I decided to bring over some baked ziti and meatballs for Jonathan at the store tonight. I couldn’t wait to see the updates. It had been four days since I’d seen him. I thought he’d enjoy another home cooked meal too. I packed everything up that we would need, silverware, plates, napkins, and headed down the road to surprise him.
I knocked at the window and waited just a few seconds when I saw his face peek through the paper covering the doorway. He smiled excitedly to see me.
“Jenny, what a nice surprise. Come in!”
“I hope you don’t mind me just stopping by?”
“Not at all.”
“Wow! I love the floors! Is it laminate?”
“Yes, it’s pretty quick and easy to put down. Changes the whole place, right?”
“Yeah, for sure.”
“What do you got?” he pointed to the bags in my arms.
“Well, I brought you a surprise.”
“Yes. I made baked ziti and meatballs and I thought maybe you would like some? And honestly, I wanted to see what you had done here in the past few days too,” I smiled.
“Thank you, Jenny. I’m always glad for a home cooked meal. Have you eaten yet?” I watched as he pulled up two chairs to the counter where the registers would be.
“I insist, sit down and join me.” He pulled out the chair for me.
I smiled, “Thank you, Do you like ziti?”
“Yes, very much,” he said, helping himself to a plateful. “I hope you don’t think I was rude the other day, not joining you and your sister and your..” he hesitated, “Boyfriend?”
“Kind of my boyfriend. I don’t know, it’s complicated.”
“I understand. No explanation needed.”
I said, “I was thinking about this place the other night, I have some ideas, if you’re interested?”
“Of course, tell me.”
“Well, I thought about what you were saying about not wanting to look like a Home Depot...I got this crazy idea about decorating more with antique cabinetry…” I studied his face to see his expressions, “...you could leave the drawers open and display items for sale in them even, and if you did go ahead and hang antiques from the ceiling, like we talked about, it would fit in perfectly. I saw this on Facebook Marketplace.” I took my phone out to show him the huge cabinet I’d found advertised. “And there’s these other big trunks I saw. Maybe you could put screws or nails in them or something?” He just sat staring at me and hadn’t said anything. “I don’t mean to overstep or anything, I told you I get carried away cause I watch too many TV remakeovers.”
“No, Jenny,” he said seriously. “I really like your ideas, honestly. I really like...talking with you,” he hesitated and took my phone. “This is a gorgeous piece of furniture. I want it. Do you mind if I try and call them now?”
“No, of course not!” I was pleased he liked it. I listened anxiously as he spoke to the man. I heard him say, “Yes, I could be there in about 45 minutes, if that works for you?...Ok great, see you soon.” He handed me the phone, “It’s still available. Do you want to come see it?”
“The trunks, let me see them again.”
I gave him the phone and he called right away. He made arrangements to pick them up tomorrow. He said to me, “I’d like to find about a few dozen more of these trunks in different sizes. They are great for holding screwdrivers, hammers, nails and all kinds of things to display. How can I thank you for the ideas?”
“There’s no need, really, I enjoy creating things. I spend most of my days at the Anderson creating things for the residents to do.” Which reminded me to ask him. “Jonathan, how is your wife settling in?
He simply said, “She’s good.”
“I’m sorry, should I not ask? I’m sure it’s upsetting for you.”
“No, I mean Yes,” he sighed out loud. “I don’t mind you asking. I think I feel a bit guilty, I’m glad that she’s there. Is that wrong to say out loud?”
“Can I explain?”
“I don’t want you to think I’m a terrible person. I loved my wife.”
“Of course,” I said.
“But my wife has been gone for a long time now. She deteriorated quickly and then it’s like she just got stuck and now she can’t let go. She’s not on machines but she’s not coherent either. It’s been that way for about a year now.”
“I can imagine it’s really hard when you have to give continuous care to someone,” I said softly.
“Yeah, it is on the whole family. My inlaws are great people, they just...they can’t let her go. The doctors warned us awhile back that recovery wasn’t going to happen. Her body is too weak to recover but her mind hasn’t given in yet, is how I look at it. It took us a long time to decide to give her professional help and now that we have. I’m sort of relieved.” he said under his breath.
“I understand, really, I see it happen with families at work a lot. It’s ok to feel that way. It sounds like you and your family have done more than most. There’s no magic number of days to say what’s appropriate to care for a loved one Jonathan. I think when the situation becomes an unhealthy atmosphere for the caregivers involved, it’s time to let go and seek help, like you said.”
“I just felt the need to explain it to you once, I don’t want you to think I’ve just thrown her in there and forgot about her in any way. I want what’s best for her needs.”
“I think she was very lucky to have you.”
“Again, I’ve talked your ear off with my problems. I don’t know why I do that to you, I apologize.”
