My best friend slash ex tells me he let her suck his dick.
“I thought you weren’t into that,” I say. “I thought I wasn’t into that,” he says. He tells me he respects me too much, that’s why he never wanted me to. He says he’s sorry. This sentiment is ironic given that the average person would be happy to be exempt from sucking dick, myself probably included. I know he isn’t lying to spare my feelings. My best friend slash ex hurts my feelings regularly with the stinging truth, out of not malice but naive transparency, such as earlier this conversation when he said he would rather have vented to her instead of me but she’s at dinner with her brother right now. I’d be fine with being bad at sucking dick. There are more important skills to master.
My best friend slash ex asks to come over. He would much rather spend time with me than her, he says. He didn’t have to say this. I know it’s also true. “But you’d much rather vent to her,” I reply. I don’t enjoy being petty. My best friend slash ex says I have until midnight to continue milking this. I do until midway through the next day.
My best friend slash ex and I watch the rest of the movie about the K9 officer and his rescued shelter dog. The dog rescues the shelter owner’s child in the end: all comes full circle. My best friend slash ex is an officer in training. He wants to be a K9 officer too once he finishes the academy, once he’s settled into things. He is practically a dog himself: a golden retriever, as he said she’d once called him, always vibrating with energy, perpetually distracted by cars/ squirrels/ other dogs. He is like the officer in the movie, scatterbrained, forgetful, but brimming with heart.
My best friend slash ex texts her throughout the film. I’m not used to this. She doesn’t know that we’re together right now, as though it’s something shady. “I’m so anxious,” she says every time I see him. “I’m so anxious,” she says, as if my best friend slash ex were my ex slash best friend and we hadn’t spent three initial years and eight recent months seeing each other alone without fucking.
I can see where she’s coming from when I picture the inverse. It’s been three weeks. She doesn’t understand how things work yet. I’m The Witch to every woman my best friend slash ex brings into our lives. I have yet to meet one of them thus far, have only met them vicariously through anecdotes and the shadows they cast over things.
My best friend slash ex will see her tomorrow after we go to the EDM concert. That night we get dinner at the bar where we spent New Year’s Eve as a couple slash my birthday before last as friends. The latter was the origin of “rage fucking,” an inside joke based on a punchline from my standup, the thing one or the other of us says at the end of every call, whoever does first and hangs up wins. It’s one of the few things that’s carried over from our relationship, a secret code which confuses all witnesses.
My best friend slash ex takes her call before dinner. He talks to her like a dog. I am glad he never spoke to me that way. “I’m just so anxious,” I hear her say. I want to scream at her to not be. I told him he should have told her I was gay, should have shown her the picture of me in the button-up with the cacti and my hair all spiked up.
My best friend slash ex will continue to text her at the concert. I’ll let him without complaint. It’s fair since this time she knows we’re together. I don’t want her to be even more “just so anxious”. I want her to like me. I want her to trust us. I want the two of us to be pals and laugh about my best friend slash ex together. She has him saved as “Vanilla” on her phone, apparently, so I already know we’ll get along.
When she found out that his best friend is also his ex, when he told her, the first thing she said was “If you do something stupid with her, I won’t feel like this was a waste. I’ll be glad that we had a good time while it lasted.”
I don’t enjoy this: being seen as a problem by the mere nature of my title, nor the usual state of reality being seen as a point of threat, nor the math that says four years and eight months is equal to one-to-four weeks. But I can’t feel the wrong way because my role is the smiling non-threat who is thrilled with the new state of reality and does not get in the way and does not feel replaced because I need to disprove assumptions because to them I am the bridge troll, the one roadblock in their path to being with the sweet lanky Chinese guy who talks to them like a dog and kisses well and forgets things and loves unconditionally.
When my best friend slash ex texts her again in the middle of the concert I go get my second drink, even though I’ve vowed to be “bone dry” slash “sober as a nun” when I see him, because last time we got drunk together two months ago we nearly fucked on my couch. I text the comedian, the man I’d fucked directly before and directly after my best friend slash ex, the bread of the fuck sandwich, even though the last thing I want is another human in my space. “I never stopped dreaming of you,” the comedian says. “You’re a babe.” Fire emoji heart emoji.
My best friend slash ex appears next to me, offers to pay for my drink because he knows I am getting pissed off. I order a double vodka seltzer and do not check the price. He gets a beer. It’s an IPA, one that Sam introduced him to, Sam from April who wouldn’t let me talk to him on the phone without her in the room listening on speaker. He includes this detail to bug me, but it’s all in jest.
My best friend slash ex says my drink tastes like rubbing alcohol. He keeps hugging me from the side. I tell him to not but eventually I figure what the hell. He says he means nothing by it. I know he believes this. He falls asleep on my apartment floor after the concert is over.
I consider putting a blanket on him but figure this will wake him up. He does wake up, eventually, when she calls.
He says he’s really tired. She says she’s sad. I say don’t drive if you’re drunk. He says he’s sobering up. He says he’ll be there soon. He gathers his things.
The comedian asks when he can see me again. The last time he did was a Tuesday in April, at that bar where my best friend slash ex and I had spent New Year’s Eve slash my birthday. My jaw had dropped mid-sentence when I saw my best friend slash ex leave the bathroom, saw him sit down next to the woman who I’d later know as Sam. When I asked, he said he hadn’t seen me, so I told him I was with a friend. I knew truth would hurt him. It always has.
My best friend slash ex takes my call an hour and a half later. I say “rage fucking”. I hang up.
by J. Alan Nelson
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by Claire Rychlewski
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