"You'd be perfect if you got therapy."

In 1995, I returned home one day to discover someone at the office had shafted my Dad something good, but I finally had a computer. AMD 486DX! 80Mhz! 465MB HDD! 8MB RAM! It rocked. And all for a mere $2000. Used.

After upgrading a few things I got a Netcom account. I also got an AOL account for my mom, though I've ended up using it more than her.
Anyway, it's the spring of 1996 now, I'm bored, and on AOL looking through the member directory looking for other people born in 1980.

In January of 1998 a scheming girlfriend I had at the time got Maryam and I to meet. She was cheating on me and was planning on breaking up with me... so she was trying to play matchmaker from some warped sense of guilt. She would succeed beyond her wildest dreams.

Things went very well for a while. We'd been talking online for 2 years before we ever met in person, of course, so there wasn't that weird lull after the getting-to-know-you-bullshit phase is over... we were already past that. It all seemed so natural. Her mom liked me, and she had never liked her boyfriends.

Maryam coerced me into applying to Boston University with her. She didn't get in. So we both applied to UTK. We started looking around at apartments in Knoxville after we were both accepted.

We moved in the late summer of 1999. Almost immediately things began to fall apart. By November she decided she wanted to break up. Unfortunately, we were in a lease neither of us could carry alone. So, we kept living together. And sleeping together. And quietly hating ourselves and each other for what we were putting each other through.

The expiry of the apartment's lease would have been an ideal time to each go our seperate ways. For whatever reason, though, things had calmed down and improved between us. So, we ended up moving into the same apartment complex... just not the same building. I'd walk over and we'd hang out. She was dating (or fucking occasionally, anyway) a guy that lived in her building. It was settling into a fairly okay routine.

Then the apartment complex told her to move. She moved into my building. The guy she was sleeping with at the old building did not so much as call. That whole "just friends" thing we were drifting towards got a lot more friendly for a while... but only for a while.

January 28th 2001. We both turn 21. The guy she was hoping to drag off to bed that night didn't show up... but she found a replacement for him. I drop to being one of those friends you neither see nor talk to very much. At least until he got her pregnant. Apparently crying hysterically was not the sort of response she was looking for when she told him. I can only assume laughing at her and offering to drive to the clinic was a better tactic.

She was very weird about relationships and sex for a while after that. She didn't like anyone to touch her. Except me. I was "safe." She said she would have kept it if it had been mine. She had trouble sleeping. I'd lay in bed with her until she was tired and then she'd kick me out. Then I'd lay in bed with her until she was asleep and I'd leave. Eventually I just started staying the night.

Then she started chatting up the fellow across the hallway. I was again suddenly one of those friends you don't see or talk to very much. But there was a snag: turnover was coming and several of her current roommates were leaving. She'd have to move again. Inexplicably, she moves in with me. Also along for the ride is a friend of hers from highschool. The boy she was chatting up across the hallway moved out of the complex altogether. Suddenly she needs someone to cuddle with again.

It was extremely convenient this time, at least. Then she rediscovered the guy across the hallway one night. While there had always been a bit of gibbering fool that came up and made me want to lay on my bed in the fetal position whenever this sort of thing had happened in the past, having it happen in a shared 4 bedroom apartment is, shall we say, bad. Very bad. A soul burning kind of bad. A nothing left but a charred empty husk kind of bad.

They slept together once. He never spoke to her again. I had nothing left to give at that point. Shortly thereafter, a rather convenient elective medical procedure and a skipped lease later, she moved back home. I registered for another semester, but mainly played StarCraft and slept. I eventually officially withdrew from classes and devoted most of my time to sleeping. I'd already beat what computer games I had and tended to grind my teeth while playing them anyway.

I started going home regularly. Then I started living at home and driving back to Knoxville once a month to pay my bills. At some point during this transition (March 2002) I joined the military and was put into delayed entry until November 2002.

Maryam and I began talking again. Odd reasons would be made for me to drive to Clarksville to visit. At first she'd kick me out when she was tired. Then I'd slip out into the other room after I'd put her to bed. But I'd slink back in when her alarm went off in the morning, and we'd curl around each other while half asleep. It continued to escalate into the early summer.

One night at about 10.30 she asked if I wanted to rent a movie. It took me about an hour to get there. I pointed out this was kinda transparent for an excuse, but sure. She told me to bring a DVD player. We rented 2 more than "a" movie. Since she didn't have a DVD player, I had to stay until she'd watched them.

An experiment was conducted, lo and behold, all the parts still worked and worked quite well. For the sake of science, it was suggested that the experiment be attempted again the next day... but at some point the humor fell out of the pretense. We ended up talking for a very long time whilst naked.

Summer was ending, my lease in Knoxville was ending, she was moving into a new place, we coordinated moving efforts into one trip. She slept with me in my bed in Knoxville for the first time since I'd moved in. There was a perfectly suitable couch in the next room.

August 11th, she was moved in and I was moved out. Friends and relatives that had helped with moving furniture had already gone home. It was she and I in her apartment. I was leaving in the morning. Call what happened a final farewell.

It would have been such a perfect ending. She was 4 hours from where I was living, so there would be no more of the driving over to visit every weekend or so. I still had to go to Knoxville for the monthly Navy DEP meetings, but that was only one weekend a month. We could be friends, I wouldn't have to meet her new boyfriends and end up being friends with them and writh in a silent cocktail of lust and avarice. It would end on such a good note, too.

