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Relationship 101
by Howard Reeves

The other night, my girlfriend, Allison—without saying a word—got up from the green lounge chair, walked down the steps to where she parked her car and drove home. I sat there for a good hour-and-a-half thinking about what I might’ve said. Or perhaps didn’t say. But then I thought maybe it was the encroaching canopy of trees hovering above the deck that freaked her out. She once told me that she was a little bit claustrophobic.

The whole night I was telling her how much I like being with her, how we have a lot in common. Like spending time together at the beach, or playing Super Trivia at Eddie’s Sports Grill. Oh, sure, I could’ve said I loved her—women kill for that. But I just couldn’t say it. Maybe I don’t know what it means to love, really love, someone. Maybe I’m afraid of commitment. I mean, a relationship is major. To tell the truth, it scares the shit out of me.

I spend the next two days wandering around the house, barely eating. I’m wondering if maybe I said something wrong, or maybe not enough. It’s starting to gnaw at me—what does she want? Am I that shallow that I can’t even tell her how I really feel? Maybe I should call her up, ask her how she’s doing. Tell her that I really enjoyed being with her the other night. I wonder if she’ll feel the same way. I don’t know. What should I do?

I pick up the phone then put it back down. I take a deep breath and whoosh it out before picking it up again. I dial quickly, trying not to be nervous while her phone rings. Damn! It’s her answer machine—what’ll I say? The recorded voice sounds relaxed, mellow. So maybe she’s not pissed at me for any reason—oh, sweet Jesus, there’s the tone!

“Uh—hi Allison, it’s—uh—me—Mark. I just want to tell you that—that I—that I—uh—love you.”

Instantly, I hang up the phone. I laugh, relieved. But then I feel a sudden lump in my stomach—a big sickening lump. What if that wasn’t her? The voice on the other end had more timbre. It seemed a little deeper than Allison’s, hers is light and sweet. This was the voice of a stranger. Did I dial the wrong number? Should I try to call her again? What the hell should I do?