Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2002
Thursday Sean and I had plans to go out. It's a rare call from him these days. He once told me, and I have since repeated it often, that sometimes you have to wait for other people to put in the call just to make sure you know who your friends are. I had to test that theory on Sean months ago. No call. After about six weeks, I caved and gave him a call. Nothing much came of it; I felt like I was being humored over a pitcher of Fat Tire at the Brass. I felt like an obligation that he didn't really have time for. Last Thursday I figured out Erin is in Las Vegas with her mom; suddenly sean has time for the rest of us.
As I go in to critisize their relationship, I'm going to try to keep perspective on my own wants and expectations for a relationship. While I'm readying my thoughts to come out of my fingertips I'm also thinking about Emily and Alundra and the wants of emotional security that each of them represents and how those wants square up with my totally unsolicited disapproval of what I regard as an experiement gone too far. I'm the guy who has a grand view of the forest but can't identify any of the trees.
Sean is legitimately busy with a (real) job; with his hobby of reviewing movies and DVDs and setting up residence in his new condo (!). I don't honestly know how much of his time Erin takes, but if the bras and underpants are any indication, strewn about his bedroom like party streamers, she probably spends at least half of her time with him. And I don't quite get it. His mental capacity is probably in the upper tiers of whatever comes before genius. She's not very interesting at all. She's nice; smart; inquisitive; argumentative, although embarrassingly inexperienced at it. If i were a fly on the wall I might understand more about what it is they give and recieve between themselves that has kept them together for more than two years. As sean tells it, the sex may be great, but I think he could do better.
With her out from under his feet for a week I wonder if it occured to him that, since I've come back, he and I haven't really done much without his girlfriend tagging along. I swear it's like babysitting, or carting around a little sister. I suppose anyone at our age who hasn't had a "serious" relationship would take whatever they could get if opportunity should present itself. I did that four or five times before I figured out I don't have to settle for whatever crosses my path. Four or five years ago, during those most aggrivating periods with Karyn, I had Sean's ear. He was my confidante through times that were worse than trying to peel off a band-aid; it was more like gnawing away at body parts to escape the bear trap she'd sprung on me. He had good advice then. Dating girls between eighteen and twenty-four is such a bad idea.
Granted, everyone brings to the table assumptions and expectations based on prior experiences - call it a set of "ideal wants". But with girls of a certain age and certain nature, there's just no compromise. Mix those ideal wants with a premature sense of intellecutal authority, newfound freedom, personal responsibility and sometimes the satisfaction of accomplishment (although more often than not, it's the frustration of failure). What we end up with are girls who presume they are women, treat us like children when we don't act like husbands, then get mad at us when we don't respond like fathers. There's five years difference in age between Erin and Sean. I can remember talking to him on the phone from Denver, being so happy for him that he'd finally gotten himself into something more meaningful than a recurring one-night stand. I wonder if he's let the date go on longer than is healthy, much the same way I did.
But what do I know? I haven't had a real date in a couple of years. I'm guessing by now, approaching my late twenties, the rules of the game have changed, and I really don't know what they are. And I fully acknowledge that as a reason for my critisizing Sean and Erin. I don't like that at all. I guess that's why I write these things.
Sean and I sat in the Barely Mill pub, a dark, wood-paneled hole-in-the-wall dressed as a shrine to the Greatful Dead. It's a tollerable environment as long as I restrict my visits to the rare occasion. I wish I could remember how the conversation evolved. It seems some of my best writing ideas happen when I'm nowhere near a keyboard. I thought about carrying a litle notepad around with me, but that looks silly. Plus it's a bit awkward to continue the flow of conversation while I have to stop and jot down notes. We talked about movies; story structure; why certain plot lines acheive their goals better than others. We talked about why "Battle Royale" is a much superior teen movie to the typical American bubblegum garbage. Over one of those lulls while we each chewed our dinners I couldn't remember how much I'd told him about Emily and/or Alundra, so I volunteered. The more I talked about them, the more I realized I really don't have much to tell. And the more they seem like an elusive ideal that I just don't know how to get a hold of.
The way Sean puts it, the rules of dating, courting, romancing and fucking have always been the same. I figure it's not time that passes; we do. A little bit older, notsomuch wiser even with newfound, unique experiences, the art of dating seems to me like a playground game from back when no one had yet decided what the rules were. Maybe that's because I had always been stuck with one person for extended periods of time. Everyone else figured out the game while I was otherwise preoccupied. Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.
