For LOST IN LOS ALAMOS Beta Readers Only - Please Do Not Share.
Like a King
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As Scott had laid there entangled in his roiling mind on the crappy bed, he was not ashamed. Just kind of pissed off. What he needed was sleep.
But he knew sleep would not come. He loudly snorted in, trying to clear his nose of the dried-out mucous. “Should go the other way,” was what he thought. He was too curled up in his parade of moral retrospection to go grab some tissue.
“That hot and heavy feeling would eventually wear off,” he had thought. Or not. And if not, then he would develop a real interest in finding out just who the woman was, what she was made of, and what would sustain the two of them outside of the bedroom. THEN, the real courtship would begin, to use an anachronistic term. Usually, and especially, if they had been intimate with each other, the woman would be expecting a lasting relationship of some kind and if it was meant to be.
“Oh, god”, Scott thought. “I’d be crucified for these thoughts about women if anyone could hear them.” Scott continued his thinking, though.
That was the point where, usually after the deed was already done, the guy’s blinders came off. The chasm that exists between what the girl believed and what the guy has moved onto would be like the Grand Canyon of misunderstanding.
She’s thinking, like, “This is maybe my guy! We’re an item! Let’s start making some memories, some plans, and more of what just went down!”
And he’s thinking, “Huh. That was really great and I like her, but...” Your eyes are cleared of the internet ads and articles, billboards, and steamy Netflix trailers. Not mention the other visuals that might be streaming, if you’re into that sort of thing. The little things became sharp and stuck out to poke holes in what you thought were the Big Things that Meant Things. The veil is lifted, buddy.
And that ‘but’ you threw in there would be the kiss of death for any future with her if you even think it. Can’t get around that. As a guy, you know it. The sex will continue to be great if it was before. For a while. Then the disinterest begins. The rest of your life becomes more interesting again. Irritations come to visit. And even though you still like her, a lot, even, It’s. Just. Not. Enough. To keep your interest.
“And there lies the truth to my theory,” Scott thought. “The Two Levels of Interest.”
If there were enough going on between them, he could make it through to the place of finding a real interest in her. As a person. As a possible mate. As someone he wants to be with beyond and because of differences. He knows he has a genuine interest in seeing if they can go the distance. He even may want to go the distance by then.
Until that point, though, he is invulnerable to the reality of maintaining and caring for a lasting, intimate relationship. Not so much that he’s conscious of it, even.
There, is the mistake that’s made by both parties. One or the other or both want to believe it’s a genuine interest. That it’s more than the hallucinogenic attraction caused by the dopamine addiction or pheromones or just plain lust.
But it’s not. And if she gives her body to him because he appears to exhibit all of the traits of an ardent suitor, she runs the all-to-real risk of giving away that precious gift before the time is right. Before he is found to be the Right One.
“Jesus, I’m proselytizing,” he thought. But Scott remembered how it sounded when Betty had framed it. Even with it’s Christian underpinnings, it did not have the hollow sound of something that could be scorned and ignored. It was profound and useable the way she said it. He wished he could remember her exact words.
“Man, if I said all of what I just thought to someone... ” he thought.
And yet... And yet, Sienna.
He had been doubly fooled by the intensity and desire and the meeting of his ideals in this one girl-woman. Wow. Wow. Wow.
In due course, the facade that he had created of their love revealed it’s first hairline fracture.
One day, out of what Scott thought was nowhere, the high-heeled tennis shoes came out. On a hike up a beach bluff, no less. Scott couldn’t comment because he was speechless. They were black with white soles, for sure. They had the Converse circle on them. But the laces were red ribbon and they had high cork heels that you could break your ankle walking on pavement with. Hideous. To his discredit, he had looked forward to their athletic release together back at his house afterwards so much that he’d dared not say anything. But afterwards, after his physiology had calmed down and his brain began to work again, it frightened him. How could she do this? Her tastes in fashion had been healthy and stylish. Then this? Yeah, it was just a pair of shoes. But, shoes make the woman, hey?
Within weeks, the leopard print tops and leggings showed up.
“What was this?!” his mind reeled. If her body hadn’t filled those gaudy and, to Scott, ridiculous clothes so amazingly, he couldn’t have been seen with her. He hated leopard print clothes. But oh boy, was she still hot. Her beach attire didn’t change much, which Scott was very much relieved by. Sadly, it didn’t end there.
