True to his word, Jason calls me the next night and I can tell he has an agenda. It’s been noticeable that he hasn’t called me in several days because of our fight, and despite the fact that I know he’s going to bother me, I’m glad to hear the sound of his familiar voice. But I won’t admit that to him.

“I wish Larry were more of an asshole,” Jason says. “That would make it easier. Why does he have to be such a nice guy?”

“Kind of makes you feel bad, doesn’t it?” I retort. “Doing something so shitty to such a nice guy.”

“In a way,” Jason says thoughtfully. “But really, it’s for his own good too. I don’t want Larry to be miserable any more than I want you to be miserable.”

“Yeah,” I say. “But you’re not… interested in Larry.” I still feel my cheeks turn pink when I say the words.

“Look,” he says. “Larry likes the idea of you, but he barely knows you. You guys have been together for six months. That’s not long enough to know another person.”

“So what’s long enough? Twenty-five years?”

“Well, you have to admit,” he says, “nobody knows you better than me.”

“Oh, please.”

“It’s true. I know everything about you.”



“Okay,” I say, playing along. “If you know everything about me, then how old was I when I got my first period, smartass?” I figure if you want to turn a guy off, the best thing to do is to talk about your period.

“Oh god,” Jason says. “You were twelve. I know because I overheard your mother telling my mother about it in excruciating detail that I really didn’t need or want to know.”

“Fine,” I grumble because he’s right. “So what’s my bra size? Larry knows that one.”

“So do I,” he says. “You’re 34C. That’s what you get for making me help you with laundry.”

Okay, yes, there were a few times when I had an overwhelming quantity of laundry and Jason had nothing to do, so I convinced him to come over and help me out. That’s not too weird, is it? I guess I never thought about the fact that he was touching my bras and panties. I always felt like Jason and I had this platonic relationship, but now when I think of how I made him fold up my silky red thongs… oh Christ. I encouraged his crush, didn’t I?

Just to be fair, I’ve helped Jason with his laundry too. He has a washer and dryer in his apartment, and helped him hang up some of his shirts on laundry day. For some reason, I think of the feel of the fabric of Jason’s large button-up work shirt in his hand, with the scent of his detergent mingled with the faint smell of his aftershave. Jason’s been wearing the same brand of aftershave ever since I can remember and there’s something kind of comforting about that smell. There’s something comforting about Jason in general.

“Name my five biggest celebrity crushes,” I say.

Jason laughs. “Seriously?”

“If you know me so well, then it should be easy.”

“Sadly, it is,” he says. “You’re not exactly subtle.” He thinks for a second. “Obviously, John Cusack first and foremost, although god knows why. You love John Travolta, especially in Grease, and in Welcome Back Kotter, even though you won’t admit you like that show. You also like that weird blond elf guy from Lord of the Rings, which is why you dragged me to that three hour movie like five times.”

“Oh, come on,” I say. “You know you loved that movie, you nerd.”

“Whatever,” he says. “It’s nine hours of looking for a ring. You really think I liked it? Anyway, so that’s three.” He thinks for a minute. “Oh, I know, you like that gay cowboy.”

“Jake Gyllenhaal is not a gay cowboy! It was a movie.”

“Okay, sure,” he says. “So that’s four. Oh, I know. You’re always talking about how you wish your boyfriend were more like Jim from The Office. So I’m pretty sure you like him too. So there, that’s five.”

I huff at him. “First of all, John Travolta has gotten old and fat. Second, the elf’s name is Orlando Bloom and he’s universally regarded as sexy. And third, I don’t like Jim from The Office anymore since he changed his hair. I like Puck from Glee.”

“I still think I did pretty good,” Jason says. “I’m sure Larry couldn’t even come up with one.”

“Maybe,” I say. “But I’ll tell you this: he’s seen me naked and you haven’t.”

There’s a long pause on the other line. In a panic, I run through all the times Jason and I have been drunk together and try to remember if I ever started stripping. I’m pretty sure I didn’t. But not absolutely positive. Did I ever take off my clothes in front of Jason? I haven’t. I know it…

“You’ve seen me naked?” I ask, a sick feeling in my stomach.

“Well,” he says slowly. “I probably shouldn’t tell you this…”

“Oh my god, tell me!”

He lowers his voice. “See, the thing is, back home, your bedroom window was actually visible from mine and…”

“Jason, no!” I’m furious. Was he seriously peeping on me throughout our teenage years? I never would have thought he’d do something like that. “You didn’t!”

