Here is what will happen.
You will meet a girl. You’ll go on a date, and you will be able to tell within fifteen minutes exactly how much you like her. It won’t be a lot. You will see the date through regardless. Later on, you will know this is because you are entirely too empathetic and know how it feels to be the one that isn’t liked by the other, and because you wanted this to be different than how it is and, having only just sat down, you aren’t ready yet to accept the fact that this girl is no one to you and never will be. You will spend an hour or possibly two with someone you know you have any desire or intention to see again. This will be the first of your disingenuous tendencies, but you won’t know it, so you will do this many more times.
You will spend the date asking this girl questions about her life: where she’s from, what she does, what neighborhood she lives in. You will garner a rough image of her from her responses without ever actually scraping the surface of what a person is and can be with your choice of questions. Depending on how talkative she is, how tired you are, how particularly confident or the opposite you feel on that particular day, and how many drinks you’ve had, you will put forth some information about yourself. What you say about yourself will align with an image you are trying to project to this girl on this day in this month, and it will be a version of yourself that you will want to be the one that people see. It will vary, sometimes wildly, but it will never be the version that includes all the subsets.
In this way it will be false. It will be calculated. It will be incomplete. You won’t do this willingly or consciously but you will do it.
You might kiss this girl at the end, this girl that you don’t like. You might extend the time you spend together that night or day, despite the loud, echoing absence of any sort of chemistry, and it will be because in some soot-black cavern of you that you are not yet equipped to explore, you want her to be different. You want to like her. You think that like a dose of over-the-counter painkillers, maybe it just takes a minute to kick in. It won’t. It doesn’t.
But then one day you’ll go on a date, and you will see that within fifteen minutes of sitting next to this girl at a bar, despite a fleeting cloud of disappointment when you very first saw her, you like her. A handful of minutes will go by. Your mouth will continue to speak, your eyes will continue to look, but your brain will stop for a moment and register this fact: you like her very much. You will not realize it, but you will relax. You will enjoy yourself. You will not worry what your hands are doing, what your hair looks like, who is sitting at the tables around you, where the waitress is, what time work begins the next day, the price of the beer, the music on the stereo.
You will not be able to help it, but you will be listening to her talk and you will suddenly be surprised to see that she is beautiful.
You will leave the restaurant and walk next to her and you will be entirely present and in the moment and you won’t be aware that you are, just as you won’t be aware that you are usually not. When she puts her arm through yours and leans into you, it will feel like drinking hot tea on a cold night and that sensation will spread through you and coat your veins like honey. When you kiss her on a vintage style couch for the very first time it will remind you of the feeling in your lungs when you’ve been running forever and finally you can stop. It will be relief and adrenaline and the smell of a lit match all in one. You will want more while being grateful for what you have already had.
This will all end. You will leave her that night and you will get in the car and you will be smiling hugely and you will drop her at home and you will drive away not knowing where you are going and you will not know or care what station the radio is tuned to and when it occurs to you that you need to look at a map for a way home you will pull over and you will bump the car into a pole. You will drive home and you will talk on the phone with a friend and you will feel no need to attempt to convey to him or to anyone the serious of tiny earthquakes that are breaking ground inside you.
You will see her again, and several more times after that. It will start and it will stop and it will start again. You will see her again the next day and then you will make plans for a third date and she will stand you up completely but by then you’ll have already started the fall. Soon a creature of fear inside her will begin to show its face. You will not know what this creature is made of. Its origin will be unknown.
You will be confused and hurt and she will make promises again and again and she will break them. You will give her the benefit of the doubt. You will trust her and ignore raging hailstorms of doubt that exist because by the time you have met this girl, you have begun to notice that you do not trust easily, and yet you will let yourself slide down the slope into a place where you believe in her.
Despite what happens in the end, this will not be a mistake. It will be the only choice you truly have and so it will be honest. It will cause you pain, but it will be you.
In the middle of all this, you will give her words that are precious to you and you doing this will tell you that you are falling in love with her but you are too busy dealing with your overheating engines to consciously connect the dots and because of this you will be acting without thinking. In these moments, it will be real but it will not ever be good and right.
You will finally walk away. You still will not be able to name the creature but you will have seem enough of it to know that it is not going anywhere and you will put down your sword and you will turn away. You’ll know as you are choosing this path that you have grown wiser somehow. You will see that you are worth more than what she can give. After you bring the ax down between you, anger will take up residence in your chest insistent as heartburn.
In the shower, alone, you will tell her what she did wrong. You will scoff at what you now know were lies, you will endlessly imagine running into her on the train and letting all the ways she hurt you pour out into a puddle at her feet. It will help you to be this angry. You will think it will take forever to drain out of you. It won’t. The anger, however, will shut something inside of you, a door that had been locked for years that you didn’t know had opened. It will slam shut but you will be somewhere else so you will not hear the thud.
