A Better Ending to Brunch
“I’m not going to ask him for the pool key. That’d be fucking insane. I’m just going to casually be in the area with the dog around the time he does his stupid morning laps, let Hank off leash when I see him, and do the whole dumb rom-com ‘ohmigod I didn’t know you’d be here!’ Then I'll bump the key out of his hand and take it to get duplicated—"
A server interrupts my Oceans One plan to refill Xander’s coffee. To the eye of a new LA transplant, it would appear that I’m a messy, unrecognizable, child-star-turned-adult-addict pleading with her perfectly put together manager for a TV role in exchange for a month of staying sober on set and “behaving.” I wish that was the case. The only thing I have in common to that trope is that I’m “unrecognizable.”
Xander—short for Alexander, or long for my loving nickname for him: Zanzz—is my boyfriend. I feel cute in my red sundress but it’s a bit too much cotton and color for brunch in Beverly Hills. I look washed up because I forgot to pack my makeup bag before spending the night. I also forgot to pack make up remover so there's still some eyelash glue on one of my eyelids. If I voiced any of these insecurities out loud, Zander would convince me I’m beautiful and blah blah blah we get it, he’s great.
But since we’re not talking about my looks at this given moment here’s what comes out of his mouth instead:
“Liz, I just don’t get why you want to run into your ex-boyfriend?”
“Oh I don’t want to run into my ex—fuck that guy—but I do want access to a pool.”
“You have access to Hank’s pool—or I guess his owner’s pool?”
“Right, and I don’t want to mix business and pleasure like that. What if I’m tanning one day and it turns out they’re in town? They go down to the complex’s pool and—you know me, I never buy anything that fits so there’s always at least one boob falling out.”
Alex gives me a flirty-funny eye brow raise and I pantomime heaving my left tit out onto our small brunch table. I like this about him: we could be in the deep throes of a disagreement, working our hardest to understand each other’s side, and we’d still take every opportunity to come up for air and have a laugh.
I pick up with where my nonsense logic left off, “Look. I just think if I got a little more Vitamin D I’d probably pick 2 less fights with you a week, and you’d get access to the pool too! So really, I’m doing this for us.”
“What if I was asking my ex for access to her pool?”
“Stephanie has had a pool this whole fucking time?!”
“No—I just want you to put yourself in my shoes.”
“Right, right. And if I did, I’d still try to con this in our direction. Come on sweets, let me scheme, scam, slam this.”
“Wait who’s getting slammed?”
I watch three extremely specific emotions battle each other to come to Xander's surface. The one that's in 1st place is that of Trying To Be Amused And Have A Good Time, as he sits across from his only-works-at-night girlfriend (I’m a comedian). Dragging Amusement back is him Not Showing Concern that I can so casually bring up my ex, and the third horse in the running is Flat Out Annoyed Frustration. I can tell that’s the one he’s trying to stifle down the most because he loves me*.
“It really has both nothing and everything to do with my ex. I don’t really want to see him, but after all the death scares he gave me, the least I could get out of what feels like a trashy, never-ending court divorce is access to that fucking heated pool. You know it has a jacuzzi too—“
“Your ex used to give you death threats?”
“Oh. No." I know what I'm about to say is so stupid that I shove some cinnamon bun in my mouth and then talk while my tongue wrestles it around just enough to be understood, "No just like, death scares. Like he’d play dead a lot and it was convincing, or he’d be driving and then disappear for a few days.”
Xander is baffled; But let’s go back to what I wrote earlier: *he’s trying to stifle down [annoyed frustration] because he loves me. I need to clarify that. While I enjoy playing obnoxious caricatures of spoiled brats, or blindly privileged people, I never, ever want to actually be anything even remotely close to that. I don’t want to sit here flipping my hair off my shoulders and bragging that I have the perfect boyfriend and how much it must suck for single you, and then give cliché advice like, “Just be yourself! You meet them when you’re not looking!”
But I do want to point out that I watch him do so many things out of love because it’s a new experience for me. I mean sure, I’ve been loved by my parents, my closest friends, I have had good past partners. But it's also been a handful of draining back-to-back years that conditioned me to believe that I’m unloveable, that I’m frustrating, that I’m "too much." To the point where the times when people push through with an active act of love I have to pick it up like a toddler learning with letter blocks and say, “L! This letter L!” just so I can practice identifying it. And not be so scared of it.
On our first date, I poked fun at the artists Xander likes to listen to and asked if he identified as a “sad boy,” he laughed and said yes, and I wondered if he was just having fun banter with me or if he’d ever truly understand that I have to brood before alchemizing every sad moment of my life into a fictionalized story or drawn out metaphor (or sometimes a shitty one-liner joke for the stage) just so I can understand, heal, and move past it.
Xander stops cutting his eggs, and collects his thoughts. “Liz, you’ve told me about how often this guy pushes through your boundaries—the calls, the texts, the emails asking why he’s blocked on text. I guess I just don’t understand why you’d want to remain in his orbit.”
I like the tone he says this in. It’s not like any possessive person I’ve spent time with before, and it’s not the tone of an insecure new relationship (which maybe those two are synonymous?). It sounds like when my best friend gives me the tangible advice in her kitchen while moving her cat from off the counter. It sounds like another best friend not enabling my addictions when I'm manically rambling on the phone. It just sounds like someone who really cares about me.
I chew this over in the back corners of my brain; he’s right. I pick up another metaphorical block with a heart on it to remind myself that this is what love looks like.
“I’ll get you a pool one day,” he outstretches his hand on the table.
“Goddammit Zanzz, if you had just started with that, we wouldn’t have even needed to have this discussion.” I smile and place my hand in his.
Looking across the table I take in how genuinely attractive he is and notice a sunny, golden glow around his dark hair. Which is odd, because it’s completely overcast today.
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This has been a part of the series Sad Stories To Make Sense of My Mind. The Table of Contents will direct you to a list of descriptions to choose what heart string you'd like pulled next.