A few days after Madeline left, I found her online just as I was about to start dinner for the kids.
Jefferson: What’s for dinner, sweetheart?
Madeline: Pain. Side order of heartache.
Jefferson: And I am only frying chicken. What’s your recipe?
Madeline: Marcus is my sous chef.
Jefferson: Come again?
Madeline: He’s breaking up with me.
Jefferson: He’s what?
Madeline: Via instant messenger.
Jefferson: No way, he’s never online.
Madeline: He is now.
Jefferson: Well, I know when to get out of the kitchen. Good luck, baby. I’m thinking of you.
Madeline: Thanks. Is it too early for bourbon?
Jefferson: Is it ever?
So it was that our boyfriend broke up with our girlfriend.
Or did he?
As it happened, Marcus was with me soon after. I asked him why he broke up with Madeline.
Was it because she came to see me, and he was not there?
“No, no, I get that,” he said. “You two needed that time together, especially after my visits with her. That was really okay with me.”
“Really? You’re sure? You weren’t jealous?”
“No,” Marcus said, cutting a cigar. “Okay, yes, of course, I would have loved to see her. But I understand. And that’s not what this is about.”
“So what? Tell me.”
Marcus passed me the cigar. I put it in my mouth, and he lit it.
“I am just not interested in having her as a girlfriend.”
He took another cigar for himself.
“Marcus, you adore her.”
“I know, I know, I do . . . but the ‘girlfriend’ thing is different.”
“Baby doll, you pushed the girlfriend thing. I mean, you introduced her to your kids and family as your ‘girlfriend.’ So why quit that?”
“You have to understand, Jefferson.“ He lit his cigar. “I felt that way about her. I had to tell my family.”
“And you no longer feel that way?”
“I do, of course I do.”
“I don’t get it, Marcus. You say it’s not about jealousy, and you say you have feelings for her, but . . .”
“Look, what I said was, it’s not about you and her. I mean, it’s a factor. You have feelings for her too, and obviously I don’t want to stand in the way of that. But we all seem to be dealing with that, and so it’s not the central factor.”
“Yes, but . . .”
“And I said, I have very strong feelings for her. That doesn’t change.” He took a drag on his cigar.
He voice was rising. He was agitated.
I sipped my bourbon.
We let a moment pass.
“It’s just,” he said, lowering his cigar. “It’s like this—I can not have a girlfriend I can’t touch. I can’t have a girlfriend who is just a voice on the phone, or an email, or whatever. I need someone I can feel.” He took a drag on his cigar. “That’s a girlfriend.”
I understood this.
Marcus lives very much in the moment. In this moment of his life, he lives in a rural area with his children. He is a sex worker in a nearby city, and he is booked solid.
He has children. He is never lacking for love.
He has sex. He is never lacking for touch.
What he needs, what he misses, is a lover.
What he needs a girlfriend.
And then he met Madeline.
She shares his reality as a parent, she matches his sense of adventure in sex, and she cares for him and his best friend, yours truly, the boyfriend they share.
Yet she is so damned far away.
She can’t live so far away and fulfill his everyday needs for a girlfriend.
And so he broke up with her.
“I understand that,” I said, putting down my glass. “It makes a lot of sense to me, actually. But let me ask you something. You still have feelings for Madeline.”
“Yes,” he puffed smoke towards the street. “Of course, you know that.”
“And would you see her again?”
“And if you saw her, would you have sex, and be caring, and all that?”
“Yes.” He took another drag on his cigar. “Of course.”
Everything was the same.
He just didn’t want to surrender the label of “girlfriend” to one so far away.
Soon after, I instant messaged Madeline. She huffed about Marcus.
Madeline: He is dumping me over semantics.
Maybe so, Madeline.
But if I hear heard him right, you still have two boyfriends.
Madeline sorted through the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Marcus never stopped calling her every day.