Time will pass. You will have other things to handle, and this will sometimes distract you, but you will spend a fair amount of time thinking about the chain of events and trundling through the situation’s debris inside you. You will see that you are learning from what happened. You will go on dates. You will stop going on dates. You will go on dates again. You will go out drinking, you will try and be sober. You’ll exercise a lot, you’ll sleep a lot. You’ll alternate weeks of feeling strong with weeks of feeling weak. The idea of her and a slide carousel of images of all the events between you will stalk the periphery of your mind. One day you will notice that you are mostly feel sorry for her, and you will also see that she was a burning building from which you escaped just in time.
You will take a trip, and you will see a glimpse of the self that you hadn’t run into in a while. You will see that you missed that person you always were and still were but had lost track of. You will meet a girl who is interesting but whom you don’t really feel very strongly for and you will continue to see her. You will mistake your lukewarm feelings for maturity, for an “adult” approach to love that allows it to grow slowly and involves a careful accumulation of intimacy that is measured out as if cooking from a recipe card.
This will not work, and it will take you a while to see that you are merely bored and are trying to bolster your self-worth and a space-filler for a lonely girl. You will drift away from her, and you will be surprised by how plainly you can see that you don’t and never did care at all. You will think that indifference is better than being lit up only to be extinguished.
More time will pass. It will sometimes march and it will sometimes crawl. Your journals will fatten again, and your life will change in positive ways. You will stop drinking and it will stick. One day you will be at work and you’ll be startled to notice that the edges of everything seem sharper and that this clarity makes you almost lightheaded. It won’t take long for you to connect the clarity to the antidepressants you stopped taking.
You will meet another girl, you will like her and you will start to notice that when you like someone, you calculate. You do not act how you want to, you act how you think you should. In this way you will be false but this time, you’ll start to realize it. It will scare you just as much as liking someone a lot does. You will press on, you will work on it. This girl will waste your time and it will end with a bang but you won’t care and you will quiet the unrest she caused in you more quickly than ever before. It will leave a bruise but you will ignore it totally until you don’t and by then it will be gone. It will be a tiny chirp of a blip on your radar.
One day you’ll go exploring in the memories and journal entries of all the dates and all the girls and all the times that it didn’t work out and it will be different than the other times because this time, instead of analyzing them, you will be analyzing you. You’ll see the way you composed messages to them carefully not to fully and precisely express what you mean and feel but in a way that would make the recipient see you as busy, cool, interested but not too interested, clever, mysterious, blasé, quirky.
You will see that when you did this, you were lying. You did everything to make them think that you felt almost nothing. You will go easy on yourself since you will understand that you did this because you didn’t want any of them to know how much you liked them, because you could not imagine that if you were honest, if you didn’t think hard about how long you should wait before responding, if you called them when you wanted to talk to them instead of forcing yourself not to, if you touched their arm when they were speaking, if you were you, then they would vanish into the ether.
You will let this marinate and then the writing will be on the proverbial wall: they had vanished into the ether when you weren’t you, not when you were. You will acknowledge all this without censorship and you will be admitting it and you will then arrive at the conclusion that you are scared and you do these things without thinking them and you are like an animal in a way and your mind will be overtaken by the image of a peacock with its loud, showy plumage bristling up at the slightest rustle in the wind.
And then you will meet a girl. You will have dinner with her. She will have made a reservation and this will please you immensely. You will turn around when she touches your shoulder to tell you she’s arrived and see that you had forgotten how beautiful she is. You will be nervous. You will want to touch her waist, her arm, her hair. You will have prepared for this and so you will make a conscious effort to listen when she talks and to be in the moment and to say what you mean and to mean what you say. You will let her order because you like that she can decide things and you will agree with all her choices and you will have a great conversation. At one point you will make her laugh, really laugh, and you will notice how satisfied that makes you and you will think to yourself that she has a funny laugh but that you like it for the way that it strikes your ear and for the feeling you get when you hear it.
While she is telling you a story you will suddenly be struck by the immense desire to kiss her that has been rising inside you like some insistent ocean wave. You will want to crash into the shore of her, but you won’t see this feeling so poetically until later.
You will let her pay for dinner and you will ask her to have a drink with you afterwards and she will agree and you will talk more. Her purse will sit on the chair beside her so you won’t be able to and you will wish you had the guts to move it and this will be the knock on the door that tells you: you are still scared. The only difference will be that now you are aware.
The two of you will sit next to each other on a curb and share a cigarette before you have already said you will part ways. She will hail a cab and then, as it waits there on the corner, she will touch the place where your jaw meets your cheek and she will kiss you. It will be a gentle, careful, purposeful kiss. Your hand will go to her waist and you will be aware of it moving without your deciding it to. The kiss will end and she will get in the cab and you will stand there waiting for the light to change and one, two, three minutes will pass until you notice that you are breathless and shaking somewhat and you will be aware of the sensation that something electric has settled on your skin and in your bones and you will be walking down the street and you will know this: you have a choice to make.