Act 3, Scene 6

Ancient Rome, The Italian Renaissance, And Postmodern Love

by Frederick Noble

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Again, I did my best to just let it go and enjoy the time we’d have left. But it was like a screw slowly twisting into the back of my neck.
A week later we were at Tortilla’s, my favorite restaurant, a place I’d gone to straight from the airport when I got home.

It took me a while to write this down, so you should probably pause for dramatic effect here so you can get the same sensation I’m getting trying to tell you the tale. Go get some sweet tea, so you can share in the flavors of the scene.

“I want to stop the physical stuff with you,” she said.
She said it.
Yet again.
And yet again she acted like I should just be OK with that, as if it were no big deal.
It was more than I could bear. I think my brain may have just shut completely off. I don’t remember the details well for the rest of the conversation so you’ll have to bear with me while I reconstruct from the ruins as best I can, like some archeologist looking at clues from the leftover bits of pottery with only the edges of decorations left on the surface.
I ran on autopilot for a while and asked how her San Fran plans were going.
“Great, me and Chris found a place to live.” she said, matter-of-factly.
“Uh... Chris?” I asked.
Chris was one of the suitors I thought she’d shot down months before. One of the many I thought she’d finally accepted as just another poor bastard with a crush on her.
I didn’t wait for her response. I got up and walked off to go get a refill on my tea. I cannot imagine what I’d have done had I sat there and watched her face while she finished innocently gutting me.
I took my time, got plenty of ice, squeezed a lime into it, took enough deep breaths to hyperventilate an Olympic swimmer, and walked back to the table.
“You have a funny way of telling me things,” I said, ashen and shaking.
“Oh, I didn’t tell you? Chris and I are moving out there together,” she said, beginning to have a clue as to just what she’d just done.
But only a clue, no actual realization of what was going on in my head.
It was the final straw.

No rock opera would be complete without some Elvis. Too Much, by Lee Rosenberg and Bernard Weinman, works well here:
Honey, I love you too much
Need your lovin' too much
Want the thrill of your touch
Gee, I can't hold you too much
You do all the livin'
While I do all the givin'
Cause I love you too much
You spend all my money too much
Have to share you honey, too much
When I want some lovin', you're gone
Don't you know you're treatin' me wrong
Now you got me started
Don't you leave me broken hearted
Cause I love you too much
Ev'ry time I kiss your sweet lips
I can feel my heart go flip flip
I'm such a fool for your charms
Like to hear you sighin'
Even though I know you're lyin'
Cause I love you too much
Need your lovin' all the time
Need you huggin', please be mine
Need you near me, stay real close
Please, please, hear me, you're the most
Now you got me started
Don't you leave me broken hearted
Cause I love you too much

My brain came plummeting back to Tortilla’s from the nether regions of space.
“I don’t think we can be friends any more,” I said.
“What? Why?” she said, shocked.
No, I can’t believe she was shocked or confused either, but there it was, staring me in the face.
“You don’t want to have a relationship with me now, you don’t even like the word, and you won’t let me have one in the future...”
“No,” she interrupted, still with that “Of course not. What’s the problem here?” tone of voice.
“But you still expect me to be your friend and occasional sex partner whenever the mood hits and it’s convenient. Well I can’t do it. I want you too much to just be friends. I want all of you. I just can’t handle it.”
I’m sure I said more than that. And I’m sure I said it much less composed than it sounds. I think the phrase “I won’t be your convenient fuck anymore” was used at least twice.
Regardless of what came out of my mouth my mind was derailed. The roller coaster was finally off the track.

I drove her back to my place to fetch her car.
“Wow, I wasn’t expecting that kind of dinner,” she said.
“Yeah, guess we should’a eaten at Po’ Folks,” I answered.
She coughed or moaned or something not-so-subtle to let me know she’d felt that one. And off she drove.

And that really should be the end of the story. Hell, we’ve traveled across the globe together, you the faithful reader and I the hapless hero. Or hopeless anti-hero.

"Open my heart and you will see
Graved inside of it, 'Italy'."
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from De Gustibus

Squirrel Nut Zippers have a wonderful song, You’re Drivin’ Me Crazy, that is the perfect soundtrack to this portion of our entire torrid tale:
You're Driving Me Crazy
You left me sad and lonely,
Why did you leave me lonely?
I have a heart that's only
For nobody but you.
I'm burning like a flame, dear.
Won't ever be the same, dear.
I always put the blame, dear,
On nobody but you.
Yes, you, you're drivin' me crazy!
What did I do? What did I do?
My tears for you make everything hazy,
They cloud the skies of blue.
I do! I have friends who would hear me
And cheer me, believe me, if they knew
That you were the kind who would hurt me,
Desert me when I needed you.
Yea, You, you're drivin' me crazy!
What did I do to you?

But no story wraps up nice and neat, “just like the movies.” There’s always some prolog, some messy aftermath, something after the credits that the little animated Carol Burnett janitor just can’t mop up.

We still had the rest of Art History class together.

Perhaps I should have just withdrawn, taken the damage to my grade point average or whatever consequences would have come from bailing halfway through a quarter but I wasn’t thinking straight. Instead I went, day after day, and sat next to her, stewing.
At some point she passed me a note, “Is it that bad?”