“Don’t you dare apologize again. If it makes you feel better, I can tell you my problems too, I teased.
“Yes, it would definitely make me feel better. Let’s head out to see this storage cabinet and you can tell me all about them,” he laughed.
I climbed into the old beat up pick up truck, Jonathan said, “Alright, let’s hear it. Did you have a terrible childhood?”
“No, I had a great childhood.”
“Well then have you gone through an awful divorce maybe?”
“Nope, never been married.”
“Umm, let’s see...were you teased as a kid? Bullied for some reason maybe?”
“No, I was pretty popular in school actually. Do I sound conceited?” I teased.
“No,” he said. “You sound pretty normal so far. Ah! Maybe your troubles started in college? Party girl maybe?”
I laughed out loud. “No definitely not a party girl. More like the nerdy honor roll girl.”
He laughed out loud too. “Well I don’t know what your problems could be Jenny, you seem to be perfect,” he smiled.
“No, definitely not perfect but I suppose I’ve been very fortunate so far.”
“That’s nothing to be ashamed of. This should be the place here,” he said as we pulled into the driveway.
Sure enough, he bought it, the two men struggled to get it into the truck. It was huge and heavy. On the way home, Jonathan asked, “Would you like to come with me this weekend, I wanted to go look at a few flea markets, maybe garage sales even and see if I can find some of those treasures you talked about.”
“Sounds fun, I’d love to.”
“Would you mind if we swing by my place, it’s looking like rain. I don’t want to get this wood wet. I’m not far from here, then I can drive you back in my other car and finish up some things at the store.”
“I don’t mind at all. Do you ever not work?” I laughed.
“I like being busy.”
We pulled into a long narrow driveway, surrounded by trees. It was dark but I could see the outside of the house needed work. I noticed when Jonathan pulled into the garage, that it looked new. It was a huge two car garage with an upstairs. He said, “I need to go in and grab my other keys. Would you like a soda or tea?”
“No, I’m good, but could I use the restroom?”
“Sure, come on in.”
The house was definitely old but full of charm and very clean. We quickly switched cars and headed back to town. Jonathan pulled up to my front stairway and parked. “I can’t thank you enough Jenny. Can we make plans for Saturday for sure, I can pick you up at 7:30?”
“Sounds good,” I smiled and walked up the stairs as he waited and watched me walk in. I really liked him, I was glad our friendship was developing further.
Saturday had arrived. I was excited for our adventure today. I heard a knock on my door and knew it had to be Jonathan. As I opened it I was surprised to see Ben. “Hey?” I said startled. “What’s up?”
“I was just thinking about you. I thought we could do something spontaneous today...maybe take a ride up to the mountains?”
I quickly interrupted, “I can’t today Ben, I’m sorry I have plans already.”
“Oh, are you going out with your sister?”
“No,” was all I said.
He insisted, “Well maybe you could change your plans for today?”
“I can’t, but maybe we could go next weekend?”
He leaned in and kissed me. “I can’t wait till next weekend.”
I replied, “I could see you later, or tomorrow maybe.”
He put his arms around my waist and I knew…. “I can’t Ben, really. I’m leaving shortly.”
“I could come with you? Where are you going?”
I don’t know why I hesitated, “No.” I didn’t tell him where I was going. “I can call you when I get back and we can make plans ok?”
“I’m feeling unwanted,” he pouted and leaned against the doorway.
I saw Jonathan pulling up. “Hello!” he shouted as he clearly saw me and Ben in the doorway.
“Hi!” I shouted back and waved.
Ben said, “This is your plans today Jenny, really the hick?”
“Don’t call him that!” I scolded.
As Ben reached the stairs, he extended his hand again to Ben. “We met the other day…”
Ben briefly looked at him and barely shook his hand, “I remember.”
I don’t know why it felt awkward, I’m not doing anything wrong. Jonathan is my friend, I’m allowed to have friends! I had no choice but to say, “Jonathan and I are going to the flea market to look for things for his store. I will catch up with you later, ok?”
Ben pulled my head to his quickly and smothered a kiss on my lips, longer than was appropriate for a quick peck goodbye. I had to pull away from his grasp. Now I definitely felt awkward.
“Bye honey!” Ben said sarcastically as he turned to leave.
Jonathan awkwardly said, “Should we do this another day maybe?”
“No,” I insisted. “I’ve been looking forward to this for days. Let’s go, I’m ready.”
Ben hollered under his breath from his doorstep, “Hey man! Love the truck!” He shook his head in disgust and walked inside.
He was being rude again, I was rethinking my original thoughts that he didn’t intentionally mean to be rude to people. I’d hoped Jonathan hadn’t heard him.
As we sat buckling up again he said, “You sure you want to come?”
