“Can you start a sentence that way?”
“Yeah,” he drawls to me in that syrupy Mississippi accent I love, “you can when Chicago sucks. Oh and by the way, Happy fuckin Birthday, Red.”
We laugh because he is silly, because this is just like him, because I think we both miss the sounds of the others laughter.
“So why the hell aren’t you out drunk and celebrating?” he asks.
“Yeah. Class. Graduation. All that good shit.”
“Well you know that plus the fact that I don’t wanna get all drunk and not have someone here to take thorough advantage of my inebriation.”
He is quiet for a second.
“I am on THE way!!!”
We talk about my plans for my birthday (drinking), how school is going (leading to drinking), how life is in general (not enough drinking). And then he comes out with it…
“So I’ve been doing some thinking…”
“And did it hurt?”
“Maybe. But I’ve been practicing so it’s getting a little better. Shut up and listen, Red.” I smile at yet another nickname I’ve tried to forget, the origins of which I won’t tell you but are still quite endearing in a VASTLY inappropriate way.
“So I decided that you’re the protoype-“
“You know this isn’t my first time hearing this-“
“Shut your face woman. So I decided that you are the prototype. And I could either search all of Chicago and try to find a woman just like you… or I could snap up the prototype. Because of this epiphany, I have decided that we are meant to be together, no matter how cautious you are intent on being. The end. Insert rebutal here. I’ve prepared a million answers for every objection you could have.”
I sigh and then let loose with the first of many; “We live in seperate states and I don’t ever wanna do a long distance relationship EVER again.”
“It would be different for us. We’re not seperated by passport laws and different government. And I clearly make enough money to fly to you or fly you here every weekend until I move to where ever you settle down.”
“I couldn’t let you do that.”
“You wouldn’t be LETTING me do anything. I’d do it and you’d get your ass on a plane. And if you feel like you have to repay me, I’m sure we could figure something out.”
“You really have thought everything through, huh? You’re good sir. But I could lose interest in you.”
“You wouldn’t. I don’t let you have your way and we fight too much for you to stop thinking I’m interesting. Besides, there are tons of things I’m not gonna tell you until at least year 5 of our relationship.”
“You just went through a bad break up and so did I.”
“Doesn’t matter. She’s not you and you aren’t her. I could blame every woman I encounter for her fuck ups or I could be a man and move on with my life with a woman who is exactly what I want.”
“You could be setting yourself up for the biggest mistake of your life.”
“Or I could be setting myself up for the rest of my life.”
That is enough to give me pause. I, master of the manipulation of words, have nothing to say.
The man made me speechless. I tell him so.
“Ok,” he says, “I’ll consider that a small victory.”
We talk for awhile about love, about relationships and marriage, and life. He tries to sell me on the advantages of Chicago.
“Didn’t you just say Chicago sucks?” I ask.
“Yes. But it sucks because you aren’t here.”
“Cute. Very cute.”
I wonder what it is that makes us do this to ourselves. What is it about the possibility of love that will make us run to the ends of the Earth for someone? What is it about love that changes us so fundamentally? And what is it about love that, when faced with the possibility of losing it, will make us do things we never fathomed we’d do?
We decide that love is the greatest form of masochism. It is the one thing in the world that will hurt you time and time again and yet you will still go back for more. Is the promise of love that strong, that important, that vital that you would endure the pain just for a moment, no matter how fleeting, of feeling in love?
I can’t help but think maybe everyone who has ever been in love is crazy. Maybe we’re all a little thrown off center for investing in people, for loving things that don’t really have to be permanent. Maybe we enjoy the beautiful pain of losing, the added depth to our story, a stroke of indigo across an otherwise monochromatic life canvas. Maybe love makes you crazy, makes you crave pain just so that you can feel something, ANYTHING other than that comforting, fuzzy feeling you get when you’re in love. I mean what else makes us do the things that no other sane person would do? What makes Mr. Wonderful keep trying no matter how hard I try to push him away? I know it hurts him. Why does he stay? What makes me continue to talk to my Almost Fiance even though I know there’s a 98% chance that every conversation we have will leave me upset? What roots you? What makes you stay?
It’s gotta be the crazy.
“So ideally,” I say having finally given up trying to be reasonable, “how would this work for us?”
“I told you what I wanted. I’m too old to still be playing high school mind games. If I want you, I want you. And as long as you’re willing to meet me halfway, we do whatever we have to do in whatever situation we’re in to make it work.” I am silent.
He continues, “You said you wanted a man who would fight for you, fight with you, wouldn’t give up on things when it got hard. You have that. Why are you fighting?” He asks me with all the patience of a parent teaching a child how to walk. And maybe he is, maybe he’s teaching me to walk again after being paralyzed so many times by I love I thought that was turned out that it wasn’t.
“I don’t know,” I tell him and it might be the most honest thing I have ever said in my life. He is silent for awhile before he says, “Is that a good enough reason to give up?”
Are we masochists for wanting love even when it has proven so transient? Are we crazy for still trying even when it all has turned out so horribly in the past? Or are we just so used to giving up under the guise of being wise that we’ve missed the love we were supposed to have a million times while chasing after who we thought we were supposed to love forever? I ask him just that.
“I don’t know. But I’m willing to give up that pointless chase if you are.”
Maybe we’re all crazy. Or maybe it’s just me. Or maybe what I thought I was doing out of pretense of being wise, I truly did out of fear. I don’t know yet. But I’m wondering.
“Chicago really isn’t that bad. I have family there,” I tell him. “They really seem to like it.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I graduate next month. You wanna come?” I feel him smiling through the phone. I go on, “I hear it’s really nice in Chicago this time of year. Do I need a coat?”
“Naw,” says sticky sweet like Mrs. Butterworth, “everything you need is already here.”