“Quit being such a prude,” he says. “It’s not like I got binoculars or something. But, yeah, I mean, I was a teenager with absolutely no prospects for meeting a girl, and the girl of my dreams was doing a little naked dance outside my window. Do you really blame me for looking?”

Okay, yes, sometimes I used to strip and dance to music in what I thought was the privacy of my bedroom. Come on, you’ve done it too. Don’t lie. “Jason, that’s really sick.”

“Believe me,” he says, “I felt like a total loser when I was watching you. Here I was, this computer dork in a wheelchair whose closest thing to getting any action was watching the neighbor through her bedroom window.”

“Couldn’t you have just read Playboy?” I say.

“You were hotter than any girl in Playboy,” he says softly.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pissed off at Jason. I can’t even believe he spied on me through the window when we were kids. But then again, he was just a kid. Kids do dumb things. God knows, I did. And in a way, I guess it’s sort of flattering.

“You forgive me?” he asks.

I huff again. “I suppose.”

“I’d offer to let you see me naked,” he says, “but I’m getting the feeling that you’re not too enthusiastic about that idea.”

“No,” I say, feeling a little awkward. Even if I had known that I could see into Jason’s window, I never would have looked in a million years. I had no desire to see him naked.

And now, well… I’m pretty sure I don’t now either. I mean, I definitely don’t. I’m engaged, for christ’s sake.


Larry and I have an unofficial engagement party at the bar near his work, which is the same place where we first met. This is less about romance and more about the bar being convenient for Larry and his friends. (Actually, I should say “colleagues” because I’m increasingly convinced that Larry doesn’t have any friends.)

It’s the same mix of teachers and bankers that were present at my birthday. Jason is there, of course (mostly hanging out with his banker friends), but Melissa is conspicuously absent. Larry told me they don’t seem like they’re on speaking terms. “I don’t get it,” he said. “They seemed like a good couple.” Of course, I’m not going to tell him the truth about why they broke up.

Larry doesn’t leave my side through the entire evening. I suppose some girls would say that’s sweet, but I was beginning to get annoyed. We had a few drinks and I was hoping he’d loosen up, but he was like a piece of gum I couldn’t get off my shoe. I finally had to escape to the ladies room in order to get a moment to myself. For a second, I was worried Larry was going to follow me inside.

While in the bathroom, I run into my friend Jeannie from work. Jeannie teaches art at my school, so her job is just about as useless as mine. She’s single, a couple of years younger than me, and more cute than pretty. She’s also one of the nicest women I know. “Larry seems so wonderful,” Jeannie tells me as she washes her hands. She glances at her reflection in the mirror, but doesn’t make any adjustments because the girl doesn’t wear a stitch of make-up. “He’s so attentive to you!”

“Yeah,” I mumble, forcing a smile.

“I’m so jealous,” Jeannie says, without a hint of jealousy in her voice. “He’s really cute too.”

“Mmm,” is all I can manage. “Are there, um, any guys you like here?”

Jeannie laughs. “I don’t know, aside from Larry, they mostly seem like the usual group of egotistical i-banker assholes.”

“Yeah,” I agree, thinking Jeannie is pretty perceptive.

“But there is one guy,” she says thoughtfully. “Do you know the guy in the blue striped shirt? The one who’s been playing pool most of the night?”

I’m stumped for a second, then she smiles and adds, “You know, the one in the wheelchair.”

I stare at her, totally shocked. “Jason? You like him?”

“Well,” she says, “sort of. I played a game of pool and he was on my team and he seemed really nice. Good at pool too.”

“Yeah, he is,” I say. And add, “Good at pool, that is.”

Jeannie raises her eyebrows. “He’s not nice?”

I can’t tell her she’s wrong. Jason is really nice. One of the nicest guys I know. Especially to me.

“No, he’s nice,” I say. “But, um, you’re okay with the whole… wheelchair thing?”

Jeannie nods. “Absolutely. My brother has spina bifida so that kind of thing is no big deal to me.” She tucks her clean, brown hair behind her ear. “I feel like a lot of single guys in their thirties have serious issues and that’s why they’re not married. But a guy in a wheelchair can be a wonderful guy and still have trouble because women are so superficial that they can’t see through such a minor issue.” She smiles brightly. “So in that sense, it’s a plus.”

Yeah, except that Jason has one major issue: me.

I look at Jeannie’s face. She’s a great girl, light years better than anyone he’s ever dated. If I introduce her to Jason, they could totally hit it off and maybe she’d make him forget all about me. That would be great for Jason.

Except somehow when I look at Jeannie’s sweet, earnest face, I’m having a lot of trouble just handing Jason over to her.

