This is about everyone I know, and no one in particular. I believe that we all were, or will be, all of these people, or parts of them, at some point. An exercise in the exemplariness of mimetic desire. The difference between what we want, what we get, and what we need. How wanted and loved we are even when we don't suspect it, and how we keep wanting and loving beyond what we want, get, and need.
“Yours is the kind of face one remembers,” he said to you the night you met.
“Is that good or bad?” you responded predictably, with what was supposed to be a careless confident smile, but he made you weak in the knees right off the bat.
You told your mother about him. You never raised your hopes too high but my God, they didn’t make them like him anymore, and your first names went together so well. Might have been a couple.
Only his hand is on the small of her back now, drawing circles even gentler than you had imagined. They are talking to a group of friends but you sense the attraction between them in this barely perceptible touch from across the room. You weren’t prepared for this, walking into your favorite bar to meet a girl friend after work. You wish you’d had time to fix your make-up and take a deep breath before having your space invaded like this. His friends are crazy about her, you've heard, and she seems so totally cool you might have hung out with her yourself, had he not fallen for her and made it all awkward and impossible.
There was no reason for him not to fall for you. You are smart, educated, you take care of yourself. You are independent and have a career. When you change your profile picture on Facebook, you get at least a hundred likes and comments like “Hott!!!” and “Do you ever age???” You shared his passion for exotic cuisine and cars – you were the cool Nitro chick, Goddamnit. You can shoot a gun and like to go camping. There were synchronicities in your life that told you it was no accident that you met. You two practically had your own language when you first hung out. People were starting to talk, and you didn’t mind at all.
You’re sensitive but you’ve been around the block. You don’t make rookie mistakes, except he was so fantastic that you did. You were there when he had a bad day at work, understanding and controlledly flirtatious. You showed up at his favorite bar all dolled up accidentally on purpose, and he noticed. He called you that one time in the middle of the night drunk, and you didn’t want to, tried not to, but you did get excited. He is a swarthy badass, and they have a way of being gallant, because that’s just how they roll.
But he never thought about you that way. He liked your company, and his ego might have used you a little bit, because you made yourself available in the right place at the right time. You write ambiguous status updates on Facebook now and change your profile picture one subtly sexy shot at a time, hoping for that one like among the hundred, that one click that might tell you he is still around, even if he has someone, even if he is madly in love and you are dating someone yourself and your new guy worships you. The hope that the sight of your face might put a smile on his, that he at least remembers you and the language you shared some time ago. Not so long ago at all.
You watch his hand rub the small of her back in this barely perceptible, shamelessly erotic PDA, and the heat between them tells you of the steamy night that should have been yours. She gets him the way no one else could, you see it in the way he looks at her. You could find faults with her if you wanted, but that wouldn’t change the fact that he’s taking her home tonight and not you. He never thought about you that way, and he barely remembers you now. There is no rhyme or reason to this. You are smart, educated, independent, and beautiful. Once upon a time you might have needed someone to tell you this. You don’t anymore. There is no rhyme or reason to this, except that they were meant to be together, and your happiness lies elsewhere.
Bad things happen to good people sometimes. You just didn’t think it would happen to you.
You knew you were reaching beyond yourself when you let yourself fall for her. Perhaps you even knew she would blow your fucking world apart in the end, but you took a chance anyway. You’d played it safe up until then, and it would have been so easy to settle for someone lesser. But you’re no idiot, and you wanted to go higher.
She was out of this world. You didn’t quite know who or what she was, but you wanted it. You watched and studied her, knowing that it would take something different to win her over. And you played your cards right. She fell in love with you. The way she spoke, the tornado of energy she brought home each day after work, the way her body moved when she dressed. And undressed. The things you two did, in the car on the highway, hidden among ocean cliffs on your last vacation together, behind the laundry room door in your building as neighbors walked by in broad daylight.
One of your female coworkers just found out you’re newly single, and offered to take you out for a drink after work. She’s kinda smart, only not really. And she’s kinda pretty, only not really. [Don’t say it. Don’t say, she’s not her. There, you’ve said it, dickhead] The part of you that is still capable of noticing women in this state notes her short skirt and freshly applied lipstick, even though it should have worn off after a day at the office. It would be so easy. But you just want to sit here and be numb, because the sheets are barely cold at home and her perfume is still everywhere.
You are a good man, but you will do stupid things. You will want to see her destroyed and crawling back to you, even though you know it could never be the same again. You will drunk dial her and wonder how come you’re not entitled to her picking up the phone anymore. You will not understand why she is scared of you now. You will blame her for taking away things you imagined ten years down the line, like the kids you’d already named in your mind and the house you would have bought together. You will take up skydiving or hunting or some such, just to get an adrenaline rush from somewhere else instead of this raging jealousy.
Really? This tantra instructor, ten years her junior? With Jesus-like fucking hair and dirty sheets for clothes? He probably even stinks like Jesus, too. What could that quack piece of shit possibly have to offer her? And wasn’t there a movie like this somewhere that we laughed at, but… you promised you would eat whale blubber? And how did that stupid Aerosmith song go that she used to sing, All those late-night promises, I guess they don't mean a thing...
You wanted to be part of her world. She had you hanging off a cliff, reaching back to you from above, inviting you to follow her and go higher. She was sad to see you make a different choice. She didn’t owe it to you to stay, just like you didn’t owe it to her to climb fucking cliffs. You are a different kind of hero. You made her happy for a long time, but the truth was you hadn’t been happy in awhile. She was just the braver one, even if she was cruel. You decided cliffs were not your thing and she smelled a new alpha in the jungle. There are no high roads in break-ups.
Maybe someday you will get all that karma bullshit she was on about, maybe you won’t. Maybe the smart and pretty, only not really, coworker will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to you. Your sun is setting in a different sky tonight, and there is nothing you can do about it anymore. This love did take you farther than you ever thought you could go, and she might have just ruined you for all other women. There is no rhyme or reason to this, only the lifetime of choices you are left with now. Your sun is setting in a different sky tonight, and your happiness lies elsewhere.