Jacob, a boy I had known at the Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, sent me a personal Facebook message on New Year’s Day in 2018. Emily, remember when we were forced to learn ballroom dancing in seventh grade? He had been a studious and accomplished student whom the girls in our class nicknamed Egghead.
I do. I also remember waiting for a boy to ask me to be his partner. And the relief when you chose me. Being taller than boys had its disadvantages.
We exchanged phone numbers and continued Facebook messaging. Jacob wrote that he had lived in Italy for six years. At age twenty-nine, he settled in Sydney, Australia, where he’d stayed for five years. I lived in a small apartment in Lincoln Park, Chicago, on a quiet, tree-lined street near the Lincoln Park Zoo.
On a Sunday morning, four months after Jacob’s first message, I awoke later than usual and checked my messages. Emily, Jacob wrote, I’ll be in Chicago on business for a few weeks in September. Would you like to meet?
Feeling lonely, I immediately replied, Yes, I would.
We met at a bar and ordered craft beer. Jacob was as lean as a long-distance runner, almost as tall as my six feet, and dressed in a camel-hued coat, white shirt, and blue jeans.
“You’re still pretty, Emily.”
I never knew he thought I was pretty, and I appreciated his honesty by not saying I was more than pretty, like gorgeous. My appearance was improved with my navy-blue velvet slip dress and faux-pearl hoop earrings.
He talked about his plan to visit Antarctica. I told him my passion was to write love stories.
At the railroad station, Jacob boarded the last train of the night that would take him near his hotel. I waved at him as the train gathered speed, wishing he had offered to kiss me. That night, I couldn’t sleep, worried that he wouldn’t ask to see me again.
A week later, I agreed to meet him before he flew back to Sydney. We went out for drinks and dinner, and he listened to me attentively during our leisurely meal. This time, I invited him to my apartment. He accepted, and shivers of anticipation ran down my back.
After our nightcaps of Irish Cream liqueur, he caressed my face. We removed our clothes, and holding his hand, I led him to my bed. He stroked my breasts and hardened nipples and massaged the roundness of my belly. I traced my finger across his cleft chin, pressed my lips against his, then straddled him. We clung to each other and moved as one.
The next morning, I hummed as I brewed coffee. I showered and prepared my favorite breakfast burritos for us, using scrambled eggs, potatoes and cheese.
Jacob returned to Australia. We communicated with each other at least once a week for a month. He messaged, I visited Yalgorup National Park near Perth. At night, thousands of stars looked close enough to touch.
I replied, I went to the Field Museum of Natural History. Amazed to see Sue, the world's largest known T. Rex.
Men typically ended our relationship at about three months, usually saying, “I’m sorry, Emily, I met someone new.” Each time I was rejected, I asked myself, “What’s wrong with me? Why do I always have to get hurt?” After each rejection, I couldn’t just turn off the romance like turning off a tap.
With Jacob, two months passed, then six, then nine, and we messaged almost every day. I learned about his seven-year career plan and how he spent eight days on a farm where he helped harvest organic tomatoes, lettuce and carrots. He knew about my dream to ditch my boring sales job, my obsession with cleanliness and my love of LeAnn Rimes songs.
Maybe, just maybe, our relationship was becoming more than casual.
While Jacob was on a business trip in Chicago, a little over a year since he first contacted me, we met for dinner at the Sapori Trattoria. He arrived on time and during our meal, he was polite to the server. I loved his Aramis floral-spicy scent, and I relished the joy of our time together.
I ordered lobster ravioli, and he asked for mushroom risotto. We both loved the rich, creamy blend of tiramisu made with layers of Italian cookies, mascarpone cheese and espresso coffee.
“I appreciate our friendship, Emily. We fit together like a chocolate and vanilla soft-serve twist.”
“That sounds cliché. But I get what you mean.”
“I love being with you.”
“I feel the same, Jacob.”
We spent that night in his hotel room and most of the following day in bed. We ordered food that was delivered to our door. I felt intimacy and affection when he held my hand and massaged my neck, although I kept my expectations in check.
But during the next three weeks of his business trip, I allowed myself to be excited about the potential for falling deeply in love.
He returned to Australia, and our communication became spotty. He said he worked long hours and no longer told me about his activities after work. I hated waiting for his occasional messages and dreaded the thought of receiving a breakup message. It stayed that way for five months, with me trying to walk the line between messaging him and not being annoying. I forced myself to stop checking for a message from him and thought, “Oh, my God, I’ll go crazy.” I had to do something about my sleepless nights.
I messaged, I’m sorry, Jacob, I met someone new.
About the author
Fifty-five stories by Clive Aaron Gill have appeared in literary journals and in “People of Few Words Anthology.” Born in Zimbabwe, Clive has lived and worked in Southern Africa, North America and Europe. He received a degree in Economics from UCLA and lives in San Diego. https://www.amazon.com/Clive-Aaron-Gill/e/B00FADQIR6
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