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The Pullback

by David Levinson
January 25, 2006
The Pullback
The crush was clear the moment Sandra met Vince that Sunday afternoon, though it wasn't until later that night, when she took the elevator up to Vince's apartment and found him waiting at the door, that Sandra understood the enormity of her attraction. She wasn't sure what to expect as she stepped into the rather sparse apartment, but knew she'd been thinking of Vince since they'd parted on a busy corner in Manhattan. She hadn't wanted to leave him there, but had already made other plans for dinner.

"Call me when you're done," Vince had said and Sandra, wanting to see him again, did just that.

Their sex was explosive and unparalleled and Sandra stayed that night, though when they separated in the morning, neither spoke of seeing the other again, which baffled Sandra, even as she watched Vince move away from her and join the hurrying crowd, all of them off to work. Sandra, who'd just gotten out of a relationship, was already thinking about the next time they'd meet up, though there was no indication, at least on Vince's part, of this future date. In fact, as Sandra wandered home, dazed and happy, even glowing, her heart shriveled a little. What if she'd waited a little longer to have sex with Vince? What if, instead of seeing him again that same night, she'd held out for another date? Can casual sex lead to anything more than that?

When she heard from Vince later that day, she wasn't as surprised as relieved, even though he was sketchy and elusive about their follow-up date. As a woman of focus and clarity, Sandra understood then that if she wanted to see Vince again, she'd have to push a little to pin him down, not something she particularly wanted to do, but what choice did she have? Overcome with the memory of their first date and the amazing sex, Sandra wrangled another date with Vince that weekend, which eventually led to several months of such meetings, sometimes as often as four times a week. Too much? Sandra didn't think so, but when Vince called her on a late Wednesday night, many months into the relationship, to tell her he needed the weekend to himself, Sandra was distraught. How could this person, who'd expressed such interest, sexually and emotionally, in her not want to be around her all the time? What hadn't Sandra been able to glean from their post-coital conversations that might've alerted her to the fact that Vince wasn't ready to engage on a deeper, more meaningful level? Perhaps if she'd listened more closely to what Vince had been telling her along—"I don't want a girlfriend," for example—Sandra might've been more able to deal with her lover's pullback. Because that's just what it was, especially when I explained it to her.

"It's classic," I said. "He got too attached to you and it scared him." While this explanation made sense, Sandra still found it difficult to believe that Vince needed an entire weekend away. "What you can't be is angry at him for being honest with you. It's obvious he likes you. I mean, look at how much time he spends with you and you have great sex, right?" She agreed. "Then give him this time. I promise you'll hear from him again."

That Monday, Sandra got a call from Vince asking her if she wanted to go to dinner that week. The crisis over, she put it to rest, hoping that it was a one-off, that it might not happen again. But about a month later, it happened again, though not in the same way.

The two went to a party together on the Upper West Side and though Vince wasn't acting unusual that night, when he told Sandra that he was heading to another party, alone, Sandra was taken aback all over again.

"I told you to pace yourself," I said, scolding her. "You can't see him as much as you have been. Twice a week! Repeat after me: twice a week. Limit your contact. It's not a game. This is real. If you want to keep him, you have to let him pull back—and you have to pull back as well."

Vince's pullback might not be indicative of anything more than his need for space, to sort out the pros and cons of his desire (or lack of desire) for Sandra. The hardest part, of course, is being Sandra, of not knowing what the pullback really means. But it seems to me that pullbacks are really just tiny goodbyes, a way for someone to see if he can live without you, if you cross his mind more than once a day. The hope, of course, is that the person pulling back realizes he can't live without you, that in pulling away, he hasn't been able to fill up the missing hours you once occupied.

A pullback isn't the end of the world, but when it comes, be prepared. Fill up your days and nights with activities, don't obsess, and keep the worrying to a minimum. If he's meant to come back, he will. If not, the city's full of men who might be more willing and available to risk what it takes to see you on any terms.

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"David Levinson is a young writer who has mastered all the elements that make up a classically structured short story: drama, suspense, humor, empathy. There are no fancy pyrotechnics or meta-fictional devices here. He's a neo-traditionalist so the stories are direct, emotional and compulsively readable, plus there's enough mystery and action in them to propel at least a dozen novels."<br>Bret Easton Ellis