LET’S MAKE A DEAL
by Nikki Munoz
“I want to renegotiate the terms of our relationship.”
What the actual fuck?
“I say this because I genuinely want to be your friend. I just don’t want to pursue a romantic relationship anymore,” Reed says, in a distinct and weird business-like voice that is so distant from what he actually sounds like that I can’t fully focus on what he’s saying.
And ‘renegotiate’? Are we reevaluating a fucking business deal?
He’s looking at me expectantly, with a blank expression on his face and no depth in those eyes of his that are usually so emotion-filled. He’s sitting in my desk chair, with his leg crossed over his other and his hands folded together in his lap and he looks like some vague business man giving an intern the time of day in his fancy office.
I didn’t know coldness could be so visibly depicted until now.
I guess I need to say something. “Alright.”
Reed raises his eyebrows at me. The first hint of him that I’ve seen today; he does that when he doesn’t know what to say. I guess his speech practicing didn’t prepare him for a lack of talking on my part. Silence isn’t exactly typical for me.
I can’t take him just staring at me. I say, “This is sudden.” I avoid his eye contact like the plague and fidget on my bed.
I look at him now and nod. “Yeah.”
“I, uh—sudden. What do you mean, sudden?”
What does he mean what do I mean? Two days ago we spent the day in bed, having sex and talking for hours until I thought my voice would give out. I had never felt closer to him and didn’t realize I could feel so strongly when it wasn’t being felt by the other person too.
“I mean, we see each other all the time. Nothing has been different in the past week then it was in the beginning.”
“Yeah,” he nods, stoically, all emotion absent from him again. “I mean, how long has it even been?”
Is there a worse thing he could have said just now?
I shrug and furrow my eyebrows together and take a long pause to feign thinking about it. “A few months, I guess.”
“Yeah.” He nods again in that stoic way that is starting to drive me insane. “I don’t know what to say to that. I’m sorry it seems sudden.”
I scoot myself back farther on my bed. “Alright.”
He raises his eyebrows at me again and I want to close my eyes to avoid feeling that stare of his.
“I just think—” He starts again.
“I want to know why. You haven’t said.”
He nods. “Of course. I just don’t feel romantically enough toward you. I like you very much as a person . . .”
Reed continues but I lose track of what he’s saying, as I start to sink deeper into myself, a numbness that taking me over from the inside out.
I think he just complimented me — you’re a (insert adjective) (insert adjective) (insert adjective) person. Each adjective making his sentiment less and less genuine. Being overly verbose is just a way to make something fake seem real.
He’s staring at me again, he must have finished up Part 2 of his negotiation speech. I’m sure he anticipated having to address the “why” question.
“Alright. I . . . get it.”
“I want to reiterate how serious I am about wanting to be your friend. It’s not an empty statement, I mean it, truly. I’ve broken up with people and people have broken up with me and it’s something that’s always said and it’s always empty, but it’s not empty now. I can’t stress that enough.”
Yeah, but he’s overly stressing. Overly compensating again, I don’t believe his sincerity at all. It’s not empty, it’s not empty, it’s not empty. But I’ve never seen someone act in such an obviously empty way. I feel like I could pick him up effortlessly right now, throw him over my shoulder and carry him out of my apartment. He’s so glaringly hollow.
“I don’t know about being friends,” I manage to get out. “I guess I would have to think about it.”
I can’t think of anything more unpleasant, actually. Like yeah, let me just come over and hang out with you on the couch we’ve had sex on. That sounds fun, right?
Reed nods. Again. “Of course. And I’m leaving that entirely up to you.”
Wow. You’re so generous.
Reed sighs, leaning forward on his knees now. “I really do care about you, but I felt like I needed to do this. And I wanted to do it in person, of course. Over text would have been so flat.”
Do you want a fucking medal for being a decent human being? Of course he did it in person; you can’t make a business deal over text.
I nod, long and slow, really emphasizing the fact that I’m nodding. All of his excessive nodding put into one. He doesn’t know I’m making fun of him but it pleases me. “Okay.”
He (surprise, surprise) nods and leans back into the chair. He raises his eyebrows at me and I focus on not screaming.
“So,” he says, “should I go now?”
No, actually, this seems like a good time to watch a movie together. Don’t you think?
“Yeah, Reed. You should go.”
He nods and stands up and I drag myself off my bed. He’s standing off to the side, like he doesn’t know how to open the fucking door himself. I avoid eye contact, walking past him, to open it for us and lead him out through the living room to the front door.
As I’m opening it for him, he says, “So, contact me if you want to. If you don’t, I’ll understand.”
Contact me. Yeah, I’ll have my people call your people.
I nod and open the door wider. He steps through, giving me the most forced smile I’ve ever seen in my life.
Is he going to shake my hand now? Close the deal?
He begins walking down the hallway.
“Wait,” I call out. “Reed, wait.”
He turns around and raises his eyebrows again.
“Wait a second, okay?”
I don’t wait for an answer before turning and heading back into my room where the book that I borrowed from him is sitting on my desk. I’ve been meaning to give it back — I finished it ages ago — but I hadn’t felt any rush.
I walk back toward the front door and see him standing with his hands in his pockets barely on the other side of the doorway, lingering vacant expression. This is the last image that I’ll have of him.
“I was speaking emptily before,” I say as I approach him. “I don’t need to think about anything, I don’t want to be your friend, so this is it.” I hold out the book to him and look straight into those blank eyes. “Thank you for David Foster Wallace and Neutral Milk Hotel.”
He looks down at the book, hesitating. He looks back up at me and I see a glimpse of some kind of substance in his eyes — nothing I can place, but it’s there. He looks back down to the book, grabbing it, finally.
I shut the door before he can say anything else and lock it behind me.
About the Author:
Nikki Munoz is currently a student at University of California, Berkeley where she is working on her Bachelor’s in English, with a minor in Journalism. When she is not working on her creative fiction, she is writing for the Daily Californian’s Arts and Entertainment section, focusing on theater. For her fiction, she is interested in pulling both from her own life and those around her to create realistic fiction that is compelling in the mundane.