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SO COME BACK, I AM WAITING by Marston Hefner

“You won’t see me again.”

I thought she was wrong. This is such a small city. I thought I saw her at the farmer’s market. I thought I saw her at my yoga studio. She is everywhere I go.

Her name is Leah. She is the woman who causes me mental pain.

If you asked me if I loved her, I’d say of course. I wouldn’t even make exaggerated hand motions.

It is her, driving my car down the 101 after a weekend in San Francisco. I’m in the passenger seat listening to my iPod. She puts her hand on mine and speaks, but I can’t hear what she is saying. I pull off my headphones.

“Can you stop listening to music?” she asks.

“Sure.” I put my hand in her lap. I’m happy to be with her, but I’m also tired of being with her. It’s been a long weekend. We’re always moving when we’re together. Vacations are filled with activities. We equate movement with life. “I want you all to myself,” she says.

It is her, not dying but I think she is dying in the Emergency Room in Lake Arrowhead. She has a urinary tract infection that messed with her bladder or something. I’m sitting across from her dying face. She’s pale and smiling at me. Fluids move into her veins since she’s also dehydrated. She’s dying and I’m looking at her face and she’s smiling at me. I have to be strong. She has no time for the I-will-die-for-you part of me. She has no time for my depression. So I am the strong boyfriend, holding her hand.

Or it is her, at a Halloween Party at my father’s house. She’s dressed as Dexter’s victim, and I am Dexter. Her costume is great. She is exquisite.  She has Saran Wrap around her naked body. We didn’t realize she won’t be able to pee in her costume until she was already in her costume. After a while, we go into my room so she can change. She pees and walks into my bedroom. I pick her up and place her on the sink.

It is her, watching Drunk History with me. We’ve been living at my father’s house for a few days, and we watch Dexter and Drunk History before we make love and then fall asleep. I order the usual fruit bowl for the two of us. A butler brings it in. We’re in bed, looking at a tv that seems too old to be in the room. We’re in a room with pink and white striped wallpaper. We’re in a room with light fixtures that are plastic and black. This was once my mother’s room, but I don’t recognize the room. I don’t recognize the house I’m in.

But with Leah, I am home.

Then there were those other times.

“I mean what kind of father would you really be?”

She felt the love story I wrote about her was too much.

She broke up with me for no reason and came back.

She asked, “But how can you be so certain about me?”

“I just am,” I said.

“I wish I had that.”

And if for some reason she were to cease to exist through a rare blood cancer—did you know someone is diagnosed with blood cancer every 3 minutes?—maybe she’d cease to exist in my head. Because every moment she is alive means there is an objective possibility that she will come back.

We have split 5 times. She has come back to me 5 times.

I am writing a book about my father’s death, but the book is really about Leah. Many times, I’ve written stories that have eventually happened in real life. I wrote about a man dating a woman in a wheelchair, and then I dated a woman in a wheelchair. I wrote about a man who was uncomfortable in an AA meeting, and now I’m in AA.

I wrote a book about a man grieving his father’s death as he falls hard for a woman named Leah.

When my father died, Leah sends me a text, even after I told her to never talk to me again if she didn’t want it to be romantic. She knows every time she reaches out to me, I grab on tightly. She writes her condolences. She says if I need an ear, there is hers. So I tell her I’d like her ear and to see her for coffee.

When I see her, she is shorter than I remember. It has been 4 years since seeing her face to face. She is always breathing heavy. She is always sweating. She pulls her hair from her face.

We walk. We go to an Organic Café/Dinner spot. We don’t talk about us. I am disappointed. It doesn’t seem like she feels anything for me.

But she tells me over the phone she loves me but I know she’s just in love with being in love.

The day after she breaks up with me.

A month later she texts me again.

“Can we talk?” she asks.

“Yes.”

“I like you so much and I’m afraid how much I like you. I’m afraid of what people will think. I want to take it slow because I’m going to be all in if this real. It feels so right on so many levels.”

The day after, she forgets to call me.  When she does, she says,  “Like on an emotional level we are 100% compatible, but I just don’t see you in a physical way. I don’t think. I’m sorry.”

“Are you really, really doing this again?”

“It’s not like we were boyfriend and girlfriend or anything like that.”

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