Runaway love-Part I
“Earth to Saige. Did you hear me?”
I lifted one finger, pretending to be engrossed in my phone, giving myself more time to consider my words. “Give me a second. I just need to send this email.”
I typed in my notes, faking the importance of finishing this ‘email’, taking much longer than I needed to. Adrian was patient with me, waiting for me to handle my business. I was given more time because our server came to clear our plates, nothing left of our fried catfish, grits, and hush puppy dinner. She refilled our drinks, water for me, sweet tea for him.
I put my phone down and focused on him. He wasn’t immediately attractive, but I didn’t need to be physically attracted to him to be his friend. He was cool, a little on the goofy side, not the funny goofy type, but the nerdy type. But the sex was good. He was trying to mess up our chill vibe though. “Now what did you ask me?”
“I asked if you wanted to go out of town next weekend. Destin. Jacksonville. Savannah. Anywhere.”
There was so much sincerity in his voice. There was so much hope in his brown eyes. I usually had a strict ‘keep it real at all costs’ position in dealing with people because it left no room for assumptions or hope. But Adrian didn’t deserve that. How we even got to this point, I don’t know. I wasn’t going to hurt his feelings with a gut punch. He deserved a kinder approach. A lie.
“I’m not sure. I have a couple of big projects coming up and I don’t want to commit until I know me, and my team can meet deadlines.” I was sure Adrian knew I wasn’t being completely truthful with him, but of course, he wasn’t going to push it.
“Ok cool, no big deal,” he shrugged. “I just wanted to do something nice for you. You deserve it.”
Oh boy, he’s going the ‘you’re a queen and deserve the world’ route, I thought.
“You don’t have to do that. Your friendship is enough for me.” I wasn’t lying about that. Adrian and I have been kicking it for a few months and chilling with him was cool. Conversation was good, he was a great cook, and he scratched that itch between my legs when I needed it. But a weekend getaway was too much like a relationship. And I didn’t do relationships.
“I know I don’t, but I want to.” Adrian looked at me, rather, he looked into me, and I shifted in my seat. The way he looked at me made me uncomfortable. Adrian’s eyes told me this wasn’t just a friendship, and we weren’t just chilling, as I’ve told him a couple of times. He was feeling something else.
“Adrian.” I avoided looking at him because his stare was intense. Instead, I stirred my water with my straw, concentrating on the way the ice cubes swirled and danced in the plastic cup. “You know that-“
“All you want is a friendship, that’s it,” he finished for me, proof he heard me when I said it a million times; he just wasn’t listening. “But when we’re together, I can tell it’s more than that. I can feel it and I know you can feel it, too. You don’t have to be afraid, Saige. Let me in.”
Adrian’s words were heavy, heavier than I was capable of carrying. Once again, I avoided his eyes, this time focusing on the décor of the basic red and white checkerboard tablecloth at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant. I was glad we were in public so this conversation could stay on the surface.
“You know I’m not the relationship type,” I said finally, still refusing to look at him.
Adrian’s eyes never left me. I could feel his gaze on me. He was really working to get inside my head, and I wasn’t going to let him. I had to admit, I may have gone a little too far with him, more quality time than I usually granted. We talked and texted more than I did with other people. We slept together, sex and literally sleeping. I could see how he could want something more.
“Please don’t act like you don’t know I’m feeling you. And don’t pretend you don’t feel the same.”
He spoke calmly but his voice held conviction. He meant what he said, and he was going to try to make me admit I felt the same. I couldn’t lie and say I didn’t care about Adrian, because I did. I could care for someone and not act on it. Or I would just distance myself. More often than not, by moving.
When I didn’t answer, mostly because I was trying to find the gentlest way to let him know we needed to take a few steps back, he continued. “You are absolutely beautiful. You are different. You make me think. You made me want to learn. You make me laugh. Before anything else, I consider you a friend. And that is the foundation for something deeper than what we’re doing.”
On the outside looking in, Adrian and I were complete opposites. Where he had a 9-5, 401K, health insurance, a five-year plan, and shopped at Macy’s, I flew by the seat of my thrift store pants. Always have. The only thing stable in my life was by on-demand graphic design company SaigeSight. Other than that, I was…I didn’t like to be still. If I got bored somewhere, I moved. If I got tired of my hair color, I dyed it. Right now, my natural curls were pink. I had 16 tattoos, most of which I got on a whim. I got my last one, a shooting star that started on my back shoulder and ended right above my left breast when I saw a tattoo shop on my way to the grocery store.
