What happens with me is, you’re either completely turned on or completely repulsed. I’m going to convert you from scenario two to one.
We were sitting at the end of the bar, slouching in stools, when he said this to me, something so awful and hilarious, something of rare humility and self-awareness, that it was almost enough for me to finally go to bed with him.
This consideration, call it desire, lasted no longer than a moment.
He paid for our drinks and hailed us a cab and I continued with him, on into the night, drinking and laughing and teasing and messing around. We were saying nothing substantial.
Then his best friend turned up and made some comment about us being dark people, like, dark in the head. I laughed with a sincerity that was almost hysterical.
His best friend then tried to kiss me in front of him and he just sat there with us, through his friend’s lousy and meaningless seduction, and began doing all this blow right there in the open. I saw this as a tragic way to celebrate anything, be it friendship or Fridays or even something basic, like, our being in our twenties.
Regardless, I chose to keep up with him for hours, all the while having to wipe his nose of what was evidence, I began to believe, of his superficiality and sadness and also his danger.
He said I should take care of him. He told me we needed to be dating. You’ll pull me together, he said, and I’ll support you while you write.
In a roundabout way, he was just saying help.
I didn’t want to. And I realized this as if it were a limit that, for the first time, I was stable enough to enforce.
Because I have cared for men my entire life, and I was tired of mending the broken ones. I was tired really of myself, of my own ego, my want to fall in love with whomever I could improve upon. It felt insincere to pair off like this, to turn love into a project, to substitute the reality of a man with my ideation and his amorphous potential.
Could I care for him? Of course I could. I had the heart for it, I just didn’t have the curiosity any longer. I didn’t have the naïveté to spend my heart on a man of defiance, a man of drugs and destruction, and imagine that I could save him and that he would really want that, that he would really want to stay in love with a woman who had plucked him out of darkness and brought him glowingly into life. By now, I knew men better than this.
I knew men could only stay in love with women who’ve never suspected their weakness, who’ve never witnessed them self-destruct, who’ve never been bribed over drinks to love them, to care for them more than they cared for themselves.
I also knew myself better than this. I knew that these were the relationships I fell into easily.
Relationships where I could solve and save and show up as the star. Relationships where I could be needed more than I was even really desired, where I could be the one and only lifeline, where I could not be easily given up.
I knew that it was time to put a stop to this, that it was time to invest my love in a man who was available, a man who positioned me as an equal rather than a savior and muse. At a certain point, love must no longer be an act, and I knew that I no longer had the talent to be acting. I knew that to be a sincere lover, you have to be proud of the man you are loving.
And the truth is I am not proud of a man who avoids his own pain with sadness in his eyes and powder under his nose.