Karen//Stupid Portland Boy.
I know Ryan is an asshole. He’s never taken me out on a date. He’s never even called me. The worst part is that he always asks me to leave twenty-seven minutes after we’ve finished having sex.
We’re coming up on seventeen. My head is comfortable in nook of his shoulder; he’s smoking a cigarette, and stroking my waist with his other hand.
It doesn’t really bother me that Ryan’s an asshole. It’s kind of a comfort after Eric, who was so fucking nice that after four years, he blamed himself when I cheated on him.
I don’t know how life got this messy. It was easy before, there was a plan. There was college, where I would major in journalism and become a reporter. Easy enough. Then I’d met Eric, and we’d decided to get married after graduation. He’d go on to a major school to get his doctorate, while I’d write for the nearest major daily.
Simple. I liked the plan. It didn’t bother me that little things didn’t add up, like the fact that I never really made any friends in classes or anything, or that Eric seemed to be more into drinking than studying. Things would work out. He’d buckle down, because I expected him to.
He was the only guy I’d ever slept with, and I liked that the most.
I added Ryan to the list right before I moved up to the Capitol. I had already given in to total desperation by taking a job I didn’t want in a city where I didn’t want to live; I didn’t think it could get much worse.
I still can’t believe I let him pick me up in a bar. I can’t even blame it on alcohol, because I’d only had a few drinks. I thought about Eric the whole time he fucked me, but instead of feeling guilty, I felt a strange sense of liberation. Eric had never fucked me like that; slow, but steady, no loving words or pretty kisses, just slow, passionate, wonderful sex.
Ryan took his time getting to know my body. It’s why I keep coming back every couple of weeks, even though he’s never called. I know he sees other girls because I’ve found panties stuffed under the mattress, used condoms in the bathroom garbage – in a strange way, I was jealous. But I didn’t let it bother me.
To be honest, I’m not sure I even like him. I look at his profile as he smashes his cigarette on his nightstand ashtray.
There’s no denying he’s sexy. His hair is dark and hangs in loose curls to his chin, blending with the five-or-six-day grown beard. His features are dark and sharp. His nose and eyes are pointed, but his lips are soft. His body is long, lean, and muscular – not too much, just enough for me to know he’s probably pretty active outside this room.
I don’t even know what he does. His apartment is just a studio, and the only clues I have are the guitar, which looks neglected in the corner, his huge workstation and fancy computer, which is always playing music I don’t know, and a couple of books on the shelf: Nietzsche, Kerouac, Capote.
He fascinates me. But I’m not comfortable enough to ask him about any of it.
He turns his blue eyes to meet mine, leans in and kisses my forehead before pushing himself up.
“When’re you in town next?” He pulls on his plain, black T-shirt.
I prop my head up on my elbow. “Dunno. There’s a convention next week I think he wants me at.”
He climbs out of the bed and pulls on his jeans, then walks to the kitchen and pours himself a glass of water. He takes a gulp, then gives a half-smile. “And Eric wants you next week. You want some water?”
I smile and nod. He pours me a glass. He knows all about Eric; it doesn’t bother him. I think it’s the only reason he still sees me.
“Well, you should text me. I might be out of town for a couple of weeks; nothing’s for sure yet.”
I recognize my cue and check the clock. It’s been twenty-six minutes. I crawl out of bed and pull on my dress, grab my purse, and try to comb my tangled hair with my fingers.
He laughs as he walks toward me, puts his hands on my waist. He steps back, pushes me against the wall. He pins me there, kisses me, then pulls me in and hugs me.
“See you around.” His whisper is his typical goodbye. I nod, smiling shyly as I open the door and slink out.
He closes it behind me and I climb down the stairs to out the front door, where I stop outside and lean against the brick wall. I fumble for my phone inside my bag to check the time. 9:44. Three missed calls, one voicemail. Jeremiah, Eric, the senator.
Suddenly I feel dirty. I’m shaking, my knees buckling beneath me. I take a deep breath and reach in my bag for my keys. Something needs to change.
In the car, I check the voicemail.
“Karen, hey!” The voice is a little nasally, and really rushed – Senator Daniels. “Hey, it’s time to start thinking about hiring session staff, so you’re going to have to get in touch with Julie. She’s interviewed a few people for the caucus already, so she’ll have a list of qualified people, okay? I want someone who’s smart and can keep up with me, so look them over and call them in for an interview with you. Also, I have some business cards I need you to add to the Rolodex, one for a reporter I met in DC, and a few business people I’ve met through the campaign. I know you’re in Portland, so please pick them up from the Vancouver office before you head back on Monday. Okay, I think that’s it, hope you’re enjoying your weekend. Uuuuuuh – yeah, that’s it. Okay, bye!”
I shake my head. A to-do list sent at 8:50 pm on a Saturday night. Yep, this is the life.
Sometimes I wonder what Senator Daniels would say about my current relationship status.