"Why can't you tell me how you feel, because how you act confuses me, Lucas," I said and tears ran down my cheeks.
"It feels like all I do lately is to hurt people," he said in a sad voice.
He put his hands on his knees and looked away. I didn't know what made him uncomfortable, seeing me cry or the way our evening shifted.
I did not glance at him, but I held the pastry he carried 200 km for me and I refused to eat it. I wrapped it back and put it in my purse. It was a gesture slight and trivial, but I was heaving in despair. Lucas pointed in silence to the man who was collecting empty bottles from the trash.
"So this is it then?" he said, curtly, at last.
"This casual dating thing - I don't like it. It's not who I am, and I don't want to make it who I am."
"I didn't force you to do this, Ioana."
"I know. I'm not accusing you of anything. But I'm a girlfriend girl, Lucas."
"So what, do you want me to promise you there won't be another? So I either commit or that's it?" He said accusingly and I could read a lot of past anger on his face.
"I don't want to be one of the many. I don't want an open relationship. You knew this from the beginning."
"And you knew from the beginning I don't want to commit..."
"I know. And I wish we could be on the same page."
I was making an effort not to cry out loud, thinking I could somehow avoid the pain of parting. But the words that came out of his mouth in the next minutes were merely a brief mention of the place of torment. Beyond this "I am not jealous, you can do whatever and whomever you want", he was trying to cope with all the suffering and the pain he kept hidden. It started to resurface little by little, and because he felt safe telling me things, he never really filtered his thoughts - he was just confessing his ideas as they came, in an attempt to ease some of the burning pain.
"I haven't slept with anyone since I met you," he said in an angry voice. "You're the only woman I have sex with. How isn't that enough?! Why isn't it enough?" He looked at me as I was to blame for everything.
"Why isn't it enough?" Lucas repeated, angrier, but without his voice getting louder.
"Because it's not. I have boyfriends, not escorts, Lucas. You have the right to live the life you want, as I get to choose how my relationship is."
"And now what? Is this the end of us?" He demanded to know.
Tears ran down my face again, and although I continued talking, my sentences were punctuated by sobs. Only this time, I cried for him. I could feel it in my heart all the times an ex-gf mistreated him, I could understand how he tried to make it work, how he accepted another compromise just to make the other person happy. I was aching for his hurting, and while I wasn't angry at him, it was the first time I wanted to hunt down a woman and punch her in her princess's face. The tears that were now reaching my T-shirt opened the way to feelings and emotions - I was calm, angry, scared, and happy at the same time.
"We can be friends. We will be friends." I said in a measured voice. "That's the only option I am offering at this moment."
"I find it hard to believe that." He said, with vexation in his tone. "How can we go back to being friends huh? How? When I care so much about you???"
"Well...stop being angry at me, for starters. I am not saying these things to hurt you, Lucas. We will figure it out - this friendship thing."
"Or maybe we can become boyfriend and girlfriend, right?" Dumbfounded is a colorless word to describe his state of mind while he was saying that.
"Hey, if that's what you want, then just come out and say it. But you coming in here and issuing an ultimatum..."
"Coming where?! Lucas, I am not issuing an ultimatum!"
"That's not what I heard."
"Did I ask you to wear a hat that says 'Ioana's boyfriend'? Lucas, do you understand what I'm saying?" My voice was no longer unhurried, and I was gasping for breath. I stretched my arm and grabbed the bottle of water, exasperated anew by the rising of the tension.
"Well, no, you didn't give me any cups or T-shirts with 'Lucas belongs to Ioana', but you don't give me another option."
"I said: let's be friends!!!!!" At this point, I was shouting.
"That's not what you meant, Ioana!"
"Arrrrrrhhhh, Lucas!!! I don't know how to explain it better. I wish my English was better ..I ... I... You know, if I wouldn't have given up learning French, maybe things would have been different now."
I was angry for not being able to make myself understood, and also angry because I knew things will turn out ugly if we would have continued the conversation.
He knew it too, so to figure at least one thing that day, he asked simply: "Do you still want me to come to your place tonight?"
"We don’t appear to be making much progress," I noted. "So we might as well put this on pause and go watch a movie. I am cold anyhow."
We both stood up and walked towards his bike.
"Lucky for you, you'll have the chance to carry me on the bike until Rosenthaler Platz," I said in a calm voice.
"Here, on the front?"
"Yes, I don't feel like walking."
"But the police will stop us and we will get a fine."
"Live a little, Lucas." My expression was calm, almost detached.
