My cousin, who is now happily married with a child and one on its way, was once a not-so-happy model slash graduate student the year she lived with me. We’d go out for dinner, see popular movies their opening nights, take long three-mile walks by the bay under her exercise regime, and generally engage in the many various activities two platonic single people the same age who were also roommates might want to do, should they be so bored. It’s hard to think of a family member as attractive, but her constant suitors suggested she was quite the catch. I acted as consul to her many romantic qualms: a tall Swede wanted to marry her; her college boyfriend, now a civil engineer, was still in love with her; a start-up millionaire slash bar owner with adorable hair always seemed to be in tears, and so on. Still, despite all this attention, I remember feeling sad for her — for us, for any human being on the verge of love, manifested or unrequited — seeing her cell phone in her palm, waiting for that romantically critical text back, freaking out at each passing minute. I found myself emotionally experiencing these mini-relationships, each guy now part of my own memory. The bros, the douches, the sweethearts, the assholes. As you may tell, I’ve dated quite a few.
One guy, Dan I think, or Louis, would show up really excited for a date. He drove a grey Audi A4, as if he couldn’t decide between black and white, and settled for something in the middle. He exuded a finance analyst position at a Fortune 500, his soft expectant eyes peeking into the bright future ahead, a Hugo Boss shirt newly worn for nights like these, hopeful for my cousin. I felt neutral toward him; “just another bro,” I thought, imagining bros growing on trees in an opulent bro orchard, sprayed with cologne like pesticide. They dated for a month or two, his perennial somewhat pasty face reoccurring on the weekends, then suddenly disappeared from her phone, inbox, and mind. I asked her what had happened. She sighed, and told me that one time before a date, happily kneeling on one knee at the door as he was tying his shoes, he had said something so lame that she just could bear continuing with him.
Wow, that’s so retarded, I said. Yeah, she said. So no more? Yeah. Earnest excitement is considered naive; moroseness somehow emotionally complex and sophisticated. Perhaps this is Emily Dickinson’s fault. Dan or Louis may have been unfairly punished. Yet now, years later, every Friday night I’ll sarcastically say “It’s Friday night, and I’m feeling alright!” as a small mean jab at Dan or Louis, or whoever that person was. The sad thing is, I’m always saying this alone to myself, riding home on my bike with a block of stinky artisan cheese and a bent baguette in my backpack which I’m to devour immediately upon entering my empty condominium. It’s Friday night, and I’m feeling alright. No one is in on the joke, except for my cousin, who lives across the country, and would probably rather forget the entire episode. One wonders where he is now, the guy whose demise was expressing, in the unfortunate fashion that he did, his spirited sentiments toward it being said evening. My cousin may have seemed severe, or cold, in re-releasing our bro into the wild, but every woman must protect her future from the kinds of guys who make them cringe. There are no bad people in this story, unless you consider me, displaying their likeness to the masses here.
A few weeks ago, I somehow heard the 1995 hit “This Is How We Do It,” by Montell Jordan, expressing how he and his compatriots “do” the good life: a Champagne buzz, hundred dollar bills y’all, and invariable unthoughtful coitus. It’s hard not to groove to the beat, and my dispirited spirit was briefly summoned from the groin up. I “ground” (past tense of “grind,” here) my ass, trying not to listen to the song ironically like an asshole. Sarcasm is what hurt people have left, and most things in my life are marked by this faint self-satisfied and auto-tuned laughter. I always come out on top, alone. When I heard line “It’s Friday night, and I feel all right,” I was shocked. I had heard the song before, but was deaf to that line, until now, riddled with meaning. Dan or Louis misquoted an obsolete hip hop song, representing white bros all across this nation, and got himself dumped. Or perhaps, the more he said it, the more he tried to convince himself of it, the more those lines became his own, a catch phrase he could use to seem at ease, even jovial, on this terrifying date. That line he spoke to his demise was, simply, supplemental confidence. A thing to throw into the air, and hope it came back warm.
People find then lose, purposely or not, other people all the time. I’ve been that guy who suddenly disappears too, a magic trick that leaves the inadvertent magician sad. All we’re looking for is a new family, people to dance badly with. I hope he’s happily married, too with a child and one on its way, his Fortune 500 analyst job from cubicle to office, Jr. to Sr., some well deserved raises, the Audi A4 now a black BMW 760 Li, both the pension and belly fatter, and his profound contentment for Friday night, which we resented, still going strong.