When she got the little yap dog, they had to have a talk. She knew he had no patience for the pampered little stinker and she didn’t really give him much of a warning or reason for getting it. Scott had asked if anything was wrong. He was a pretty good listener, but they both had come away feeling something was off. This all made no sense and soon Scott found his mind wandering during their time in and out of bed, imagining things again.
Up until then, his work at the school had been routine. Then there was an Apple initiative to introduce more of the giant’s products into the IT system and Scott was called on, being a Fan Boy, to head the implementation of it. It was challenging and fun and provided a lot of what Scott liked in being a techie. The new joy of it contrasted with the change in Sienna and the shift in their relating. She stopped coming to their music gigs. So his eyes had nothing to anchor them in the clubs. She was still sweet and passionate but with the way Scott seemed to look at her with an almost inspective and wary attitude, she had responded with a not-so-hidden reaction.
Scott did begin to inspect her and her life. He saw other things that he had to put into his, “I think I can deal with it” category. The other things that he couldn’t put on that list started to stack up.
Then evidence of drinking binges crept into his perception. What Scott thought was a mutual allowance for social drinking became a routine with her. When he questioned her on this, Scott couldn’t help himself and he became accusatory, rather than concerned. The last of it was the sloppy drunk phone call from the bar with a guy next to her coaching her on what to say.
They didn’t see each other for a week and then a call came with Sienna pleading with Scott to come give her a ride home from the bar she was in and screaming that she would kill herself if he didn’t come to take her home and make love to her.
To say No to her took everything he could muster, and for all the red-blooded reasons. He agonized over consciously passing on the chance at yet another - maybe one last - incredible time with her. He would have been afraid she might hurt herself, but he could hear in her voice more anger than desperation. How could he expect their union be incredible anymore?
Sienna called to apologize another week later. He could hear from the stumbling over consonants in her speech that she was still drinking. She told him they just weren’t compatible. She wished him a good life. There was so much more in her voice than just the drinking, but she escalated when he appeared willing to leave it at that.
“Where is your commitment?! Don’t I mean anything to you?!” followed quickly by the kicker.
“You can’t just fuck me and then not fuck me!”
Oof. Scott felt that one. Deep. He said nothing. He let her yell “Goodbye, Scott!” and then he let her hang up on him.
In the days following when he could finally look at himself in the mirror and he could go over their intense time together from a new distance, he saw the many things that were invisible to him under influence of their high velocity passion, unmoored from any foundation of intimate and practical knowledge of each other.
The room was cold when he woke again. There was no glow or sound from the heater. Then he remembered that he’d tossed and turned and got so hot he had to get up and turn the setting down all the way. He pulled the sleeping bag up and rolled over onto his side. Then he reached behind his head and found his phone, opened up the photo app and tapped up a photo of her that he had thrown into the Hidden photos album. All of his photos of her were there. He hadn’t deleted them. Amazing how seeing her face smiling out at him could bring him almost to tears. Even though everything. It was stunning to witness first hand the bond that had been forged. It never should have.
“My intense interest in Sienna was based solely on our physical relationship and not at all in anything permanent,” he stated to himself. At least that he was conscious of. Yeah, he’d been pretty unconscious during all that hotness. He now knew he had been just interested in finding out if he could be interested in a long term thing, and that idea lasted only about two days. Then nothing was under anyone’s control. “When I wrapped her up in my big manly arms and bed and gave her a great ride, she thought I was already at the second level of interest. She thought I was already there... My bad.”
He came really close to going back and deleting the voicemail. Not yet. Not even the photos.
Scott closed the phone. He knew that Sienna was not the only one he had done this with. That was a problem. Nothing he could really do about that anymore except feel guilty. He put up a Do Not Enter sign.
It was already 4:23 in the morning. Sleep would not be returning. Time to get up off The Pyre and get going. Get moving. Put some distance between him and The Weight.
He did not feel much like a king, swinging his bare feet out onto the cold, dirty linoleum, his own limbs and torso as dim as an apparition in the darkness of the dilapidated house and a conscience as repugnant as a moldy and spore-spiked unfinished meal left out for weeks.