By: Kivrin Wilson

I’m going to ask him.

Is this the opening I’ve been waiting for? I definitely wouldn’t be going too far off topic.

My stomach twists, and I chicken out. Then I’m scrambling for what to say, finally blurting out, “Speaking of domination…Mario Kart?”

He gives me a teasing smile. “Sure. If you’re in the mood to be spanked.”

Oh, my God. My breath stutters in my chest. Was that intentional innuendo?

“In your dreams,” I somehow manage to shoot back, deciding it best to pretend he means it figuratively. Grabbing the remote again, I turn on the game while Jay plucks the Wii controllers out of the little side table drawer.

I want to ask him. How do I ask him?

As we press the buttons to set up our characters and choose the racetracks, a safer approach occurs to me, a way to test the waters. Casually, I say, “By the way, Angela, my friend from work, keeps asking me to introduce you to her.”

Jay frowns, though he doesn’t take his eyes off the screen. “Why?”

“Because she’s seen the pictures I’ve posted of you on Facebook, and she thinks you’re hot.”

Which is more or less true. Angela, a nurse in the ob-gyn office where I work, likes to talk about hooking up with guys more than actually doing so, but I have no doubt she’d go out with Jay if given half a chance.

“She sounds kind of desperate,” Jay responds with a grunt. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Nothing,” I reassure him, because my favorite coworker is a beautiful, outgoing, and fun woman—who really doesn’t need me to play matchmaker.

And Jay would probably already know what she looks like if he were on Facebook, but he’s not. He says that’s because there’s too much drama and ugly behavior on the social media site, but I’ve always suspected it’s somehow related to the reason he always goes all vague and evasive when I ask him about his family.

With a twist of my lips, I add, “Unless you have something against dating single moms.”

Jay throws me a squinty look. “She has a kid?”

“She has two. And two ex-husbands.”

“Yeah,” he says, rolling his eyes, “I’m not that brave. Not looking to meet anyone, anyway.”

He’s not? I suppose I knew that, because as far as I’m aware, he hasn’t even been on a date in a really long time.

And for some reason, I feel like this was exactly how I wanted him to respond to this topic.

On the TV, the countdown begins, and then our vehicles take off down the racetrack to the sound of revving engines and fast-paced music. I navigate the track with little effort, because we’ve played this so much that the motions have programmed themselves into my fingers, and I’m pretty sure it’s the same for Jay.

This is our drug of choice on weekend evenings. While other people in their mid-twenties are out partying, we stay in and play video games that we take way too seriously. Is that weird? Maybe. But at least we’re being weird together.

Ask him, ask him, ask him.

Well, it got me nowhere to mention Angela—whose talk about Jay was the first thing that put this idea into my head—but maybe I can still get there from here?

I’m winding up my courage with a quiet, deep breath while my cartoon character on the screen keeps pace with his, and then the words tumble out. “I actually realized I get annoyed when she talks about wanting to meet you. Which reminded me of this article I read online about a study done at a college in Canada that showed men and women can’t be just friends.”

“Uh-huh,” Jay says, smirking with his eyes still glued to the TV. “I thought we’d had this discussion already, too. You were supposed to stop believing everything you read on the Internet.”

“I don’t,” I retort, turning my controller along with the curves and bends in the track. “But that’s not the point. It was a scientific study. I just thought it was interesting.”

Jay snorts. He does that a lot. “How exactly are horny college students interesting or even relevant to anything?”

“It made me think about it, that’s all.” I’m trying so hard not to sound defensive. He can smell weakness like sharks smell blood. “I mean, we’ve been friends for, what…six years?”

For a while the only sounds in the room are the frenzied bleeps and dings from the TV speakers. I have no idea if he’s thinking about the answer or if he’s just concentrating on the game. We’ve reached the trickiest part of this track, and I’m right on his ass. If I can just get a useful weapon to take him out, or if he’ll make the tiniest of mistakes, I’ll pass him and take the lead.