I am startled by Roi's return, literally. He has come home nearly two hours earlier than he estimated and I jump in shocked surprise when I find I am not alone in the house. He laughs and apologizes and we hop and bumble awkwardly for a moment in our too small kitchen. He thrusts a plastic wrapped bundle of flowers towards me, opening and closing his arms. I feel like a rabbit suddenly exposed to the gnashing teeth of a wolf and I can't stop moving around the foot or so of space around him to pick up a dish, throw a scrap of paper away, rinse out a cup - so he admires the flowers himself describing his selection to me and how they look ever so much better here in the natural light from the window.
I flash my teeth quickly and take the flowers from him as I sweep by. I think I throw a thank you in his direction, but I'm not sure. The flowers I drop in the dining room on my way to the front door with a bag of garbage.
We spend the next hour passing each other as he unpacks and I scamper room to room spotting things that need to be returned to their proper places. Twitchy, skittish laughter accompanies each passing and we toss explanations up into the air around us about where we are off to next, and what might come after that.
"Just tossing this into the laundry", and, "just going to go through all this mail", and "I've got to get to the recycling center before they close", and "I seem to have caught this cold so I'm just going to lie down for a bit".
After he naps we lunch at a local cafe and gawk words at each other, one moment sharing a laugh over something and the next moment sliding our eyes toward the window or the food when we come too close to edges that still cut. He tells me about the archeology lecture and the tiny Maine island that was discovered with a 1940's schoolhouse still intact and untouched with the last lesson still on the chalkboard as though the children might return the next morning to sit at their child-sized desks. He asks about my children. He lights eagerly upon the topic of the new Woody Allen movie thinking it safe and I announce brutishly that I've sworn off Woody Allen. I insist that we go see Harry Potter instead.
"Of course, of course", he says.
There's no better way to avoid someone you're in the company of than at a movie.
Back at home we discuss the lives of our friends, by proxy to talk about ourselves. His friend won't be coming to stay for two weeks after all because the friend's new puppy isn't getting along with his cat, but also that it's at times too much to be around our "oscillations". Roi glances at me when he says this, and I am washed over with a small wave of grief and knowing. I see in my mind the last five years of push-pull desperation weaving through so much of our relationship.
Is it even possible that we could ever be easy with one another? Why shouldn't we? Our intellectual interests are symbiotic, we are physically well-matched, we entertain one another well. Why should this be so hard?
Roi tells me about his other friend, an addict, who has recently hacked up another relationship and has decided to love heroine instead. I cluck and wonder aloud if this friend might not be avoiding commitment. Roi nods and explains how he realizes that one must commit to one life, and in his case he has decided it is with me, if that's what I want, of course. I can't say what I want.
What's more, he continues, the addict must make a decision to recover. That he may still stumble, but without the decision he will always dance with the right foot in, while the left foot heads for the door. We talk philosophically on these matters, as though we are like-minded individuals who had just met at a dinner party, as if it is not our lives we speak of, as if the consequences of our theories are not ours to bear.