like he was confused and put off by her attention. She decided to just ignore it, because they were in front of people.
Later in the night, they were walking back to Greg’s house and Rebecca lingered in the back where Jeremy was walking slowly. She pulled him aside to address the earlier offense.
“Why do you do that?” She asked.
“Sleep with me, snuggle with me, then act like we’re barely friends in public. It’s like, when we’re alone you’re the sweetest guy on earth. Then when we’re in front of people, you seem disgruntled and disgusted by me. It really hurts my feelings.”
“I’m sorry if you can’t take a hint. I don’t want to be in a relationship with you. I like what we have though. I like having fun with you.”
“That’s not what you said months ago. When we were first falling for each other. You said we were soulmates. You acted like you couldn’t get enough of me. You asked me to stay the night almost every night. We would go to movies together, we would go to lunch together. You used to cook me dinner.”
“Feelings change. What can I tell you?”
“You can tell me why it’s like this. You can tell me what I can do to fix it. Tell me what I did wrong. I know deep down you love me. I know you’re into me. I can see how you act when we’re alone.”
“You’re not gonna convince me to be with you.”
“What do you call sleeping with me most nights of the week? Is that not being together?”
Rebecca thought back to a weekend early in their relationship. When Jeremy was still living in his apartment and they had the place to themselves. He had cooked them dinner and she had fallen asleep on the couch. He carried her into his room and they made love all night. In the morning, as she lay in his arms, he had said, “Some things just feel meant to be.”
She had replied, “I know what you mean. Synchronicities. Like your whole world is different and it was a vital part of your journey, wherever it leads you.”
He replied, “Like soulmates”. And he held her hand interwoven in his and raised it up in the air like they were dancing in bed. He shone his pearly whites with a big smile on his face. Rebecca had been cautious then. She didn’t want him to think they were each other’s one-and-only, because she wasn’t sure of the relationship yet. But now, now that she was sure of him, now that she was in love, he seemed to be pulling away his affection, refusing to define it, pushing her away in front of other people. She didn’t understand what was happening. She felt that if she could just keep being sweet and flirty, if she just stuck it out and hung around through his ups and downs, he would get over his moods and remember why he fell in love with her in the first place.