We’re never in love with each other at the same time.

One of us is always in the middle of a bad choice.

Brendan is soft-spoken, sweet, shy. He only looks imposing, six and a half feet tall, heavy metal long hair, an on-and-off again drug habit. We’ve known each other so long that neither of us remembers quite how we met, but we’ve never managed more than a few clandestine kisses in all these years.

It’s like trying to fit the pieces from two different puzzles together. I’m engaged, alone, losing my shit, pulling it together. I need space, air, time.  He stops drinking, starts meth, gets a job, fired, in jail, here and gone again. He moves to Colorado in the middle of the night. It’s never the right time.

After another long absence, Brendan materializes one day. I’m sitting at my friend’s kitchen table, and there he is, filling the doorway. He’s put back on all the pre-meth weight, acquired more tattoos, a goatee. We hug, he blushes, our hands tangling under the table as everyone catches up. We’re both single. He invites me to his new place, within walking distance of a yet another new factory job.

I head over a few days later. It’s mid-autumn, red leaves hang heavy on rain soaked trees, jagged reflections in chilly puddles. The directions lead me to an old peeling house covered in fake Victorian gingerbread. Brendan’s tiny apartment is carved out of a space in the front. Plaid blankets hang over the windows instead of curtains. A fine blue haze of cigarette smoke hovers overhead. An electric guitar is propped in the corner, the amp hisses low until Brendan notices and switches it off. We drink coffee from a pair of chipped yellow mugs the landlady gave him. He tells me about jail, AA meetings, his last girlfriend.

The tension feels like static, a room full of buzzing white noise.  “You should stay,” he says finally. I get my overnight bag from the car, packed just in case.

The bedroom is chilly, Brendan wraps his long arms around me until my teeth stop chattering. Cautiously we snuggle, slowly peeling off layers of each others clothing. He turns over, opens the night table drawer. Instead of a condom, he hands me a brand new package of nude-colored panty hose. “Ummm,” Brendan’s face turns an impossible shade of crimson, “Would you wear these for me?” Haltingly, he explains that he’s fantasized about me for so long, he’s just wanted me, just wanted me to…

Wiggling around under the covers, I pull the panty hose on. Rough hands run over my legs and my ass, snagging the cheap nylon. We kiss, his long hair concealing us like a veil. Opening the drawer again, Brendan searches for a condom. I snatch it from him, snaking down the bed. I go down on him, then unroll the condom over his cock. Diving under the covers, Bredan rips a hole in the panty hose with his teeth, licks at me, fingers me, then finally enters me.

I try to get a sense of his rhythm, but there is none. He’s just pounding all over the place, like a unmanned jackhammer. He comes nearly instantly, without apology. I chalk it up to nerves. The next time is the same. Brendan heaves, jerks and comes. We lay in bed, frustrated, watching reruns on a little black and white tv with a wire hanger for an antenna.  Our hands find each other, then disaster strikes anew. I can’t come. I’m dry. There’s no harmony between us in bed, it’s like fucking in the middle of a demolition derby.  I tell him I need space, that maybe I’m not over so-and so-anyway. He thinks theres a lot of overtime coming up soon at the factory. We don’t look at each other in the morning as I gather my clothes.

One Halloween years later, I think I see him again, standing in the dark, leaning against a tree. I can’t tell if he’s watching me pass out candy or if one of the costumed children is his.  When I look up from the clamoring group of trick or treaters, he’s gone, lost again amongst the sea of ghosts.

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