Story:Him or Me
Him or Me
Written by Shataivian
Lisa sat down at a tall table by the window. She kept her gaze down at her fingers, which she was picking at. Across from her sat Jason who also kept his gaze on nothing in particular. Within a few minutes a goat walked up to their table and handed Lisa a huge mug of caramel pumpkin latte and Jason a water bottle. The two thanked the goat softly and she walked away back to her counter to serve the next customer.
“I’m sorry about all of this,” Jason bravely began. “This isn’t fair to you.” Lisa lifter her mug to her nose and breathed in deep. “I want to make things right, make things better.” She blew on her latte and took a sip, still not making eye contact with Jason as he spoke. Jason finally reached across the table and held one of Lisa’s hands, tearing it away from her mug. “I don’t want to lose you.” Lisa looked up at him.
“You can’t lose what you don’t have,” she said back to him.
“You know what I mean. I messed up, but please give me a chance to fix things.”
“You know I’m in a relationship.”
“I know, but,” Jason began to say over her. But Lisa continued.
“And you come here, unannounced to tell me to just drop everything and be with you.”
“I’m not saying it’s that simple. I know this whole thing sucks and I’ve put you in a weird spot.” Jason took his hand back and placed it just under his nose to rest his head. “Sharice has been… the sole problem. And I’ve ended things with her. I’m sorry it took so long, but it’s over now. No ‘it’s going to be over,’ or ‘I’ll get to it.’ It’s over. She’s gone.”
“And what do you expect me to do now,” Lisa asked before going back to her latte. “Am I supposed to just go and say ‘hey! Sorry Damario! You were just along for the ride and now it’s over?’”
“Damario, as nice as the guy seems, he came after all of this. He walked into a difficult situation. But this, us, we were something before him.” Lisa snorted, nearly choking on her latte.
“’Before him?’ Jason, Damario came first. There was never once an ‘us.’ The only one I was officially in a relationship with between the two of you, was him. And then you come and say ‘even though I missed my opportunity, you should leave Damario and be with me?’” Jason sighed and tapped the table with his fingers.
“That would be a fair question to ask if the situation were between crushes. If he was a guy you were crushing on and I was a guy you were crushing on, then, yeah, that would be pretty messed up of me to try and break you two apart.”
“But this is different,” Lisa asked, incredulously.
“Do you love him?” Lisa sat quietly, being thrown off by the question. Jason repeated. “Do you love him?”
“We are still fairly new, but I do see a potential for this to blossom into love.”
“So, no,” Jason re-answered for her.
“No. Not at this exact moment,” Lisa said annoyedly. Jason leaned forward.
“Do you love me?” Lisa visibly took a deep breath at this question. Jason repeated. “Do. You. Love. Me?” Lisa’s lip started to quiver against her will. Jason leaned back in his seat. “That’s the difference.” Lisa shook her head.
“Yeah, well, Damario didn’t hurt me.”
“And I’m sorry. But I’ve learned, and I’m not going to hurt you again. I made a mistake, but I own up to that.”
“But there are consequences,” Lisa said with a slightly elevated voice. “You played me, used me. You wavered. Am I supposed to trust someone who can’t make up their mind?”
“Now, hold on,” Jason said sternly. “I own up to hurting you. But I will not apologize for wavering.” Lisa slowly sat back in her seat and crossed her arms. “You have no right to be mad at me for wavering about whether or not I should leave Sharice.”
“Really? I have no right?”
“She was my wife.” Jason’s voice wasn’t quite at shouting level, but enough for the people in the café to do a quick glance over at the two. “Of course, I wavered. What kind of husband would I be if I just went off my initial feelings and didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt? Would you even want to be with me if I could change my mind at the drop of a dime? Of course, I wavered. I’m sorry for how I handled the situation. I hurt you. I was unsure but treated you as if I were. But I’ve learned. And we can grow from this.”
“You used me,” Lisa clarified. “And you know what? You’re right. You were married. In fact, when we first met, you were already in a relationship with her. When I realized I had feelings for you, you were engaged to her. When we graduated, we went our separate ways and you got married. Sure, I held on for a little too long, but eventually a girl’s gotta move on. And now that I have, I’m supposed to still be waiting for you?”
“But we’re not talking about when you first found out I was in a relationship, or years and years ago. This just happened, and you fairly recently, if not right this second, were in love with me. I came a few days late, not years.” Lisa shook her head as Jason spoke.
“Damario has never hurt me.”
“Of course, not. You’re new. But the moment you two have a fight and the shine of a new relationship wears off, will he still be worth it?”
“We have fought. And as of right now, yeah. He hasn’t hunt me down and tried to get me to do what he wants. He just wants me to be happy no matter what my choice is.”
“So, then, it won’t be so bad for him if you leave him.”
“Really,” Lisa scoffed.
“No, that came out wrong.”
“You’re being selfish. You’re fighting for what you want, not for what I want.” Jason sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.
