My love for him was the stiffened dignity of an old world order walking to its demise through the gauntlet of his post-modern sensibilities. He acted as if the reality of his death absolved him from accountability to the future. Acted as if the context of emotional relativity was an excuse for bad manners. “I am a man with no expectations,” he would say. Not true. He expected me to believe him.
I try to give him his humanity. Already you can sense I’m having difficulty. His humanity is not mine to give. He has a humanity all his own, bestowed on him by nature or nurture or both. I could define it for him, or describe it to him, but I wouldn’t be accurate. I’m not purely objective. In fact, I don’t like him. I may even hate him if I’d let myself go that far.
That’s the crux of it, isn’t it? A matter of preference. As in, he didn’t prefer me. I most certainly would ‘ve thought better of his humanity if he had.
This isn’t about some world crisis, though, is it? Just another failed attempt at romance. Girl stuff, I guess. We’re the only ones left who persist in believing in the complementary possibilities inherent in romance. Still, I think the world would have fewer crises if the people in it could learn to make their preference for one person over another less obvious.
His voice would get all soft and caring when he spoke to her. When he spoke to me he wasn’t soft. He wasn’t mean, either. Just not all velvet and gentle, which would have given me the impression that I was delicate, someone to be cared for, protected.
Maybe I don’t come across that way. Delicate. Precious. Someone to be cared for and protected. So then this is my fault? Is that what you’re thinking?
Listen. He didn’t tell me about her. I had to guess by paying strict attention—to the way his voice tone changed, to the way he avoided touching me in public, how he would step away when I drew close. Clues. Having a relationship these days is like trying to solve a god damned mystery. Being with him was like standing beside a chalk outline and wondering what the hell happened.
I could be so mean. Blood lust. Vengeance. Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. I could be Pakistan about to ignite the bomb. Unrequited love and nothing to be done about it? Betrayal AND impotence? Now there’s a combination that proves lethal every time.
And yet my heart, it appears, is a vagrant who’ll go anywhere for a meal. He and I are friends now.
Mary Magagna lives in California but comes from Wyoming
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