And so, from Hackeshermarkt to Rosenthaler Platz we were both on his bike, me smiling at his precision and at my need to control the bike. It was hard to let go. Two police cars drove by, and the drivers smiled at us. People were making room for us to pass. If we were in a movie, birds would have started to sing when the warm pink light would have touched our faces, and it would have been summer forever. We were living...just for a little while.
When we arrived at my place, he said sweetly: "You need to trust me more. I would never put you in danger. Never. I know how to ride a bike. Ok?" and then kissed me on the cheek.
"Ok, I'll try... Ok, I will."
I knew this was related to our conversation in the park, and I knew that was all I could get from him that night. But it was surprising how everything turned back to normal, without a trace of annoyance.
Days passed again, days that were filled by laughter, jokes during lunchtime kept us happy and yes, sex was getting better. He is far from perfect, but he was almost perfect for me. Just a peek at him when he was brushing his teeth, or a short wink before breakfast made me incredibly calm. I felt safe with him. One night we talked about the people he interviewed and how many meetings one had to attend to even be considered to work for him. I can still feel - after all this time - the warmth in his eyes when he answered my question: "So tell me, should I quit my job and apply for a position at your company? Ahahahaaa. Would I still have to fill out my CV, considering that... you know... I've seen you naked? Ahahaha"
It was past 1 am, and in the dimness of the room, his face was brighter than in daylight. "You were hired from the moment I saw you. You are...and I..."
He didn't finish the sentence, and I didn't ask anything. We looked at each other and even though we never said it, we knew. We were madly and deeply in love and that would become our major problem.
I sent him a postcard one Saturday, and he texted me "Are you breaking up with me?"
It was absurd even to read that sentence from him, because we weren't a couple.
"You're such a fool sometimes, Lucas. I know my handwriting is spidery, but have you tried not freaking out for once? How do you think I could say goodbye with a simple postcard?"
"But what about the other thing then?"
"Look at your calendar. I thought it would make you smile."
"But you used the words 'you will' and not 'we will'. It really feels like you're saying goodbye."
"Well, I am not. It's just a card. You know I like writing cards... Or you just found out... And we will, Lucas. It was your idea in the first place, no?"
"I guess it was. Thank you for the card."
Curiously enough, all his fears said out in the open never bothered me. Even when he returned a book I hoped he would enjoy, I wasn't disappointed. It was all right not wanting to read it, and it was fine if he would rather spend his time dancing naked in his apartment. (this song was written especially for him.) But his business meetings and constant travel started to annoy me. I felt he was wasting my time - postponing date lunches because he wanted to eat with a colleague, trying to squeeze me in his busy schedule, considering I need to adjust my life after his. So I did adjust, but not exactly how he wanted. I started meeting friends without telling him beforehand, he was no longer welcomed to come sleep at my place after a late night out, but I never inquired about his whereabouts. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't doing all of this from a place of hatred or revenge. He desired "liberté, égalité, fraternité" and I wasn't about to stop a french guy from living his dream. And so, I made plans with Sonia. I was meeting the girls, I was having lunch with a close friend, etc. These were all people he knew about, yet in his mind he started to question if I was ready to date someone else. And as soon as he realized it might happen - it took him exactly three days - he started panicking. "Ioana, I miss you, Ioana I wanna see you. Ioanaaaaaa, please make time for me."
I was missing him also, but I somehow trained my mind to silence my heart (almost) every time I feel I am no longer a priority, every time I'm taken for granted.
It get's easier the more I'm training my thoughts - and before understanding how meditation works, I wasn't even aware of what I was doing. I just assumed it's my stubbornness that works in my favor - stubbornness in the sense that if one day I decide not to do something in the future, or that I do not like something anymore, I just stop thinking about it. (You know, like here, except for the smoking part.)
Again, I'm not spending energy to make someone jealous - I don't work like that - I'm just slowly drifting away. So I postponed seeing him, I refused his invitation to his office party, even though there was a fantastic Romanian guy he wanted me to meet. "I have enough friends, and don't feel like making small talk with a bunch of nerds, sorry. I will go home and take a long hot bath. Enjoy your evening."
"No, but you don't understand. It's not something official, it's just a bunch of people I wanted to introduce you to. Come, it's a 15 minutes walk from your current location." His text came quickly.
"No, Lucas. I really don't want to meet your colleagues. I want to see you, but not in a group. Have fun!"
Messages came as I was walking to the metro, and told him that I won't change my mind. I had had a long week, and I wanted some peace and quiet.
It wasn't until after my long getaway weekend things turned into a complete mess and we realized we were lost in a maze.