“The thing about Jason,” I say, “is that he just got out of a long term relationship and he’s pretty bitter. Plus he’s a total workaholic. I just don’t think now is a good time.”

“Oh.” Jeannie’s brown eyes widened. “That’s a shame. Surprising, though. I got the vibe that he was sort of, you know, flirting with me a bit.”

Jason was flirting? But he’s supposed to like me! Why is he flirting with other women?

Okay, I am being ridiculous. I’m engaged to another guy. Why the hell do I care who Jason flirts with? I should be happy he’s flirting with Jeannie. That’s healthy. He shouldn’t be obsessed with me. I should tell Jeannie to just… go for it.

Except I can’t.

“Well, that’s the way he is,” I say. “He’s kind of a flirt. But he’s totally still obsessed with this other girl. I just don’t think it’s a great idea.”

Jeannie sighs. “That’s too bad. I really kind of dug him.”

I’m awful. I should be shot.

I clear my throat. “Well, if you really like him, you should still try to go for it. Don’t let what I said stop you.”

“No, I trust you, Tasha,” Jeannie says.

Oh god, I really suck. Shooting is too good for me. I’m such a horrible person. How could Jason even like me?

I know I should tell Jeannie I made a mistake and shove him in Jason’s direction, but I can’t make myself do it. Maybe Melissa was right. Maybe I’m just selfish. I don’t want Jason for myself, but I don’t want anyone else to have him.

I wander over to Jason at the pool table after leaving Jeannie in the ladies room. I’ve somehow managed to shake Larry for the moment, and I want to take advantage of the few moments I have to myself. I pick up a pool cue and join Jason, who is currently alone, trying to clear the table on his own.

“Interested in a game?” I ask him.

Jason looks up at me and grins. “Naw, you suck. It wouldn’t be a challenge.”

“Humor me,” I say.

I set up the balls and Jason breaks. He has a powerful break, sinking three balls in the process, followed by two solids in a row. Jason is a bit of a pool shark, or at least, he used to be. The wheelchair might fool you, but he has wicked aim. Maybe it’s his math and physics background, because he knows exactly where to bank the shots off the wall to sink them in the corner pocket. When we first reconnected in New York, Jason and I used to play pool all the time at a pool hall downtown and he used to kick my ass regularly, except for the times we played against another couple and kicked their ass. I’ve barely played since, and I feel a little nostalgic as I lean over the table to try to sink a shot and miss.

“You still suck, Tash,” he comments.

“Shut-up,” I say.

He smiles. “So what did your friend say about me in the ladies room?”

I stare at him in surprise. “Um, what?”

“That girl Jeannie,” he says. “She was here earlier and I definitely got the vibe that she was flirting. Did she say anything?”

“Uh, no,” I lie.

“Oh,” he says and frowns. “Huh.”

“Were you… interested in her?” I ask, trying to sound casual.

“Well, yeah, kind of,” he says. “I mean, you’ve made it pretty obvious that nothing is going to happen between the two of us. So… why not?”

I know I should just ‘fess up what I did. But then again, that would be way too embarrassing. I can’t confess that I did anything to keep him from meeting a woman who would likely be perfect for him. If I did that, it would be like admitting everything he said to me the other day was right. And it would totally give him the wrong idea. “Well, there are lots of other girls out there,” I say. “But I guess Jeannie wasn’t interested.”

Jason reaches into his shirt pocket and pulls out a scrap of paper. “So are you saying I shouldn’t call her?”

I stare at the piece of paper. “She… she gave you her number?”

He winks at me. “Yep. And I told her to go ahead and use you as a reference that I’m a great guy. But I’m thinking you didn’t give me such a good reference.”


I stare down at the pool table. “I’m sorry. Do you hate me?”

“Hate you?” Jason raises his eyebrows. “No, I don’t hate you. I just find it a little perplexing that you shot me down, yet you don’t want me to go out with any other girls.”

I feel my cheeks turning red. “I know it’s selfish, but I just… didn’t want you to like Jeannie more than you like me.”

When I lift my eyes, Jason is looking at me with this really tender expression on his face. “That’s impossible,” he says softly.

I turn even redder. I must look like a beet. “Listen, I’ll go over to Jeannie and tell her I made a mistake.”

“No,” he says. “Don’t do that.”

“Why not? You like her, don’t you?”

“Yeah, but…” He gives me that half-smile. “If I have any shot whatsoever with you, no matter now small, I’d rather just stay single. So, I’ll pass on Jeannie.”

I try to get my lips to form the words, “You don’t have a shot with me.” But I can’t do it. Somehow I can’t say that to him, and I’m not entirely sure why.

To be continued....