Marlboro Boys

“Hey, how’s it going?” I ask my newest neighbor as I arrive home from work in the early evening. She is strikingly beautiful. Her wild curly hair frames a heart –shaped face, her pale green eyes are fringed with thick, long lashes. She is 30, maybe 35.

She draws on a Marlboro light. “Well,” she says, glancing up at me from her perch on the outside steps that lead to our adjacent second floor units, “Considering I don’t smoke and I’m out here smoking, and I’ve already had two glasses of wine, not so great.”


“You?” She asks, seemingly interested despite her obvious melancholy.

“Not terrible,” I answer, then add, “You going to be out here for another few minutes? I just need to ditch these shoes for flip flops.”

“Yeah, I could use some girl talk.”

“About a boy?” I ask, but I already know.

“I only smoke when it’s about a boy,” she laughs, but the laugh doesn’t quite touch her eyes that are bright with tears.

“Give me two minutes,” I tell her.

It takes me less than a minute to change into shorts and a T-shirt, pour myself a glass of wine, clip the leash on Rouletta’s collar and head outside. My neighbor is lighting another cigarette.

“So, what happened?” I ask her as I take a sip of wine. Rouletta settles down beside me. We are three girls side-by-side on the steps.

“Too much p—y too soon,” she says in a blunt, matter-of-fact tone that should sound vulgar but doesn’t. “I broke the six-month rule big time. What was I thinking?” She shakes her head.

Six-month rule?

“I mean I know that a guy likes the hunt. I know that! If you make them wait six months and they are still around, then they’re into YOU, not just your p—y.” She pauses. “Why, why did I forget that?”

Does everyone know this rule?

“So, how long has it been since, you know, you heard from him?” I ask my neighbor. I know I am treading on tentative ground here, and I don’t really know her well enough to ask, but she seems desperate to talk.

“Don’t laugh.”

“I won’t!”


It’s funny, sometimes yesterday can seem like a long time ago when you are used to texts and quick calls multiple times in a morning and more again that afternoon, before you can’t wait to see each other that evening. Sometimes, silence since yesterday can feel almost final.

“Do you know why he hasn’t called or anything?”

“Like I said, too much, too soon. And the real problem? I actually really like this guy. He kind of swept me off my feet out of nowhere. It was amazing,” says my neighbor, bending to grind out her cigarette on the step below. “But now, I just know. A girl just knows when she knows. And I don’t think I will hear from him again.”

“No, no. I have a feeling you have not heard the last from him,” I tell her, meaning it.

She shakes her head, and we sit in silence for a moment.

“What about your boy?” she asks, lighting another cigarette. “You two seem to be doing pretty well.”

When we first met five weeks ago, I too was amazed at how quickly everything unfolded. Being swept off my feet–that’s the phrase that repeatedly came to mind. As did, ‘Careful, you’re playing with fire.’

“Yes, going okay, I guess. I don’t know.”

Yet, in five weeks, we’ve only been out on one planned, pick-you-up-at-eight date for dinner. Oh, sure, I know he’s busy with clients, always. He has had family come to town. He is continually beat from 12-hour work days. But he always calls or texts at least once every day. I mean, not like that first week when it was text and text and text, but we have at least one exchange of communication a day. I never really know, though, is tonight the night we go out, meet for dinner, go to his place to listen to music and he’ll cook–anything resembling a planned get-together before a 10 p.m. “U still up?” text?

My neighbor squints through the smoke of her cigarette at me. “Trouble in paradise? But he seemed so nice that one time he just showed up and we were all hanging out outside your place. You were so surprised, I’ll never forget that.”

“Yeah, that was really wonderful, that night he surprised me,” I agree.

Was that also the night I felt the balance tip from his eager pursuit to my hopeful expectation for something more? Was that the night I wondered if it all wasn’t happening too fast and how this being swept off one’s feet–as fun as it felt–was blurring my sense of me and my ideals and what I really wanted, if anything, from this boy? From anything?

My neighbor sighs, and I can tell she is thinking again about her own unhappy situation.