My dad and my sister called me a free spirit; I just felt like people weren’t meant to be tied down to one place. Or one person. Or anything that required a long-term commitment. Like mortgages and marriage.
But Adrian entertained my spontaneity. He wasn’t completely straight-laced, but he liked for his days to be planned. With me, he let himself just take things as they came. He listened to me ramble about my spiritual journey, something I hadn’t fully committed to, but I was enjoying learning about crystals, spiritual baths, and burning and smudging my namesake.
But no matter how much he entertained my quirkiness, for me, that wasn’t enough for me to think about being with him exclusively. “Adrian,” I started, making the mistake of looking at him and he held that same, pensive glare so I quickly averted my eyes. “I’m not interested in a relationship. That’s not my life’s focus. My business is what has my attention right now.”
“It can be your life focus,” Adrian countered. “You are one of the most intelligent women I know; you can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
Had I been a few shades lighter than a deep caramel complexion, my cheeks would have been red with embarrassment. Multi-tasking was a skill I mastered when I went to college; I could grow my business and date exclusively. But other than my degrees and my business, I never fully committed to anything.
“That’s not what I want right now.” I heaved and leaned my head over to play with my hair, something I did almost without even noticing it. “I value our friendship and that’s all I am interested in. I hope you can respect that.”
Adrian opened his mouth twice, but no words came out until he was finally able to ask if I was ready to go.
I nodded my head and stood, telling Adrian I needed to go to the bathroom before we left. I needed a moment to gather myself, hoping he wouldn’t want to continue this conversation in the car. I got my wish because we drove to my apartment in complete silence. I am sure he was thinking of what he could say or do to change my mind while I was thinking of something else entirely.
When Adrian pulled up to my Grove Park studio apartment in southeast Tallahassee, he didn’t turn off his car. I was relieved because I didn’t want to keep talking in circles. We wanted two different things; I don’t know why he was trying to force a relationship when I made it clear I didn’t want that.
“Good night,” I acknowledged while opening the car door. “Thank you for dinner.”
Adrian kept his eyes forward and I wanted to comment on his childishness but decided against it. I got out of the car and walked up the steps to my apartment. Like the gentleman he is, he waited until I was inside before he drove off.
Once inside, I exhaled deeply. I looked around my studio apartment. It was small. Tiny actually. It was an attic the homeowners converted into a small apartment for someone like me, someone who didn’t want or need a huge space, and someone who didn’t want the burden of buying furniture or home wear. I liked it here. My Southwood community appealed to the duality of my moods. When I need to recharge, the green space of Central Park and Lake helped replenish my energy. When I needed to experience connections and people, I was about 15 minutes from restaurants and bars in downtown Tallahassee. Even though I liked the city, liked my apartment, liked this community, it was time to go.
I took a shower and climbed into bed, needing rest for packing up what I came to Tallahassee with into my Honda Pilot.
The next morning, I woke up around 8, checked my emails, delegated tasks to my team. I took another shower, then busied myself with packing up what little I brought here, some clothes, my toiletries, and a couple of books. I moved frequently so I learned not to buy things that couldn’t fit into my truck. It really didn’t take long for me to fit my entire 300 square foot studio apartment into suitcases and totes that I kept in the trunk of my truck. I cleaned up and that didn’t take long because the space was small, and it was just me. I didn’t accumulate a lot of mess.
I sent my landlord a text, lying that my job needed me closer and that I’d be moving out in the next few days. I jumped on this place because it didn’t require a lease, long or short term. I knew Ms. Simon wouldn’t see my text until after I was gone so I made sure to leave my keys and locked the door behind me.
I gassed up and got on the road. I started driving north, and I had no idea where I was going. But when I crossed the Florida-Georgia line, I decided to I’d go to my sister’s place for a few days until I figured out where I was going next. Two and half hours later, I was pulling into my sister’s yard on Wanda Way in Americus. I’ve lived in quite a few places, but coming home was always…it was bittersweet. I loved the quiet, small-town life. The familiarity, the one-way streets, going to Wal-Mart, and seeing everyone you know from your 2nd-grade classmate to your cousin. But…Americus held some dark memories; I never could stay long.
I rang my sister’s doorbell a few times and even though her car was here, it seemed she wasn’t home. Finally, my sister came to the door, wiping her eyes, still in pajamas. It was almost 1 pm and she had a three-year-old…how was she still in the bed?
“Saige…what are you doing here?” my sister asked, stepping aside to let me into her townhouse. E