Valerie, the allnighter
“There’s someone else, Knox,” Valerie said. We were having pasta at my condo in the Pearl district. It was raining outside.
I put my wineglass down and braced myself. “Is it anyone I know?” I asked.
“No, and we haven’t done anything, yet, but we had a connection and I can’t stop thinking about him.”
Our relationship was less than a year old at that point, but it felt lived in. We were both of the age where you’re supposed to say to yourself, “the next person I meet who seems to be a good fit, I’m going to settle down with.” Valerie had seemed like a good fit – smart, sarcastic, successful. She’d been through rehab by the time she was 16, graduated Yale at 20, spent three years in Africa, two in Berlin, six in London. She’d been around the block, but wasn’t worse for the wear.
When we went to bed together that night, I assumed it’d be for the last time. While Val slept, I paced my living room for a couple of hours. In the rain, I walked down to a convenience store a mile a way and bought a pack of cigarettes, but I couldn’t bring myself to light one up, so I wound up leaving them beside a bum sleeping at a bus stop.
When I got back to my apartment, I was soaked. I tried going to sleep on my couch, but couldn’t. I put a Coltrane record on the turntable and opened up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue I’d been saving for a couple of years.
“I’ve been through this before,” I said to myself. “Too many times to count. You’ll feel numb for a couple days, then you’ll be depressed for a month or two. You’ll have several meaningless flings, and then it’ll be over. It’ll be on to the next one.
“Valerie didn’t get my sense of wanderlust anyways. Sure, she’d traveled, but she was purpose-driven. Not like me. Plus, she hated America. I should have kept those cigarettes. Damn. When did I start talking to myself, anyways? I’m too goddamn old for this shit.”
The music and the top-shelf booze kept me company until the next morning. At that point, I’d convinced myself that even if Valerie wasn’t the one, the sooner I could get over her, the sooner I could move on to someone else. “Maybe, I’ll be more prepared this time, I’ll be honest and I’ll find someone more right for me. Maybe it will actually work. I just got to get over the hump.”
Around 7 am, Valerie came into the living room and said, “Couldn’t sleep?”
I nodded. “Not even with all the scotch in this house.”
“Me, neither,” she said. “I’ve been thinking, Knox, what I said last night, forget about it. I want to try to stick with this. What we have feels right. For both of us.”
“Val,” I said, “In my experience, soon as you’re thinking about seeing other people, it’s only a matter of time. I’ve been up all night with it, and I’m ready leave it at that.”
We walked her downstairs. I kissed her on the cheek, in the rain, beneath her umbrella, and said, “Keep in touch,” because despite all I’d been through, I didn’t know anything else to say.
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