“Anyway, I still think you haven’t heard the last from your guy.” I tell her. “Mark my words, okay?”

She looks at me for a moment. “I hope you’re right. And if you are, I have got to slow it all down! Just so ridiculous, you know?”

Rouletta tugs on her leash and lunges after a tiny lizard. I pull her back and seat her on my lap. My neighbor laughs. I am glad to see her smile again.

“But back to your boy. So all good or no?” she asks me, taking a sip of wine from my glass.

“No, all good, pretty much,” I say, determined to sound like it is. “It’s just that he doesn’t really call to make any plans. I mean, not that you have to always have plans, but, you know.”

“You mean he only calls or texts when he wants some, right?” My neighbor is not known for dancing around a topic, no matter how personal.

I want to put my hands over my ears and sing, “La La La,” as she makes this stark comment. Instead, I smile and then I laugh, “No, no. Not like that.”

Although last night wasn’t so great, last night when my friend and I were having dinner at the bar and he came in on his own after a dinner out with clients, a dinner he said was the reason we couldn’t plan to have dinner together. “If it’s not too late, I’ll call you when we’re done.” And here it was, before 9 p.m., and the dinner had clearly ended early enough so that it wasn’t too late to call. Except he hadn’t.

And it was awkward for me to see him wander in so handsome and confident, into the place where my friend and I were eating. I felt unsure and literally in the way as I watched him greet his guy friends. It was as difficult for me to watch his entrance as it was easy for him to brush a warm kiss on my lips when he walked over to say hello to me, as if we’d planned to meet there at this time all along. Except we hadn’t. Because he hadn’t called when it wasn’t too late.

My neighbor doesn’t buy my determined cheeriness. “Okay, spill it, girl. What’s up?”

“Really, all good,” I tell her. Because I am not positive it isn’t.

He left me to go to the other side of the bar to talk with his guy friends. And my friend said she was headed home. I stood with my half full glass of wine, hugged her goodnight, and walked over to the boy and his friends. I listened as he regaled us about how he had been right in this very bar the night before and something strange and funny had happened with his ex-girlfriend. Except didn’t he tell me the reason we couldn’t get together last night was because he was with family up north? But he was here? Too? What? “Wait, you were here last night?” I asked him, and he laughed and nodded. At least I think he nodded in response to my question, but maybe he was just nodding at something one of his guy friends said. At that moment I kind of panicked and realized, duh, he didn’t call tonight. He didn’t call last night, but he came here to this place we both love on both nights.

I was immediately overcome by the real, but more likely imagined, reality with this boy. In the predictable and inevitable fit of extreme insecurity that followed that thought, I decided: Maybe I am too shy, too inexperienced, too stupid in the ways of dating a handsome, confident man. No wonder he hasn’t called to make plans. He wasn’t even planning on calling me tonight when his client dinner ended. At which point I put my glass of unfinished wine on the bar in front of the boy and said with too much drama, “I need to go home.” And I turned and left before he could say a word.

“If you say it’s all good, then all good,” says my skeptical neighbor.

I did not cry on way home, although I thought I wanted to. I felt too defeated to cry when I later curled up on my sofa with my pup and dragged the throw over both of us and fell asleep still wearing my cute work dress after an exchange of texts that signaled bewilderment on the boy’s part, but that resolved nothing—-the last words from me indicating how I really liked the boy who’d shown up at Mr. Fabulous so soon after we had met, and how I would so enjoy spending time with that boy someday, and his last text saying, “That boy is still around.”

“Hey, I gotta go in,” says my neighbor. “You okay?”

“Yeah, you?”


“Then, here. Catch,” says my neighbor as she stands up while Rouletta and I stay seated.

It’s a cigarette and her tiny lighter.

“But I don’t smoke,” I tell her.

“Neither do I,” she says.






16 responses to “Marlboro Boys”

  1. Kris Avatar

    Oh, how the dating thing sucks.

    We were right, you know, when we said in second grade that boys were weird. They still are.


