We got into the water. I’m in my underwear and she with her bra and panties. I told her I never got into the water at night and she suggested we’d do it. On the first date. Two weeks ago I spent the whole evening looking at her. She was with friends. Before they left, when she was alone for a moment, I approached and told her she was very cute. She smiled. I asked for her phone number. She said she was just coming out of a relationship but would be happy to take my number. I thought it was just an excuse but gave her the number anyway. I wasn’t expecting a call. She called a week ago. Said the relationship was over. I said I hoped I would be an adequate substitute. We set a date for today. I suggested going to the beach.
Both of us in the water, on a hot and sticky summer night. Just us and the Jellyfish. I kissed her. On the first date. We kissed passionately. We hugged, almost naked, in the water. On the first date. Didn’t think this could still happen to me. I’m not young anymore. At my age you compromise, settle down to raise a family. And here I am, my heart racing, like a kid, in the middle of the night with my underwear, in the water, hugging her, not wanting to let go. On the first date. Me, who carries the whole damn country’s problems on my shoulders, who doesn’t understand how people can be so selfish when so much evil is around us. Here, in the middle of the night, in the water, I was thinking only about myself. Is this how love feels? I don’t know. I think this is the first time I feel this way. And I’m not young anymore. Recently, a friend asked me if I’ve ever had ‘love’. I said no. She looked at me with amazement: How can that be? At your age? I said that I either loved and wasn’t loved back or was loved and didn’t love back. This can last a lifetime. For married people too. Tonight it was symmetrical. Finally. The look in her eyes, I can’t be wrong. The sarcasm I was so proud of, that is part of who I am, was gone. I felt normal. I stopped being angry at the world. Me, in love. Receiving love. Real love. I joked about our cloths being stolen from the beach. She said that even if they were, we would manage without them. I smiled. Of course we would. We got dressed. I only just noticed that I didn’t even check her out when she stripped down to her underwear. Is this how love feels? All of a sudden her body didn’t matter. Me, who always says to my friend that if they introduce me to someone, she has to have large breasts. Didn’t even take a look at her breasts.
Second date. She was waiting for me on a bench by the house. I sat next to her. She examined me closely. I told her I had many faces. That someone once told me that every day I looked like someone else. She smiled. And kissed. I told her we could hang out right here, on the bench. She smiled. And kissed. Is this how love feels? You can spend a whole evening on some bench, in the street, because the location really doesn’t matter. We kissed. Passersby were sneaking looks. It was me sneaking those looks at couples in love, until today. Rushing, to yet another meaningless place. Slowing down for a second, just to see the kiss. My heart pinching. Why? Why doesn’t it happen to me? Then I would go on. Because I have some meaningless place to get to in a hurry. A girl with a flat tyre on her scooter stopped, asking with a smile if she could bother us. If I was alone, she wouldn’t have smiled. Worrying it might look too inviting. Probably would have turned to someone else altogether. Why ask for help from a lonely guy sitting on a bench? Maybe he is the one that needs help? Is this how love feels? People feel more comfortable approaching you. There’s this aura around you that says: come, be around me, it’ll make you feel good. We gladly agreed. I couldn’t help her but it didn’t make me feel any less good about myself. I don’t need to please others. I don’t need to prove my worth. I am worth something. We offered to help her push the scooter home. We’re in no rush. We have all the time in the world. She turned us down politely. Seemed she felt uncomfortable interrupting a couple of lovers. We went to a nearby pub. Holding hands like kids all night, kissing all the time. I always said I had a problem holding hands with a girl. I feel constrained. But with her I didn’t. The waitress came to take our order. If I was alone I would have felt obligated to look at the menu and make a quick decision. That’s the way I am, obedient, even with waiters. But now, I told her we needed more time. Is this how love feels? You get this sort of power. It’s like being drunk, you stop worrying about other people’s reaction. Your happy with who you are. Don’t have to prove anything. You can relax. Breath. Kiss. She asked me:”so what’s your story?” with anyone else I would have been defensive. Would have felt the need to explain. I don’t have a story. I just go with the flow. Don’t know where it’s going. With her I just smiled. This is my story. I’m with you and I’m having fun. I suggested going up to my place. She was unsure. I promised we wouldn’t do anything. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted it to stay pure. Sex could pollute it. Could make it into just another relationship. I didn’t want it to be just another relationship. I wanted it to be it. We kissed on the couch. And on the rug. And stopped. We looked each other in the eyes. And kept going. I said she better go. She said we didn’t want to do it right now. That we want it to be different. Yes, we want it to be special. I want to drag this moment on. Don’t care what they say about sex when you’re in love. I know that as soon as we’ll have sex it won’t be perfect anymore. Sex is about our primal instincts. She’ll be just like all the others. But here, now, on the rug, she’s different. I looked her in the eye and I knew I couldn’t be wrong. Me, who was always proud about my intuition when it came to women, that can always tell what they feel about the relationship, can’t be wrong. Here, on the rug. Hot. The air conditioner isn’t working. I hugged her and felt her hugging me back. Symmetry. Finally. Like placing the last piece in the puzzle. When it happens, it seems so simple.