There’s an old soul tune, The End Of Our Road, sung by Marvin Gaye amongst others, that works well here:
Oh, it's over, it's all over
Said it's over, it's all over, baby
I gotta get away from you as fast as I can
You're too much for me, woman
More than my heart can stand
Like a kid behind the wheel
You've been reckless with my heart
If I stayed around
You'd surely tear it all apart
The road has got to end somewhere
Woman, woman, every road has got to end somewhere
Now is the time for the showdown
So let me give you the lowdown
We've come to the end of our road
Woman, I'm just thinkin' 'bout all the times you promised to call
and I sat at home lonely
You only did it 'cause you knew I love you only
Runnin', runnin' around with every guy in town
I'm tellin' you, woman, no longer will I be your clown
The road has got to end somewhere
Every road has got to end somewhere
I'm tired of your stuff
Say enough is enough
We've come to the end of our road
I can't take it no more
Woman, there's no sense in you beggin' and pleadin'
To hold on when I'm the one you're leavin'
Say I've 'bout had my fill of you (had my fill of you)
Flirtin's all through the years
And I've almost run out of tears
I'm tellin' you, I couldn't cry if I wanted to
The road has got to end somewhere
Every road has got to end somewhere
Time and again I've begged you to slow down
So I'm givin' you the lowdown
We've come to the end of our road, road, road

Heather and I talked about our relationship. She told me that she felt like all the times we’d had sex she’d been drunk, that she never felt like she was “there” for it, always felt like she was somewhere else. It took a while for my head to return from “somewhere else” before I could sit still long enough to write her a letter:

It's nearly 2 AM Saturday, I've had just a little too much to drink and I've been wanting to say a few things but not had whatever it takes to sit and write and there's no way this could get said in person coherently. So I'm writing and I'll give this to you on my birthday - happy birthday to me. And happy almost-anniversary too, sometime next weekish I guess.
I've done a lot of thinking about you, gee, and a lot of talking to other people about you. The universal response from others has been "ouch" so it's good to know my feelings are justified, though they're only hearing my side of the story so it's a bit stilted. Anyway, after all of that there are a few things I felt needed saying, if nothing else just to make me feel better.
For starters, I can't believe you weren't there for all of our intimate activities. There were too many times I can recall, and no doubt many I can't, when we were both sober and just looked at each other and rolled into bed, or field, or couch... Either you don't remember it the same way I do, or you have a different definition of "being there," or something. However, I realize it doesn't really matter, it's how you feel NOW that is important. Obviously you feel you can't be there.
It really is not the sex that is the important thing to me and I feel like I overemphasized that in our conversation last week. It wasn't the sex itself but the fact that it was obvious you wouldn't allow a relationship of any sort to develop in the present or the future. The fact that you aren't interested in working on the sex issue at all is what I have a problem with, not the problem with sex itself. I needed to make that clear.
Why? Because it's still important to me that you think of me in a positive light in the chance that some day you decide you do want someone significant in your life, a male someone. Maybe you'll call. I hope you do, I've never shared as much with anyone. Every day I see someone or something I wish I were able to share with you, some sight, some food, some music, I'm really hung up on you. I was scared I would be depressed as hell after deciding things were probably at an end for us. I was worried about me being codependent. However, after I got past the first couple of days of depression I realized it was something else, not depression but sadness, something much more rational and I was in more control of myself than if it were depression. Which made me realize I was right, I do have good taste and you are someone worth pursuit, I wasn't being a total idiot, merely the wrong place and/or time.
The other thing you said that I'd like to respond to, now that I've had time to think about it, was how I didn't seem to give you what you needed the few times you felt things for me, that I always seemed casual about it. You trained me well in this behavior and I always held you at arm's length to protect myself, not to avoid you. Were I less worried about my feelings being rejected that casualness would no doubt disappear. I have very strong, UNcasual feelings about you, I just don't let them out often. They seem to worry you at best, scare you off at worst.
I still believe some boy will awaken your feelings, turn you around and make you want to be happy with someone. But if it don't happen, maybe you'll call. And the odds that I've found someone better are slim, VERY slim.
I'm going to miss you.
p.s. Wendy emailed this to me: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." - Mark Twain
I hope it's a lot warmer than I've heard!

Until now the only person that had ever read that letter, aside from Heather, was Vicky, my next girlfriend. She read it and just about dumped me on the spot. I don’t blame her, it shows a side of me that is sad, hopeless, and manipulative.
And that wasn't even the worse of the letters I wrote Heather. I’ll get to another a little later on in the tale and spare you all the ones in between.
I was pissed, hurt, and desperate.
School dragged on, and on, and on. An eternity sitting next to my tormentor.
Her smell tweaked my nose.
I could hear her move.
Studying for the big art history final was utter hell. I recalled studying with Heather for all the tests in Italia, and for the previous tests that quarter when we were still been “on again.” Dragged kicking and screaming down memory lane.
I made damn sure to sit far away from her on the day of the test.
But afterward, when I’d finished before she had, I couldn’t help but stall a few minutes to see if I’d run into her. But the minutes dragged and dragged and I felt like more and more of a complete fool so I got out of there.
Of course, I ran into her by accident on my way to the parking lot. We walked side by side, silently, to our cars. She glanced at me and got in her car without even so much as a “See ya’” and drove away.

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