All the air in the room seemed to be sucked out with the last statement she made, “I don’t love you anymore.”
Evan knew something was different as they left for “dinner-and-movie” night. It wasn’t the perfume he bought her or the haircut she got earlier in the afternoon. She still kissed him passionately when they woke up that morning. She stared at him the same way during dinner, giving him the “let’s skip the movie and go back to my place” look. He had a feeling and now he had confirmation.
Someone had to break the silence.
“I just feel differently,” she finally added.
He looked up from the blank television screen and turned to meet her eyes, Nic stared at her shoes.
“So what did I do wrong this time?” the question seemed stupid as it came out of his mouth.
“It’s not you, it’s me,” her response seemed as silly as his.
She went on about things in her life he already knew: stress at work, insomnia, financial bullshit. She used cliches he’d given other girls before Nic. And during. The difference, he saw a future with her.
“I still want us to be friends.”
Evan told this lie too. Being friends meant not answering phone calls, ignoring texts and other juvenile antics not befitting a 30 year old.
But then she added, “I want you to be able to see other people and have a good time. But when I see you, I want to make sure you’re not bringing anything to me.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Evan didn’t like rules. He hated them with a passion. A misplaced burst of energy succumbed to confusion. “You tell me you don’t love me anymore, then you say you want to be friends. And now I’m getting permission from you to see other people but then you throw in the… what do you mean don’t bring anything to you?”
“I don’t like titles. We’re not high school kids anymore. Go have sex with anyone you want, not that its stopped you before.”
Evan had no defense. She’d seen emails, intercepted texts. This wasn’t the first time they’d split, but this time it felt like the last. The reality of it sank quickly.
“Waitasec, you’re giving me permission?”
“I told you I didn’t like titles and now let me add games. I’ve got too much going on right now and I want to focus on me. I’m up for a promotion at work which means more money. More money means I get to pay off the rest of my student loans. But when I need a distraction, that’s where you become involved.”
Evan stiffled a laugh. “I was your boyfriend for almost five years and now I’m being relegated to distraction?”
Nic finally met his gaze, a glimmer of anger nearly erupting but, “And how many times did you make other girls a distraction?”
The room regained its staleness. He got up from the couch, took a few steps and crouched down to the floor. “Look, I make no excuses…”
“I’m not looking for any and I’m not asking you to make them. I always knew the type of person you were and I never once thought I could change you. You’re a free-spirit. I accepted that a long time ago.” She finally came closer and knelt down next to him. “Ev, we’re moving in two different directions…”
“…and I want to see what happens when we take away titles. Take away the ‘you-and-me.’ I don’t want anyone else but I don’t need you right now.”
“Don’t Nic me Evan! You should be happy. You now have your cake and you can eat it too. Just don’t be stupid.”
“I don’t know! Wear a condom. Don’t fuck whores! You do the math! I’m letting you go…” Tears began to surface. “This is what I want. Please stay at your place tonight. I’ll give you a call in a few days.” She made her way up the spiral staircase to her room, shutting the door gently behind her.
* * *
On the drive home, Evan’s iPod shuffled to Bread’s “Everything I Own.” David Gates couldn’t put it much plainer as he sang, “Nobody else could ever know the part of me that can’t let go…”
Nic sat alone on her bed, staring at the photo booth pictures they took weeks earlier. They made different funny faces in the first two, looked serious in the third and were lost in a kiss in the last. She lit the “LOVE” candle he won that same night. As the flame turned to a single wisp of smoke, Nic whispered, “Happy almost five year anniversary, Ev.”