Meet a young woman from across a bar, or a house party, or some other environment where the lights are particularly flattering and the beer has convinced you that just about everything is a good idea. Approach her in much the same way you would an old friend, confident and happy and excited to see her. Watch as your confidence and overall appreciation of being there, at that very moment, rubs off on her. Feel that everything that happens between the two of you is completely serendipitous, even if the vast majority of your glow stems from the drinks you chugged before you approached her. Watch as she laughs at your jokes, and brushes a piece of hair from her eyes, and puts her hands on your shoulder. Feel that hand burn through your jacket and your shirt and your skin until your very bone is aching with the feeling of her. Decide that you’re going to take her home.
Make the necessary arrangements, whisper the proper words into her ear, place your hand in that very particular spot where her waist nips in and let it slide around to her lower back while you dance. Imagine that the dancing, the talking, the laughter as you count the mutual friends you might know, are all a very intricate form of foreplay. Feel every extremity alight with the feeling of skin, with the smell of perfume, with the snippets of yelled conversation around you which all seem to rise to a crescendo of encouragement. “Seal the deal,” you think, in a way that seems to signify acquisition of property more than anything else. “Let’s get out of here,” you say.
Take her home. Berate yourself for not having cleaned a bit before you left for work this morning, and realize how dirty your place always tends to get on Friday evenings after an entire week of being neglected and postponed on. Apologize for the mess, and let her forgive it before you even get the sentence out. You realize that she wants to be here, that she is excited to see your bed, that she takes all of this as a great privilege and something she wants to remember for a long time. Watch her take mental pictures of your hallway. Realize that she is not as drunk as you thought she was — that she is more sober than you, actually — and take her sobriety as an indicator that her affection from you stems from an entirely reasonable place. She actually likes you.
Undress, touch her, dismiss her soft protestations of “I never do this” with a kiss on the collarbone and a light “shh.” Be generous, be giving, be everything you would want someone to be for you. Be taken slightly aback by just how much she wants to please you, how eager she seems to do things right and look good in her lingerie and not smudge her heavy “going out” makeup. Realize that, for her, this is an impression she is making — she intends to see you again. She struggles to come across at once without inhibition and charmingly reserved, and manages to fall somewhere around “nervously buzzed.” Think that she is cute, but nothing more.
Finish and lie next to her, eager to sleep. See that she is eager to talk, to nestle in the crook of your arm, to look up at you with big eyes and confusing expectations. Tell her that you are tired, in the nicest way you can manage, and watch her crumble with disappointment.
Feel the sun hit your face far earlier than you had anticipated it rising. Watch the way it hits you through the slats of your blinds and remember, all at once, that there is someone next to you. Be immediately and severely upset by this knowledge, and begin wondering how you can extricate yourself from this scenario as smoothly as possible. Begin concocting excuses for things you have to get done today as you listen to her soft, steady breath. Her mascara is smudged, and her hair is messy. She looks like the morning after, in every way someone can. Realize that you don’t remember her name. Be overwhelmed with the name of your ex — the one whose space in the bed you have been trying to replace every time you went out for the past few weeks. See that this girl is not her, and strangely resent her for it. Extract your completely numb arm from underneath her, and watch her wake.
She is embarrassed. She gathers the sheets around her chest and laughs nervously. “Wow, we really got carried away last night,” she says, eager for reassurance. “Yeah,” you reply, “we did.” You don’t know what that means, exactly, but you don’t care. She wants breakfast, and you want her to go. How does one articulate that thought, exactly? When you don’t offer, she asks you if you have any tea. Feel obligated to prepare something like a meal to go along with her cup of English Breakfast. Realize that this could leave her a comfortable moment to get put together in peace, and offer to run to the corner store to get something. See that she interprets this as affection, and hurry to your closet to dress.
Walk to the store and check your phone, over and over, for a sign of your ex. Want to at once apologize to her for having slept with this girl and rub it in her face that you are able to orgasm without her. Think of all the ways this girl was different and, in your melancholy haze, inferior. Think about how you are going to make this breakfast short and sweet, punctuating it with your need to go do something. Return and eat with her, exchanging jokes about the night before, watching her laugh. She looks better after a little freshening up. Pretty, even. Sweet. Remember how she was last night — at the bar, in your bed, in your arms. Feel almost nostalgic for it, even as she’s sitting in front of you. Think about whether or not you should offer your number, and don’t. Know that, out of hesitation and fear of embarrassment, she won’t ask for it without a green light. Let her leave without any means of contacting you, and ignore the inherent awkwardness in her exit brought on by the implication that you have no further interest in seeing her. Watch her try to hide the disappointment as she waves goodbye.
Close the door, shower, take a nap.
Let weeks pass, then months. Allow an interlude of misguided sex and “maybe-we-should-make-this-work” to transpire between you and the ex. Realize after it is over that the breakup was good, and real, and necessary. No longer feel haunted by her ghost every time you meet another girl that could almost pass for her in the dark. Start wanting to meet other girls for real. Sign up for a dating website. Remember that girl who was funny in the bar and beautiful on the walk home and generous in your bed. Remember the way she tasted, the way she laughed, the way she wanted to make you feel good. Remember when you had breakfast and tea across your kitchen table, and her whole face looked dewey from the vigorous scrubbing she’d no doubt given it in your bathroom. Miss her.
Open up your contacts, and try to find her name. Lea? Cara? Sara? Realize that it’s not there. Realize that you never added it. Regret the person you were for the few months after the ex dumped you, regret all of the beautiful opportunity you passed up, the good people you pushed away. Wish you could call her, but know that you can’t. Go to the same bar, peel labels off of beer bottles and wait for her. Know that she’s not going to walk through the door, but be no less disappointed when she doesn’t.