Just saving my own life, that's all
He knew that somewhere inside he had a broken heart, but
he did not feel it
April 20, 2004
It had gone just about as smoothly as a thing like that could,
given that she was beautiful in ways that were both subtle and
plain as day, and given that when they talked, it was very
natural and assumed that they were interested in everything,
going inside things when they spoke, but not too far that they
wouldn't laugh. It had gone almost word-for-word along the lines
of a script he'd had in his head at nineteen, one that he'd
had to throw out at twenty-three, and now suddenly had come back
at twenty-seven. But it also had the most important thing,
was that it felt very unscripted when they were together, like
it could go in any number of different directions and each
would be fine.
That was the funny thing about time though. At nineteen,
when the girl who played the girl in the script had been so close
that the only thing missing was her, he had been unable to have
it go with any kind of smoothness at all. Meanwhile, what she
had done at nineteen, she told him the second time they met,
was that she had gotten married, and she didn't
want to go into it much, except to suggest that she had been
and that it was a long story. The funny part was that even at
nineteen, he had imagined her as a girl with a knocked-around
past. He just hadn't known that if she had come along eight
years later, that past might be so knocked-around that she would
tell him that she thought what she needed now was a long
time by herself, which was what she did the third time they met.
It was in a bar, a nice place with good music, and when she
told him, the only thing he knew for certain was that he would
do the thing he would've done at nineteen, which was ask why.
If he was going to speak, then he was going to say something,
just as she had.
"Look," he said, and as he began, he knew that there
was only one thing to say, and it was related to why the last
years had gone the way they had, with him doing his writing in
writing rather than with a girl. It was related because it was
a story, the only story he could ever tell and the only
one he could tell just then.
"Look," he said. "A man will leave his house
(Oh boy, he thought. You've found something. You've found something.
Keep going and don't stop and think about a damn
thing, most of all don't think about what other men have found
when they've been sitting in a bar and the girl has told them
that she needs to spend a long time by herself.) A man will leave
his house and walk to the bus stop and get on the bus and it
will be a good feeling just to get to the neighborhood of the
girl he's going to have dinner with and to see the sign for her
street. And what'll happen is that as he's walking, he'll see
a couch that somebody's left on the sidewalk and next to the
couch is a beer bottle and on the couch is a magazine and he'll
laugh because it'll look like a work of art. It'll look like
a work of art and even though his gut feeling is that each object
was placed there separately, it's still a work of art because
it looked like it was, and he'll think of how much he wants to
tell her about it.
"But when he does get to her house, it'll be so nice
to come inside and walk up her stairs that he'll figure that
he should just
stick to the present, because the present will seem like enough.
All of a sudden it won't seem as necessary to tell her about
the couch because seeing her and being inside
her house will need a lot of attention itself. And they'll start
making dinner, and it'll be good to put that feeling into an
activity, and there'll be a couple times when he'll have to tell
himself to just relax and chop the vegetables, because the whole
thing is so pleasant, more pleasant than he is used to, not because
things have been particularly unpleasant, but because he has
been concentrating on being a writer, and
in order to do that he has had to look at everything else as
a job, which is not really a bad way to look at things.
"But at any rate, they'll make dinner and sit down to eat
and he'll wonder if she sees it as a romantic an occasion as
does, and he won't be sure because she seems like someone who
isn't showy about her romantic feelings, which is nice if
it is the case. But he'll try to forget about it and talk, and
it'll go very nicely, and a couple of times he'll
tell himself to make sure he isn't staring too much at her face."
She was smiling now, and looking very comfortable in the story.
It was nice to see because it meant that he could go on. But
just tell the story, he thought. Just tell it and don't think
about the smile.
"The whole thing will be very interesting though, because
he will not have liked a girl in that way in a long time, and
good to see that even though he has been concentrating on something
else, he can still be thrown into a little bit of a loop, and
it's a different kind of loop from when he was younger and
didn't write, but it'll still be a loop.
"So after dinner they'll walk to the market, oh, but before
they leave, they'll be standing in her room as she is putting
jacket, and she'll be telling him about the books she's reading,
and in the way she talks there'll be a feeling like she can really
get into the subject of books with him, and he'll feel glad and
proud that she can feel free to talk like that with him, and
it'll seem like she's also operating on the premise that they
know each other a little better than the three times they had
hung out, which is the premise he has been operating on
to a degree, and
he'll decide to put more stock in that at the dinner table, which
will be easy to do because books seem to mean a lot to her."
"Hold on," she said. "I want to hear the rest of this
story, but I have to use the bathroom. Just a second."
He looked around the bar. All around were women and men together
in different states of relationship. The state that he happened
to be in was that of the woman not wanting a relationship and
him trying the only thing he could. In a way it
was no better or worse than any other state.
She came back and sat down, smiling. "Okay," she said.
"Okay," he said. "Well, they'll walk to the market because
she's going on a camping trip tomorrow with her friend. They're
going up to a place out by Yosemite that has lava caves, perhaps
you've heard of it?"
"Well anyway, the walk to the market will be a little quiet,
and he'll hope that it's a romantic kind of quiet, but he'll
that that's not really it and that the whole thing is going
in the direction of a serious conversation before the end of
night, one that'll be more serious than he would've hoped.
It'll be fun while they're at the market because they'll be doing
something together and it'll give him a
hope again, but coming back outside into the night, it'll
be the same feeling, and even when he suggests that they stop
for a drink and she says okay, it'll still feel heavy, it'll
feel heavier than he would have expected at eight-thirty
on a Saturday night, and it won't be the feeling of a
and a woman
going to a bar together on a Saturday night with lightness
"It'll be a nice place with good music, and he'll feel
thankful for the music because he can already tell from her face
she is going to say. It'll happen to be some of the
same music that he has been listening to in the mornings
while eating breakfast, before sitting down to write, and
confident that the music will keep the happy connotation
it has for him despite the sad connotation developing
and he'll feel thankful for that because he'd hate to lose
music as good as that."
"Well," he said. "That's about it. He'll hold
out some hope. He'll hold out some hope even after they are in
bar and she has told him about needing to not be in a relationship
these days. He'll hold out some hope because of the way she
smiles as he's telling a story, even though he knows that she is too
intelligent for him to not pay heed to her words, and that
she means what she says, which is in actuality part of what made
her attractive in the first place. He'll hold out a little
hope in the romance of the moment, even though he has a lot of respect
for the kind of talking that takes into account the long
view, and he has a lot of respect for her talking like that."
They held hands for a while. Of all the different states,
he thought, this was certainly a funny one.
They walked back to her house and along the way he wondered
if he had made himself sadder, by getting a little closer.
know if he had or not, but he was glad he'd done it.
He was glad he'd done it for the record, if not for her.
And the rest of it was pretty much as he would've guessed:
One last attempt outside her house that became awkward
because he really did respect everything she'd said, some vague
talk from her about being friends, all of it mixed
in with a feeling
of fatigue, and then she went inside.
But the thing that came as a surprise was his own walk
home. He knew that somewhere inside he had a broken
he did not feel it. He kept walking and several times
he would stop and check again, but still he did not
feel it, and not only did he not feel it, but a couple
like singing and so he did. He walked the whole twenty-four
back to his own house and he did not feel his broken
heart even though he knew it was there, and he did
not want to
too much. But he did think even though all this
effort in making stories was not
and publishers just now, at least it was good for
something >>> Literature
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