“So… what are you saying? Exactly?” Nathan asks. JR sighs, rubbing one hand down the side of his face.
“I’m saying that I think we need to reexamine things. I’m a year out from my Olympics, Nathan. A year. I made the National team tonight, and surprisingly the World Cup Team for WC5 and WC6. I’m headed to both Russia and Germany in February. If I do well I’ll get to go to Hungary for World Championships in March. It’s time to buckle down. I have to focus.”
“And I’m a distraction?” Nathan asks. JR sighs, shaking his head. He looks at Nathan’s face, sad and confused on the computer screen.
“No. I’m not saying that. I’m just accepting the way things are now. I think you should too.”
“How can I do that, JR, when I don’t understand what you’re talking about?” Nathan asks. He’s getting short tempered. JR stares at him, thinking carefully about how to say this.
“I’m saying that things aren’t working out,” he watches Nathan’s frown deepen. “Nathan… I know you’re more self-aware than this.” When Nathan doesn’t respond JR fights back a second sigh at his stubbornness. “Ok, I guess I’ll have to spell it out for you,” he says swallowing thickly, his throat tight with emotion. “When we were in London, I knew things were going to have to change. The end of the Summer Games always means the build up for the Winter Games starts to intensify. Moving here, to Utah, was necessary. You said you understood that. You said you supported me, that you’d come with me,” Nathan’s head tilts back in exasperation.
“I know I said that, but JR,” he says but JR shakes his head cutting him off.
“Please let me finish?” he asks. Nathan nods, his arms crossing over his chest in a defensive move that makes JR’s heart hurt. “I know how busy you are. You have promotional appearances, charity functions, interviews and photo shoots, training. I get it, Nathan. I’m not angry with you. I understand. That’s why I’m doing this.”
“You still haven’t told me what it is you’re doing,” Nathan says, his voice hard.
“I think we need to take a break,” JR says. Nathan squints at his computer screen.
“You’re breaking up with me?” Nathan asks, his tone hurt. “Over Skype?” that part comes out indignant.
“It’s not like I’ve had the opportunity to do it in person, Nathan. Since you’ve cancelled the last three planned trips out to see me!” JR snaps back. He shakes his head groaning and rubbing at the back of his neck. “This isn’t how I wanted this to go,” JR says softly.
“Well I’m sorry I’m not taking this the way you expected me too, JR. Considering you’re breaking up with me over fucking Skype!” Nathan replies.
“I don’t want to break up with you, Nate. I’m in love with you. I want to be with you. But short track is my life just like swimming is yours. Going to the Sochi Games, finally getting gold, those are my dreams. And I only have so much time to get there. I have to be here. I have to be competing. And I can’t do that in California. You said you got that. You said you understood. That Worlds didn’t mean the same as an Olympics. That you could split your time between here and Berkeley. But you haven’t, Nathan. You haven’t come out here. Not once. It’s been 4 months! I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep pretending I’m in a relationship when I don’t feel like I am. You make plans with me and then you cancel them. I ask if you want me to come to Golden Goggles. You say no. You’ll be too busy. I haven’t seen you since I left London. And I get it. Nathan I really do. I get that you’re busy. I get that doing so well in London has changed everything for you. I’m happy for you. I’m proud of you. But I don’t think continuing to be with you is good for me. And right now, at this stage in my life, I need things to be about me. At least some of the time.” JR looks away swallowing thickly before continuing to speak.
“Maybe if I wasn’t still competing I’d be ok with everything being about you and your career. Because it was easy when I was just in school, Nathan. It was so easy being with you when I was in the same place, and only your travel and competition schedule was a factor. But that’s not reality. And I love you Nathan, but I’m not giving up short track for you. Just like you won’t give up swimming for me. I can’t ask that of you. So I think we need to just stop.” By the time JR’s gotten it all out he’s got tears on his cheeks, and he’s out of breath from speaking so quickly. He lets his elbow rest on the desk in front of his computer, cradling his forehead in his palm. He looks tired, broken. “I’m sorry, Nathan. I just can’t.”
“I don’t want this to be over. I love you. You know I do!” Nathan protests.
“I know. I love you too. But this isn’t working Nathan. And if you stopped and thought about it you’d know I’m right. You’d understand what I’m saying. You’d agree with me,” JR says.
“I wouldn’t. I don’t agree with this. I can’t agree with losing you!” Nathan replies.
“You aren’t losing me, Nathan. I’m not leaving you for someone else. I’m not breaking up with you because you’re a bad person, or because I don’t love you. I’m ending this because it’s only going to keep hurting both of us. I’m sorry to do this right before Christmas, but I know you cancelled your trip home and I wanted to talk to you before I called your sister.”
“Why would you be calling Donella?” Nathan asks, clearly confused. JR sighs, and visibly fights not to roll his eyes.
“Because I was invited to Christmas dinner at your Mom and Dad’s, even though you aren’t going to be there. Because they consider me family now and I’m expected to come hang out that day and play with the baby, and open presents. And I can’t just not show up without giving them an explanation. I’m sorry but I couldn’t stomach the idea of forcing myself to go over there and eat dinner with them like I did last year and the year before, pretending like everything is perfectly normal. It says something about a relationship, Nathan, when I see your family more often than I see you.” He looks away from the screen. “Look I have to go. I’m flying home to Washington tomorrow morning. My parents will be here soon. Don’t…” he trails off.
“Don’t what?” Nathan asks quietly, sounding broken.
“Don’t call me for a little while, ok? This sucks for me too, Nate. I just need some time, ok?” JR explains. Nathan just stares at him. “Goodbye, Nathan.”
JR signs off without getting any sort of a response.