“This book is fiction and many things have been changed in fact to try to make it a picture of a true time…”
Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast (Fragments)
“Writers are always selling somebody out…”
Joan Didion in Slouching Towards Bethlehem
19: The Perfect DateNothing compares to this. This is the perfect date. Cabernet. Roses. Candles. A book. A bath. Myself. How I needed this. Just relaxing and reading. No consulting. No numbers. No suitors. I’ve had plenty of unforgettable dinner dates. I’ve experienced enough memorable events tagged as fancy dates. Yet I still prefer this. Nothing more. No one else. What the hell is wrong with me? You don’t let yourself go. Karl was wrong. And he couldn’t even see how wrong. I let myself go. I just didn’t want to let myself go with him. I wouldn’t have been in control then. He would have loved that. Not me. Control. Power. Love. In the same rant. There must be something wrong with me. You make me feel dispensable. Fred was not wrong. I never needed him. Or Jimmy. Or Stu. Or Lance. I never need anyone. Everyone’s so obsessed with feeling needed by someone. The thrill of feeling like saving someone. It’s better to feel yourself. Others don’t matter. Easy enough. Needs. Others. Ease. Such a contemptible idea. There has to be something wrong with me. You ask for too much. Hugo was right, in his Portuguese-accented broken English. Anything beyond fun and games is asking for too much. Too much care. Too much honesty. Too much respect. Too much of what I want and what I need. Fun. Wants. Needs. I sound like the Rolling Stones. There’s definitely something wrong with me. You’re too full of yourself. Rick was totally right, even when he was trying his best to insult me. Of course I am full of myself. I haven’t let anyone drain me. Or worse, pour in. Who else would I fill myself with, anyway? Everyone else is already taken, right? What the hell is so wrong with that? You choose only the ones that you know will end. Teller has never been wrong. Always right. Too honest. Too true. Dammit. He hasn’t totally hated Scott, though. Hell, they’re friends now. We are all friends. What the hell does that mean? Dammit. I better talk to Teller about it. Tonight. But over fries and a milkshake so he takes it seriously. Drinks will have to wait. Of course I’d ruin my perfect date just thinking about Scott and Teller. What the hell is wrong with us?
20: Sinking“Tell me that you need me.” Typical Val. She had to give me a hard time in my moment of need because not doing so would be not as fun for her. I could hear her smirking on the other side of the call. That smirk. “I’ll let you know.” I hung up and resumed my date of the night—some blind set-up courtesy of Matt. How desperate and helpless did I seem to others? Clearly desperate enough to sink this low: a blind date on a Thursday night. I should be writing instead. I knew she was talking about her job, but I would never commit anything that unremarkable to memory, let alone to ink and paper. Why was I so disinterested? She had hair that ought to be kept in Fort Knox, lips worthy of L’Oreal campaigns, eyes like the Caribbean, a body that would light up the silver screen, and a smoky voice that belonged in my bedroom. She could have been my perfect goddess, my perfect Zelda. And yet… I should be writing, definitely. “Want to go back to my place?” Her directness forced me to pay attention, and almost made me choke on my Macallan. She clearly knew what she wanted and that would have been enough for me to turn that date into a tryst worth writing about. I knew that, but I didn’t know her name or cared for it. Why was I so dispirited? “That may not be a good idea.” “That’s for me to decide.” She winked and smiled as she sipped her Cosmopolitan and her foot made friends with mine under the table. I should better be writing. “Excuse me. I’ll be right back.” I headed for the men’s restroom and ended at the restaurant’s bar, hiding from my date and my indifference. I knew what I wanted as much as she did. So I dialed. “I need you.” “I knew you’d say that. See you in thirty?” Val’s voice wore no sarcasm. “I’ll be there in twenty one.” I paid the check right at the bar, forgetting about refinement, reputation, and Matt’s friend and her dangerous liaison, and proceeded towards where I should have been all along.