  2. MenSuck Avatar

    I personally think this guy is a player. I also don’t believe for a second that he was “deathly sick” for that stretch of days the week before when he didn’t call. I would just drop him and move on if I were you. I think you are very brave the way you go on making your own plans and living your own life. I had a similiar situation with a guy I was seeing for a year and my own suspicioins and curiousity got the better of me and my life started becoming more about analyzing his stories and worrying that he was lying. I actually caught him in a few lies similiar to your own situation and that’s when I dropped him. Guys can be such !@#$%!. Most of them seem to be after one thing and if they are handsome and charming they can get it anywhere and they know it. So they don’t invest much effort and behave like selfish clods at times.

  3. Crinklish Avatar

    Sounds like he’s becoming more angst-provoking than he’s worth. If you have to expend all your emotional energy on wondering why he didn’t call, or why he never makes real dates…you don’t have any left to support a real relationship. I think you should make yourself less available to those 10pm texts if they’re no fun anymore. If we’re wrong, and he’s into you, he’ll figure it out and start making plans. And if we’re right, well, better you know now before you turn into a pack-a-day smoker :).

  4. Joe Avatar

    Do what feels right to you… If you don’t know what that is then don’t do anything 🙂 Not helpful but maybe it is…

  5. JoeInVegas Avatar

    Oh, sorry, but yes, there will be other guys. Next 10pm text don’t reply until the next morning.

  6. maureen Avatar

    Have you ever read Dorothy Parkeres Portable ? There is a peice in it called the “Phone Call” It was written in the 1940’s but it could be any women waiting for a phone call today ( phone call that hasn’t come ). the one line that always struck me was” it was so easy to be sweet before I loved him” while I know you probably don’t love BOY Check it out it gives some perspective

  7. k Avatar

    I used to have that way too often. I had so many guys in my life who would send those texts and make last minute plans. I found a guy who’s younger who is head over heals for me and my only worry is that we spend too much time together – all initiated by him… he needs time to grow and I need time apart, but hard to leave that feeling of warmth holding you tight and whispering things like: I’ve never been so happy in my life.
    You’d like to think that stuff never ends…
    When you least expect and respect yourself… the most wonderful things can happen.
    You’re a bright woman, terribly actually, and go with your guts, I don’t think they’ve steered you wrong before 😉

  8. Jessie Avatar

    if you question somebody’s behavior there’s a reason. there are a lot of really charming men in this world who know just what to say and just how to act to make a woman feel special…and it’s hard to resist. Just guard your heart…your love is worth more than any words could express.

  9. mur Avatar

    I’ve come to respect your ability to see below the surface, and am posting to offer an observation, not advice. You are both thoughtful and wise, and you often notice the details that others might dismiss. That’s why you are a good writer, probably. So you’re smart enough to recognize when someone is inconsistent, and smart enough to know when the details don’t add up. The number one goal is to use your wisdom to make good choices.

    If he is where he says he’s going to be when he says he’s going to be there – every time – that is one thing. But if his inconsistencies, his broken half-promises, make you feel forgotten, diminished, and devalued, even briefly, that’s another thing entirely.

    You’ve got the wisdom to know the difference.

  10. Kim Ayres Avatar

    Pah, Men. They’re all bastards! Well, all of them except me, that is. But I’m 5,000 miles away and happily married. All the best ones are. Or they’re gay.

  11. K. Avatar

    “Yet, in five weeks, we’ve only been out on one planned, pick-you-up-at-eight date for dinner. Oh, sure, I know he’s busy with clients, always.”

    Five weeks? How did he manage to keep your attention if he was too “busy” to even take you on a date. You should’ve dropped him week 2.

    It’s not about 6-month rules or men being shitty. It’s about setting standards for yourself and sticking to them. Any guy that can’t make time for you in 5 weeks just isn’t interested in anything serious with you. If a guy goes from consistent to inconsistent – drop him, no questions asked.

    Dating really isn’t complicated when you’re in a good place and with a genuinely good guy.

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