It’s not the same when you’re apart.
There are the obvious ways that’s true: the funniest jokes aren’t necessarily the ones that are funny over the phone; video calls pixelate over blink-and-you-miss-it expressions; there are some things that don’t bear being written down.
And then there are the less obvious ways: the same people are different people depending on where they are. You’re not the same Chris and he’s not the same Zach. Your Zach likes takeout tacos and action movies and the blood-temperature swill you drink when you’ve been holding your glass of red in your hand for too long.
This Zach grooms himself like a chemistry teacher (it’s ugly and you hate it) and makes fun of the decisions you make when he’s not there.
Wednesday wasn’t a mistake, but Zach makes you feel like she was. Your schedule is too busy, he says, and who is going to watch her if you have another shoot that goes as long as Wonder Woman? She’s not a small dog, she won’t fit in your sister’s apartment and your parents won’t be able to handle a dog with that much energy. It’s not fair to her.
If only you had a partner, he doesn’t say but might as well have. If only you had someone permanent in your life like me. Like I do, he might correct himself if he’d said it, but he doesn’t.
It’s not a criticism, but it is. You stay in too much, then you work too much; you dress too strangely. You obviously can’t be trusted to make these choices, you obviously need someone around to keep an eye on you. Zach’s already said that person can’t be him, so what does he want from you?
It’s the same on every call, but tonight—after the screen goes dark and Zach can’t see your face anymore—you feel different.
It’s not fair to always be on the receiving end of his quiet-but-stern admonishments. Working hard and owning a dog aren’t crimes, and you certainly don’t need his gentle reprimands to see the error of your ways. What error? What ways?
Maybe if he were sitting at your kitchen counter, drinking your wine and laughing about how ridiculous it is to adopt a dog as exuberant as Wednesday, maybe then he could say what he likes. But he’s not and he won’t ever be and you’ll show him what it means to make a fucking stupid decision.
You’d bought the electric razor to experiment with when you’d grown tired of keeping a pristine Hollywood scruff. Zach had laughed when you showed up to the premiere with a moustache and beard that defied convention, laughed and hugged you and told you how wild you looked. And you’d hugged him back and laughed, too.
But you know he won’t laugh this time. He’s a different person, now. And you are, too. You can’t hear the buzz of the razor as it starts over the roar of the white noise in your ears. He won’t laugh at you when you get back to your hotel room. There is no hotel room. He won’t laugh while running fingers through your hair as it fans against the white pillow where he’s got you pinned.
Instead, your hair falls in chunks against the white of the sink and your shoulders start to itch where the spiky offcuts are irritating your skin. He won’t laugh, and you’re not laughing either.
Your next press event is soon. There’ll be plenty of photographers. You won’t have to wait long.
Zach calls to tell you what a fool you’ve been, but at least he calls.