“I’m sure,” I said matter of factly.
He pulled off and said, “So, I think the word you used to describe your relationship was, complicated, right?”
I bit my bottom lip and hesitated, “Yes and it seems to be getting more complicated.”
“I’m a good listener and you do owe me a story, remember?”
I laughed, “I remember. Well there’s not a whole lot to tell.” I hesitated and chose my words carefully. I certainly couldn’t tell Jonathan that Ben and I were basically fuck companions right now and that I’m not even sure I should be with him but I can’t seem to resist him physically. “We are still in the early stages of figuring it out. I’ve only known him for a couple of weeks now.”
“Really.” He looked at me funny.
“Nothing, keep going?”
“I guess we are dating and I think he probably got a little upset that I’m going out with another man. Not that we are actually going out! You know what I mean?”
“I think he just got a little jealous maybe, I don’t know... He was rude to you and I’m sorry.”
“You don’t have to apologize for someone else’s behaviour Jenny.”
“I know, but it feels like I should. I think my sister might be right, he may be a little possessive.”
“And there’s your problem!” he smiled at me. “I can tell you from a man’s point of view, if you want me to.”
“Yes, tell me,” I said curiously.
“I’d definitely call him possessive. That night I met you and him at the pizza place, he made it very clear that you were his.”
“His? What does that mean in guy language and more importantly how?”
He looked over again at me with that funny look. “Jenny, you want me to be perfectly honest right?”
“Ok, here’s my opinion: That guy intentionally told me as another man to back off. After two seconds of me standing there with you and your sister he blatantly put his arm around you and scooted you closer to him, holding your leg with his hand. He was claiming you as his, in a guy’s world.”
“I honestly didn’t pick up on it.”
“Then today, I saw the disgusted look and heard the rude comment about my truck. But him kissing you like that, make no mistake, he’s not just rude, he is claiming his territory Jenny. He blantently told me to fuck the back off.”
“Are you secretly a psychiatrist?” I teased. “How can you read someone so well that you barely know?”
“I’m a pretty good judge of character. More importantly, I’m a Man. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“I think so.”
“A real man should not act like a dog, marking his territory.”
“Thank you for not starting trouble with him. I need to reassess my relationship with him for sure.”
“That’s probably a good idea but just my opinion,” he winked at me.
We entered the flea market parking lot. “You aren’t upset with me are you Jenny? I know I can be outspoken sometimes.”
“No, I’m not at all upset with you. I’m upset with myself, to be honest.” I almost blurted out the whole truth!
“Let’s go find those treasures, huh?”
We spent several hours going into different flea markets, garage sales and antique shops. The truck was beginning to fill up quickly. I was having fun and more importantly I believe Jonathan was having fun. I saw him smile more today than I have the whole time I’ve known him. He always used to have a sadness about him, I know now, it was for a good reason.
We went to lunch at a quaint cafe on the outskirts of town. I’d never been before. Jonathan told me he was from Danville, a small town several hours from here and that his folks used to stop at this cafe when they traveled to see his Aunt who lived near us. They used to make the trip down to see her often. He said, that was how he met Linda, his Aunt had introduced them.
On the way home in the car Jonathan said, “I haven’t had this much fun in a long time Jenny. Thank you for coming with me.”
“I had fun too, I’m glad you asked.”
“Can I be honest with you again?”
“I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I like being with you... I really like spending time with you.”
I giggled, “Yeah, me too.”
“But, I’m in no way ready to move forward with someone. I am married still.”
“No, I know, I didn’t get that impression at all this past year.”
“The past year, wow, I guess we have known each other that long now.“
I started laughing as we pulled up in front of my house.
“Tell me what’s so funny,” he said.
“Just that, when I first moved here, I thought maybe you and I might...I got the message you weren’t interested. Then I thought you were gay for a while, and now... I know you’re married and... I guess I’m glad your married cause I really like spending time with you with no pressure for more. How crazy does this sound?” I continued to laugh as did he.
“It does sound crazy to hear out loud. I like that we can be honest with each other. I have never had a girl as a close friend. I’m finding I’m liking it more and more,” he smiled.
“I have never had a guy as a close friend either and I am liking it very much!”
“And I’m definitely not gay Jenny,” he continued to laugh.
“I’m sorry, I probably should have kept that to myself,” I said.
“Can I introduce you as my Manfriend to people?” I laughed so hard I snorted a little.
“Don’t you dare!” he said loudly. But then answered, “Would you like to help your Manfriend hang this stuff from the ceiling tomorrow?” He said sarcastically.
“Do I have to climb up on the ladder?”
“Nope. You just have to stand below and tell me where to put them.”
“I can do that! Bye Jonathan,” I said and walked up to my doorway.