After our fourth and final date, I finally did accept his friend request. I figured you’ve got to give a dying man his final wish.
The warning signs began after dinner.
“Want to drink beer at mine?”
We stopped in Duane Reade and studied the options.
“Any of these will do,” I said, shrugging. “What do you think?”
“Well, I’ve got beers that I’m planning to drink so pick whatever you want.”
He wasn’t going to share his beers? I reached for some Coronas that I would drink then.
He was proud of his apartment and immediately suggested giving me a tour. We started with the kitchen, since we were in it. It had a lot of modern appliances that had never been used. He had picked an interesting color scheme, especially in the bathroom where the green and purple shades of bath mat and shower curtain clashed fantastically. The living room had the typical homage to a single male apartment: a large TV and a black leather sofa.
“I’ve got lots of books,” he said proudly.
I nodded. He did. So did I. So did most people I knew. He plucked a spine from the top shelf and held up its cover as though about to review it. And then he did.
“This is about a man in the nineteenth century who fought on both sides of the Civil War and was captured…”
He kept talking and talking, describing the plot in its entirety. The summary lasted eight minutes. I tried to justify his behavior. He must really like this book? Or really like the Civil War? He slotted the spine back and picked up another. Well, we could at least discuss an author I liked.
“Which is your favorite Hemingway?” I asked, reaching forward.
“You can’t! We’re going in order and haven’t reached that bookcase yet.”
Eight minutes per book and all these shelves? I was doing the mental arithmetic. “But at this rate we’ll be here all night?”
“Where else would we be?”
“Well…” Mentally I was running into the street and hailing a cab. “…what’s this?”
I’d found a dome shaped container with something dark and crusty inside.
“A squirrel skull.”
I put it down immediately. I wanted to leave, but we were in a remote part of Brooklyn I didn’t know and it was 3 AM and it was February. And, mainly, it would be kind of awkward to leave. Meanwhile he was linking his laptop to the TV and suddenly there he was, his smiling face filling the entire screen.
“These are some great photos from my South Africa trip!”
“Wow, they’re unedited.”
One snap showed him in the foreground and a giraffe in the background. In the next, the giraffe had moved to the left and his smile had faded slightly but essentially we were staring at the same photo. And he was using the slideshow function which was cruel, each photo frozen in time for too long. He was talking about the camera he used on the safari. He went to find it. I stirred and saw him angling a black SLR at me and taking photos. I felt tired and irritable. He put his right arm around me and flung his left arm far out. I’ve never been a fan of the extended-arm-maneuver; it’s always obvious there’s no-one standing behind the lens. There was something distinctly tragic about it this time, smiling for a photo in his bare-walled, mismatched apartment. I’d have welcomed a third party there taking snaps.
“Let’s go to bed,” I suggested.
I shouldn’t have. I knew he liked me and I didn’t have any intention of seeing him again. I even had the perfect excuse not to, but we laid down a towel. I watched him turn off the lights because he didn’t have any curtains in that room.
“So you just moved in?”
“No, six months ago.”
I was awake at 8 AM. In the grim light of day I noticed small specks of red on the sheets, on the pillow case, and… on my shoulder? I frowned as I studied myself in the mirror. He woke up slowly, looking groggy and confused as I ran to the door.
“Got loads to do. See you,” I hollered from the stairwell, certain we’d never meet again.
The next day was Valentine’s Day. He sent a Valentine’s text I replied with something inane: Thanks, have a great day. Then he sent a friend request that I ignored. Three days later he texted.
Him: I see you think it’s fine to fuck my brains out but not to accept my friend request.
Me: I’m just picky about Facebook friends, thought you’d be too. Didn’t you say a girl you dated briefly went pyscho on facebook?
Total lie. I had hundreds of Facebook friends.
Him: Yeah but you’re laid back. Can’t imagine that happening with you. Let’s meet up soon, when are you around?
Me: I could meet Sunday afternoon.
I was planning to do the honorable thing and end it in person, but when Sunday rolled around I cringed at his text.
Him: Hey, so let’s stay in tonight and watch movies and order food!!
Me: I’m not into this. Sorry to do this over text. I should have told you sooner.
Him: I still think you should accept my friend request.
Hannah Sloane moved to New York four years ago from London. She has also been published in Defenestration, Monkeybicycle, Mr Beller’s Neighborhood, and Nerve; and has upcoming pieces in Ascent Aspirations and The Big Jewel. She’s currently editing her first novel. You can follow her @hansloane.