Narrative Altercations

I blame the New York Times wedding announcements. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was never one of those little girls who enacted my dream wedding with my Barbies. I don’t have a binder stuffed with photos of wedding dresses and cakes. I think a wedding is the beginning of something, not the be-all end-all in and of itself. But I love stories, and the NY Times wedding announcements have the best stories. Couples set up by their parents, by friends, who met completely by accident. Couples who knew each other all their lives, ones who knew it was love at first sight. Lots of couples who knew each other, even dated, at one point in their lives, then lost touch, only to find each other again. I’d be happy with a registry office wedding in borrowed finery, but I want a NY Times wedding announcement.

I know I’m not the only girl to spin out a tale worthy of a romantic comedy at the first sight of a guy. I think my best was when I was at Trader Joes and an adorable toddler bobbled towards me and lifted her arms in the universal signal for “pick me up”. I looked to her father to check it was OK, and then picked her up and enjoyed making a fool of myself to make her laugh. Her dad was seriously cute and British, and while I have the passport I don’t have the accent so it still works on me. In my head, he was a widower, and his daughter taking a shine to me would allow him to open his heart and love again, love this wonderful woman his little girl picked out at the grocery store. In reality, her mom was alive and well a couple aisles over, and I left the store with another story about a random baby falling for me instead of cute dad’s phone number.

“Dan” and I knew each other in high school; he was a freshman when I was a senior. I could tell he had a crush on me, and since he was sweet and funny, with this endearing crooked smile, I enjoyed the attention. Senior guys date freshman girls, but never the other way around, so nothing was going to happen. I went off to college, I think I saw Dan around when I came back to visit my old teachers a couple times. Then, when I was a fifth year senior home for the holidays, I had to cram for one of those tests to get you out of a low level course, the kind of thing you should do early on in college but end up putting off until your last semester. I ran into Dan somewhere, and ended up borrowing some books on the subject from him. We went out for coffee, and the night ended with one of the most awkward kisses of my life. I don’t think he actually begged, but it was close. I made sure to return the books without having to see him again, and didn’t think about him much in the intervening years except the occasional shuddering memory of that awful kiss.

So when he contacted me on FaceBook last year, I accepted his friend request, but ignored his “Hey, what’s up?” message for a couple months before responding. We arranged to meet up for coffee when we were both home for the holidays, and I was dragging my feet on the way there, telling my parents it would likely be boring, but that he at least was living somewhere interesting so I might hear a good story or two. Fate, karma, whatever, is an evil bitch, because when I walked into the damn coffee shop and saw him, it was like I’d been hit by something, and really wished I had dressed better for the occasion. He’d grown up well, and had turned into something totally my flavor. And he had been spending the time waiting for me reading a serious book, some classic history text he’d just picked up because he’d always meant to read it. Maybe it was a sign I’d been in LA too long, where scripts are considered heavy reading, because his reading something like that was one of the sexiest things I’d seen. I babbled, did my best to be winning and funny, and tried not to wonder if I was boring him when he played with his phone. I gave him a ride home and hoped he’d invite me in so I could find out if his kissing had improved over the years, but no such luck. I was left wondering exactly how all those couples I read about in the Times who had been living on different continents when they met managed to make it work.

Because on top of the attraction I was feeling, this was such a good story. Unrequited high school crush, awkward encounter in college, meeting up years later and sparks fly. A long distance relationship, with meetings arranged whenever possible, in locations around the world. Long emails, making up for immediacy what they lack in romance. Marriage, a little house in the hills, filled with books and laughter, followed by really smart babies. I actually mentioned the smart babies to a friend who was suffering through listening to me fret about why Dan hadn’t responded to my last email in over a week. It seems that Dan didn’t receive his copy of the story, and so wasn’t following the plot at all well. He was slow to respond to my emails, and while mine were full of charming wit, evocative of place and time (or so I hoped), his were more like telegrams, short and low on detail. I came right out and admitted my interest, and even then couldn’t get him on track. Living on separate continents was a problem for him and a bad breakup had left him emotionally fucked, so as much as he enjoyed corresponding with me, he wasn’t sure about anything more. Obstacles, all good stories need them! There was interest, that was clear, so I kept on, establishing a rule that he’d get no more than three emails from me without my getting one in return. He went on a trip to Vienna and I looked forward to hearing what he thought of it, sure that the fact that he had chosen to visit a city I loved so much was something else we had in common.

Except he had chosen to go there to visit a girl he’d been seeing off and on, and his opinions on the city were wildly different from mine. I found both those things out after not hearing from him for a couple weeks after he got back, and sending him an email to apologize for anything wrong I must have done to cause this lapse. I’d done nothing wrong, he’d just been too busy with work to write like he’d said he would. Between not having mentioned there being another girl, even though I had asked, and being too busy to even send a short note to check in, I’d had enough and told him off. The story was turning into something darker, characters I had played before, and I wasn’t going to repeat those mistakes.

But plots keep twisting, even when you try and craft a good ending by walking away. Dan did eventually write back, and was charming enough to make me respond. He disappeared again, and then we ended up having chat sex when we reconnected. It went from erotica to awkward relationship drama, and seems to be stuck in some kind of epistolary sit-com about friends with benefits. He was on this continent recently, but was coy about dates until it was too late for me to make the arrangements to meet up I’d suggested when he first mentioned the trip. Trying to pin him down is like nailing jello to the wall. I think we’re on the same page, but I have no idea if the genre is romance, tragedy, or farce.

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June 5, 2010. Tags: , , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot.

One Comment

  1. amockingbird replied:

    I won the Iron Lung for Best Post of the Week on Wordsmoker for this one.
    http://wordsmoker.com/2010/06/13/the-smokies-the-ending-award-inflation-edition/

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