Today's Story by Benjamin Wachs

He’d been attracted to her potential; she’d been enchanted by his fading glory.

Intersecting Parabolas

Ted fell during a game of Frisbee and broke his wrist;  he came home six hours late, in a cast, to find Tanya dancing in the kitchen.

The trouble with adaptation and evolution is that it happens whether you want it to or not.  At some point, we are at our best:  at some point we reach the top of a parabola and if we knew what’s good for us we’d yell “stop” and end our psychological history at that glorious moment.  But we don’t know.  The boy turns into a teenager before he knows it, the teenager turns into an entitled snot buying beer before he’s had a chance to reflect, and the entitled prick who no longer needs a fake ID at some point becomes a man without ever having decided to grow up.  That’s a good moment, but the man slides into decrepitude before he has a chance to really enjoy himself, and by the time he’s adjusted to a slowing capacity, life turns tragic.  We all drop our dreams before we know they’re slipping out of our hands.

Ted wouldn’t eat the meal Tanya had cooked;  he insisted that instead of watching American Idol, like they always did, they play Wii Tennis, and he tried to beat her using his left hand.   He came close, then stormed into the bedroom, and she left him alone.  She knew Ted had let her move in because she was the kind of woman who danced in the kitchen, and wasn’t sure what had gone wrong.

Tanya was at the top of her pyramid, and didn’t know it:  a woman whose body finally fit her like a glove.  She wore herself gracefully, and her smile had natural choreography.  She was living with Ted, older, and halfway down his slide to dissatisfaction with who he’d already turned into.  He’d been attracted to her potential;  she’d been enchanted by his fading glory.  If Tanya had started to fade herself she might have understood that, but there are some people in life who we assume are immortal.

Ted had a trophy wall in the bedroom.  A tennis circuit, a snowboarding competition, a prize for video game design were next to a picture of him standing with President Clinton at a regional summit on sustainable power that he’d organized.  That picture had once been a reality, now it was a symbol.  What was he doing alone in here?  He didn’t know any more than Tanya did:  but he understood, in a nagging way, that he’d never been petulant before because nothing had ever really hurt him.

She knocked on the door.  “Babe?”  He hated it when she said that.  It was a bullshit 80s word, what people had called each other in the 80s, and she didn’t understand how absurd it had been then, it was even worse now.  He looked at Bill Clinton.  “That guy used to be so … charismatic,” he thought to himself.  “Until he got stupid.”

She knocked again.  “Babe?”  He was spending a lot of time in there, now;  most nights before she was ready for bed.  It was unnerving, the one thing all day that pulled at her unconscious – what was he getting in there that she wasn’t giving him?  She respected his depths too much to think that he was staring at pictures and trophies.  Her most prized possessions were stored on Flikr and in Google Docs, occasionally visible on her phone but never printed out.  Nothing with a permanent copy to be broken.

He stood up.  He opened the door.  He looked at her, and realized in that moment that he already couldn’t keep up.   What you do, in that moment, says everything about how much you’ve learned about life.

“I think,” he said, defensively, “that we should get married.”


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media,, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at

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