FICTION – Short, Moderately Sad Love Stories by Daniel Brauer

A Slight Misunderstanding

My first thought about you was, There’s another goofy looking girl.  Hours later I’m walking home, thinking, June is the most beautiful girl in the world.  City streets are a parade of beautiful people and there I was comparing you to this parade, thinking, Not as beautiful as June, not as beautiful as June, not as beautiful as June.  You had a large voice and large hand gestures.  You laughed a large laugh.  You weren’t large yourself, you just had presence.  You were Texan.  You’d turned me into a 14-year-old with a crush.  Lying in bed that night, thinking, June is the most beautiful girl in the world, I congratulated myself: You’re not so shallow after all if a girl’s personality can turn you round from thinking ‘goofy’ to thinking ‘June is the most beautiful girl in the world.’  We’d been in a room full of people, a room meant for mingling but we’d stayed together.  Three hours, other people drifting in and out of our conversation but it remained our conversation, never theirs, and then at the end we were on a pier, the sea smell fresh in the air.  A couple we’d met that night stood nearby, observing how familiar we appeared.  “How long have you two known each other?” one of them said, and I beamed.  “We only met tonight!”  You were beside me, smiling up at the moon.  When we parted I stuttered a moment, asking for your number, and you said I was adorable.  “You’re just adorable,” you said.

 A Partly Accidental Seduction

This is not how a boy with a girlfriend acts.  That’s what I thought about you, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself.  I asked you out before all that, before we’d even met.  Your writing’s what did it.  It was not a lot of writing, but it compelled me to re-read it and it made me laugh aloud.  The thing about writing is you can’t judge a person by theirs, if they’re no good at it, but if they are good at it, you’ve got enough there to pin a major life decision to.  So I asked you out—first time for everything, and aren’t they always telling girls to do this more anyway?  You said you had a girlfriend, and then you launched what I can only describe as a two-month-long daily charm offensive against me.  And that is when I thought, This is not how a boy with a girlfriend acts.  You befriended me intensely.  You sought me out online, in emails, in texts, in IMs.  You flirted with me.  I didn’t call it flirting right away, I wouldn’t have accused you of that, but I described your actions in tedious detail to patient friends of every sex, and they confirmed what I hadn’t presumed.  You sent me a postcard—“Hello from across town!”—and you got me gifts.  They were small but tailored to me.  I was touched.  We had acquaintances in common and met up at events, and then we met alone.  It was your idea but you asked me where we should go.  I suggested something innocuous—coffee in a park—but you show up, say, “How about a drink?”

I’d been so ready, is the thing. I’d been so ready to be just friends, or even to remain strangers.

You picked a hotel lounge that was dark and intimate and best suited for first dates, but you said you’d picked it because it was nearby and quiet.  You sat on a sofa and I sat on a stool, but you patted the cushion beside you.  “It’s okay,” you laughed, “we’re allowed.”  One drink became two drinks, and two became four.  Twenty minutes became an evening.  We laughed.  It was easy.  “You’re so funny!” you said, and my thoughts spiraled.  This looks like a date.  This feels like a date.  I can’t not admit that I’d want this to be a date.  I reviewed your behavior, not for the first time, everything you’d written, everything people had said to me about you.  Two months of this charm offensive and not a mention, not even a hint, of a girlfriend.  Mentions of family, yes.  Mentions of friends, of office work, of travel, of haircuts, of purchases of stationary and socks and groceries, of smoothie recipes, of pancakes and the establishments in which they’d been consumed.  Your hand grazed mine again, reaching for the drinks menu.  “You’re so talented!” you said.

 The Best Date of My Life

It was a seven-hour date.  Seven and a half, actually.  It wasn’t planned that way, it was planned to be just a thing, a date, we meet for a drink and then, you know, leave.  Seven and a half hours later, we did leave.  It was a seven-and-a-half-hour-long date.  Three of those hours, we’re kissing.  “I don’t usually do this!” you swore.  I don’t usually get to do this! I thought.  “How are you so cool and well adjusted?” you asked me.  How are you so exactly what I want? I asked myself.  “You’re wonderful,” I said aloud, and I palmed your cheeks and stared into your laughing eyes and made a declaration: “I am going to kiss you again!”  And so I did, I kissed you, and it wasn’t sexy kissing, it was much better than that, it was joyous.  It was I-cannot-believe-I-found-you! kissing.  It was I-will-tell-my-grandmother-about-you! kissing.  And it was drunken kissing, admittedly, but only near the end.  “Have I told you you’re wonderful?” I said, and you laughed and said I’d told you eight times, but the next day you were very sorry.  You were sorry for you’d acted honestly in the moment, but only in the moment.  And after that moment you remembered you’d just broken up with someone you still loved and you were very, very busy.  “You’re busy?” I said.  “Very, very,” you said.  “I’m on staff at a law review, and I have classes.  And finals.  And I have to go to the gym.  And I am going abroad for a long while in two months.  And I have to go to Sioux City next weekend.  And I have to hang out with a friend tomorrow.  And I am still in love with this other guy I almost married.  And I run a book club.”  I said, “You can’t go out with me again because you run a book club?”, and you said I had maybe missed the point.  “All of this is okay,” I said.  “I mean, it’ll be okay.  We had an amazing first date.  It merits a second.  That’s all that really matters.”  You said I didn’t understand, and I told you a ninth time you were wonderful.  “No,” you said, and your voice turned cold.  “I am not.”

Daniel Brauer’s writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Gigantic, Wag’s Revue, and a few other places.  It is forthcoming in the Jabberwock Review.  You’ll find more of his writing and some doodles here .

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