The most confused you will ever get is when you try to convince your heart and spirit of something your mind knows is a lie.Shannon L. Alder
The rain comes to the Mojave Desert all at once. It lands on earth so dry that it has forgotten how to drink. The entire desert is like a dried-out sponge, so thirsty that water beads and rolls off of it instead of soaking in. The soil can only drink in water if it’s already damp. I think my heart is a desert. It is so desperate for love that it has forgotten how to let any in. He appears the same way the sky breaks open in monsoon rain, and then, just as suddenly, he is gone.
The Work Bestie and I have worked together for many years now. He lives far from our work, about a hundred miles. I lived close, about four hundred feet. So he would frequently travel to where I was. Which is to say, commute. Then I moved far from our work, about four hundred miles in the opposite direction. So he seemed relatively close to work, at only one hundred miles. So I would travel to where he was, which is to say, commute. Instead of seeing each other every month, we only saw each other a couple of times a year because most of my job became remote when I moved away for school.
When I first moved to the Mojave Desert, you could still see the milky way most nights, and the monsoons came every summer. Neither of those things is true now. The nonprofit where the Work Bestie and I work together is still small and underfunded, though. We all have side hustles. To be honest, we all have main hustles except for the executive director. The Work Bestie has an important STEM job doing his part to save the planet. Smart boys are sexy. It also makes him disappear at the beginning of every summer, almost exactly when my school slows down enough that I’m more available to him.
The summer before my summer abroad, I was really frustrated by his inaccessibility. There are different levels of separation. Sometimes it feels like only miles between us, but by the end of his busy summers, it feels like we’re standing on different planets. I begin to wonder if I’d made him up entirely. I don’t know that there is anyone else I would wait for so long or so often, but he has a way of making things up to me. So I was really looking forward to working together in September. I needed our weekend together that September.
I had bought my round-trip plane tickets to where he lives, one hundred miles further than our shared work. He was going to pick me up at the airport, and we would have the long commute together to talk while keeping our hands mostly to ourselves. I need that after the cold disconnect of our summers. We would have the long drive, both ways, and two nights, for him to remind me that he’s real, that I didn’t just imagine him.
He flaked on me. He canceled at the last minute, screwing me over personally and professionally. He had a family obligation in another state. It was right for him to be there instead of with me, but that doesn’t make it suck any less on my end. I had to change my flights, pay for a shuttle and spend the weekend sleeping alone, in the friggin’ Mojave Desert, not to mention moving the whole workshop schedule around so that we had qualified instructors for all the modules. I’m not convinced that even the Work Bestie was worth all this.
I was lowkey done, but how do you break up with a ghost? A ghost who I wasn’t even officially a thing with. Whatevs. Besides, he was supposed to be my plus-one for my cousin’s wedding in October. I don’t like going to weddings alone since my own marriage failed. It’s one of the rare occasions on which being single depresses me. Besides, he’s a good dancer, and I wanted someone to dance with. So I wasn’t going to make waves until after he stood me up for that too. To my surprise, he did not.
This is the problem with the Work Bestie. When he shows up, he is perfect. It’s impossible to stay angry with him. We had the long BART ride from SFO to the East Bay to reconnect. He wasn’t imaginary. He was very real. He’s my favorite. Favorite what? I don’t know, but he’s my favorite. That weekend was the first time I ever believed he might love me. I mean, we were friends for years before we ever fooled around; of course, we love each other as friends.
There was a moment when we were alone in my room, and he bit my arm. We weren’t fooling around right then. It wasn’t a sex thing. It was more like when a toddler’s emotions are so much bigger than their vocabulary, and they don’t know how to express themselves other than to bite someone. It was like when my kids were little; I’d look at them and feel like I could just eat them up because I loved them so much.
That was the first time I felt he could love me beyond friendship. I have trouble trusting what people say. Words are slippery. This was something that made sense to me. Days later, I was still rubbing the bruise (I bruise ridiculously easily) and smiling, thinking, “he likes me; he really likes me.” I had proof that he was real, and maybe he even loved me.
He never told me he loved meSofia Talvik
He never told me he cared for me
He never told me he didn’t
So I believed