Protective Sam


A Cat, a Half-Naked Woman, and a Computer

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Protective Sam

I want to write about Ben.  It's 1am, he's asleep, I'm feeling...something.

Ben is the proverbial missed opportunity.  Or denied opportunity.  We feel Things for each other, but we don't say it.  We're partners, but we're not romantic partners, and we want to be.  Instead we've settled into this comfortable, patched over life together, where we share everything, we have a lease, we have cats and a car, we cry on each other, we sometimes have sex, we go to war for each other.  But we don't date.  We're not "in a relationship".  Half the applications I fill out, I'm single, half of them I'm partnered.  Sometimes the only difference is if I'm mad at him.

I met Ben a long time ago, when I was working at Starbucks, when I was involved with my trainer.  He came in, always ordered a 7-pump chai, 1-pump vanilla iced latte, light on the ice.  Like clockwork.  He was working just over the hill from me, and we were the "good" Starbucks, so they made the trip.  I'd seen him a few times before, and he was a terrible flirt--I mean he did it constantly and he was bad at it--but the instance where we "met" involved a peach-blackberry scone.  We had samples out.  I offered him one, but he only heard the blackberry part, and he hates peach, and my God the look on his face.

Years later, I'm dating Jen.  Now, I cannot talk about Ben without first invoking Jen.  And therefore Derek, but he's terribly peripheral to all this.  For heaven's sake, he didn't even make the list of the People Who Almost Broke Me.  He just happens to be married to Jen.  I happen to be dating both Jen and Derek, and they're about to get married and I'm their wedding coordinator, and I'm pretty much polyfidelitous (I love that term) to the two of them, but I'm really monogamish and don't really want to be dating Jen, but I kind of feel it's the price of admission to dating Derek.  So I'm freaking out.  Plus it's Jen, so DRAMA was a constant resident.  She has an affinity for it.

She called her "best friend"--also her high school sweetheart--up from the Bay Area (we're in Humboldt county, which, incidentally, contributes to the drama) to stand as her man of honor at the wedding, and we meet up at the ice cream parlor, and I see this large, stocky, hairy fellow come down the street, and I glanced over at Jen to see if this was the guy we were waiting for.  Her entire face changed--nerves, delight, hunger, dread, a softness she'd never directed at me.  And I swear to God, as those two stood there just staring at each other, I just saw them like they were in a pair of mirrors, just them, repeating endlessly and stretching into infinity.  That sounds stupid.  I just sort of knew, there was no chance for me and Jen to have a real relationship after that.  She never bothered to collect her heart or her passion from this guy when they were 16 freaking years old.

Derek saw it, too.  More drama.  That was not a good weekend.

But Ben was around for a solid week, and while Derek was at work that night after the ice cream parlor, Jen and Ben and I went out for a late dinner, and somehow, Jen and I started telling stories about our most memorable customers.  Ben was fascinated, because he has never worked retail in his entire life.  He bluffed his way into a government job and never looked at anything but computers ever again.  I started to tell this story of this guy with the chai (and a good barista somehow never forgets a customer's drink order, just like a bartender) and the scone, and Ben just blurts out, "That was you?!", and BAM.  Off to the races.  Jen sort of sat there lump-like and seethed.  It's always the Jen Show, all the time, and she hates it when someone she's "claimed" shows too much interest in someone else, and even more when it's reciprocated.

Jen never really wanted me, but by God, she never wanted me to want someone else.

The night of the wedding, after Jen and Derek went off to their hotel room, Ben and I ended up spending the night together.  Not sex...but everything shy of it.  It took some creative folding of my sari to hide the marks, since I still lived with my mother.  It sounds incredibly sudden, but we fell in love.  Just that fast.  And I thought long and hard about it after, and I do believe that it was genuine love, not just the infatuation I accused him of.  Ben really likes the New Shiny, but he's also really stubborn once he's made his choice.  He just does not budge.

Us spending the night together was "unsanctioned", which was surprising news to us, because we'd been given explicit clearance from our partners to do literally whatever we wanted, but I guess they didn't actually mean that.  Again, no one was allowed to have any fun except with Jen.  More drama.  (This is a theme.  It was not a good relationship.)

A few months after Ben went home, his roommates, also a triad, decided to move into a house on their own, just them, and he needed a new place to live.  Now, among his many qualities, Ben could not adult to save his life (he is much better at it now), and so he needed a roommate/keeper, and since I'm from the Bay Area, he asked if I'd consider it.  We were dating at this point, and it was God, so complicated.  I'd never lived with anyone but family before, I was raised a Good Christian Girl and I'd be living with a guy without benefit of matrimony, I'd be living with a guy I desperately wanted to bang and I didn't know if that temptation would be ignorable.  So I told him he had to ask Jen if she wanted to move in, first.  I was willing, but it seemed insulting to not offer that to his primary.  (We've individually since done away with the whole hierarchy thing as much as we can, because it's frankly dehumanizing and impossible to maintain--thank God).

I'm sure you've guessed this by now, but MORE DRAMA.  Big fights.  I was "stealing" him, he was betraying her, no one loved her anymore, I was just using him to get away from Humboldt, why didn't he ask her first, she was always going to be everyone's second choice, blah, blah, blah.  Derek, being Derek, sat mostly stoic, except for an occasional "meh".  Not helpful.

Things came to a head when Jen and I were on a date and she just flat refused to interact with me.  When I wormed it out of her, she finally made it clear that she wanted Ben all to herself, and I was encroaching on her "territory".  (I really do not think it's ethical to claim people, and it infuriates me when people do it.  Jen taught me that.)  I made a devil's deal, and I told her I'd break up with Ben, but she could never, ever ask me for something like that again, or I'd tell him.

I regret that everyday.  Even though things came out in my favor, I feel so shitty that I treated him like that.  That I treated me like that.  That I gave in to a bully and broke this guy's heart.  He can't drive, but he almost got into a Greyhound to come up and try to talk me out of it.  He didn't talk to me again for a month.  The fucking thing of it was, he and I both knew we still had entanglements and wanted to be together, so he kept calling me on it.  He kept demanding real answers.  I kept evading.  Eventually, we agreed that some things need to be left alone.  Eventually, I did tell him.  We were living together at that point.  I told him, and he got up off the horrible IKEA couch, went to his room, and locked the door.  Not a word to me.  But I heard him shouting into his phone.

Remember how I said Ben is stubborn in his relationships?  No exceptions.  He and I never dated again, but he leveraged that into getting Jen to lift the ban on sex, and shortly thereafter, I broke up with Derek.  That little agreement about Ben was the end of my relationship with Jen, a while back.  I  Not really, because they're still tangentially in my life.  I drop Ben off on dates with her when she's in town, and I still put on makeup and a pretty dress when I see her, but it's not because I want to date her.  I just refuse to be seen looking schlumpy.  I wear armor.

I never wanted to be the girl who had a damned saga for her relationships.  I never wanted to bounce back and forth.  I want fireworks, yeah, but I also want steady.  I want passion, but consistency.  I hate saying "it's complicated".  But here I am, with the Darth Vader of relationships in my history log, and complicated is the only answer I can give.  I need a fucking diagram to explain all the makeups and breakups, and let's not talk about the hookups and sex, because that looks like a football play.  And you know?  I never wanted to be married, either, and that's basically what I am.  I just wanted--still want--someone who loves me passionately, who takes care of me and lets me take care of them, someone with the same goals and desires, someone who will be my #1 fan while I'm theirs.  I want dedication.

My life is not bad.  My life is fucking great, actually.  It just confuses me sometimes.  How the hell did I


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