Once I got to Virginia and settled in at my mother’s house, I breathed a sigh of relief. There was something comforting about being back in the suburbs, almost as if I had missed it after living in Connecticut for so long. I spent my first day feeling disoriented from jet lag and spending time with my family. But I knew I’d have to see Scruff soon.
I decided that I was no longer going to argue with him. I had been working on my anger and arguing for a few years but when I argued with Scruff everything I had learned would go clean out the window. I would focus more on my point instead of a resolution. I would value being right over having peace. I would willingly and completely give up my energy to conflict and chaos. It was maddening.
So I decided instead of arguing with him over how to treat me, I would choose peace and let him show it. I was also hoping seeing him in person would reignite the spark I felt earlier that summer. That perhaps, we just didn’t work long distance but in person everything might just fall into place.
I ignored the fact that we would be mostly long-distance if it did work out.
Once Scruff picked me up the next day (two hours late), I could tell he was slightly taken aback by my chill demeanor. Our plan was to go to his house and order food and binge watch shows (the sex was implied) and I was determined to do just that. I told myself I’d relax and let Scruff show me exactly how he intended on treating me without any complaints or criticisms. I would be the chillest girl in the entire world.
We kept the conversation light and pleasant as he drove us back to his apartment, giving the subject of our argument a wide berth. I had learned to not talk about anything too deep or emotional with Scruff because it meant an almost guaranteed argument. And today, I was avoiding arguments. Plus, it was the first time I would see him in three months. I was excited for our plans and I wondered what else he had in store for me. He talked a big game, surely he would have planned something.
Once we got to his apartment, he explained he had to clean up before we could start our afternoon. I stared at the pile of clothes on his bed and wondered what he’d been doing since he got off the ship. It’s not like he didn’t know I was coming. We’d been apart for three months and were finally in the same room and the first thing he wanted to do was… clean?
Chill, girl, chill. I told myself as I sat on his couch and fiddled on my phone while holding my tongue. No comments. No arguments. I was the chillest girl in the world. In fact, I was so chill, I would offer help.
“Do you need help?” I called from the couch that was only steps away from his bed.
“No, I’m good.” He said as he continued sorting his clothes. See? I was so chill.
My stomach rumbled. I hadn’t eaten all day in anticipation that we’d get lunch. But Scruff had been late to pick me up and it was currently 4:30 p.m.
“Should we get something to eat?” I called.
Scruff appeared in the doorway. “Yeah, get whatever you want.”
After agreeing on sushi, I pulled out my phone to scour Postmates and scrolled through menus trying to find something I wanted. “What do you want?” I called again while trying to decide.
“Get me whatever,” he replied. “I’ll pay half.”
I froze. Half? Half? I flew 3,000 miles to be in this man’s dirty apartment, waited two hours for him to pick me up, was halfway starving to death and for our first meal together he wanted me to pay half?!
I choose peace. I choose peace. I choose peace, I told myself over and over again. I took a deep breath. I knew if I complained it would lead to an argument. Yet holding my tongue seemed to be the hardest thing in the world. I wanted so badly to outright call him out or to at least say something cutting and sly or to ‘drop wud’ as we’d say in Antigua. But by some miracle, I didn’t. I sat there and held my tongue as I added food to the cart — for both of us.
“Damn, it’s a fifteen dollar fee.” I said in genuine disbelief. I’d never seen a fee that high in Oakland. “So it comes up to sixty dollars.”
“Chill, I said I’d pay half.” He poked his head out again. “You’re so cheap, stop being cheap Lex.” He laughed before returning to his room.
“I’m not.” I said through gritted teeth. In all honestly, sixty dollars was nothing for me. Pre-covid, I spent more than that on a night out. Post-covid, sixty dollar and up deliveries were a monthly thing. Sometimes weekly, depending on my mental health. It wasn’t about the money. It was the fact that I was his guest and he couldn’t even pay for my meal.
I bit my tongue and paid for our food, as if I were some random woman who he invited over on a whim. I looked at him and thought maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t as important as he said I was. Surely, if I were important to him I’d be standing in a clean apartment with a hot meal. And maybe even some flowers.
Ah, a girl could dream.
I gave up all hope of being treated like I was anyone special to him, and gave in to the normalcy of it all. I was just some girl chilling in his apartment. We were just watching some show. None of this meant anything. And I relaxed.
The food finally came (he at least offered to pay the tip) and true to his word, he paid for half of it, down to the cent. The sex finally happened. And it was nice. We spent the afternoon yo-yoing between sex and Netflix until it was time for him to leave. He was going to spend the night and subsequent day with his daughter and was going to drop me home on the way there.
Once I got home, I was simultaneously proud and disappointed in myself. I was proud that we didn’t argue, that I didn’t give into the part of me that demanded conflict. But I was disappointed. Once again, I was accepting the bare minimum. The afternoon I spent with Scruff wasn’t much different from afternoons I’d spent with men back in college. We’d hang out, watch tv, have sex, order food, watch more tv and have sex again before I finally left. Rinse and repeat. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed in what Scruff had planned. I was disappointed in me.
I noted what Scruff was doing, and still gave him my time anyway. Didn’t I know better than this by now? All I’d been asking him during our argument is that he back up his chat: he’d said he felt strongly about me, well, I wanted to see it.
And I guessed feeling strongly about me equalled to a half-clean apartment with the fire alarm beeping for attention and paying for my own food.
I realized Scruff was intent on not only refusing to give me what I needed, but apparently not listening to me at all. Once again, I was caught up in a ‘thing’ with a man where my needs were completely dismissed. But there was nothing I could do about it. I could either accept it, or move on.
I had to decide.