As he was still waking up to his new reality, sitting in her chair, staring out the front window, gazing at a rustic cross in plain view, he sipped the coffee, black, from a French press. She had put on Band of Horses, the one artist on her iPod he intentionally skipped past, lest he start thinking of his other recent dalliance. The one he started dating first. The one who had hoped their second date would be to see Band of Horses. There were still certain lines he wasn't willing to cross. Other lines, however, could possibly be redrawn, redistricted, gerrymandered. "This is how 'Maggie May' happened," he mused, singing along to "The Great Salt Lake," while secretly pondering the thought processes of Rod the Mod's young protagonist.
The 16 year age difference didn't really phase him. Sure, it was usually the other way around, but hypocrisy wasn't his Modus Operandi. Keep an open mind. Besides, her skin was taut, and smooth. Her small breasts still had a perk to them. At 2am, with a ceiling full of stars, this seemed to be the very place he wanted, neigh, needed to be. At 5am, still unable to sleep in the most comfortable bed he'd been in for quite some time, he tried to toss and turn without tossing and turning noticeably. Unless he had been dreaming that he wasn't sleeping. Too much information to process about the events that had just unfolded. He had just gone with the flow, said "what the fuck?" and went for what was presented to him. The great effort to not overthink what was being handed to him on a silver-haired platter.
But now, in the half-light of a winter's day, he wasn't so sure. Leading up to this possibility, a friend had asked him if he knew what he wanted. He assured her he knew. As the wheels were slowly turning in his mind while sipping his coffee, she was sketching his sneakers in her sheer robe. She hadn't changed overnight. But something inside him had. He had gotten something he wanted. What would he have to give up in return? He wasn't ready to barter with her. He had brought a mix cd last night. Maybe that could tide her over for a while until he was sure of what should come next. After the last four years of being single, he simply couldn't handle too much attention focused on him being the only other person in the room. Why couldn't he have snuck out in the middle of the night? If he didn't have to work today, he might have stayed forever. What then?
He had finally just begun to focus on getting himself out of the seemingly bottomless pit he had been unable to escape, his inner light sucked into the ever-expanding blackness as if it were a metaphysical Sarlacc. Whatever light she saw in him upon their introduction must have been the last gasp of a white dwarf blowing out, beaming from long ago and far, far away. A ghostly flicker in the abandoned lighthouse. He was currently in the throes of climbing the rickety spiral staircase to the top to find that switch, and hopefully a spare bulb. He wasn't going to hold his breath, though. The mere thought of letting someone in wracked him with panic and guilt. All this time he thought he had been looking for someone, when he was merely hoping to find a bigger fuck-up than himself. When presented with a reasonably together specimen of the female persuasion, he felt like that young man playing hooky from school, having abandoned his post in life, stalling his development and swapping it with someone else's achievements. He wanted to simultaneously run as far and as fast as he could while staying here forever. Feeling protected, wanted. Cared for, and perhaps, god forbid, even needed.
He longed to be able to blurt all of this out to her and have it somehow make sense without wounding her. Instead, she insisted he pick a Cowboy Junkies track to play next. Thinking "Because Cheap Is How I Feel" would send the wrong message, or perhaps the right one, he went with "Misguided Angel." Finally, when he had exhausted the second round of contents from the French press, he gathered his records and clothing, said his goodbyes and tried not to destroy his broken car on the steep-hilled pebble ash driveway.
On the drive home, the sun was shining as his mind was churning overtime. He recalled the time he had told a woman that on paper she was perfect. He had broken her heart and she ran out of the restaurant so nobody could see her cry. He then realized that on paper, he was a trainwreck. What was he to do now? He took a deep breath and sang along to the mixtape as loud as he could.