Third date. She’s on her way to a gig. A singer she likes. Stopped by my place to see me before the gig. She called last night, after we already spoke in the evening, to wish me good night. I told her it warmed my heart. She said it warmed her heart that it warmed my heart. She said we’ll be in touch. I said that when we stop saying “we’ll be in touch”, it’ll mean that the connection is growing stronger. That it’ll be so obvious, we won’t have to say it anymore. If I saw this in a movie I’d be constantly looking at my watch. This kind of kitsch doesn’t exist in reality. But it does. Now. So what’s the real reality? I’m banal and predictable and all the things I thought I wasn’t. I’m in her car. We look at each other and kiss. I feel confident. I came out f the house wearing an old t-shirt, unshaved and after eating some onion. I told her this is me looking my worst and I want her to see it now. She laughed and kissed me. With the onion breath. Is this how love feels? When you don’t care how you look, when you break cultural barriers, marching, head up high, into the abyss. And not fall. Games become pathetic. Don’t look too eager, don’t call too often, don’t and don’t… now you can do anything. I started talking a lot. About life. About how I think it should be. I wasn’t afraid of anything. This is me, I told her, and this is my story. She looked. And kissed. And I kissed. And I dove into her. And I touched her legs. She said she had an issue with her legs. She doesn’t like them. I didn’t even think about what they looked like. I just caressed. I didn’t feel as if I was operating under standard, reality based criticism. I’m in an alternate reality. In a dream. And in this reality I don’t think whether her legs are pretty or not. Common sense was irrelevant. Emotion took the throne with great pride. So this is what it looks like. This is the world of emotions. Everything is beautiful. Everybody’s smiling. I hopped over to her seat. Said I was really glad we didn’t sleep together on our last date. I suggested we should only sleep together after fifty dates or after six months, whichever came first. She laughed and said that we better start going on a date every day or several times a day. Is this how love feels? When we make future plans together we hint to fate that it is out of his hands now. We took the reins of fortune. She rang her friend who she was meeting, but the friend couldn’t make it. She’ll go to the gig alone. Not the first time she goes alone. I liked that. I said if you’re confident you go to gigs on your own. Few people can do this. She asked if I wanted to come. I said no. It’s her singer. I said each of us could have his own special ‘loves’ that he could do on his own. Only a few days ago I was alone and today I’m making all these rules about what a healthy relationship should look like. She said she tried hitting on the singer’s keyboard player once. I asked if he was going to be there, smiling. She’s already late. But it’s hard to stop. One last kiss and then another. She said:”hug me” and I did.
She’s at the gig. I’m with a friend at some party. There were girls, a lot of them. I scan the room the way I always do, just without the emotional aspect. Purely physical. Our radar, men’s that is, is always operating. Only now the information I’m receiving means nothing to me. The friend went home early. I stayed to dance alone. I don’t care. Is this how love feels? You can dance alone, surrounded by people and feel at ease. And I danced like I never did before. I turned and bounced and flew and fluttered and closed my eyes and was at peace. Finally quiet. I’m surrounded by girls and I’m at peace. The male instincts are resting. No hunting today. I’m here to enjoy and what perfect enjoyment when the hunter is resting. I looked girls in the eye and was not embarrassed because I didn’t feel like I was attacking. The party was winding down and it was left with a handful of other people. Dancing and dancing. I barely drank. Didn’t need to. I was dancing wildly and felt serene. Outside, a group of older men asked me about the location of a club. When they walked away I stared with intent. Growing older, wrinkly, lonely, trying to preserve a youthful spirit. I’m not there anymore.
I went home alone. Checked my phone for messages. None from her.
Lunch, Friday. Just finished some laps at the pool. Called her cellular. She’s not picking up. I remembered she had a shift at work today and perhaps can’t pick up. I wanted to know if she enjoyed the gig. I left a message.
Afternoon, Friday. Finished eating with friends. She still hasn’t called back. Familiar emotions from the past started infiltrating the walls of defense. Am I back in the game? To call or not to call?
