So, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m going to tell a story in pieces. This way I can get this motherfucking blog back into the swing of shit. This story is about a recent relationship, how it went wrong (or something), what I learned about myself from the experience (or something). And HOPEFULLY, someone in the same situation can read this and recognize themselves in it, and gain some tiny bit of comfort. Or maybe it’ll just quiet mah brain fever for a sec.
We meet. Or, more like she’s there and I’m there and my friend (her roommate) Sarah is there with her boyfriend Luke. She seems shy and apprehensive, but I don’t have much natural opportunity to casually interact with her, so I could be projecting. I’m nervous. Her name isn’t Marge.
So, Sarah has finally (finally?!) brought us together after much “you two would really hit it off” preamble. We’ll all be seeing some old animated French film I could give two shits about. My face is flush and I’m uncomfortably warm, sweat stands out on my forehead. I’m hyper-aware of every stumble and misstep (literal and figurative) the whole night. My brain is running way too fast.
Don’t make her uncomfortable. Don’t weird her out. What if she doesn’t like you? Definitely don’t force yourself into her presence, give her breathing room. Stop looking creepy. Minimize the weird set-up vibe. You aren’t here to make out with her, no pressures. Show her how unpressuring you can be. But also how smart and funny. Without looking like you care if she notices. You’re failing.
The girls have their popcorns and Sarah’s man is scouting ahead for seats. I hold the door open to let them through and Marge freezes, uncertain. Waiting, no words. Suddenly in the spotlight, I mumble something meant to reassure. “Don’t worry, I do this for everyone. It’s not like I don’t think you can open the door for yourself. You aren’t helpless. I mean, I guess I’ll just go in oookaaaay. I won’t do it again.” Is close to what I say. I’m practically floating above my body watching the massacre.
What’s going on with me, I wonder as we take our seats. My anxiety level does not match the situation, and my normally calm cool collected/suave charming interesting-bachelor personality has fled. Left. In his place is an earnest eager to please and get out of the way dork. I don’t know it now, but I’ve fallen for her. Ridiculous, right? But for some reason the stakes are crazy high and my body knows it, even if my head doesn’t. In the future, maybe I’ll know that the collapse of my cool is a signal that SOMETHING IS HAPPENING. And maybe in the future I’ll run.
Back to the thing in progress. After approximately seventeen eternities, the movie ends. We’re all out in the cold night, poking around for a bar but they don’t exist around Lincoln Center, and I somehow manage to talk us into a train to the East Village. Sarah’s man Luke leads us to a bar. It’s a pretty great spot, like the bar version of a grande dame fallen on hard times. Plus it’s up some stairs! Super New York. We grab a seat at a table. And this is when I decide Marge isn’t for me. She’s almost single-mindedly focused on Luke. All her laughs are for things he says, she gets the same beer he does (twice), Sarah and I hardly register.
No big deal, I think to myself, and I focus on enjoying the night. I’d been prepped for this possibility by Sarah (we won’t go into that here), and it’s just a mild surprise to see. In general, the company’s great, and so what if it’s not a love connection. I have my hands full disentangling myself from OK Cupid and Tinder bullshit.
We go eat at Veselka and my chances don’t seem to improve. And I’m lying to myself. It does sort of bother me that I’m not the focus of Marge’s attention. She’s compelling but I’m not sure why, other than that she’s cute and smiles. So I compensate by drinking more than everyone else. Everything winds down and we all end up on a train back to Brooklyn. They are all headed to the same house, and I’ll have to transfer soon. Marge is making me nervous and sweaty again, and I realize I need to at least try to have a conversation with her. So I take the seat next to her and make a pathetic attempt. Did I mention she’s got an accent? Her voice is sugary and exotic and I realize I’m following very little of her responses to my questions. Like the listening equivalent to staring at someone’s mouth while they talk. The extra booze was a mistake.
My stop comes and I’m gone, scurrying back to my dark corner of exile. All in all, I rate my chances at an actual date with Marge fairly low. I spend the rest of the evening musing on my changing fortunes with the ladies, and how I may be becoming obsolete. Aged out of the game. Too old and too jaded to match the fresh new crop of young bucks like Luke who are captivating the womenz.
The next day Sarah asks me if I want her to see if Marge will give me her phone number (I know, complicated). I say what the hell, and she does, and Marge says sure. So. There I am. Number in hand. What’s my move now?