“So what is it, exactly, that you want?” she asks. Then she jumps right into it. “It seems like for me it changes every day. I just know that, at least right now, I don’t want anything serious. I can’t be serious with you, because, well, you know. Life.”
I nod the affirmative. (Life, man.)
“But, yeah,” she continues. “What do you want, out of, like, this?” She points back and forth at me from across the table, like a person ushering an airplane in for a landing.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Not exactly. It changes for me too. A lot. But at this point, keeping things casual is good. Good for me, anyway. So we’re on the same page. I’m casual as a motherfucker.”
But this isn’t really how I feel. Not anymore. I have been keeping it casual—more or less without fail—since George W. Bush was president. I think I’m finally ready for some change I can believe in.
So I say this:
“Well, shit. Actually, what I just said is patently untrue. For starters, I want you. Desperately even. And the things that I unwillingly associate with you. Many things. Things that come with the greatest of romantic relationships, the ones you read about in the best of books and the ones you see in the sappiest of movies. The romantic things I aspire to now despite my having spent much of my life pretending to be apathetic or averse to the idea of them. The stuff you can experience from relationship inception to declaration of love and hopefully death and beyond, if there is a beyond.”
I can tell she is taken aback by this sudden outburst, because she is giving me a look like I am about to leave her for her older brother.
“W-what?” she says.
I tell her I am going to keep going and request that she please hear me out. I think that this is my chance to deliver words that will make a person fall in love with me, which is essentially what I have been aiming for my entire life.
“I’ve given this a lot of thought, apparently, and can tell you in one sentence that what I really want is The One, if indeed such a thing as The One exists. And if The One doesn’t exist, I’m going to be fucked because I realize now I will strive for The One until either I find her or die alone looking for a hand to hold. What I want is to be happy, and the end-all-be-all of my happiness is going to come sometime after I find the perfect person for me to spend the rest of my life with. In this way, I am like Ted Mosby, and you know what? I’m not going to apologize for that. If I could traipse my way through life completely happy alone, and without qualms re: living out my days unspoken for, then I would absolutely do it, no questions asked and zero fucks given. But we can’t always help what we want.
“I want to end my workday and look forward to seeing someone afterward, instead of looking forward to spending time reading a book and drinking whiskey, a pastime that can be vastly improved upon. I want someone to marathon House of Cards with me. Someone to introduce me to trashy television shows I’ll pretend not to like. I will act like a martyr when we switch it on; even though this special someone will know that I’m just trying to hide my glee about watching Glee, in an attempt to retain some of my perceived masculinity. I want a girl to recite repetitive commercials with me, the ones we see all the time on Hulu, which we will use to air the late night shows from the day prior while we prepare dinner and drink wine together in comfortable clothing.
“I want to take the worry that I will live most of my life alone out of the existential equation. I want a reason I consider viable for self-preservation, and I want that reason to be a human being. I want somebody who wants to be with me, to spend time together—whether we’re embarking on radical adventures or doing boring, monotonous things that are no longer boring and monotonous when they’re conquered in the company of The One you harbor love toward.
“I want to be the dude who can’t always stay late at work because he actually has solidified plans with his significant other. ‘It’s our anniversary tonight,’ I’ll say, ‘so I really can’t—I’m taking her on this date that starts at the subway station where we kissed the first time, the night of our first date.’
“When my grandfather asks me if there are ‘any live ones’ I want to answer ‘Yes, there is, this one: here she is, and yes, I agree; I did do good.’
“Someday I want to walk in the door after work, maybe in some suburb, or the city, or even a fucking farm way out in rural who knows where—it doesn’t really matter to me because by then I will be comfortable in believing that it is who I’m with and not where I am that really matters.
“Then I want to kiss whoever this ends up being and ask her how her day was. I will smile a bunch because we made this life together, this life that is what I always knew in some way would make me happy, happier than anything else I had ever experienced or done. I want to go to bed with her and be thrilled that I’m sleeping next to someone and not alone, no matter how much of the space or sheets she seizes as her own.
“I want all of these things. But, you know, what I need is something else entirely—a different but important thing to consider, you know?”
She looks at me for a few seconds, says, “That was…strange. You have clearly given this way too much thought.”
“I know,” I say. “I can’t help it.”
“Well, maybe you should just let it happen. Stop thinking yourself out of happiness.”
“Yeah. That might be a good idea. Probably. I’ll try it.”
“I have to go,” she says.
“I thought so.”