1. I’m twelve years old the first time I meet Alan. His best friend Cliff is my first boyfriend, my first kiss. We’re all in 7th grade. The three of us are inseparable. Cliff is tall and serious. Alan is his sidekick, too loud, too fat, too obnoxious, too-much-of-everything. Cliff and I will drift apart, but Alan will become the single thread that weaves in and out of my life for the next twenty years.
2. We’re sophomores in high school. I’m still in love with Cliff, even though we broke up in 8th grade. I lost my virginity at the beginning of the school year. I have a taste for sex now, and I want Cliff , he should have been the one I lost it with. Alan wants me. Alan is the only one of us with a car, and he refuses to pick me up unless I agree to fuck both of them. I fuck Alan first, just to shut him up, and the bed cracks. He pouts outside in the car while I give Cliff a blowjob, honking the horn and flashing the car lights on and off through the bedroom window. Next year Alan and Cliff will get in a terrible fight and never speak again, and neither one will ever tell me exactly what happened.
3. I’m downtown with my friends. We all look alike, big hair and tight jeans. We sneak sips of Southern Comfort from a can of Coke that we pass back and forth. There’s a party that’s supposed to be cool, so we go. I immediately spot Alan. He’s lean. He looks shiny and muscular. He says he’s in the Air Force and he’s on leave. I can’t take my eyes off him. I follow him to the house where he’s staying, and we drink beer and play quarters with his buddies. I go outside for air and lay on the hammock, but I’m so drunk that I flip right off. Alan carries me upstairs and we fuck so loud that they crank up the stereo downstairs to drown us out.
4. Five years later, I’m at the county fair. I see Alan playing the game with the coins and the little bulldozer. I sneak up behind him, masking his eyes. I hold the little cup of coins for him and when it’s full, he trades it for a big stuffed purple alien that I pick from the rack above. We watch the fireworks from the Ferris Wheel and it feels like magic. We stand in line to buy Sno-Cones and Cliff walks by. Neither Alan or I have spoken to Cliff in years. Cliff’s eyes widen, he pauses and smiles at us. Just for that nanosecond, we’re all best friends again, and then he keeps walking down the midway.
5. Alan and I have been fucking for more than a year now, and he still won’t tell me that he loves me. He won’t even call me his girlfriend. He dangles big promises in front of me, then yanks them away at the last moment. I fall for it every time. I’ve built up the fairy tale, the one where the best friends from childhood fall in love and live happily ever after, and he knows how to use this. He’s finally graduated from college, his mother rents a limo for the ceremony. I sit on his lap in the limo, but I flirt with one of his friends instead of him. When the evening is over, we get in a screaming fight in the driveway and he walks away into the night. I go to his neighbor’s house, and we do shots and play video games all night. Alan doesn’t show up until the next morning. He plays “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” by Chicago on the stereo, and we fuck on his neighbor’s water bed.
6. We’re running errands for his mother in the city. He asks if I want to take the scenic route home, so we drive along the river until the concrete turns into lush forest. We drive up a hill, and when we come back down again, the scenery spreads out in front of us like a picture from a calendar. The sun hits a church at just the perfect angle, the river sparkles blue and silver below. We both gasp from the sudden beauty. Alan turns to me and says how he wants to give me all this someday. I ask him why not now, and he looks at me, dumbfounded, and says “I really don’t know.”
7. It’s my birthday, Alan keeps hinting that I’ll get something I really want. We’re at his going-away party, he’s moving to Missouri for a job. No one there knows me or knows it’s my birthday. Everyone plays Euchre but I sit alone, watching, because I can’t get the hang of it. Alan gets really, really drunk, more drunk than I’ve ever seen him. People I don’t know keep showing up with bottles of Jack or cases of Bud for him. We stagger into someone’s bedroom, Alan tells me he’s going to give me my birthday present. He’s so drunk he can’t get his shirt off. He’s soaked with sweat and his skin is saturated with booze. Pulling himself on top of me, he mumbles “Are you ready for your present?” I am, because I think I know what he’s going to say, and he does. He tells me he loves me, then he passes out on top of me in a sweaty heap. It’s the only time he’ll ever say it out loud.
8. Alan calls me, pleads with me to come to Missouri. It’s his birthday and he doesn’t know anyone there. He alludes that this is finally “it”, that this is the when all the big decisions will be finally made. I drive thirteen hours on Easter Sunday and we spend the better part of two days high, fucking in a decrepit camper. I wait for him to tell me that I’m the one, that he wants me to move there and to be with him forever, but he doesn’t. After I leave, I won’t hear from him again for ten years.
9. His absence haunts me. I don’t know what I did wrong. I was so close. For years I have vivid dreams where we talk, and I tell him what my life is like now. After a couple years, I move away, looking for a fresh start. I go to therapy. I get a degree. I want to tell him these things. I want him to be proud of me, to see who I’ve blossomed into. I will silently compare him to every other man I date for years.
10. I’m browsing around online and suddenly there’s Alan, a friend of a friend on one of those sites. I think, “Fuck it, we’re adults now,” and send him a message. He answers within ten minutes. It’s near Thanksgiving, we’re both in our hometown for the holidays, so we agree to meet for drinks. I’m more nervous than I want to be. I want to think that I’m over him, but I don’t know for sure.
We pull into the restaurant at the same time. Alan looks old and worn, like a battered leather jacket, but not in a good way. He’s in a sticky custody battle, he says his ex-wife is a bitch, he hates his teaching job. He has three drinks to every one of mine. He says I probably want an explanation for the missing ten years. He tells me that he knew I wasn’t ready to settle down, to move so far from my family. As he rambles on, I finally see through the bullshit. I tell him I need to go now, that it was great to see him. He moves in for a kiss. I kiss him back and feel exactly what I was hoping for. Nothing.
Alan texts me twenty times in the next hour. He texts that loves me, he sees that now. He’s sorry. He’s so sorry. He’ll do better this time, he promises. I turn my phone off. When I wake up the next day I have ten voice mails. I call him back and he begs me to give him another chance, asks if I felt anything in that kiss, anything at all. I say no, not a thing. I’m relieved when I realize I really mean it. I wish him a good Thanksgiving, and I hang up.