I forgot about the marathon as soon as it was mentioned, but the seed was planted in my head and it sprouted when I heard something on the news about a computer glitch that would delay Chicago Marathon registration, irritating runners near and far. Delayed registration meant that I still had a chance at getting a number.
I emailed Marty the link and asked if he wanted to register. He was terrible at email communication, but I got an immediate response:
“Yes. That’s exactly what I need,” he wrote. “Do you want to be running buddies?”
“Yes :)” I replied.
I told him about the glitch and that when it was fixed, we could sign up for the lottery. If we were picked, then we could register for an actual number. We did it. It was the only lottery I’ve ever won.
Clicking on the registration and actually getting motivated to train in 25F temperatures proved to be two very different feats. Pushing Marty was turning out to be more ambitious than I anticipated. I started running regularly when I was 25 and it was difficult then to get into such a rigorous habit, let alone as a 39-year-old sedentary man. Despite his love of sports, he was not a particularly active bloke. I had signed up for something much bigger than just a 26.2 mile run.
I tried to be supportive without being pushy and didn’t make him run that Friday. Instead we watched a movie and I slept over. I got up early and scrambled out of bed. His mother was due to pick him up for a cooking class and I wanted to escape before she arrived. It was a warm-up to my solo run at home.
I pushed for another attempt on Sunday. This one took. We ran a whole three miles in the cold! But I wished that we could have done four or five miles.
We didn’t earn it, but Marty fixed me a plate of leftovers from his cooking class. On the menu: vegetable lasagna and ravioli with butternut squash. It was ok, but Marty was very pleased with himself. He saved the recipes so that he could make them again. By looking at him, you could tell he enjoyed food. I don’t know if this made him more or less attractive to me.
I left after we cleaned up. If he wanted me to stay, he didn’t tell me.
As I peeled off my down coat and sweaty running clothes, I received an unexpected text from Noah. It was some rant about not understanding why I was mean and how he thought we had a lovely time together and that he never set out to disrespect me and that he was pretty sure he didn’t deserve my ire. My body temperature rose with embarrassment. The last text I sent to him came back to me in pieces:
‘You are terrible…’
It flashed between shots of whiskey. I didn’t want to remember it… but it kept forcing its way in front of my eyes.
‘at giving head.’
My body was radiating the pain of being mean to someone I cared about.
‘Anyone who told you differently was lying.’
And then it stopped.
“I’m sorry for the way I treated you,” I wrote. “I’ve been drying out for the last month. I’m a mean drunk. You hurt me. I don’t remember what I wrote to you, but I’m sure I just wanted to hurt you back. I apologize. There’s not much more I can do.”
“I quit booze, too. I’ll have one when the social situation dictates but none in the house. But that’s neither here nor there. I just don’t know what to say to you. You were so mean and I don’t understand why you’d be so hateful.”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry. I guess I wanted to burn the bridge.”
“If you want it burned, so it goes.”
“I am sorry.”
“We’ll see about that. Well, I’m tired of thinking about someone else cooking for me. It won’t be Green Zebra pretty, but if you’ll allow it, I’d like you to join me for dinner at my corner bar.”
I was curious about Noah quitting drinking. The minimal time we spent together was awash with whiskey. Stumbling into bed. Clumsily stripping before passing out. It was so much less sexy to look back on with a dry eye. But he claimed to be sober and maybe we’d like each other without booze?
I met him at his house. Layers of dust blanketed the corners of the molding and the furniture. Cat hair was sprinkled on every last soft surface. There was so much more to see here now that I wasn’t blind drunk. But as I suspected, I was still attracted to him. I must have had a screw loose in my head.
He had a glass of wine he was working on when I walked in. So when he said he quit booze what he meant was that he no longer kept hard liquor in his house? I didn’t call him out on it.
When he went back to his bedroom to get his jacket, he called out to me, “Do you want to have sex?”
“No,” I said, emphatically.
He came back out to the living room and apologized profusely. “I’m sorry. I forgot that I’m not allowed to request that sort of presence from you. That was totally out of line. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s OK,” I said, but it really wasn’t, I just didn’t feel like having any drama for the evening.
We went to the bar on the corner. I ordered a club soda with a splash of sour mix. Noah ordered an old fashioned. I supposed that this was a social situation that dictated a drink?
He continued to apologize as he ordered sliders. I hated the way he thought of food. He didn’t actually like it. He only ate it because he had to eat and he always ate garbage.
“You don’t have to keep apologizing,” I said.
“Ok,” he said.
“Great! So how are you doing these days?”
“Awesome,” he said. “Emotionally, professionally, I’m fucking fantastic.”
“Excellent,” I said. I assumed this meant that things with Erica didn’t work out, but I didn’t ask.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m doing well,” I said. “I started training for the marathon.”
“That’s great,” he said, not terribly interested. “How’s your relationship?”
“What relationship?” I asked.
“Marty?” I asked. “I don’t know if I’d call it a relationship, but we spend time together.”
“Ah,” he said.
He fell silent. I tried to get him to talk, but he just wouldn’t. We settled the bill and walked in silence back to his house so I could get my bike. Anger started creeping into me.
“That was terrible,” I said. “Why did you invite me out if you weren’t going to talk to me? That was very frustrating.”
“I’m sorry. Can I take you to dinner this week? I just want to spend time with you.”
“OK,” I said. “But you have to actually talk to me.”
I went home. I never got a follow up to the dinner invitation.