Two hours to Montreal. Take 89 straight shot though the border, pass countryside and farm town until you get on the QEW right after the Arrête Papa! ice cream shop with the badly rendered sign outside, two young children with their mouths open in a cry for the cones just out of their reach. Enter bigger towns, ones with prominent churches next to movie theaters next to barns. Drive straight through them. Weave through the steadily increasing traffic with ease. Merge dangerously close to other cars.
Sing oldies music at the top of your lungs with the other people in your car. Open the windows, then shut them. Turn on the air conditioning. Hand your passports to the border guard. Declare nothing. Talk about tonight. Talk about your excitement. Talk about Montreal. Talk about how hungry you are. Don’t talk about the things that have been unsaid for weeks. Let Jake pick the music. Pretend not to notice the lyrics of the songs that he picks.
Jake’s been your best friend for three long years. You’ve dated his good friends. You’ve cried on his shoulder. You’ve gone with him to see bad movies, watched hockey on his couch, drawn him for art class. He’s called you up in the middle of the day just to hang out. You went shopping with him for a new belt and tie, you helped him navigate a rocky relationship with your close friend. You can tell the relationship dynamics have been changing and it makes you nervous. You no longer tell him you love him, because now you’re afraid of what he might think that means.
You sit across from your boyfriend. Tell him Jake asked you to go to the formal in Montreal. Ask him if he cares if you go. He does not. Realize that he really could care less. Think that maybe you wish he did. Change topics. Talk about the game. Talk about how you probably failed the pop quiz this morning. Talk about his upcoming visitors from home. Talk about the weather, the snow-storms. Tell him you sharpened your skis for this weekend. He will tell you he can drive to the mountain. He will ask you if you would like a beer. You would. You will sit drinking it despite the fact that you don’t like beer and you have told him this a million times. He might turn on the TV so you guys can watch something stupid, or you might continue talking about nothing in particular, it doesn’t really matter.
Later, his friends will stop by. You will order a pizza. You will pick off all the mushrooms. Jake will stop in. You will leap up to give him a hug. He will ask you how your day was. You will say fine. You will tell him you can go to the formal. He will say that’s great. Your boyfriend will watch you.
Later, everyone will have gone. You will probably have sex. It will probably be mediocre.
It’s 6 on a Thursday night. You’re over in your neighbour’s apartment wearing the dress you bought this afternoon, a simple black piece that works well on your body, flows nicely, hugs all the right curves. You, your roommate and your neighbours are surrounded by pairs of shoes. You sit on the floor, defeated by the task at hand. They tell you this would have been much easier if the dress you picked didn’t match everything. You laugh. Your roommate groans. You’ve gone through every pair you own and some that belong to other people. It seems like this weekend’s outfit is becoming a team effort.
They all know Jake. They speculate about how well they evening will go. They asks you if you will kiss him. You vehemently declare that you could never ever kiss Jake. You’ve been friends for way too long. Your friends share knowing glances.
Deep down, you wonder about whether you ever could. Maybe if you hadn’t dated his fraternity brothers. Maybe if he hadn’t dated your friend. Maybe if he wasn’t graduating in two weeks. Maybe if he wasn’t your best friend. Maybe if you weren’t so desperately afraid.
Your boyfriend hugs you goodbye as you are getting ready to go to Montreal. Jake watches from the car. Kiss your boyfriend. Pretend like it matters. Pretend like you care. Pretend like going to Montreal doesn’t mean anything at all. Get in the car. Watch your boyfriend watch you leave. Pretend like he cares. Pretend like you don’t care. Look at Jake at that moment and right then and there, chicken out. Suddenly, desperately, wish you weren’t going at all.
You are back from Montreal. The roommate asks first, then the calls roll in. You did not kiss Jake. You wonder why everyone sounds so disappointed. You wonder if maybe you sound disappointed. You wonder if maybe you are. You think about Jake’s dark brown eyes, his hands on your hips. You think about dancing with Jake. You think about Jake’s hands on your breasts. You even think about maybe sleeping with Jake, but you don’t let yourself go there. You think about that brief second when you turned your face away from his. You think about the confession you swallowed. You think about the moment when his face turned from yours. You think that probably this is for the better.
Call your boyfriend.
Tell him you love him.
Pretend that you do.