“Yeah, I am being selfish. I’m fighting for something that means a lot to me. For something that has been the best part of me from day one. I am being selfish, and it’s about damn time I was. I’ve let so many things just dictate my life. I’ve been through so much shit. When Sharice first came to me, she was the best thing in a shitty situation. I was okay with dealing with her and how she treated me. How could I be picky when I’ve gone through things like watching my family die, or going to prison for something I didn’t do? She wanted to be with me. Beggars can’t be choosers, right? But you’ve taught me that just because it’s one pile of shit instead of two doesn’t mean I should be happy with eating it. And now I’m standing up. As selfish as it is, I deserve you. And likewise, you deserve me.” Jason started to speak softly. “I’m not losing you. I’d be an idiot to lose you.”
“That might not be good enough.”
“Oh, come on, Lisa,” Jason shouted as he slammed the table. “It was a simple mistake! I didn’t beat you up or do something unspeakable. This wouldn’t even be a problem if your father hadn’t of said anything.”
“Are you seriously going to blame this on my father?!”
“I’m saying that things would have been fine without the constant worry of me lying to you.”
“Was he wrong? He didn’t sow any seeds of doubt. He pointed out the truth, which, by the way, you were never going to tell me.”
“You called me over in a panic and then tried to get me to throw caution to the wind and sleep with you behind your wife’s back. You come all the way here after I had that game without my compression turtleneck and tell me that you’re here for me and then sleep with me anyway. But you never once told me that you were going off of a hunch that your wife was cheating on you. That you were never even planning to tell me.”
“Great! You had a fifty-fifty chance of being right! But when it really comes down to it, I’ve already turned you down. When you wanted me to sleep with you on Valentine’s day, I said no. When I came to train with you at the beginning of the summer, I said no. I’ve already turned you down. You can’t just come every other month hoping that my answer will change. And it hurts. Trust me. I know what it’s like to love someone you can’t have. But I also know that you can get over it,” Lisa said through her teeth. “This feeling is new for you, but-“
“’New,’” Jason interrupted. “Do you have any idea what it’s been like for me? I’ve had to work on changing over thirty years of thinking that things were fine the way they were in the span of four years. I have been torn apart because of all of this! You think I was fine with the way things were while I was with her? I’ve been through hell!”
“But you still had me on the back burner. You wanted things to be easy for you so that you wouldn’t have to be the bad guy and break up with her just for falling out of love. It would be so much easier if she deserved to lose you, right? Like if she were cheating on you? And, if and when things didn’t work out with Sharice you always had me to fall back on, right? Jason, my answer is no. I’m sorry. I hope you’ve learned, and you can move on with your life, but my answer is no.” Jason shook his head with his eyes closed.
“No. You know what. We’re still worked up. Maybe we need some time to cool off and come back.”
“What? You mean like in a month or two? Hoping that I’ll change my mind?” Jason scoffed, though it was more towards himself. “And you want to know the real, honest to god reason I’m turning you down is? Yeah, you hurt me. Yeah, there are consequences for your actions. And, yeah, I still care about you. But the truth is I’m happy with Damario! He has been there for me in ways that neither you, nor anyone else has. I feel safe with him. I feel better than I’ve ever been when I’m with him. I’ve grown because of him. Yeah, we’re new, but I want to give him everything he has given me.” Lisa was no longer looking at Jason. Her gaze went off into the distance and a smile grew the more she spoke of Damario. “I may not be able to say I love him right now, but I’m damn close. I wish you luck, Jason, I really do, But I’m not giving up on Damario.”
Jason sat still the whole time Lisa spoke. He watched her as she went off in her own world while she spoke about Damario. “You’re… actually happy with him, huh…” Jason softly asked.
“Happier than I’ve ever been in a long while.”
“You want to know what he said to me right after you told us to leave your apartment?”
“Are you kidding me? Are you seriously going to try and go with a last-ditch effort and throw him under the bus?!” Jason shook his head in response.
“He said ‘don’t you mess this up for her. She’s made a lot of progress when it comes to standing up for herself. Let her do what’s best for her. And be happy with whatever decision she comes to.’ No defending, no claiming you as his, no threatening. Just honest to god care for you and your happiness. I don’t think I would have had the strength to say the same thing to him.” Jason started to fidget with his hands. “Damario’s a good man… If there was anyone that I’d feel comfortable with you being with, it would be him… I don’t think he’d ever hurt you.” Lisa Nodded.
“I don’t think so either.”
Lisa finished off the rest of her latte while Jason sat in silence. He would look off into the distance, taking in everything that was said. Every now and then he’d shake his head in silent disgust. When she finished Jason finally spoke up.
“I hate this. I hate this so much.”
“I know,” Lisa responded softly. She then pulled out her phone from her purse and started scrolling through it. “Damario’s been patient, though. And I haven’t spoken to him since you two left my apartment.” Lisa stood up and placed her purse over her shoulder. She made her way over to Jason. “I’m sorry things didn’t work out the way you wanted it to.” Jason nodded with a weak smile. Lisa then wrapped her arms around Jason, hugging him from his side. “I’ll see you?” Jason nodded in response. “Okay. I gotta go. I have a very important phone call to make.” She then slowly made her way out of the café, turning back to wave at Jason who barely lifted his hand to wave back. She put her phone to her ear as it began to ring. “Hey… Where are you right now…? We need to talk.”