It’s really funny how you can go through a fucked-up break up over Christmas in Paris that you could sell the movie rights to, then bounce back with a Swedish club kid, to going through a harrowing year of relative chastity. After being bitten so many times, I withdrew my hands from anywhere near any sick mouths.
Truth be told, I think after a propensity of ridiculous late night texts , the co-dependent behavior, unabashed Facebook stalking, and the physical distance (both of my past relationships ended in long-distance), the very thought of even trying to get close to anyone sounds exhausting. I just have absolutely no desire to be anyone’s hero, or villain, anymore.
Lately my internal monologue when dating has been something like this: “It takes two transfers and then it’s still 10 blocks to your house? Really? You mean I have to talk to your roommates and you invited another guy that you’re fucking? I’m not here to play non-participant to some pathetic/ludicrous/desperate sexual game of Sophie’s choice just because you don’t know what you want. Why are you playing this game? I’m seriously killing you with kindness and empathy. Wonderful, you’re high and now pretty/vacant. You do know that you’re not meeting the expectations you set for other people, right? Where’s the liquor? What the hell am I doing here at 2 am.? What do you mean there’s no cabs here? Fuck it, I’m leaving and ordering a pizza now so that by the time I get home I’ll have something warm to come home to.”
Or something like that.
After so many false starts involving complete and total holistic disappointment, I honestly don’t care anymore who people think I am. It’s so pointless to play Superman at night when we’re all just Clark Kent during the day. And frankly, to be attracted to whomever makes me out to be more than who I really am is just a waste of time – I don’t want affection in the form of flattery. I want you here, near, and immediate, and give me a reason to stop binge watching Mad Men.
But yet there he was, standing at the station next to me. In an act that I took as expressing some interest, he chose to sit facing me across the car. There was nothing particular about this stranger other than, like numerous other people in both dirty cities and barren suburbs, the happenstance of being at the same place at the same time as me. After years of commuting a few hours to work and back, I learned to ignore the people around me.
This one, however, definitely seemed to fit my “type.” Which usually means pretty but dense. And not dense in the sense of being uneducated; dense in the sense that their baggage pervades and inevitably drags through the entire relationship.
Baggage isn’t inherently bad. We all have it. When someone walks into a terminal – your life – they bring it all with them. In the form of functional alcoholic parents, unstable roommates, phone-shattering breakups, etc. It’s how we take it from place to place and what we choose to do with it that defines us.
There he was though, sitting directly across from me. First my eyes would gently look upwards from my book, then his would lift from his from the glowing interface of his phone. They dash, dart, and dodge through the incoming and outgoing commuters, performing a tango lit by the lights of the underground subway.
Sometimes, in the eyes of strangers, the light absolves of where we’re coming from and can sicken us with a home not yet known.
Not that I’ve actually written a “missed connection” post, but I imagine it would have sounded something like this:
“You: 5’11”, Blonde. You were wearing what appeared to be black American Apparel hoodie and dark blue jeans.
Me: 6′, Dark blonde, wearing blue Calvin Klein blazer, black skinny jeans, leather shoes. Carrying one white and one brown leather bag.
As I was waiting the BART to arrive, you scanned me up and down. I feigned not noticing, but then returned the gesture. We continued to do this for the next 5 minutes until the BART arrived and you choose to sit directly across from and facing me in the nearly empty subway car. We stayed facing each other – me reading Auden and you looking at your phone – and I all I could think about was why you chose to sit directly facing me, and if this is some weird fucked up Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind moment where we’ve already met and had a relationship but it just ended up being so bad that we chose psychic lobotomies instead of each other. Let’s try again? Yeah? Darling? Anyway, if you’re reading this that does mean something, so shoot me a message. Cheers thanks a lot.”
Probably because of my own baggage, I didn’t say anything. But more importantly, I’m not a fucking concept, I’m not your hero, and I’m definitely not going to be your villain. I’m not the Hollywood Holly Golightly that’s going to stay with you for ever, I’m the Holly Golighlty pre-approved by an alcoholic, drug-using homosexual. I’ve been a stranger enough times to know that all too often that those who want to seem independent turn out to be the most co-dependent, simply because they just don’t want to admit it. And I know that those who seem to run cold on strangers actually realize how much effort should be put into a friendship or a relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve walked into plenty of people’s lives with my own admitted co-dependency issues and yet I somehow expect things to be different every time. Love, relationships, and friendships are based on that kind of socially accepted insanity though – doing the same things over and over again and expecting the same result.
We’re told never to change ourselves for anyone – at least in love. We’re told that, somehow, our persistence in maintaining some fucked up idea of personal “authenticity” while bearing through legions of other uncompromising individuals will yield a different result and everything will be fine and dandy and we’ll live happily ever after with the same friends and lovers. But it’s bullshit on both sides. We change ourselves depending on our needs at the time, and that reflects on what we look for in our friends and significant others. The problem that I seem to have is that I over compromise to a point of being waist-deep in others’ sexual and substance habits before I shut it down.
When I was traveling by train through Italy last summer, the train stopped due to an engine malfunction about 75 kilometers outside of my destination Milan. Because it was a commuter train from Paris to Milan, a large number of the bourgeois passengers had obnoxious, oversized, decadent, brown leather designer luggage. To them, I was “American-passing-for-Eurotrash” that had obviously slept on the floor of 10 euro Parisian hostel the night prior.
But when the time came to make our connection to our final destination, their precious, rolling Louis Vuitton baggage stopped them from running down the stairs with the agility allowed by my pithy over-arm baggage. I had just ran past the decadent legion of elderly Italian fashionistos without any regard to courtesy when my own vanity stepped in. They had just translated the Italian for me and told me where I needed to go, and what bus I had to take, and I had just run past them. My vanity in not wanting to seem like a jerk off American and my need for strangers forced me to turn back. I dropped my bags and ended up returning their favor.
The moral, essentially, is that to never pack more than you can carry. To do so would to miss your bus, your train, your plane, your destination, and who may await there. So let go. Let go and run. Run past the insincerity of the present, the uncertainty of the future, and the sickened promise in strangers’ glowing eyes and into the home of something real.
The real connection is in absolution of any of our sex and substance filled baggage and of the promise of a destination – in the airports, the Greyhound stations, the subway cars, and the place between the beginning and the end of something said to someone old or new. Fuck living in the “now” – the present vanishes as soon as it is named and we think it can possibly be owned. Instead, accept it as a nondescript train car whose only name is the time it leaves, or arrives. So hold your loved ones tight while you’re together in the utter uncertainty of where you were and you’re going, because the only places that remain constant are those of transit.