Phase Two

We were in bed. The lights were out. It wasn’t work time. It was naked time. What are you doing? I asked impatiently as my boyfriend scrolled through his work email. I have to see about a woman I am trying to hire. You have to see about a woman laying next to you, I retorted. I’ve spent the last three hours with you, he said curtly. My heart did that weird kind of jump when you didn’t think you were being pathetic or nagging but his response indicates otherwise. But it’s bedtime. No working from bed! Pay attention to me! I thought but said alright and slowly laid down.

I turned to the window. City lights shown in. When are our blinds coming? I wondered. I turned back to him. He had put his phone on the charger and was making deep breathing noises indicative of sleep. We used to make out before bed. He would tell me how much he loved me and hoped I had the sweetest dreams. He would kiss me and try to snuggle me at least for a few minutes before I would squirm out. I have to sleep on my back, or I’ll get wrinkles! I’d protest. But now we just go to sleep? Lights out. Fucking Phase Two, I thought and closed my eyes.

I predicted this. You only act this way because we are in Phase One, I remember saying a few months ago. Me of many relationships. Me purveyor of romantic phases. Me whose adroit dating knowledge cannot be questioned. I don’t think so, he said brushing my hair back and kissing my face. That happens to some couples but not to us. I’m never going to go to stop wishing you sweet dreams. I knew better, but he had sounded so certain that I was almost, almost, convinced.

My boyfriend, like many a man, is a “thinking” type while I am a “feeling” type, so when I address a particular pattern of behavior that I “feel” has formed, he wants to know exact data points to support said feeling. To prove we had moved to Phase Two, I had no such data. I needed to collect proof that would indicate we were knee deep in the self-evident second stage he claimed wouldn’t exist. I needed specific dates and times that he fell asleep without saying goodnight. Times we weren’t romantic but should have been like before bed or when I wore a short dress. While he lay sleeping, I scrolled to the last page of my apps, where I keep Fandango and DuoLingo, opened my previously dormant Evernote app, and created a Notebook with an esoteric name: “Specifics of PT.” Before I say anything to him, I am going to gather data. By the time I sit down and talk with him, I’ll be armed with valid research that would show his “thinking” mind! Evidence indicating the existence of Phase Two.

The main problem with this sort of behavioral data collection is that it requires patience. In order to collect the data, I couldn’t address my unhappy “feeling” or I would invalidate the study. I had to wait days, maybe weeks and record each interaction. I had to store up information in order to identify the pattern and create the case for my conversation. I’m not known for this kind of calculated groundwork, but I can do anything I put my mind to, right?

The next day I got a text message from him saying that he cannot wait to see me later. He suggested we go to dinner. He was smiling when he got home from work and kissing me and kissing the dog who was wagging her tail and looking up at him adoringly. Do you see how much she loves me now? he said proudly patting her head. Just took a little time didn’t it? We walked to our favorite French place. It was reggae night. We shared mussels and talked about vacations. We went home and rearranged our apartment. When I crawled into bed, he closed his computer and slid his hands down my legs. I turned off the light.

I don’t remember if he said goodnight or not. I didn’t say goodnight, and I definitely didn’t tell him to have sweet dreams. I fell asleep. Not because we are in Phase One or Phase Two, but because I was blissfully sleepy. What makes a quicker goodnight so bad anyway? In Phase One Mia peed on his side of the bed. In Phase Two she cannot wait for him to come home and runs to the door every time she hears a man’s shoes.

This morning we got up early to go to the gym. (Note: Something we never did in the first phase as we wanted to spend every last minute in bed together.) While he was eating peanut butter, I grabbed my phone, opened my Evernote app and deleted the two-day old entry called “Specifics of PT.”


Emma Dinzebach

Just Write

Last week I received a message from a woman I used to write for asking if I would be interested in writing a relationship column. She said I immediately popped into her head when she thought about adding the column. I was her first choice. Honored and excited, I texted my boyfriend telling him the news.

