I know this perfectly adorable couple. Their vacation pictures on Facebook look like an advertisement for Love, or possibly teeth whiteners. In the Florida sunshine, her elfin face peeps over his shoulder, his lips pressed against her, the ocean vast behind them. Of all the fish in the sea, of which there are reportedly many, they have found one another and they radiate benevolent delight. It’s a Relationship, and from where I’m sitting, it looks enticing.
Of course, who knows what is actually happening when they are at home and no one can see them. Maybe they argue, pelting one another with garbage.
There should be a word for the vague sense of embarrassment I feel after going out for the night for other humans, clumsily attempting to connect with other people the way everyone else seems to be doing on Facebook. I go to see this guy’s band play, this guy I like. I must like him, because for the last week I have been curiously closed-mouthed about the whole thing; I am disinclined to even assign him a pseudonym for the blog. Feels jinxy.
I want to see him all week, on high-alert for his texts, but on the train, en route to hang out with him in person, all I want to do is turn around and go back home. I just washed three weeks worth of yoga clothes and there is now an enormous bag of clean laundry in the hallway and that is a very comfortable place to sit. Also, I found a Raymond Carver book in the garbage. All I want is to stay home on my laundry throne and read my garbage-book. Simple pleasures.
Instead, I am forcing myself to try to reach across the fathomless distances that exist between me and other people, but it’s hard to sink hooks into him. This is a person who has solved the New York Times crossword puzzle for the last 23 days in a row. He is too smart for me.
All week I have been explaining to him about things like how I just want to stay home burrowed in laundry and how I can’t help mortifying myself at every turn when I walk out my front door. My friend Court asks me to send her a picture of him and I text back: his awesomeness doesn’t translate in photos—kind of chubby and bearded. I am then 90% sure I texted this message to the guy by accident, and want to throw my phone and myself into traffic. I think of Sketch’s imaginary epitaph for his tombstone: Well that was long and mortifying. I have begun proposing my own epitaph: People from Connecticut didn’t like her. You know the people I’m talking about. Normal people, the ones who aren’t dying of embarrassment every second.
This guy, this guy that I am so drawn to, his family is from New Haven. He is a person from Connecticut. And yet I try. At the bar, I lean into his shoulder when I talk to him, my hand on his arm. He has a Kierkegaard allusion tattooed there. And still, he doesn’t touch me back. My entire spine is a run of flop-sweat.
“What did you want to happen?” Court will ask me later.
I wanted something. A moment. I wanted to feel that moment where someone looks at you and actually sees you, pronounces your real name, and is there with you, and likes you, even if they are from Connecticut and people from Connecticut don’t like you.
It doesn’t come out that way. There is no moment, even though I am so nervous that my stomach lurches into full rebellion; it normally only gets that bad when sex is imminent, and nothing like that is going down. All that happens is I drink a watery iced tea with some of his friends, and I watch his band play their entire set, and I get a ride home in a crowded car where I have a conversation with the back of his head. As we flee Manhattan over the 59th Street bridge, this guy I like is telling us about his dentist. She is apparently stupendously hot. Now, granted, I once fucked my dentist, but that is not the sort of detail you share when you’re into somebody, and I arrive at the depressing realization that while this guy might enjoy being under the heated lamps of my lusty gaze, he just isn’t into me.
I’m left feeling the way you do when you’re waiting and waiting and waiting and w-a-i-t-i-n-g for your coke dealer and finally he calls to say that he isn’t coming, and you’re not getting high tonight after all. It’s a particular type of disappointment, one where you know you are better off, and it’s still no consolation.
And outside it is cold and gray and blank in New York as we count down towards midnight and the New Year, and Court reminds me that just yesterday I had said I would be fine with just being friends with the smart man from Connecticut. That is in fact a thing that I said; there will be a couple of days of feeling disappointed and then I will lose interest, my addict brain casting about for a better fix. I’ll be vaguely pleased to see him in social situations—we have a handful of mutual friends.
And anyway, what about Sketch? You already have someone, Court points out, like that ever filled a void.
The next day I text the man a picture of somebody’s gorgeous blond dachshund in a Starbucks because we recently had a whole conversation about my contempt for short-legged dogs. I love a good sweeping pronouncement; it’s just that I tend to make them prematurely. I don’t ever like short-legged dogs, I declare. Except for that one.
One of my favorite sweeping pronouncements about myself is that I am good with handling rejection; my brain very helpfully begins pointing out flaws and drawbacks the moment it senses someone not liking me back. And thus my brain now protectively reminds me: who knows how it would have turned out? Maybe in six months, I would have been blogging about the rotten sex, and missing Sketch. Most likely, he would have hated the idea of this blog. He would have made me miserable, probably.
Besides, as I have pronounced sweepingly: I am not a relationship person. Or at least I won’t be, until I am.
And so instead Sketch and I go up to Boston to see the Vermeer/Rembrandt show at the MFA before it wraps, and we take selfies in front of grimacing sculpture, pulling matching horrible faces. After a week of worrying about another man, I slide comfortably back into my spot under Sketch’s arm. We are not the most adorable couple, and I do not put the pictures up on Facebook, but it is plenty. Once I accidentally call him my boyfriend, and he does not correct me, and we come back to 2016 New York with new inside jokes.