(Don’t Let the Waves Let You Drown)

Photo: Steve Brennan Wearing: Dolce & Gabbana top

After spilling wine on Billy, I figured our time was up. But he persisted.

Chatting over a glass of wine at Rebar, he looked at me in a way I hadn’t been in a very long time. I’m not sure my most recent ex, AJ, ever looked at me that way, eyes sparkling and soft and happy. It made me feel guilty.

“You know, I’m not in a good place right now,” I said, and that was true. My relationship with AJ left me bitter, and while I longed for the things Billy wanted to give me—the relationship I craved with AJ—I knew I wasn’t ready to be dating again. “Anyone I see right now, well, it’s just bound to go bad. I was with AJ for two years: I can’t shake that in two weeks. I’d just end up hurting you.”

The look in Billy’s eyes changed. “I really like you. And whenever I like a guy who’s cute and sarcastic and perfect for me, the same thing always happens. He claims he loves me as a friend, and doesn’t want to ruin it. Then he dates someone young and attractive, while frumpy me stays home, writing sad songs.”

I felt for Billy—I’d been Billy. I don’t know how many times someone told me they liked me, but they just weren’t ready for a relationship—only to be dating some generic hot dude the next day.

“It’s not that,” I said. “There’s nobody else in the picture. I’m just not ready.”

“But you might be? Some day?”

I should have told him no, but I remembered the way he looked at me, the way I’d wanted AJ and so many boys before him to look at me.

“I don’t know,” I said, and it was the truth.

“I want to see you again.”

The next week, we agreed to watch “RuPaul’s Drag Race” at my place. “Oh!” I told him when he arrived, “my roommate James is watching with us.”

Of course, once he saw James—young and attractive—his mood changed, as if he could sense that James and I used to have sex. The three of us watched the episode in silence, even during the commercial breaks. (We didn’t even joke about that pornographic Boy Butter ad.) When the episode was over, he promptly grabbed his jacket, and I walked him to my door.

“How long are you going to string me along like this?” he asked.

“I told you I wasn’t ready for anything,” I said quietly. “You’re the one who wanted to get together again. Maybe we just need space right now.”

“You’re just like everyone else!” He slammed my door, sent me a nasty text about how awful I was, and blocked me on all forms of social media.

Months later, wanting to make up, he unblocked me—to see I was dating young, attractive James. He was right—I did what everyone else had done.

Billy got over it, after a while, and now we’re friends—and I still spill red wine on him, every now and then. For old time’s sake.