21: Truth Be ToldJust Teller and me. Drinking. As usual. In my apartment. At peace. “Why do we always make it so difficult for ourselves?” The eternally unanswered question. My suitors. His muses. All complicated. Not the fascinating way. “I guess because that’s who we are.” Teller, master wielder of the truth. We never go for easy. Easy isn’t becoming for us. Dammit. “Why can’t romance be easy? Like this? Like us?” I’ve wondered for years. Since I’ve known Teller, really. We don’t tell lies. We don’t play games. We forgive. We apologize. Most times we don’t even need to talk. We just are. “Probably because no one else is us.” Teller always punctuates wisdom with a sip. Heimgway’s period and tip of the iceberg. Too true. Our silence confirms it. Our silences always do. Teller and I have always been a special we. No one can compete. No one can interfere. Some have tried. But we’re us. Us isn’t complicated. Because there’s no romance. We’re better than that. More than that. Pure honesty and truths. Always. “You’re right. We always end up here like this.” I know he never wonders about us. I do some times. How did we become us? How did we find each other? Would we ever lose us? No. We never will. If only because neither of us pursues or follows. We just are, side by side. No way we can lose each other like that. We drink. We talk. We think. We care. We share. We exist. We confront. We don’t run. We don’t fuck. We don’t fuck up. We just are. Teller and I always end up here like this. My apartment. My couch. Cuddling. Drinking. Taking a time out from the world. Together. Whoever else we end up with, they will have to settle for us. My winning suitor and his final muse will have to be fine being second. Even if they don’t know it. Dammit. How can I think that? I guess it’s true anyway. We don’t judge. We know. We understand. We just are. Years of mending hearts and drinking sorrows. Of toasting victories and dishing out sarcastic commentary. Our silence, more telling than our dialogue. Always. All my suitors are always variables in my equation. Teller is the only constant. The formula of us is my only reliable model. Dammit. Such a harsh truth. I’m thankful for Teller. I’m thankful for us. We would be worse off without us. We wouldn’t just be. Teller, my oracle, constant, and ally. Always. Teller and I, as usual. Alone. Drinking. Just us. In silence. As we’re meant to be.
22: HonestlySilence. There’s always more silence between Val and me than talking or even music. We understand each other thanks to what we leave unsaid while lounging in either of our apartments or favorite bars. “Why do we always make it so difficult for ourselves?” Val’s question captured an echo reverberating in my head for the better part of a decade. “I guess because that’s who we are.” Silence. Agreement and resentment cancelling each other out. “Why can’t romance be easy? Like this? Like us?” “Probably because no else is us.” Us has always been easy precisely because it never was romance, or mere friendship, but something much more enduring and battle-tested, even if unnamed and almost alien to this earth. “You’re right. We always end up here. Like this.” Val grabbed her drink, in the hand-carved glass I had given her for her birthday a dozen suitors ago. We clinked a gestured toast and snuggled closer on her couch, as if shielding each other from the hurt of the world. Silence, music between two souls in tune. How to compare us to any other we? No one compares the David with a common block of marble, or a Van Gogh with an airport postcard. Val sipped her drink and spilt a little on herself. I laughed. She smirked back. That smirk. Silence, magnetic and comfortable. Any other two people would kiss, maybe even besiege boundaries before sunrise and expend regret still after the seasons change. Not us. Never us. “Honestly, why can’t it be easy? Like us?” “Honestly, I don’t know.” And we drank some more in each other’s company, warmth, and bond. Perhaps I should write about that, see if the answer reveals itself through ink and spiritual suffering against the blank page. Perhaps I need to write the we I’m looking for before I can find it. Perhaps I’m meant to write my Muse into the world instead of finding her. Val agreed. She didn’t need to say anything for me to know. I patted her on the head with all my single-malt affection, and she smirked back. That smirk. Silence, singing the insurmountable intimacy of us.
