It was Thursday afternoon. I’d done a bunch of work, been to the gym, and walked the dog. I was drinking coffee and pawing my phone, and there’s Six, dark hair and crow’s feet, and he’s a match.
“He shouldn’t even be here,” I think, but his circumstances are, well, complicated. He’s still married, he and his wife have worked out some kind of arrangement and are staying together for the kids. He says.
“Look,” I tell myself, “you’re still married too. It’s complicated, adult life is complicated. Maybe you could trust the story he’s telling. If you want people to believe your story, you might start by believing theirs.”
It’s rationalizing. I know.
We chat for an hour, at least. He laments I live too far away, he compliments my eyes, and when I ask, he tells me it’s been hard to meet someone given his circumstances. He is funny, he asks good questions, he is a gentle flirt. He plays along when I make terrible puns. Late in the afternoon he begs off, he has to go get the kids. I sign off with a clear interest in meeting.
I fall into the weekend, during which I am offered a “brief yet meaningful encounter” with a guy who’s in town from the Midwest.
“No,” I say. Straight up. “No.”
Six knocks around in my head all weekend, a little spark; I can’t decide if I should pour water on it, or fuel. I continually remind myself this is a process, there are no commitments until there are commitments, and coffee is just coffee. I remind myself again that I, too, am married still because… reasons.
Sunday evening I send Six a photo of the gorgeous sunset and ask him to meet me for lunch on Wednesday.
“I REALLY enjoyed our conversation, but I met someone,” he replies, all caps his. “It’s too soon to tell if it’s a thing, but I’m going to find out. Can we leave this open? I might be back.”
I am genuinely surprised by how much this stings. No one needs to remind me a married guy living with his wife “for the kids” is at least 75% a bad idea. What would I tell my friends? If we had met and found there was chemistry, how would he have replied when I said, “Yeah, before this goes any further, can I talk to your wife? I really need to know she’s okay with this.”
It’s idiotic. I know.
Also, “Would you mind waiting here until I figure this other thing out?” is — if you know anything about me — deeply problematic. It’s problematic if you don’t know anything about me, but if you do, it’s much, much worse.
There’s this aphorism by Maslow — yes, hierarchy of needs Maslow: When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. (Innuendo noted, and not entirely off base.) Right now, I’m a hammer.
What about that? THWACK… nope.
Or that? THWACK… nope.
Or, hey what’s that?
You get it.
It takes me most of the evening to realize it’s for the best. To realize I’m not upset about this particular rejection, but the much bigger one that led to me being here at all. I shouldn’t be here either. I feel overwhelmed by this ultimately inconsequential interaction. I text my best friend.
“I’m going to die alone.”
“No you’re not,” he promises me. “We’ll be like the Golden Girls.”
If I delete Six’s messages, the connection will be gone.
I haven’t deleted the messages yet.