“We can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.” – The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
it’s not complicated. the first part is you’re an asshole. the kind that instantly catches the exact moment when a girl falls for you, that knows where the buttons are on a human being and how to press them.
the second part is this: in an act of faith so pure you can’t help but exploit it, she gives all of herself to you – quickly, willingly, and without protest. you know, instantly, on some deep, limbic level, that all the power now resides with you.
like balancing a scale, you’re unconsciously weighing these things in your mind: how much you can get away with, and how much you have to give her back in return.
you want it both ways: you want her to love you, and you want to fuck around.
yes. that kind of asshole.
“What weapons did she have at her disposal? None but her fidelity. And she offered him that at the very outset, the very first day, as if aware she had nothing more to give. Their love was an oddly asymmetrical construction: it was supported by the absolute certainty of her fidelity like a gigantic edifice supported by a single column.”
this is how you lose her: you can’t stop thinking about the next girl.
if you’re being honest with yourself, it’s because you’re addicted. it’s not because you’re wounded from what happened to you. that’s just a story you tell yourself to justify your own selfishness. selfishness is a form of blindness – only months later, when it’s all over, do you really appreciate what you meant to her, and what she meant to you.
the pain brings its own form of clarity. and you deserve it.
at first, your indifference is your invulnerability, the shield you bring with you everywhere. it’s handy that way, never lets you down. it’s impossible to disappoint a man with no expectations. it becomes a problem, eventually. it becomes woven into who you are, and now you can’t turn it off. or at least you think you can’t.
you don’t know it, but this whole time, you’re cracking. it’s happening so slowly you don’t even notice it, but she’s doing this thing where she’s honest and faithful and true, and your cynicism doesn’t know how to handle it.
so this is how you win her back (the first time): you don’t apologize.
you never apologize, because you’ve been here before. step two, step three, they’re already planted in your head. you know her perception of what happened is malleable. you know that, for a certain period of time, you can bend the past until it fits with the story you want her to believe. you think that hiding behind “not being exclusive” makes it okay to rip someone’s heart out of their chest. maybe it does, but not the way you did it. treating her like a girlfriend and then flying off to do whatever the fuck you want. you can’t even hear her crying on the telephone. she has to be the one to tell you about it a week later.
like I said: you’re an asshole.
a week in her home city and your sins melt away. it happens again, and she surrenders all of herself back to you.
“No, it was not superstition, it was a sense of beauty that cured her of her depression and imbued her with a new will to live. The birds of fortuity had alighted once more on her shoulders. There were tears in her eyes, and she was unutterably happy to hear him breathing at her side.”
finally, you get it right. or at least some part of you does. she comes to your city this time. and you’re together, now. not in the bullshit way it was before. for real this time.
here is a memory that feels like a blade in your heart: you two walk into a shoe store. she walks up to the children’s section, and pulls out a baby’s shoe, palming it in her hand.
Look, she says, smiling.
her face, the particular way it glows – no, the veritable radiance of it – burns itself into your brain. you want to tell her she’s beautiful, but you remind yourself that’s not how one talks to beautiful girls.
you think to yourself: I’m twenty-six years old, and I’ve met the mother of my children.
later that night, she tells you she loves you, and she says it in your mother’s tongue. earlier, she asked you to teach her. you can’t bring yourself to say it back, so you just smile. you’re not ready, you tell yourself. it’s a half truth, at best.
you’re in a restaurant. it’s a bright summer day. she tells you she’s coming back again.
nine months, she says.
nine months, you think.
you don’t even think about trying. the both of you agree to “take a break.” really, it’s your idea. at this point, she’ll do anything to please you. she goes along with it, not at all intending to see other people. and so it comes to pass that your selfishness comes roaring back. it was there all along. for a little bit of time, she brought out the best in you and kept it at bay. when you look back at this moment, you’re still not sure if it even would have worked.
what you are sure about, though, is that you should have at least tried.
the two of you part ways at the airport. this makes it the fourth time.
you don’t know it, but it’s the last time you’ll ever see her again.
“She was experiencing the same odd happiness and odd sadness as then. The sadness meant: we are at the last station. The happiness meant: we are together.”
this is how you lose her: she promises to wait for you, and you promise nothing in return.
she writes you a postcard almost every day, and you send one every two weeks. you take her love for granted, thinking it’s going to last forever. you wait about two weeks before you’re thinking about the next girl. maybe another one with breast implants. or the kind with an assortment of tattoos who used to shoot heroin. you just can’t help yourself.
you’re an expert in compartmentalization: part of it feels wrong, but you do it anyway. you’re so good at not feeling anything anymore, in burying everything in a place where it’s untouchable by anyone, including yourself.
selfishness is a form of blindness. it’s the kind of deficit the world keeps rewarding you for, but you forget that everything has a breaking point. you’re killing her, slowly, and you can’t stop thinking about yourself for even one moment. if you could, you’d see it, how much it hurts her every single fucking day.
“The day his father left, Franz and his mother went into town together, and as they left home Franz noticed that her shoes did not match. He was in a quandary; he wanted to point out her mistake, but was afraid he would hurt her. So during the two hours they spent walking through the city together he kept his eyes fixed on her feet. It was then that he had his first inkling of what it means to suffer.”
this is how you lose her: you take the best thing that’s ever happened to you, and you grip it in your hands and bend and bend and bend until, finally, it breaks.
and then: you look at the pieces, surprised.
it’s too late now.
the regret, it eats at you like a cancer.