Holly Epilogue

09 Jul

We conducted the rest of our relationship by telephone.

Mostly, anyway. It felt anachronistic, a throwback to the times in my late teens when it felt reasonable to “date” a sexually confused girl who lived in Baltimore. Every six weeks or so I’d arrange for an eight-hour drive from Athens, Ohio to Maryland, at the end of which she and I would kiss passionately and yet sexlessly while trying to figure out what it was that we had in common. I’d just discovered the internet that year. Her reread chat logs would lull me to sleep at night. After three months or so, she let me know that she “couldn’t do this anymore” and began to identify as lesbian. Afterward, my life continued largely unchanged.

Holly and I were never able to recapture the familiar symbiosis we had experienced on our first date. Maybe it was that her well of shareable medical details had run dry. Maybe it was that I had thoroughly creeped her out with all my condom-throwing and cuddle-asking. As people who had difficulty finding reasons to leave the house, we often ran into each other on the internet. Sooner rather than later, we’d talk ourselves down dark alleys to conversational dead ends. Instead of turning around and walking out toward some more viable topic, and despite my gentle nudging, Holly would stand motionless, staring at the wall.

Sometimes, we’d talk with voices.

The call timer of cell phones is one of life’s modern cruelties; it allows you to quantify your failure to communicate. During the first week, our talks lasted forty minutes or more. By mid-December, they had dwindled to perfunctory exchanges of ten or fifteen minutes, sometimes punctuated by requests to “hold on a minute.” Patiently, I held on. My phone leaked disembodied sounds generated by Holly’s bustle to make tea, tidy a coffee table, or perform some other solitary and postponable task.

Once or twice we went on a date. At the end of each, Holly treated me to the same fleeting, sterile kiss she left with me after our first date. And then I’d go home.

Wet met for breakfast the second day after Christmas. It had been two weeks since we’d been out together. Her given reason had been her need for family time. Meanwhile, our talks had atrophied. One thing we retained in common was punctuality; she and I arrived at Frisch’s Big Boy within seconds of each other.

As we took our places at the end of the buffet line, we went through our requisite renegotiation of space. Hollystood close to me, but not too close, carefully maintaining a four-inch buffer on all sides, holding her purse intimately close to her body. We smiled at one another. She made brief eye contact and looked away with what, six weeks earlier, I would have considered charming shyness. We sat at a booth on the quiet side of the restaurant.

Rather than pockets per se, my peacoat has pocket-like spaces. The pouches inside had torn out earlier that winter, leaving only pocketish openings leading directly into the coat’s lining and causing the coattails to regularly fill with inconvenient change. I reached into this void and pulled out a small square package wrapped in silver paper and tied with white lace.

Holly laughed with familiar embarrassment. “Oh, thank you,” she said. “I didn’t get you anything; I wasn’t sure whether we were getting each other gifts.”

“Oh, it’s no problem.” I gestured vaguely at the gift. “It’s something I made; it wasn’t much.” Holly tore the paper to discover that what I’d said was true.

Realistically, I couldn’t afford much. Inside the expensive-looking paper was a mix CD, meticulously assembled from carefully infringed music. I’d wrapped it with what I had because these were the precise materials my mom had available in her scraps box. Rather than allow our association to die a slow, whimpering death, I’d decided to advertise my intentions through music and see what happened. The first lyrics of the first song advised her, “your body goes to waste every minute you don’t give it to me.” Such was my opinion.

We left the restaurant as we’d arrived; at the same time and in separate cars. Her house was some twenty miles closer than mine, but she didn’t invite me over. Instead, she kissed me the same way she always had, and we went home.

We next spoke on New Year’s Eve, the same night of Amanda’s story. While I cradled the phone to my ear and listened incredulously to Amanda’s account of countdown dumping, Holly and I spoke online of our quiet nights in. I asked her what she planned for the evening. She intended to watch a movie.

“So hey,” I typed. “I’m not doing much either. Would you like to watch that movie together?” Some movie, any movie.

“No, I don’t think so,” she replied. She did not elaborate.

After that, there wasn’t much to say. I didn’t call her again. After a few weeks, her name stopped showing up online in my contacts.




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