I called her cellular. She’s not answering. I left a message that I was concerned. Who am I concerned for? Her or me? Do I care about her or about this feeling I have that I don’t want to stop?
Afternoon, Friday. I rang her house. Her mum answered. Said she was at work and probably couldn’t get to her phone. I relaxed. Or not?
Afternoon, Friday. She calls. Just finished her shift. I said I was worried. She said nothing. I asked about the plans we made for that night to go to the movies. She said she’ll probably be too tired. She’ll call me later.
Brain: “something’s up. She didn’t initiate anything during the entire conversation. Completely passive. She couldn’t get back to me all morning? She’ll be tired to go to the movies? Really? Something is wrong.”
Emotion:”nothing’s wrong. Can’t be. Just last night we said goodbye like two lovers. Not a hint. If there was a sign I would have noticed. Nothing happened.”
Brain:”maybe it was something I said yesterday?”
Emotion:”but I didn’t say anyth… or did I? What did I say? I was calm, relaxed. Spoke naturally. Maybe I touched on a nerve? Maybe scared her? Can’t be. She asked for a hug.”
Brain:”maybe she’s just not into it anymore.”
Night, Friday. I’m back operating according to the rules of the game. Decide to call, but at an odd time so she doesn’t think it was planned. She picks up. Sounding detached. As if she just woke up. Maybe not. Heart pounding. Yesterday’s butterflies have turned into blood-sucking bats. The magical feeling has been replaced by a dark, painful, stabbing feeling. I feel weak. I ask if something happened. She’s fine, she says, but, yes, something happened. Anything to do with me? I ask. Something I said? No, she says, not at all. It’s about her. I’m falling. Nothing to stop me. Heart pounding. Throat choking. I always said that when one side ends a relationship, the other side is better off not asking why. The answer will always be unsatisfying, unclear and unpleasant. Matters of the heart are better settled without painful explanations. But now the brain is in charge. Got to hold on to something. Need an anchor. Need a reason. It can’t be just like that. I must have a reason. Need to know why. The brain is asking for a logical explanation to relate to, maybe counteract, but emotions don’t have logical explanations. They just happen. Did you meet someone at the gig? I ask. I meet a lot of people, she replies callously. But the brain keeps leading the way. It wants an explanation. It’s like poking an aching tooth. It’s no good, but you can’t help it. The emotion doesn’t care for the reason; it’s going to hurt either way. It’s the brain that’s looking for some peace. The logical circuits in my head keep getting stuck. Like a scientist making futile attempts to solve an unsolvable equation. If this conversation ends now I’ll collapse. Something must have happened. Between last night in the car and this morning, something happened. Or didn’t happen? So, what? Just like that? Can’t be just like that. Did you meet someone at the gig? I ask again. Say yes, please, I think. It’s only to do with me, she replies. I sense her backing out. Curled up in the corner while I’m attacking. In love with myself. Oblivious to her suffering. But I keep falling. I have to take something from her to save myself. Can’t stop, not now. Did you meet someone at the gig? I ask, or conclude, with a threatening, scared, shaking tone. Yes, she answers. Quiet. The brain circuits are relaxing. There’s an explanation. The brain got what it needed. The emotion still hurts. Refusing to believe. But how? Why? Just yesterday you asked for a hug, I think. I guess he was more impressive than me, I say. The Cynicism is back. Renaissance era, over. Were back to the darkness of the Middle Ages of the soul. Cynicism rules again. No, she says, not at all. Like a mother consoling her son after failing an exam, I feel her hand stroking my head. It’s just that, it shook me, emotionally, she continues, and… Enough! I don’t want to hear any more. Enough! I got an explanation. More than I bargained for. Just like in a casino, better get out now. While I’m ahead. If we go on, I’ll lose everything. Her every word is like a whip on my back. I think we should end this conversation now, I mumble. She tries to say something. All I hear is a blur of syllables. Everything is foggy. Painful. Very painful. I raise my voice, trying to maintain some dignity. Like a condemned man on death row committing suicide so the executioner doesn’t get the pleasure of doing it, I suggest we end the conversation. Goodbye. That’s it. Storm over. Quiet. The town is in shambles. Residents are starting to emerge from between the wreckage. Cool breeze of sadness in the air.
Night, Friday. I’m on the beach. Staring at the same spot we were at. In the water. Hugging. The air hot and sticky. It’s bugging me now. I’m off the Olympus and down here, amongst the mortals, the heat is annoying. I’m not crying. I can cry from a sad movie but I don’t cry about my life. I think I’m afraid. Don’t want to sink. I look at the sea. The look in her eyes, I couldn’t have been wrong. Why?