The entrepreneur was not surprised when we broke up.
“I feel like you’ve been breaking up with me in slow motion for a long time,” was how he phrased it. “So I’ve mostly processed this.”
This on an evening in his house, the first time I’d been sober in his presence in a lot of weeks.
“You’re not going to believe this, but I felt it as early as Paris,” he told me, and even in my fight-or-flight state, I had to laugh at our romantic privilege, marvel at how well-crafted our story was.
“So it’s over?” I asked.
“It’s over,” he confirmed.
And despite this being the foregone conclusion for which I’d been ostensibly gunning, I bawled my little eyes out.
I fully gave in, allowed myself the luxury of falling completely apart in his presence, knowing that from there on I’d be without him, without the safe little container he’d created for me.
Knowing that from there on, I’d have to hold my shit together.
I went all out, truly indulged myself. I wept audibly, like a spoiled child not getting her way, but also like a truly heartbroken woman who can’t make things work.
I cried until his shirt was damp, until my face was a patchwork of crimson, until my sniffles and gasps were so pathetic that we both ended up laughing.
And then, finally exhausted, we cuddled up and slept, and at four in the morning I donned his bathrobe and snuck out of his house for the final time, and didn’t go back.
And this, for me, represented progress in the area of intimacy.
Occasionally, when my mind fell upon it, I was proud of that break-up.
It felt very grown-up.
I went a long time without seeing the entrepreneur. A season? Maybe more.
And life vacillated between harder and easier, between better and worse.
Or maybe it just vacillated. It’s hard for me to tell.
“I’ll aways be your rock,” he’d once told me.
Before he said it, it hadn’t occurred to me that I might need one.
Then one night, while desperately bracing the sides of my life, I reach out.
“I could use a drink,” I casually text.
He responds simply, with the name of a nearby restaurant, followed by the words, “Outside patio.”
It’s a tribute to how well he knows me, which is not lost on me. And it inspires me to take it a step further.
“Also I look slightly insane but could we just politely ignore that?” I request.
This as I put on a shawl and gather my keys, then sit down to wait for the verdict.
“I’ve always loved that look on you,” he replies.
There couldn’t be a more perfect response.
When I arrive at the restaurant I walk straight around to the patio.
It’s gated in the way restaurant patios often are, forcing patrons to use the front door.
Being unable to withstand that, I force-shimmy myself through the small gap between the restaurant’s brick wall and the iron barrier, willfully dismissing the unpleasant fact that this puts me practically on the laps of a party of four in that corner.
“Pardon me,” I say vaguely, half-heartedly, not even remotely meaning it, as I mangle my way past them.
In my mind, we are just two sets of people equally disturbing each other.
When I disentangle myself from them, I scan the patio.
For a quick moment, I wonder if I’ve landed in the wrong location, which would be so painfully me right now. But then I notice a form in the opposite corner, all in black.
I’m not even certain it’s him. He’s situated such that the light is behind him and spread across the table, his face in shadow.
But as I approach, he stands.
He smiles. I smile.
There are two bourbons on ice already laid out.
He’s playing the director of this scene. I deduce that quickly.
And immediately start calculating how to take his seat.
We perform an embrace that I can’t feel. I think he says words. I might say some too. And as we separate, I make a quick and deliberate move for his chair.
He cuts me off, his body an irresistible wall of muscle and brawn.
“You’re sitting there,” he instructs, pointing to the spot-lighted chair.
“I’d prefer your seat,” I say.
“I’m sure you would. You’re sitting there,” he directs.
I look at the proffered seat, at the untouched bourbon on the table in front of it.
The drink in this light looks lovely, the sides of its glass all dewy.
“It’s terribly bright,” I attempt.
“Sit,” he says.
I’m embarrassed to say it, but I’ve missed this.
I sit and have only just lifted my glass when the waiter comes out to check on us.
I put the glass down and try to assemble myself for the interaction, find the disingenuous disguise I need for an acceptable exchange.
“We’re good,” the entrepreneur tells the waiter, before he can speak.
“Would you like to … ”
The entrepreneur cuts him off, speaking with the stern authority I’d forgotten he had.
“I said we’re good,” he repeats, with finality.
The waiter backs away sheepishly. Were I not so relieved, I think I’d feel sorry for him.
I smile courteously, consider a friendly wave but refrain.
Then I turn to the entrepreneur and try to take him in fully. He’s holding eye contact with the retreating waiter and his body is a fucking citadel.
Somewhere inside I feel a strange tickling sensation. I feel far more beautiful and less crazy than I probably am.
From there, I completely forget the rest of that evening.
Which isn’t to say it isn’t awful and lovely in equal parts, but is rather to say that, in my experience of it, it is all reduced to that one oddly generous, compelling, and unnecessarily protective act.
There was nothing even happening. There was no genuine threat.
But in the end, my god, maybe I just want a citadel anyway.