#911: That Question

April 6th, 2018

If you’re reading the title to this little schmear of words, mentally stress the word “that.”

It’s not that question, it’s that question. The one we all know. The one we’ve asked and been asked and we winced with discomfort both times.

This that question came from behind me as the train trundled me north from work.

“Can we still be friends?” a woman said into her phone.

It wasn’t a bad that question, wasn’t said with tears and begging, but coming over the phone on a weekday commute, not great.

“Can I still come over and kick it?” she continued.

I thought back, but not to my own past that questions, both those given and received. I thought back to the concept itself. The idea that romantic love’s next evolutionary step is long text exchanges about whether to hit a movie, gazing longingly into eyes that don’t gaze back, planning double dates with you, your partner and the one whose hold you truly crave.

I know no one means that question. The real question is: Can I loiter around your personal space long enough to make you want me again? Can I be coy and flirty and get your friends to punch you in the arm after I leave the room and tell you how stupid you were to let me go? Can I wait in the wings and watch you move on because letting go now hurts too much?

“… watch a movie?” the woman asked into her phone.

It’s a childish notion because love makes us children. We talk of boyish charm, women being girly. Love or lust or that weird combo that makes up 90 percent of such affiliations makes us feel young and vibrant.

And vulnerable.

“… cuddle?” the woman ventured.

Her drop of decibels told me she had hoped the request would come off as coquettish or jokey. She had hoped his sense of humor or his genitals would overcome the awkward, setting her free again to gaze into unloving eyes.

It didn’t. Their goodbye was professional and polite. Her sniffles became held-in sobs, jostling the seat slightly with each whimper.

Heartbreak and the McDouble

More tears on the train

Don’t worry, kid. It gets better.

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You are currently reading #911: That Question by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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