Falling, or the tale of the pizza box
My stuffy head from my cold seemed to be drowning in the thick Beverly Hills air. I had just left dinner with him and was holding a box with my leftover pizza. The back of my shirt was all lace, so the night atmosphere struck it like a whip.
“Could you hold my pizza box?” I asked him after we crossed the street. “I need to put on my sweater.”
He held it as I put it on, and then I went to take back my pizza box, he jerked it away.
“No,” he grinned wickedly, a twinkle of fun in his eye while his nasal voice betrayed his own stuffiness. “It’s my pizza now.”
I went to grab it, and it was pulled away. Again. And again.
“C’mon!” I yelled. He began to run, giggling. My feet began to hurt as my nasal voice began calling out his name, and it almost seemed to egg him on. Being taller than me, he held it out of my reach, laughing as I began climbing all over his nice work clothes to get it, holding him desperately by the waist as he tried to walk away with it. It wasn’t malicious; rather, I joined in on the game, becoming winded in my sickness but still wanting to play as the pizza box was out of my reach.
That pizza box might as well have been the two of us. It seemed like this had been going on for months. We had been friends for a long time, but since the moment we started hanging out just the two of us, we were grasping and stumbling, tripping over our different hindrances as we opened up to one another. At first, I was scared of him messaging me every day and sending me articles and being around all the time, as I didn’t know if I wanted him that close. But then, it just became so natural that when he wasn’t around it frightened me.
Together, we could be anything we wanted. We could be silly — balancing macaroni boxes on our heads while taking pictures, singing songs, making each other laugh during the day through endless conversations. We could be serious — talking about our past relationships, our families, stories that we would never share with anyone else, revealing our deepest secrets. He had shown he how much he cared through so many methods, I had no idea that there were so many ways to do it. He was kind, warm and the person who I felt I could say anything to. And before I knew it, I was falling for Mr. Pizza Box. The one thing I couldn’t say to him.
The last time I fell like this it hurt. I fell in love with one of my best guy friends after my divorce, but the timing was off and it didn’t work. The promise of a relationship was there, complete with games and guesses, but every time I tried to go for it, it faltered — until eventually it was destroyed. I lost the friendship, lost him, and three years down the line, it still takes a lot of effort to look at any pictures of him and not feel stabbing pains in my stomach.
Mr. Pizza Box knows about that guy. He nicknamed him “Baldie” after I told him his name and he looked up his picture on Facebook. What he didn’t know is that we were experiencing the same exact M.O. that I was back them: Close friend who knew me better than most people, who would always answer when I called and would do almost anything for me. This “Baldie” would have, could have just as easily been my next husband. Yet when the time came to make it real, when all I asked was for him to grab a cup of coffee with me, which would lead to the discussion, it was time to run. To this day he is out of reach, like that pizza box that I was trying to grab while winded from a cold.
It was moments like these that made me wonder how I ever ended up married in the first place. But in my mind I went back to that night 10 years ago, back when my ex-husband first came to my apartment and we watched the sun come up while we were both naked in my bed. My ex was a simpleminded fool, but that made it easy for him: He wanted something. He went to go get it. He got it.
Despite everything wrong with him (and there was a lot), this was the one thing he could do correctly that leaves other guys stumped. Meanwhile, I watch myself dating, with other guys shying away from me, fearful of rejection and not making moves unless they know with 100 percent certainly that I’m into them. And they usually don’t — I’m not particularly forthcoming in that respect.
He eventually handed the pizza box back to me as we sat on the nearby steps, holding hands. I kept looking at him, hoping he would look at me so we could finally have the kiss, the only thing that would let me know without a shadow of a doubt that he was into me, but it never came. As we continued walking, my lips felt like was going to say something, but I felt my words slip out from under me, the fear constantly consuming me as I kept trying to say it, then dismissing it by peppering in the words, ”It’s stupid,” multiple times before I walked out of his car.
Driving home along the canyon, I thought of my world three years ago, and how I lost one of my best friends and could today barely look at a picture of him without thinking about how there was a grin for everyone else, and then there was that soft smile he used exclusively for me. How today, when I would sit next to Mr. Pizza Box during certain things and would notice out of the corner of my eye how he kept looking at me, how he told me he loves my smile, how he kept doing all these wonderful things to me. How now, in addition to the Baldie, there was another boy on this planet who would have my heart, who I would love always no matter what happened to us.
Yet the next morning, as I ate the contents of my pizza box, I realized something: It was my choice. My relationship life didn’t have to be a series of games and guesses, where I would fall for boys who would rather play games than make moves. My love life no longer had to be founded on deception rather than honest, emotional feeling and communications. I could either claw and climb desperately over something that would never come down, or wait patiently on the sidelines until it was returned to me, brought to me because that person was done seeing me struggle and ready to compromise.
I didn’t have an answer one way or another of how this could be done. But at least the pizza was tasty.