When it comes down to it, really, I do not believe I am worthy of you. When I am prickly and sharp, standoffish and aloof, it is because I do not, intrinsically, deep down, think that a man like you would want to spend his time, romantically, with a woman like me. I keep you at arm’s length, because I cannot risk being vulnerable. I cannot risk being vulnerable because then you will know how I feel. If you know how I feel, you will, I think, tell me no.
When I wrote an email to my friend about you, I was very objective. I tried to tell the story from start, to finish – about how I saw you looking at me in the café, on that first morning, and that even though English is not your mother tongue you made sure to speak in bursts of it with your foreign friends, so that I knew you could.
We had a faltering interaction, at some point in the future, where you were nervous and confused, and that disarmed me because I expected you to be confident and in control. I knew then you liked me, too. Because with your friends, that’s who you are – the peacock with his feathers on full show – and with me, you lost you footing a little. Because of those few moments, the dynamic shifted a little in my favour. I knew I had your attention, but now I had your interest.
When we had dinner, I liked how your eyes felt on me. I saw you mentally dismantling my parts, taking note of the way I teased you like that, how excited I got when I told the stupid story about yoga class, the way I asked the waitress for another beer that way. You saw me smile at the kid, and talked about how much you love children. Were quick to tell me you were kidding, when you thought you’d accidentally said the wrong thing. I could tell you didn’t want to share my attention with everyone else at the table, and yet, you liked observing me. I see how you understand that my biggest clues aren’t in how I am with you, but how I am with other people when I’m around you. I know you felt me watching you, too.
My words don’t match my thoughts, and I do that on purpose. The story I tell myself is that I do not get the guy. I do not get the educated, charming, self-aware guy, who displays all the signs of being open to knowing one another. I do not get the interest of a man with ideas, the chap with the nerve to challenge me, and make me see it differently. My story is never one of success in romance, in courting, in pursuit of each other, and so seldom does it happen.
And so I choose to change my story.
I choose now, to see the facts as facts. This feeling is not invented, not only in my mind. You flirt with me, and I have to stop believing that you’re doing so as some kind of joke. That’s not because I don’t think highly of you – it’s that, without meaning to, I think so lowly of myself.
My fear distorts.
You laughed at my jokes because I’m funny. Caught glimpses of me from the corner of your eye because I’m quite pretty, actually. I’m smart, like you are – maybe not with all the bits of paper to match, but I can keep up with you, give you a run for your money, even. There’s chemistry there, and in this version of the story I do not want to shy away from it.
When I see you, next, don’t be alarmed by the way I ask you to lunch. And when we eat, I’ll force myself to meet your eye, to let you see that I like you, too. I have promised myself that this does not have to be trying for forever – it doesn’t even have to last into next week. But what it does have to do is let me see myself as I actually am, instead of the lesser version I have come to believe. I want my words to match my thoughts the next time I see you, for the simple fact of knowing how freeing that feels. And if it turns out that you’re not, in fact, interested in me, I’ll know that I am worthy of love, a man, the happy ending, the attention, anyway.