Chapter Seven

I gave the news to my mother and she showered me with parental affection. I had mentioned the internship to her upon first hearing of it and she knew once I got the call, there was no changing my mind.

“I put money aside in case there would be anything you might need. I just had no idea a plane ticket would be one of them.”
“I can pay for the ticket mom its no big deal.”

During my second month with Wendy I had received a promotion at work. I still remained in the stock room but I no longer had to bring items to the selling floor; a perk to being the stock room manager. That month alone, without including overtime pay, I managed to save two thousand dollars. 
My mother took care of my monthly metrocards so all I concerned myself with was food, male hygiene products, and of course my cell phone bill.

Out of my friends Ralph was naturally the first to hear the news. Melina and Freddy learned of it the next day as Ralph treated me to a stack of bluieberry pancakes at ihop. This was two weeks after giving Mister Chambers my answer, making it official.

“How will this affect your relationship with Wendy?” Melina asked.

For a split second my mind said “who?” at the sound of her name but it then registered, and so did the conversation that ultimately led to me being called an “unbelievable bastard.” I made a mental note, along with one on my phone, to remind me to tell her.

I shrugged my shoulders. “I see no reason why we can’t stay together.”

“Bro,” Ralph said with syrup dripping down his chin, “you’re going to be out of New York for sixteen months. Just cut her loose and see if you two can pick up where you left off when you get back.”
“That’s real mature Ralph. Asshole.” Melina said.
“What’d I say? Its logical, is it not. Freddy, c’mon, help me out here.”
“Statistically, long-distance relationships don’t last. Even the strongest of bonds have been known to break under its circumstances.”
“Does that justify Ralph’s suggestions though?” Melina said, quickly on the defensive.
“I never said that. You never allowed me to give a rebuttal.”
“By all means,” she said waving her hands for Freddy to continue.
“However, it all depends on both parties’ willingness to remain faithful.”
“She’s always accusing me of cheating.” I said.
“Why?” Melina asked.
“You’re a woman. Shouldn’t you have that answer?”
“Every woman is the same in some ways.”
“HA!” Ralph said with food in his mouth. Swallowing a gulp of orange juice he said, “if all women were the same in any way the shit you pulled on an ex could be possible with the next.”

“But it is.” Melina said. “I’m guilty of dating men who acted the same way as a previous boyfriend. That’s one way you recognize the signs.”
“Signs?” I asked. “Wait, is it like a verbal cue or behavior?”
“Give Mister Wexler a prize.” Melina said, teasingly clapping.

“Wendy complains about the lack of physical attention I give her.”
“I thought you two already had sex?” Ralph said.
“We have.”
“So what’s the problem? She’s beautiful man.”
“I agree. Wendy has a great body.”
“Her body has nothing to do with this.”
“Actually it has a big part in it.”
“Can we not talk about breasts, please?”
“Are you physically attracted to her?”

I just stared at her.

“It’s not a hard question to answer. I mean, you two already had sex…right?”

I blinked twice.

“Are you answering in morse code?”
“We’ve had sex, yes.”
“On more than one occasion?”
“Three.”
“You’ve slept with her only three times in almost five months?!”
“The five month mark passed last week.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I just don’t want to have sex. Why is that so hard to understand?”
“It makes up a big portion of your connection with someone. You can click on so many levels but if the sex is bad, it just ruins the whole thing.”

“Well, apparently, I’m not bad at it for a guy whose only had one sex partner. Look, can we drop the subject please?” “Subject dropped.” Melina said.

A minute of silent eating and then “I can’t believe you’ve only had sex with her three times.”

I dropped my fork onto the plate, got up, and left the restaurant. When I turned around seconds later, just as I was pulling a box of Parliaments out of my pocket, Melina said, “you don’t need to explain yourself Johnny. I’m your friend. I’m just trying to understand you.”

I ignited the tip of the cigarette and took a long drag. “Since when do you smoke?”
Exhaling I said, “I’ve been stressed the last few days. The decision, although already made up long ago, has finally begun to kick in. I’ve never been away from home this long. I know I can handle it, but,”
“But what, Johnny?”

Inhale, exhale.

“Anxiety is all, I guess. Least I hope it is.”
“I’m sure it is too.”
She gave me a smile and then disappeared back inside while I finished the cigarette.

All the way until August my mind played scenarios of what life in Chicago would be like: the connections I’d make, the project I’d be working on, what it all meant once I returned. But in all that time the one thing I neglected to think about was Wendy. We slept together a few more times before I left and every time a lightbulb brightened in my head knowing I had something to tell her, but couldn’t remember what.

She did find out though- on my last day in New York.

Ralph and I were perusing the shelves of Barnes and Noble; reading material for the first month of my trip to hold me over until I got used to things. Wendy tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned around she wore a bright smile that complimented her yellow dress. We lightly kissed on the lips; we must have looked like an old couple doing it.

“Whatcha doing?” She asked in a playful tone. She was always playful.
“Just buying some books for my trip.”
“Oh, where are you going? Is Ralph going too?”
“It’s for my trip to Chicago. Ya know, the internship.” Wendy’s eyebrows twisted in confusion.

That’s when it registered that I hadn’t told her about it.

I began to cup my mouth but then scratched my head in utter embarrassment. Ralph sensed the new tension between Wendy and I so he backed away without a word.

“You’re leaving and weren’t going to tell me?”

I just stood there. I had no explanation. So I just answered her questions as she asked them because nothing I said would make this situation right.

“When are you leaving?”
“Tomorrow.”
“You said you’re leaving for an internship; how long have you known about it?”
“Since February.”

No words can express the hurt on her face with each answer I gave. The corners of her eyes began to mist.

“We even had a conversation about this very situation that month. My god. You never gave a fuck about me, did you?”

I couldn’t answer that one. I did feel something for her, just didn’t know what.

“I’m sorry I’m such an asshole” is all I could say. She slapped me. It was well deserved.

“Fuck you Johnathan.” It was the first time she ever called me that. No Johnny, baby, sweetie, honey. Passersby glanced at me as I rubbed my now swelling cheek.

It hurt. But beyond that I felt nothing else, and I have no idea why.

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