We were lovers but we did not make love.

The calls came with the consistency of rent payments, but 2 or 3 times per month instead of once. His “hey,” soft and slow, a hint of Tennessee or Georgia or somewhere South.

Both of us played occasional movie roles, jokes with a slight edge “you know one of us is going to break the other’s heart” or “the sex is so good I might have to fall in love with you” but he knew as I did that it wouldn’t last.

It’s true that I miss his breath on my chin, staring into my eyes with a mischievous smile. And I long for the casual way he runs his hand down my back and over onto my hip, it could slip off at any moment but it doesn’t. I would fall back into the same routine if he showed up, but I know he won’t. Whatever dreams he had are being played out with a girl I don’t know, perhaps he tells people he can’t believe how he lived without her before, something I’m sure he never said about me.

On Thursdays I still go to the Tap. I get into careless, heated conversations with the same set of grad students and Marly occasionally checks in from behind the bar.

I started going to the gun range, too. I bought a Sig Sauer 250 from a friend who says that everyone should have a handgun. I’m not sure I believe that, but I’ve grown to enjoy the startling power that is unleashed. A practiced danger seems to satisfy me.

Now and then I’ll spend the night with one of the grad students. They seem more interested in this than I do, and my casualness about the interaction only motivates them more. They’re concerned with sex or fucking or making love, or some other abstract concept. Probably my status as a professor excites them, though it’s not really the taboo they envisioned in high school and as undergrads. No one around here cares much for ethics, something that eventually they’ll pick up as well.

In class the other day I asked my best group of students “how do you live a life of consequence” and their answers both bored and inspired me. One woman said “by never being complacent” which was a good, serious answer but I wasn’t sure she had any idea what that meant. Some of the others gave the standard rote answers, “gaining influence and making the world a better place” etc…

Some days I’ll climb up on the bridge behind Marer Street and make a list in my head of the pros and cons. Usually I don’t try to kill myself but one of these days I’ll utter a surprised shout while plunging to the asphalt. If I have the chance to narrate my death I’ll say something like “I wanted to die but I didn’t mean to die.” We are always waiting to be more than what we are, even in our own eyes.

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