Two days later she asked if I could come back to see if we could "keep up the good streak." How long should I stay? "Long enough to make it worthwhile." I ended up staying 5 days. If I were still the type to have fantasies, they would have been fullfilled. It was a very good week. I went back home, we continued talking, communication was good.

Three days after I got back she tells me she got e-mail from someone that used to come into the restaurant she was working at in Clarksville. They had flirted a lot, but nothing ever really came of it.
That Friday she MSGs me from Clarksville. One sentence. Nothing else was said for the rest of the weekend. We catch back up when she gets back to Knoxville on Monday. I try to imagine that week in August as a coda to the picturesque ending. I try to keep my humor. I fail. Badly. It did not feel like an ending. I explain, at length, how I feel and have felt for years. I advance the hypothesis of the Recyclable Rebound Guy.

She returns to Clarksville the following weekend. Again, neither hide nor hair is seen. I am yet again the friend you don't see or talk to much. More than half a year of emotional rebuilding implodes into a small tight sphere. It burns very brightly, but does not burn out. I know how the pattern works. I've known how it works for a while. I decide to be patient.

The weekend of the Navy meeting rolls around.
"Where am I sleeping?"
"Take a wild guess."
I guess the thing with this guy who she really really liked, this guy who she liked more than she'd like anyone in a long time, I guess it had fallen apart quicker than I expected. I haven't asked. She hasn't told me.

My time as a civilian begins to grow short. I needed to pay a speeding ticket I'd gotten near Knoxville. I ask if I can stay the night.
"Which night?"
"Come Saturday."
She was entertaining a former classmate... one that played an instrumental role in the Fall 1999 collapse of our relationship. I suppose it would be easier if she didn't have to explain why I was still around and seemed to be spending the night. The star inside me, while it remains bright, is also cold. I jibe her playfully about safe sex, etc. She rises far too quickly, far too defensively. I protest that she has no need to explain herself to me. It deteriorates. Old issues are raised. "Lets discuss this face to face" and so it ends.

I get there this last Saturday afternoon. At one point, in the space of ten minutes, she goes from sitting on the floor crying that she really does love me to screaming that I'm an asshole and telling me to fuck off for an hour or two. I went for a walk... for two hours. She wasn't there when I got back. I returned to reading. She came back in later.

I complained at one point that I'm tired of always having to figure out what rules she is using and never knowing when she changes them.
"...would you like to lock them down?" I say.
"What? write them down? pen and paper?"
"Maybe, sure." I look around, terrified that I'll see some nearby. I don't find any. I look back at her "Well?"
I am met by silence. She doesn't want to be trapped in a friendship any more than I do. She wants the hope that it could again be more. Interesting.

I opted to sleep on the floor that night. She joined me for a short while on my pallet of folded blankets, but figured out that would be a bad idea.

I was already awake when she woke up Sunday morning. She wandered into the kitchen to refill her water glass, asked if she had any e-mail on the way to the bathroom, and went back to bed. Then she called for me.
"Yes, what?"
"Lay down for a while."
The stand-offish platonic friendship ruse lasted almost 10 whole hours. Did the cuddling/spooning thing until early afternoon.

It was at some point on Sunday night that she uttered the line about perfection and therapy. I pointed out that a therapist would probably recommend that I get away from her. She laughed and crawled off my pile of blankets and into her bed.

I drove her to class Monday morning. I picker her back up around noon. Then went to pay my speeding ticket. The reciept was very entertaining. It had the $135 I'd paid broken down into individual fees. The actual moving violation fine was $1. I wish I could charge $45 for tapping at a keyboard for 5 minutes (oh, wait...). There was traffic on the interstate so I drove back through town on my way to the bank before leaving to drive home. I saw Maryam coming back from her afternoon classes so I stopped to show her the reciept. People stopped by, time was lost and the banks closed for the day, I was to stay another night.

We went to a neighbour's apartment at watched The Color of Paradise. Pretty good, check it out. Back at her apartment that night she got ready for bed in front of me... which involves a fair amount of nudity.
I pretended to read.
She pretended I was reading, too.
She asked if I would pluck her eyebrows.
"Sure, lay down."
She lays down... on her bed. I lay along side her and the social grooming begins. Plucking leads to massage which leads to... other odd stuff which I'm sure isn't really that unusual but people still don't seem to talk about. We're primates. Social grooming is normal and healthy, damn it.
She falls asleep eventually. I probably could have slept with her, but I crawled back to my makeshift bed.

She spent a fair amount of Tuesday morning walking around totally naked after her shower. I sat, book in hand, watching. She didn't bother to pretend I was reading. I took her to class, came back, drove around for 15 minutes looking for a parking place, found one, parked, realized I needed to go to the bank, went to the bank, returned, drove around for another 15 minutes looking for a parking space, finally found one, and parked. I read for a few hours and then picked her up. I could have left then. Just dropped her off and driven home. BUT, she says "Thanks for dropping me off before you parked." Hmmm. So, I drive around for 15 minutes and find a parking space. Hang out for a few hours, and then drive her to her afternoon classes before leaving.

"See you in November...?"

I suppose it's better than "goodbye".