A bit of a running joke has emerged in the era of modern dating. A text message reading, “you have a quick second to chat?” more often than not is meant to reveal a nugget of hard or bad truth. Plenty of times, that truth uncovered is the existence of a sexually transmitted infection.

Such a revelation has three forms of reactions: one of acceptance, understanding and an appreciation for being told the truth so proper medical care can be attained; one of disdain, revulsion and heightened annoyance that he or she was put in such a position; and, more rare, one of fetish for being infected.

When Jonah received a text from Dev to call him quickly, he had a feeling that was the reason. Fun fact: turns out he was right. But it wasn’t anything he hadn’t heard before. Get the meds. Everything always turned out fine.

However, in a not so fun role reversal just under a week later, Jonah had to place the same text to Dev. Jonah, though, didn’t want to talk during work hours, asking if Dev could give him a ring that night.

Jonah didn’t know why he even felt so sure he had to tell Dev what was going on. In reality, they’d only been on one date despite having seen each other multiple times out at bars over a few weeks. But they talked too often and too comfortably for Jonah to keep such a large secret from someone he respected and cared about.

It’s not even a secret, Jonah thought to himself as he crawled onto his bed, fidgeting with his dog tag. I’m making this into too big a deal.

But as was his modus operandi of late, Jonah stopped thinking too hard and pressed on Dev’s contact number.

A ringing. Half a ring –

“Hey there.” Dev’s voice was cheery, albeit definitely a tired cheer.

“Hiya. How was your day?”

Interesting enough small talk ensued for a few minutes before Jonah realized Dev wasn’t pressing him what he was calling about. He was always slightly peeved by people who didn’t do some of the heavy conversation lifting, but he calmed knowing he was the one who asked to talk. Sometimes though, just sometimes he wished someone would put in as much effort as he did.

“So…um, I just wanted to tell you something. It’s not a big deal for you, don’t worry, but it’s just something that if I didn’t tell you I’d feel like I was lying. Especially since I appreciated you calling me last week.”

“It’s okay. You can tell me.”

“The other day I found out…that…my mom’s sick again.”

“Oh. Jonah, I’m so sorry – “

“Yeah so I uh just wanted to tell you. In case I act weird or different. It’s probably the reason.”

“You don’t have to explain anything to me. Unless you want to. You can talk or you can not talk. Whatever feels okay to you. Or I can just keep on filling silence with my own voice.”

In some shape or form, Jonah had hoped that to be what his ears heard. Instead, Dev played fifty questions, asking about all details and feelings, leaving no trivia unanswered. While Dev was right to be curious since Jonah had shared something so personal, he felt as if he was tapped for intel for the sake of having intel. As if for gossip. He didn’t like to think Dev was that person, but he didn’t know why the door had to be flung open when it only needed a crack.

On the other hand, Jonah had a feeling, a hope even, that this admission from him could help them form a stronger bond. They hadn’t been talking very long, but he thought it would be nice to have someone outside his immediate social circle know his circumstances. An objective participant in his life. Who happened to kiss really well.

Not for long. Slowly but surely, Jonah took the thought back in small increments as intimate moments with Dev became less passionate. He always made sure to ask how Jonah’s mom was doing, but there was a level of chore Jonah began to feel in the inquiries. As if there was nothing better to talk about. Than dying.

Wasn’t the point of getting to know someone to, well, get to know more about someone?

This almost became a non-issue as Jonah realized he was making far more of an effort in his own difficult time than Dev was. And he was far too old to put up with that.

While winding down a weekend at Taco Bell, a meal resulting from drunken irritation with his situation, Jonah found his fingers forming a text to the enigma he wanted defined.

Hey. I don’t really know the best way to say this but I’ve been getting mixed signals for a while now, and I don’t really think you’ve been interested in continuing whatever we’re doing. If true, I hope you know I’ve really liked getting to know you, but I wish you’d been honest with me. If not true, I’m sorry for the dramatics but I don’t know what you’re thinking.

Fifteen minutes and a Crunch Wrap Supreme later, a reply came in.

That was a very well written text.

And I know.

Basically I don’t know what I want and don’t think it’s cool to keep talking to you while I figure it out. I didn’t want to do this over text. There’s a lot I’m not saying. Can we meet in person. Not tonight but soon.

With the key word being “almost,” Jonah almost laughed reading those words. His mind was simultaneously shaking with anger. The situation was so cliche and typical, wedging directly in his darkest nightmare. There wasn’t anything else to do but lose control and laugh.

Not only was Jonah having to contend with the eventual slow burn deterioration of his mother’s health, he was battling severe insomnia and attempting to use an unnatural amount of wine to cure it. Throw in feelings for a guy who can’t man up and articulate his own feelings despite having honesty handed to him every moment he asked for it. The combination was going to make Jonah crack. He felt it coming. Mental seams were bursting.

But Dev’s reply did something Jonah didn’t think it would. It almost made him laugh, not at this idiot but himself. Dev had asked to talk further. Jonah didn’t need to. Here he was, stressed about so much without realizing he only had to step out of the equation.

If Dev wasn’t mature enough to vocalize his thoughts on his own, knowing what Jonah was enduring, there wasn’t a point in giving him a platform to now. If Dev wasn’t mature enough to realize earlier that Jonah’s focus should be on his family, not on Dev’s wavering feelings, there wasn’t a point in giving him a platform to now. If Dev wasn’t mature enough to see how selfish he was behaving, trying to remain the good guy, there wasn’t a point in giving him a platform to now.

At the very least, that’s what he should have thought in that moment. Jonah would only have those thoughts months later as he flew home to see his mother.

Jonah left Taco Bell that night, full, exhausted, and annoyed. He sent one more text.

We can talk. Tuesday. My place.