1. Join a local protest group like, say, Occupy Harrisburg. Ignore the hopelessness of the movement’s mission and the inanity of running anything but a jury on consensus. Revel in the personalities, even the evil ones, and remember how much better it is to be making black bean burritos for homeless people than to stare at the cobwebs in the corners of your apartment.
2. Find yourself alone with said woman at said Occupation. Find out she is married with two children, one of whom has Asperger’s. Find out she’s a viola and violin instructor. Humble yourself with inexperienced questions about classical music, relate differing stories and factoids you have heard from Futility Closet and Radiolab.
3. Notice her smile. Don’t mention her smile; merely note it. Note the two styles: the broad, white-toothed and eye-squinting smile she uses to laugh at jokes and the slightly-crooked, near-winking smile she gives to show interest in what you are saying. Remember how long it has been since anyone has been interested in the things you have to say, then immediately feel guilty for being that egotistical.
4. Rediscover smoking. Realize the only time you can appropriately be alone with this woman is to step outside for a rolled cigarette, an L&M, a Camel, a Pall Mall or a Marlboro (only when they’re on sale). Realize even this is raising suspicions.
5. Only go to Occupy meetings being held at her house. Notice the candles, the incense, the stack of stringed instruments. Notice the home-grown chamomile tea, the chipped ceramic mugs it comes in, the coffee filter with a binder clip being used as a bag. Notice the myriad of Asimov novels, Arianna Huffington, PJ O’Rourke. Notice how, as the meetings inevitably become a competition of flower children and blowhards, she draws trees and eyeballs in a composition notebook, pretending to take notes. Be the last person to leave the meetings. Even when her sustainability-crazed husband goes to bed, have a Youtube Party with her. Trade songs, comedians, memories, secrets in hushed laughter. Realize you are the first person to talk to her in such a way in a long time.
6. Never touch her. Even when meetings end and she hugs everyone, pretend to have difficulty tying your shoes or looking for your lighter. Notice the way everything you do to avoid suspicion is only raising more.
7. When her husband, drunk and stoned, attempts to get in a shouting match with her about you in front of you, don’t panic. Your patient work to become emotionally close and physically distant will pay off now. When he brings out a chart he has built detailing how much time a day she has come to spend with you, calmly remind him that she is an adult who can make her own decisions. Remind yourself that you have done nothing wrong. Remind yourself that this is what jealousy looks like. Her sneers at the mention of him will become all-too-obvious. Smell the selfish hope of their marriage ending, her children’s father becoming merely a babysitter (if that).
8. Regularly, if not daily, talk to her on Facebook until 2 or 3 in the morning. When, at 2:30 in the morning, she details a fight she is currently having with her husband, relate on the level of assholishness he has dispersed to the both of you. When she asks you to describe what you look for in a person, describe her. Place her attributes on a blank slate and pretend someone else could have them. When the fight is scaring her and she asks you to come over, absolutely hesitate. State your non-confrontational nature, one that primarily comes out of laziness. Remind yourself that even just a friend cannot time their crises to your schedule, your convenience. Go to her house. Arrive at 2:37 AM and watch through the window as you wait for her husband to go back upstairs. Remind yourself that you have done nothing like this in your life. Talk to her and chain smoke until no later than 6:00 AM. When she falls asleep for a few hours, do her husband’s sudoku. Walk her fat beagle for her. Make plans for lunch. When getting to your car, stare at your windshield as her husband storms out and screams at you, questions your motives, your sexuality. Remind yourself of her smile. Get some sleep.
9. When your growing affection controls your every thought and rises unavoidably within you, finally give her an honest answer when she asks you what you are thinking. Start it with “if you weren’t married…”.Feel free to laugh when she lists what she loves about you, when she blushes as you do the same for her. Wait two days for her to announce to her husband that she is leaving him, that he has a month to move out, that you two are together. Kiss her while watching Moulin Rouge. Don’t forget what happened to the man who got what he always wanted: he lived happily ever after.
10. Be happy for two weeks. Drink scotch and coke with her. Show her the weirdest thing you love (The House of Yes) as a test for her tolerance of weird. Drive her to work from your apartment. After spending the first night at her house, feel your heart thrust against your rib cage as you realize, at 3 AM, her soon-to-be-ex-husband has come home. Smell the liquor on him when he walks into the room. Keep your eyes closed when he wakes her up, asking her to come downstairs. Wince when he walks through the house, turning on every light and shouting to his children that their mother is a whore. As she runs downstairs to battle him, showing an anger you’ve never seen in her, tell the 11-year-old with Asperger’s to relax, everything is okay, even if you don’t believe it. Realize in this instant why Santa Claus is an important belief. Realize their is a risk he could hit her; feel your stomach sour at the thought. Meet them downstairs. When he slaps you into a coffee table, respond with restraint. Know the cops are on their way. When he wraps his hand around your throat, realize how drunk he must be (as you aren’t even losing air), but be thankful when your new girlfriend jumps on his back and drags him to the floor. Let him yell at you. Let him call you a bitch and a faggot. Let him threaten to kill you. Stand where a cop can see you before he even comes in the door. Laugh in your head when the cop recognizes the situation, has seen it before, struggles to get him in the car. Finally appreciate the poetry of the Miranda Rights. Write your statement as plainly as possible. Hug her as she weeps from stress. Let her sleep as you look up Victims’ Services, Justice Portal, information you never had a reason to care about. See a headline that Whitney Houston has died. Realize how worlds crumble within this world, how much the spinning misty majesty of the galaxies is equivalent to the world you avoided with blogs and weed, the world you now find yourself. Remember the beauty of tragedy, the beauty of being someone’s and someone being your’s. Watch her sleep. Notice her smile.