After a full workday, I nearly forgot about the proposition until later that night when he brought it up. Isn’t it something we should discuss? he asked candidly. Why? I snapped defensively. Well because relationship advice comes from your relationship – at least some of the time – and I’m half of the relationship. I huffed. I don’t think this conversation is relevant until it’s actually relevant, I said purposefully emphasizing the actually like he was a paranoid hypotheticalist. I didn’t feel like having this conversation for the five hundredth time in my life.

But I had to. Because when you lace the internet with intimate vulnerability, it affects other people. And some of those other people I want to protect. I don’t want my boyfriend to be uneasy about or wary of my deepest passion. I want him to be confident in my ability to intricately censor that which needs censorship. Unfortunately, my ego wasn’t so quick to back down. I do what I want! I said back. Of course you do, he replied calmly. That isn’t the point.

acfjacketWhat is the point then? I asked. Irritated. Impatient. Irrational.

I love you, he said disarmingly. I love you because you are an impassioned creator, not despite it. And since your selected genre effects me, I want to be part of it. Not to stifle you. Not to weigh you down. But to ensure you are thoughtful as well as provocative. (Well, he didn’t say the word provocative, but you get the picture.) I support your writing goals, and first and foremost, I want you to write whatever you want. (He did say he wanted me write whatever  I want.) I will adapt, but we may need some discussions along the way.

Frankly, I didn’t buy it. I said I understood and agreed to pacify the conversation, but in my heart, I just didn’t buy it. Write whatever I wanted? Bullshit. He didn’t want me to write whatever I wanted. He wanted to me write whatever I wanted as long as it wasn’t something he didn’t want me to write. I’ve been down this road before. Patience and authentic understanding cannot fool this girl. I will write what I want, I thought to myself.

A few days later, I came home from work to find my handsome boyfriend reading the New York Times book review. (Literally, my dream man.) Beside him was a wrapped present on the coffee table. He looked over at me and smiled. His eyes drifted to the coffee table. What is this? I asked setting down my keys and hanging my coat. A late Christmas present I found in the closet, he replied. That wasn’t in the closet. I know everything in the closest. I passed the present and crawled across the bed crunching the Style section and denting the Week in Review. I brushed my lips against his. That wasn’t in the closet, I repeated softly. He kissed me. Should I open it? I whispered. You should do whatever you want beautiful. God I love him.

I purposefully opened the present extra slowly giving myself time to quietly reprimand my cynical mind for ever doubting this man. He always means what he says. So if he said he wants me to write whatever I want, he wants me to write whatever I want. You’ve been deeply affected by narcissists, I said to myself. Jaded by other’s insecurity. Stop assuming the worst. Believe in true love. I actually said to myself, believe in true love. You have to.

Inside was a tiny totable MacBook Air. One that I’d been claiming I was going to buy for about a month now. My shoulder hurts, I whined. I can’t write at cafes if I have to carry around this heavy MacBook Pro. I’m not inspired writing at home, so my only choice is to carry around this heavy computer. I need a permanent masseuse or a new computer. He just laughed at me. Nobody cares about your shoulder, he joked. You’re right. Nobody does care.

Except he cares. Not just about my shoulder and prissy need for inspiration, but he cares that I am happy and fulfilled. Tears came out of no where. He smiled and put his hand on my leg. Writing is what makes you tick, your passion, your unique contribution to the world. I don’t want your writing goals hindered because you don’t have the proper technology. That shouldn’t be a thing. Before he could say anything else, I pushed the computer to the side and scooted closer. I touched his face and his hair and his shoulders like I was realizing for the first time that this is a real person. A real person who loves me so much he never wants me to feel inhibited or artistically repressed or hindered in any way. He knows writing makes me happy. He just wants me to write.

So I can just write? I asked quietly. Yep. Just write.

Emma Dinzebach

Art Comes First.