It was just a regular night. My boyfriend of three months and I were out to dinner. He loved cooking and was a food snob, so it was a treat to get him to eat at an actual restaurant.
My mother rarely cooked while I was growing up, so we’d eaten at a lot of restaurants. As an adult, I still love every part of going to restaurants: the people-watching, having food brought to me, the opportunity not to be distracted by laundry or the TV, and spend that time talking to whomever I am with.
My boyfriend ordered a steak salad, and I got soup and a sandwich.
“Why do you lie so much? And about things that don’t even matter?” I asked. This was a topic of conversation we’d had before. He lied constantly. I hated it and never understood it. I could ask him if he’d taken out the trash already, he’d tell me “yes,” and then I’d hear him rolling the can to the curb 15 minutes later.
“It’s just a habit,” he told me.
He then told me an involved story about an instance where he’d told the truth when he was a young man and it turned around to bite him.
“I decided then not to tell the truth if I felt like it had any consequences for me.” He reached out and touched my hand. “You’re the only person I’ve dated that I’ve told that to.”
“I feel so close to you,” he said next.
Things hadn’t been so great with us, though I’d persistently chosen to be willfully ignorant.
Every time I looked at him, I never really saw him for him.
I only saw a fuzzy rendering of what I wanted to see, who he was, and who he was presenting himself to be.
When I learned something that conflicted with the mirage of him I’d created, my self-talk would negate it. He drinks too much, but not more than anyone else! He lies a lot, but it’s only over little stuff. That’s not a big deal. He’s vain, but aren’t we all? He seems to really hate overweight people, even though he has no room to talk, but we all have our defects…right?
We went back to my place, a tiny two bedroom, two bath, to watch a movie.
“Pick something,” he told me, and I picked up the remote and scrolled through Netflix and settled on an episode from The Office.
“I don’t feel so hot,” he said when we were about 10 minutes into the episode. He stood up and went into the bathroom next to my living room. I paused the show to wait for him.
And then I heard it. All of it. My boyfriend was having explosive diarrhea, not even ten feet from where I was sitting. There was another bathroom he could have chosen, but he was in the one right next to where I was sitting.
When a few minutes passed and he was still occupied, I unpaused the show to at least give him some privacy.
Then the smell hit me. It was so strong that it was almost violent. I felt the sandwich and soup I’d eaten for dinner rise into my throat, and I swallowed hard.
I lit several candles, but instead of masking the smell, the lavender and vanilla mixed with it. I turned on the fan and tried breathing through my mouth.
I heard the toilet flush, and he came out. He was sweating.
“I’m sick,” he told me. He sat on the couch, leaning heavily on the arm of it.
“I can tell,” I told him. “Do you want to go home?” He lived less than a mile from me, so he could have easily driven home to be sick in private.
“No,” he told me. “If I’m going to die, I’d want it to be here in your arms.”
I cringed and then tried to play it off like I was just shivering.
Now that the bathroom door was open, the smell was overpowering. I tried holding my breath and taking little sips of air in an attempt to stem my queasiness.
A few minutes later, he was back in the bathroom. I didn’t even pause the show this time, and I turned it up louder to try not to hear everything that was going on in there.
The smell compounded. I turned on every fan in my little place and lit a candle in every room. When he left the bathroom after this second time, I pushed a candle and lighter onto him and told him to put it in the bathroom.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go home?” I asked again.
“No, it’ll pass soon,” he said, looking pale. “It’s probably just food poisoning.”
“Don’t you want to be alone?” I asked.
He looked at me and said, “I want to be with you. Why would now be any different?”
How is he not seeing that I don’t want him here? I thought. Is he blind?!?
The mirage of him I’d carefully crafted wrenched away from me. It felt like I’d been dreaming and I’d suddenly woken up.
I thought to myself as I looked at him, If I really loved him, I wouldn’t be acting this way. I’d be offering him medicine or water, asking him if he needed anything. I wouldn’t keep asking him if he wanted to leave.
And then, the next thought hit me hard, I don’t love him.
I took a deep breath, and the smell that had invaded my entire place seized my body. I had always guessed our relationship would have an expiration date; I just hadn’t realized until this moment when that date would be.
“Are you okay?” he asked. The irony of the fact that he was asking if I was okay was not lost on me, especially since I hadn’t offered him the same kindness.
“Do you want me to leave?” he asked.
I wanted to say yes. I wanted to shout, “YES! PLEASE! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”
My desire to be nice, to exhibit good manners, overrode me.
“No, of course not,” I told him. “I’m tired though. I’m going to get ready for bed.”
He followed me into the bedroom and laid down on my bed. As I was washing my face, I talked to myself. I knew he was meeting friends the next morning, so he would definitely be gone in the morning. I can make it through the night, I told myself.
I laid down, and he cuddled up behind me. That’s when I realized, with horror, that he smelled.
“I’m too hot,” I told him and was so glad when he moved away from me in bed. I pulled the covers up to my face and fell asleep.
He woke up before me, and I pretended to be asleep. When he leaned down to kiss me, I was reminded again of how he really really needed to take a shower. Just get him out of my house! I scream-thought. I was so relieved to hear my front door close.
He arrived at my house later that day as we’d originally had plans. “I‘m done,” I blurted.
“What?” he asked.
“I’m done. I don’t want to be with you anymore.”
“What? Is this about last night? I was sick!”
“It just feels like I woke up from a dream,” I told him. I didn’t know how else to explain it. “I don’t want to be with you anymore.”
“That’s so crappy,” he told me.
The irony of him using “crappy” to describe this situation wasn’t lost on me either.