119,065
07.03.2019

My father has smoked my whole life—but he doesn’t know I do. Doesn’t matter if I’m thirteen or thirty—if he ever finds out, he’ll break my frigging fingers.

We walk downstairs and stand in the open doorway where he lights up. The smell of my father’s cologne and the freshly lit cigarette smell familiar. And weirdly . . . comforting.

“What’s the matter with you?” he barks in his rough, old-man voice. “The last few days, you’ve been walking around looking like you did the day we had to put King down.”

See? He may not comment a lot, but it’s only because he’s too busy listening and watching—and pretending like he’s not.

I kick a pebble off the front step. “I’m fine, Dad.”

I feel his eyes on me. Scrutinizing. “No, you’re not.” He snubs out his cigarette in the sand can. “But you will be.”

And then he hugs me.

Strong—like a bear. The same way he’d hug me when I was a kid, just before he left for a business trip.

“You’re a good boy, Matthew. You always were. And if she can’t see that? Then she doesn’t deserve you.”

I hug him back, because . . . I just really f**king need to. “Thanks, Dad.”

We break apart. I swipe at my nose and he smacks my back.

“See you at the office.”

“Good night, son.” He closes the door behind me.

I don’t go home right away. I walk a dozen blocks trying not to think—or see—Dee’s face in my mind with every step. I walk one street down, to Drew’s building.

The doorman greets me, and when I get to the penthouse, I sit down in the hallway, leaning my back against Drew’s door.

I’m not entirely sure he’s listening, but it feels like he is.

And I laugh. “Dude, I hope you’re sitting the f**k down—’cause you’re not gonna believe the conversation I just had with my mother . . .”

Friday is a rough one. I just . . . miss her. It’s acute and relentless. The memories, the image of her face, are in my head every second, taunting me. I can’t concentrate; I don’t want to eat. My body feels weighted and heavy; my chest is tight, achy, like the tail end of bronchitis. I miss everything about her. Her laughter, her ridiculous theories, and yes—not gonna lie—I miss her exquisite tits. I’ve gotten used to sleeping next to Dee—or on top of her—skin to skin, with my arms either draped around her or my head nestled on the soft comfort of her br**sts.

My goddamn down pillow just doesn’t compare.

What I really need is to get laid. You may not like hearing that, but too f**king bad—it’s the truth.

When your car irreparably dies, do you sit inside it, remembering all the times it drove you to work or to a friend’s or on some great road trip? Of course you don’t. That’s stupid. The logical thing to do—the only thing to do—is go shopping for a new car. That’s the only way you’ll ever be able to move forward.

For a man or a woman—getting laid after a breakup is a lot like that. It feels good—even if just for a few moments—and it reminds you that life doesn’t stop. That the world isn’t ending just because your relationship did. Getting some instills confidence in a brighter tomorrow. In a future not immersed in misery.

But while the idea occurs to me, and I know it’s something I should do . . . I don’t want to. I have no desire to f**k anyone who’s not Delores Warren. And to tell you the truth—there’s a small, admittedly pu**y-whipped part of me that’s afraid to. Scared about even trying.

It’s the same part of me that sags with disappointment every time I come home and she’s not here. The part that still thinks there’s a chance she’ll realize how great we are together, that she’s completely in love with me, that she’ll come running back to me. And if any or all that were to happen, I would never want to have to break the news that during our downtime, I screwed another woman. Right or wrong, the trust I’ve worked so hard to build with Delores would be destroyed. So, in the end, it’s just not a risk I’m willing to take—not for some random piece of ass I don’t even want.

Saturday isn’t any better. Jack pleads with me to go out with him—complains that he feels abandoned, that he’s missing his wingman.

But I’m just not up for it.

Instead, I grab a six-pack and a pizza and have a pity picnic outside Drew’s apartment door. I do most of the talking: He only “bams” his answer when I ask if he’s still alive. It sounds like he’s moved on to watching Blades of Glory. What’s up with the Will Ferrell fixation, right? Weird.

Anyway, after I’m done with the pizza and making my way to the bottom of the last beer, I lean my head back against his door—a little buzzed. And I get downright philosophical. I talk about the weekend, when we were kids, and my uncle took Drew, Steven, and me camping at his cabin in the Adirondacks.

Steven’s highly allergic to poison oak—he blew up like a tick.

But not even that stopped him from joining us in our search for buried treasure. My uncle had given us a map he and my old man had made when they were kids—to a box of silver dollars they thought would be a brilliant idea to bury.

For the entire first three days up there, all we did was hunt for it. But then . . . as kids tend to do . . . we gave up. We turned our attention to climbing trees, and beating the crap out of each other with sticks, and watching the girls from the local college go skinny-dipping in the lake.

I think about those days and, of course, Delores—always her. And I wonder sadly, “Do you think if we had just held on a little longer, looked a little harder, tried just a little bit more—do you think we could’ve made it to the treasure, Drew?”

He doesn’t answer. And I’m a lot further past buzzed than I thought. So before I knock out here in his hallway, I pack up my stuff and take a cab back to my own bed.

And like every night before, I dream of Dee.

Chapter 19

When a guy’s nursing a broken heart, he engages in one of three behaviors: he drinks, he f**ks, he fights. Sometimes all three in one night.

It’s been six days since I’ve seen Delores and I haven’t f**ked anyone. Drinking has been minimal—but I’m definitely ready to fight. I’ve been going to the gym every day, working out harder than usual, trying to channel the feelings of missing her into something positive.

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