Donnie and I have been together for almost three weeks now, and I think it’s going well. He definitely likes me, although I think he likes anyone who pays attention to him. Even before I met him, I heard he’s kind of a player like that. Why is it that men get to be called players (a positive) when women are called sluts (extremely offensive)? Wow, what a profound question I’m almost definitely the first person to ever ask.
Donnie never hears me when I come in. My greetings are met with silence, and I always round the corner to find him curled up on the futon we share (things are moving fast!) with my sweatshirt, breathing in my scent, comforted by the memory of me, by the hard evidence of my existence. I walk over and pet him gently and he jerks his head up, suddenly alert, a slight weariness still lingering in his big brown eyes. “Hi Donnie, my Donnie boy,” I say. “I came back to you.”
Sometimes he gets frisky, rolls around on the futon, gets all tangled up in the sheets, pants joyously. Other times he just wants to quietly lie next to me, to press his small body against mine, his cold nose against my warm neck. Isn’t the warmth of another body all any of us really wants, after all? When I leave he follows me to the door and looks at me with his literal puppy dog eyes. “I’m sorry,” I tell him. “I know this apartment and its immediate surroundings are your whole world, but I have a life outside of here, outside of us. I’d take you with me but at your age, we both know you can only walk a two-block radius.”
The thing is, Donnie and I don’t have much time left together. Soon I’ll leave this place and he’ll still be here, happy to see anybody who enters, sad to see them leave. In just a few days his beloved owners will return and his excitement at seeing them will vanquish his feelings for me. He’ll have, at best, a vague memory of me and of the time we spent together, walking through the snow on so many freezing cold nights, waking up next to each other on so many bright, warm mornings.
Donnie, I’m writing to tell you that I understand. We all have somebody who is, for whatever reason, different from all the others. The mere thought of them is enough to make our stomachs flip, the mention of their name guaranteed to weaken our knees. The idea of them elsewhere, with somebody else, is enough to make us feel lightheaded, short of breath, panicked for days.
I know I’m not that person for you, Donnie. I never have been and I never will be. Though we’ve enjoyed our time together, though we’ve gotten close, closer than I ever expected, it was never meant to be. I was always the hired help, a destitute comedian with no source of income in need of some cash, paid to watch you for three weeks, no more, no less.
Oh Donnie, my Donnie boy. I want you to know, and I think you do, that no matter what happens, no matter how much it hurts when we part, no matter how many nights I dream of your little nose pressing into my big neck, no matter how crushed I am when I wake up and realize you aren’t there, that it was just a dream, an ever fading memory of you: I would do it all again, for free.