You remember the first email exchange. Well, it wasn’t exactly email it was more of a ping back on that outdated singles’ website. God, that website was awful. But it’s where you met him and after a month of thinly veiled yet completely innocent innuendos, you took it to the next level: texting.
He was even funnier in text somehow. As though when all the formalities of an email account are removed people can be their authentic virtual selves. It’s like you both knew each other. He started to become you’re socio-religio-political soulmate. You even went to the same pro-Palestine rally at the same time but missed each other in the crowd when the police showed up.
You remember all of this in the five minutes you’re sitting alone at the Coffeed waiting for him to show up. You wonder if you should have opted for tea instead. You wonder why Muslim boys can never be on time for anything in their lives. You wonder a hundred different things until he walks in the door and suddenly it’s like you’ve never seen someone so beautiful. He is perfect. He is everything his Instagram account lead you to believe only better because there are no filters to dim the brightness of his brown eyes. You are suddenly painfully curious as to if he is disappointed by what he sees.
The first few minutes of conversation are strained. Nothing like the way you’ve been texting. You’re nervous and all you can do is sip your coffee in between your one word answers to his questions. Why’s he asking so many questions? Why aren’t you saying anything? A small eternity passes before the entire meeting is over. He has a night class to get to and you’re volunteering somewhere in a few hours. You wonder if this is it.
A month later there’s no longer any strain on the conversations. The both of you have become a united stream of consciousness. A phone call every morning, various messages and links shared during the day, a closing phone call at night. Sleep. Repeat. You know with certainty this is it, the one you’ve waited for your entire young adult life. He’s met your friends, he’s attended all of your open mic nights to raise money for charity.
“He’s perfect,” Leila tells you over dinner one night. “Just another year or so, you’ll be the first wedding in the group.”
You smile at the idea, “Mr. Perfect.”
Those are the reminders that play over and over in your mind on the nights where you ‘sleep over’. At first, it seemed innocent enough, there was actual sleep involved. It felt special to wake up next to someone you love. He remained on his side of the bed.
But sleep over nights no longer consist of sleep. Most of the time you stare up at the ceiling waiting for it to be over. On more adventurous nights you’re staring down at the mattress attempting to make sounds that convey you want this too.
You don’t want this too.
What you want is a partner that’s willing to wait. How many of those exist anymore? And he is perfect isn’t he? What other complaint do you have about him? Nothing. In some weird way you feel that this is what you owe him. The price paid for everything else he does for you. It’s not much right? Right?
“Why do you stay if you aren’t happy,” Leila asks over another dinner. Mr. Perfect is in DC for the weekend and your body gets to take a break.
“I’m not exactly unhappy,” you tell her, “I’m just, I don’t know.”
“Tell him you don’t want to do it anymore. Or you want to put a pause on it or something.”
You bite the inside of your mouth to avoid telling her that’s the conversation you fear the most. You’re afraid because you and Leila spent your entire college careers as beacons for the Womanist movement on your campus. You organized all the slutwalks. You held seminars on consent and safe sexual practice. You got that one frat removed from campus after your blistering report on their ‘rape rooms’. You helped people.
And yet. . . you find yourself trapped under the weight of the man you’re pretty certain you love. Will he stay if you stop? Will he find someone else? Solid men are hard to come by but it seems pretty girls are a dime a dozen. Your mother always told you that when it comes to relationships, someone else is always waiting in the wings; take care of your man.
You try to convince yourself you can do this. It’s all a mental game. It’s only three nights out of the week. It’s only sex. It’s only for now.
It’s only a few years in until you realize that your body is not a credit card for happiness.
You remember the first email exchange. You wish everything was different.