No, faithless Man, thy course pursue,
I’m now resolved as well as you.
No Repentance shall reclaim
The Injur’d Dido slighted Flame.
For ’tis enough what e’re you now decree,
That you had once a thought of leaving me.
Looking back on it later he marveled at how few questions he asked. When she considered it, she blamed him. They both agreed, later, that maybe it was meant to be.
The bar where they played pool was loud and crowded, but they found a table close to the juke box. The game was mostly taking turns shooting, making fun of each other, and making out.
“What do you want to hear,” he asked her as he went toward the juke box.
“Whatever makes you happy, loser,” she said.
He loaded up $5 worth of George Jones, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash.
As the steel guitar of “You Win Again” started from the speakers he said, “this one is for you.”
She liked that selection. She liked him. He liked her back. It was simple and adversarial. Their banter was about doing one better than the other and joking about how much she didn’t like him and how much he didn’t care.
“I’ll always win,” she said.
“At pool?” sure. “But everything else? You lose.”
They pushed each other just so far, right to the edge of some vulnerability. It was fun. It was easy. They could keep up with each other. There was something about holding back, resisting their attraction that was satisfying. But they didn’t talk about themselves. They couldn’t. Why would they do that?
But just before the bar closed, as they sat having another drink, he talked about his program, his studies.
“That day I met you I was about done,” he said.
“What do you mean?” she asked. “You’re dropping out?”
“I’m fed up with this academic nonsense,” he said.
“Are you going to chop wood and carry water now,” she teased.
“Yeah, exactly,” he said. “I’m fucking out.”
“You’re just not up to it,” she said. “Or maybe you picked a silly area of study; philosophy?” she said.
“Oh and anthropology?” he said. “The deeper meaning of Indian blankets and shards of pottery?”
“For like the millionth time, fuck You,” she said. “I like your music better than I like you and your right wing philosophy.”
“Oh Jesus,” he said, putting his hands in his face dramatically.
“Yeah,” she said. “You should pray.”
He looked up.
“Let’s go,” he said. “Let me take you somewhere.”
They found their way to a hotel, he offered to pay. It was the nicest place in town. They rolled around in the sheets. It was a drunken brawl of sex and second guessing, of vulnerability and remorse, of passion and neglect. Finally they slept.
He woke up and struggled to read the digital clock. It was 4:38. He found the hotel pen and notepad and wrote her a note.
You win. Call me later.
He hesitated and wrote another word he immediately regretted, but to cross it out and start over would be worse.
He put on his clothes, quietly used the bathroom, then opened the door and walked into the hallway.
He let the door close and lock.
He had to get home.
He walked down the hallway and heard a door open behind him. He stopped for a moment and looked back.
She stood in the doorway naked, her dark hair framing her green eyes that stared at him sternly, like they were looking over a wall.
“Leaving so so soon?” she asked.
He stood there and crossed his arm and pressed his lips together and squinted stupidly. Then he shook his head.
“Fuck,” he said as he exhaled.
Then he walked back and the door closed behind them and the hall was empty.
Let Jove say what he please, I’ll stay.
Offend the Gods and Love Obey.
— From libretto of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
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