The roommate broke down for me her recent slow demise with the ex. Or was he an ex? Was he ever her boyfriend? For seven months he took her to dinner, helped her move furniture, cooked brunch in his Upper East Side apartment. They watched Netflix together. Her friends dated his friends. Some times they double-dated with her friends and his friends. (I was never one of those friends, although I am sure he has very nice friends.) He made small talk. He paid for the cabs. He popped up in her calendar at least two nights each week. But he wasn’t her boyfriend.
If he walks like a boyfriend, and he talks like a boyfriend, he must be a boyfriend, right? Alas, for Roommate it was not so easy. For approximately half of that seven month period, she and her gentleman played a passive-aggressive game of “Who Can Care Less?” He avoided discussion, and she refused to force the issue, lest she morph into one of those snake-haired, psychotic boyfriend hunters that twenty-something New York men have learned to fear and loathe.
“Feelings” became a pejorative term.
Sometimes I would come home from wherever I had been on whatever night, sobbing about my own melodramatics, and Roommate’s fellow cheered me up with good-natured advice, and then we all laughed and exclaimed, “Feelings!” and I chuckled through my tears and thought about how easy life would be if we could pack the words “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” and “relationships” into a rocket ship and launch them on a collision course with the outer rings of Saturn. Sometimes I would tell Roommate, “[Your fellow] is so great!” and she would fake laugh, like, “If you only knew…” and then we’d sit on the sofa and watch snow fall and paint our toenails, and bitch, bitch, bitch about our love lives, and WHY WOULDN’T HE NUT UP AND CALL HER HIS GIRLFRIEND?
Finally one day in September she pulled the trigger. “Are you dating anyone else?” she asked. He said, “No.”
“Well, do you want to date anyone else?”
He looked at her like she’d grown a dorsal fin and said, “Isn’t that the same thing?”
No, son. It isn’t. And by the end of the conversation all they had determined was that a) his romantic inertia did not a boyfriend make, and b) he just didn’t give a goddamn. Roommate did not particularly want a future husband, but she did want to know if he wanted a girlfriend or wanted to be her boyfriend so that she could then take new opportunities should they fly in her direction because deep down maybe she did want a boyfriend, and the non-ex-but-really-an-ex just wanted someone to come over three nights a week and cook him pasta and pie and shut the fuck up about feelings.