"People basically break down into two groups. The Ones and the Zeros." In this case, opposites do not attract. The Ones, those who have a healthy self esteem, who are occupied with work or art or well adapted to various forms of social intercourse, will always attract other Ones, and more than a few Zeros. Of course there's always somebody for everybody, and I believe there is more than one somebody for anybody who pays attention, but Zeros will always be hooked up with Zeros. Sean launched into this theory after I'd explained the hit-and-miss phone tag with Emily over the last few weeks, which was really putting me off. She's returned one phone call to my eight. When the eMail kicked in she sent me an itinerary for protest rallies around the state, the kind of eMail sent to twenty people at once. Sometime after that I did get a note that she had been moving (didn't know that), changing jobs (didn't know that) and that she'd be up north while all the rallying was going on. Neat. ...But she'd "LOVE" to hear all about it from me when she "resurfaces" sometime later this week. I was - I am - more than slightly turned off by all this. I haven't been the least bit ambiguous about my interest in seeing her, yet she certainly hasn't returned the slightest indication of mutual interest. I don't know how seriously I should take it when she says she wants to hear about the rally. I won't count on it. Either way I've got over an hour of footage of the rally if she comes through.
Over some pooltable bullshitting with Sean, I was quietly thinking about what it is I'm really hoping for, what I have to offer, and most importantly what it is I'm doing to sustain myself and stay happy and healthy while I am impatiently single. I was struck with the feeling that I am a rather not-so-well-rounded person. Sean's little analogy of Ones and Zeros isn't what drove into my mind the importance of a self-sustainable contentment with life. Slopping the billiards around the dirty table, I was remembering a short conversation I had with Yulia months and months ago. She's one of the most incredible human beings anyone will ever meet, with a self-confidence I'd never known possible in a girl her age - or anyone near our age, for that matter. Dare I contradict myself and refer to her as a 24-year old woman? At the time, she was still figuring things out with Victor, but it seemed nothing could touch her profound sense of self worth, even though he was being difficult and elusive. Yulia and I sat alone together in a corner of the communications building talking about the dynamics of attraction and the mental and emotional health neccessary for dealing with the accompanying disappointment. She seemed so adament that the success or failure of their would-be relationship had no effect on her underlying happiness. I thought she was just being stubborn. My frame of mind had been set up years ago to assume that a signifigant other somehow completes an individual; as if complete satisfaction with one's life can be found only in partnership. It's a shame that practical reenforcement or demystification of these lessons don't come along soon enough before we lose those shared nuggets of wisdom. Otherwise, I would have had all of this figured out before I'd graduated Mrs. Burke-Hengen's eigth grade English class. In more ways than that extended moment she and I shared, Yulia is the kind of person who exemplifies possibilites I'd never have considered relevant to my life. It's all coming back to me, now....
Polishing off a second pitcher of Terminator, Sean and I stabbed away at the pool balls, our sloppy luck falling wherever it would. When there's no shot to be sunk, he's very good at hooking the cue ball; that is, hiding it in a position that makes it impossible for me to clearly sink anything. With the last gulp of beer still on my tongue, and the first pitcher swirling in my head, I strolled around the table two or three times surveying every angle possible. A Zero's inclination would be to whack at anything, without aim, forcing as much muscle behind the stroke as possible. For a moment I just stood quietly and counted the balls on the table. I hadn't realized that i was actually ahead. I could afford to relax a little, take my time. I could enjoy all those little successes that had brought the table to the formation it was in.
As I stared down the length of the stick, beyond the fat white cue, I could see alundra hanging out at the far end of the table in front of the corner pocket. Shifting my focus just a bit, there was Emily in front of the side pocket, surrounded by obsticles I couldn't see around. Closer than either of them was my first cable access project - a reflection on war protest - just waiting to be nudged into the near corner pocket. Opposite that was the satisfying and meaningful job that I haven't made much effort to attain. Somewhere else on the table sat my undergraduate degree. All of which were of closer and clearer proximity than either object of ideal security further up the table. It doesn't matter where the eight-ball is. There is an appropriate order for which things ought to be done. The trick to finishing the game is taking the time and consideration to make each shot with a clear vision of what the next one will be.
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