Christopher came back into my life within weeks of Scott's and my breakup. He looked me up on MySpace and messaged me. Then, in typical Christopher fashion, he began sending me text messages at 4 and 6 a.m. I didn't respond. He got the hint and asked me on Thursday to come over on Friday. He's never planned things with me ahead of time before. I already had happy hour plans with a guy friend of mine, so I told him I would think about it and didn't get back to him until Friday afternoon, just to make him sweat. I remember Christopher's games all too well.
Christopher had a huge smile on his face when he met me in the lobby of his building. It matched mine. We hugged and then grinned at each other like idiots on the elevator ride up to his 15th-floor apartment. I think he was just as excited to see me as I was to see him. In the three years since I've seen him last, Christopher had aged. The crows feet that would only show themselves when he smiled has now made a full-time appearance. He had a slight belly poking out from his black button-down shirt. (I sighed with relief considering I was waving the newfound flesh of my upper arms in the mirror before I left. We used to compete with who could go to the gym the most, but apparently we both gave up on that competition.)
It was like old times; the banter resumed as if the last time we spoke was a week ago. The last time we were together, I was 24 and he just turned 32. Now I'm 28. "Man, if I'm old, you must be, like, ancient," I quipped. At the same time, it was completely different: a New and Improved Christopher to go along with the Trying-to-Improve Sarah. This Christopher was considerate and kind. I was wearing a pink silk scarf to cover my thyroid scar, and when my guy friend had made fun of my wearing a scarf on a June night, Christopher complimented it.
I almost fell into my old routine by wanting to pick up a bottle of wine and some snacks on my way over there, but I decided to let Christopher handle it. He invited me over, so I was going to trust that he would provide. And he did. He bought me my own 12-pack of beer (sophisticated) and he reached in his cupboard and produced 2 1-oz. bags of Snyder pretzels. When I inquired about snacks on the phone before I came over, he went to the lobby in his building and bought some. The gesture was so cute.
CHRISTOPHER: Do you have a boyfriend?
SARAH: No, do you have a boyfriend?
CHRISTOPHER: (Laughs) Why do you ask that?
SARAH: Ask a stupid question, get a stupid question.
CHRISTOPHER: Why would it be stupid for you to have a boyfriend?
He asked rapid-fire questions about the ex: where did I meet him? How long were we together? When did we break up? Or maybe why. I simply said I didn't want to talk about it, but he wasn't a very nice guy. (I worked that answer out with my therapist the week before. Glad we went over that.) Christopher repeated he wasn't a very nice guy and locked eyes with me, trying to gauge exactly how not-nice he was. I think he understood and he never brought it up again.
I filled him in on the two things that most changed my life: my job lay off and my cancer scare. The old Christopher would have told me I talked too much, but this guy just listened and told his own lay-off story and his mother and brother's thyroid problems.
After a few beers, I wanted to visit his car-- his 1992 Lincoln Continental, one of the original boat sedans. We laughed as we sat in the camel leather bucket seats and inhaled the musk. I marveled at the original tape player and dug through his center console looking for tapes. I picked out a Harry Connick, Jr. album that I loved and he put it in. "He Is/They Are" began to play. We both knew the words and quietly sang along. I smiled to myself as we sang the verse, "He is older, they are wiser."
When the song was over, I rolled the window down in his 1992 Lincoln and stuck my head out the window. I took a deep breath, "Mmm, carbon dioxide."
Christopher rolled his window down and took a whiff of the exhaust fumes. "You like that?" he asked. He pressed the gas pedal and the engine roared. "Take that, o-zone layer!" he cried. I fell over into a fit of giggles. "Take that, space! This is what American cars do!" We laughed so hard that the building security guard approached us to make sure everything was okay. We were sitting in his parked car with the windows down and the engine on, screaming with laughter while drinking beer. He probably thought we were on drugs.
We laughed about old times. "Remember when we went to Helen and you re-enacted your open-container ticket?" I asked.
"Remember when we went to your college town?"
"And you hit on that 16 year old and I got so mad at you and called you a pervert?"
"I did that? I'm sorry," he said sincerely.
"And then you threw up in my car!" I added.
"I did not! It was on the running boards which are on the outside of your car!" he protested. "And you bit me for trying to take the last beer." He held up the hand and pointed to the location of the incident.
I gasped, "I forgot about that!"
We laughed so hard. It's funny the things we choose to remember.
I got a lot of validation about the capacity of our relationship through this conversation. And if this is all I get out of this night, it was worth it. Christopher acted like we were together and not just hanging out or f-buddies. And he remembered our times just as fondly as I did.
"Why did you stop calling me?" I eventually asked quietly. I went into this night knowing I would have to get an explanation. He told me his phone had broken and he lost all of his numbers. I remember when his phone broke. I found him drunk in bed one night and his cell phone had slipped between the metal wires of the rack it was sitting on and fell into a glass of water. I was the one who found it and pulled it out. It worked for several weeks on those external emergency batteries before finally giving out and I had been too proud to call him.
It made me see not everything was Christopher's fault. I don't think I could have been more emotionally unstable while we were together. I burped from drinking his beer. "You burp because you keep things in," he said, bring me back to present time. So true, Christopher, so true.
The thing I always liked about Christopher was the simplicity of it all. He remained just as playful as ever. I don't feel like real life is beating me down when I'm with him. Our time was entirely consumed by making fun of his car and doing our best Jon Secada impressions into his hairbrush. We argued over who was our favorite Pixie. (I say Black Francis, he says Kim Deal.)
When I got tired, he patted his lap for me to lay down on it. I cheered and he rested his arm on me. It was so un-Christopher circa 2006. He suggested we go to bed. I went over there knowing I would spend the night; it was what we did.
In bed he propped up his lap top and gave me the option of Ghost Hunters or Paranormal State. "Paranormal State," I yawned. "Ghost Hunters is so fake." He picked out an episode and laid close to me, pulling me near him. He adjusted something on the lap top and while he was hovering over me, he leaned down and kissed me. So un-Christopher. We never kissed while we were together last time, mostly due to me being horrified. He murmured that I tasted like watermelon and continued to softly kiss me. He was so gentle, reminding me of one of the last times we were together. I put my hand on his cheek and kissed him back. It was supposed to be Scott's and my 2-year anniversary that night, but he never entered my mind. With Christopher it was like the last 3 years never happened and I could pretend Scott never happened.
Christopher wanted sex, but I turned him down. I felt like I was able to regain the femininity that I lost without having to have sex, and Christopher had given that to me. I've never said no to Christopher before regarding anything and I needed to do it to prove to him, and more to myself, that I am changing and capable of drawing boundaries with men. He was understanding and continued to kiss me. It was nice. He told me genuinely that he had a good time and asked me the same. I kept tugging on my shirt strap because my breast kept wanting to come out and say hello, and he reached behind me and adjusted my strap for me.
He wrapped himself around me, matching crevice to crevice and told me my hair smelled good. I looked for his baseball bat, his security for living in the city, and found it in the same position by his bed. Then I flipped my pillow over and looked for the blood stain I left on his sheets from the bloody nose I had 3-1/2 years ago, the night I met him. It was still there. I smiled and drifted off to sleep. I felt like I had finally come home.