23: A Fine Tune Dear Valerie, So here I am, around 4 AM, breaking a promised I had made to myself, but I can’t help it. I’m a romantic, and for better or worse, this is how I can best express myself without messing up. Or at least that’s what I rather think, so please take this as if I was delivering it to you while looking straight into your sincere green eyes. I once asked what was needed to woo you, and you dared me to find out by myself. Well, encouraged by our last conversation and the fact that we’re kind of in a streak of good things happening to us, this is me at my most curious and inspired. I need to ask: what did “the past others” (related and not, if you know what I mean) do exactly for you to take your position? You’ve given me notions and stories, but I need to fully understand this situation. So far, I’m delighted to learn and appreciate more about you every time possible. However, wondering about your reasons can drive me mad, especially when it all takes me to the conclusion that some sort of prejudice shouldn’t be enough for me to give up. Unless there is something else, more delicate and deeper, that I’m not aware of. I’ve given up that easily before, and I’ve been fine with renouncing my aspirations by request and stick to the friend role; only that this time, something tells me I would regret it for times to come. I’ve dreamt so about you, and I trust the calls from my subconscious. Again, I need to fully understand, or my nature won’t stop questioning who’s at fault of what, and life’s too long for regrets, and too short to hesitate. Furthermore, I want to ask so that I can know precisely what’s not to be repeated. Put in other words, what would keep you grinning, satisfied and in tune with your likes and preferences for the present. You know I reject on automatic anything common or unoriginal, so this would only make me to steer harder away from the examples. Bad things aren’t something supposed to happen anyways with in-synched mindsets and expectations, right? So what does this mean? In summary: a relationship made by two in their own terms. Extended explanation: to hell with labels and tags, they don’t matter as much as the good things happening; screw ideals and preconceptions, the ideal is whatever works and feels right; last and most certainly, fuck everyone else, sure they influence in different ways, but in the end it’s all a matter of two and their terms and rhythm. I know you get what I mean with these statements. Now I could get all mushy and stuff, since I would like to articulate some more and my poetic-romantic vein flows inside. But for the sake of clarity and easy assimilation I will refrain from throwing in here phrases typical of lyrics and song titles because that’s just a theatrical cliché even when it’s heartfelt. Instead I’ll go cinematic, simply stating that here’s looking at you kid, holding my great expectations until you reply and we talk of the unsaid with brutal honesty, as always. Love, Scott
24: Facing the MusicThis is actually the nicest thing anyone has done for me. Ugh. What’s wrong with me? Well, encouraged by our last conversation… this is me at my most curious and inspired… For all his worshipping, Scott does care. He notices. Me. I’m delighted to learn and appreciate more about you every time possible… None of my suitors have given me a present. Not even on my birthday. Heck, didn’t even care to ask about my birthday. They always just ask about my age. Scott not only researched. He found all of my favorite things. Ugh. What’s wrong with me? What did “the past others” do exactly for you to take your position? I have misjudged Scott. Fucking prejudice of mine. He deserves a chance. He has earned it. That’s the democratic approach. It’s merited. What would keep you grinning, satisfied and in tune with your likes and preferences for the present? How did he find out about that? Who even thinks like that? Fairy tales aren’t supposed to be real. How can this be real life? Ugh. What’s wrong with me? I swear these things only happen to me. I’ve dreamt so about you, and I trust the calls from my subconscious… Teller was right all along. But I’ll be damned if I tell him. He knows already. Probably. Scott is so not like any of my suitors. Who knew I would come to like that? I appreciate it. Prefer it, even. Seriously, what’s wrong with me? Screw ideals and preconceptions, the ideal is whatever works and feels right… Scott and I would be good together. Will be good. Together. Did I just think that? Ugh. At least my dad already approves. And Teller. Funny how they just knew. Before me. For my own good. Dammit. What was wrong with me before? In the end it’s all a matter of two and their terms and rhythm, I know you get what I mean… Scott, my admirer. My worshipper. And soon, my boyfriend. I, his goddess. His object of desire. His dream and inspiration. And soon, his girlfriend. I like that. I like inspiring. It suits me, I think. Teller would laugh if he knew. But he won’t. I hope. here’s looking at you kid, holding my great expectations until you reply and we talk of the unsaid… That’s it. I’m set. I’ll give Scott his due chance. Scott and I will be good for each other. Heck, Scott and I will be great for each other. I will be the best thing to happen to him. Ever. The best: he knows already. Seriously, how could this go wrong?