When I was a young boy there were kids around me who thought that being a real man meant not only bed a girl but sharing every intimate detail with their friends. I remember being within earshot of their boasts and feeling sick to my stomach. I also thought that they were assholes.
When I had my first sexual encounter, I guarded the intimate details with my life. The experience was like a jewel I was entrusted with. I was not tempted to share it with anyone. I still feel the same way. I felt that being a man, more importantly, being a mature man, meant keeping these intimate details to myself. I had nothing to prove. I still don’t.
“You can’t just chop up the aspects of a relationship into discrete parts and select the ones you want like a buffet.”
I’ve been binge watching Parks and Recreation for a few weeks now and that’s a quote from an episode from season four called The Treaty.
It reminded me of a long-argued question a friend of mine always had with me; could a couple remain friends after their relationship was over? His stance was no. He was unlucky in love and every one of his relationships ended with the other party saying they wanted to move on. In each instance the other party wanted to remain friends and made great strides to do so. He rejected those overtures. It hurt too much, he would say.
My stance was yes. Why not stay friends? Better to have the person around if you still loved and cared for them, no? It’s civilized. It might hurt at first but then the relationship falls into some sort of natural rhythm. Whether that natural rhythm means you’re no longer friends then so be it.
“Why not,” asked Leslie Knope. Why can’t it be chopped it up?
“Because it’s selfish,” Ben replied. Hmm, interesting.
A young man of about twenty-five years old began a conversation with me on a bus queue last night as I was trying to maintain my invisibility.
He was taking a later bus than usual because he was presented with the opportunity to hang with a girl he fancies. The girl just broke up with her boyfriend (as in a few hours before) and he was mulling over how best to make his move. He asked for my advice. Fool.
I said, “Ask her to the company gathering you mentioned but only as a friend. Embrace that. Don’t even think about asking her if she likes you or attempting to kiss her unless you see the runway lights. Be a friend until you both feel like it’s all falling into place. Patience, my young padawan.”
I could tell that he hated my advice because he kept saying, “But that’s not me.” So I said, “Okay. Invite her to your gathering, attempt to kiss her repeatedly, and ask her if she likes you over and over and over again and see how far that gets you.”
Advice given, I wished him well, and went back to working on my invisibility.
This morning the alarm rang three times before I finally summoned the strength to get up. The cats were scratching on my bedroom door. There was food in their bowls but apparently it wasn’t good enough for them so, in their subtle way, they asked for more.
Before I boarded the bus to work this morning, a woman who I’ve seen countless times spoke to me. Something about having to go to work because someone had called out sick. Apparently this person’s sick outs have become chronic. “At least there’s more money for me,” she said with a smile. I agreed.
On the bus, a well-dressed woman vacated her seat several times to use the bathroom. I think she was unwell. Her companion thought otherwise. He admonished her for her frequent trips. She sat there silently, her face covered in sweat, and took it all in.
The road to New York City through New Jersey on a weekday afternoon is a quiet one. There’s never enough traffic to cause a delay. The green foliage whisks by the window as the bus travels at a steady sixty-five miles per hour. Occasionally you’ll see a New Jersey State Trooper handing a speeding ticket to a sheepish driver. Nothing to see here. Move along.
In an hour I will be in The Big City. The quiet will be replaced by the hustle and bustle of people coming and going. Cars, trucks, and buses will challenge each other for superiority. The tourist will fight to fit in. The natives will fight to be on time.
I will experience it all without you and that always makes me a bit melancholy. I wish I could bottle it all up and send it to you.
There are those moments in the day when I agree with you. Things wouldn’t work between us even if we tried. But then there other moments when I believe there is something there, something bigger than the both of us and that we are meant to be together. Those moments scare me since I don’t truly know if you feel the same way. I’d hate to be alone in this.
Sometimes I get sad. I’m sad because I was willing to give so much to be with you. But what is it really that I have to give? I’m not far from being a pitiful old man who craves attention. I fell ass-backwards into a profitable career. The people who once had unlimited patience with me are long gone. I can only give myself and my heart and I wouldn’t blame you if you said it was not enough.
So I lie here in the dark with less than five hours left to sleep and I think of you. I hope you’ve eaten today and that people have been kind to you. I hope your anxiety is in check and that you’re thinking of me too.