My phone whistles at me, my Steve Jobs cat call. A text message: “Holy shit. I’m sorry. I owe you an apology.” There’s no name, just an anonymous series of numbers.
“Who is this? New phone!”
For the record, this is an excuse that is viable and understandable – equal in scope of forgiveness as the tried and true “I’m getting back together with my ex” story. In both instances, the other party is obligated to be forgiving because, hey, you can’t fight with history or someone’s $800 phone sinking to the bottom of a pool and wiping out all of their contacts. No truth, no harm, no foul.
“I didn’t make the cut in the new phone?”
Errr… messing with my batting record, dude.
“Lost all my new contacts. Sorry!”
Last week, while sitting on a red-wine chenille sofa in my mother’s living room, I went through and deleted all of the phone numbers of the men with whom I’d spent some portion of 2012 being self destructive with – with the exception of Richard, who was, by leaps and bounds, the more self-destructive one of the two us. So I suppose it was more of an embarrassment ratio, not merely black and white grounds for termination.
I imagined myself in a boardroom, calling in the slackers. “We’re making fourth quarter cuts, you see,” the corporate boss version of myself began. “And while I’m very sorry you’ve got family issues and career issues and loneliness issues that I would, as a human being – especially as a woman – feel compelled to tend to, we just don’t have the resources to continue this relationship going forward. I hope you understand.” And then I sent them on their ways, watching as they each hoisted their cardboard boxes filled with text messages and a few scantily clad pictures of myself and walked out the door. Only — because this is an imagined conversation in an imaginary world where I am somehow the boss of these assholes and not just some chick they were into for five minutes — none of these men, in real life at least, know that I have so wisely gotten rid of them. Fired them, as it were.
Whoever is sending this message right now is likely one of three people. I take a shot in the dark:
“Is this Corey?”
Corey was deleted less because I felt compelled to embarrassingly message him at 3 in the morning (not even his two-million dollar loft in Tribeca could inspire this sort of sad desperation, which is perhaps evidence that I am not the horrible, soulless golddigger that I could be), but because of ego. Corey ducked out after two dates and didn’t even bother trying to sleep with me first.
When he doesn’t respond, I realize that I am wrong: Corey had too much Southern charm for the phrase “holy shit.”
“Or is this Tom? We can keep playing this game!”
Tom was deleted well before LA, his number given to Serena for safekeeping, or, rather, safeshaming. If I ever wanted to resort to contacting Tom again, I would have to go through Serena. I did the same with Jake’s number.
“What did Corey do?”
“I felt like I owed you an apology.”
As I’m typing “All good dude”, my phone rings. I pick up.
And then he tells me a whole lot of things I’m fairly sick of hearing, words like “beautiful” and “smart” and “amazing.” These are like pearls that have been gathered together in my honor without bothering to string. They move quickly and roll away, falling through cracks in the floor. Stupid, empty, meaningless little pearls.
He tells me how right when he met me he had started to hang out with his ex-girlfriend again. I told him I could have guessed as much. “I know guys at this point,” I say. I don’t need a conversation two months after the fact about why a guy stopped calling me. He, however, feels the need to wrap up 2012 with a clean conscious, using me as his dumping grounds on New Year’s Eve.
Tom gives me a whole host of reasons on how he slid back into a relationship with his ex: she watched his dog, he was working a lot, blah blah blah. Then he says something that you’d hear in a movie, something like “But then I met you.” Only this conversation doesn’t end with the boy leaving the old, worn out ex-girlfriend and jumping into the terrifying unknown. No, writers make movies that end with potential love trumping all because those movies sell. No one wants reality. Reality feels like this: sitting on my couch eight hours before I ring in 2013 while some guy I trained myself to stop thinking about seven weeks ago reads off a list of all my selling points, which, ultimately, don’t matter.
“It was hard,” he says, “because I thought, Do I start this relationship back up again? Or do I see what’s out there? Because there are other people out there. Like, you know, you.” Then comes the beautiful-and-smart complement. Next comes the sexy-hot thing. And in true New York City style, he tells me he loves my apartment, how it’s decorated, which is about as flattering as complementing someone’s fake breasts or other non-integral plumage. At this point it just feels like I’m having someone read my own Match.com profile back at me: Tall, blonde, Aries, agnostic, non-smoker, anti-social drinker, lives in railroad apartment by herself with two non-working fireplaces and hardwood floors, eats kale, reads Hemingway.
The question “Do I start this relationship up again?” is a sleeper of a “yes” – the evidence of his decision being most obvious when he tells me he “knows a really nice guy.”
“What?” I ask, not quite sure I heard him correctly.
“I have… I have a friend who’s great that you might like. I mean, is that weird? I didn’t really plan on saying that. It’s just, he’s a buddy of mine from growing up, and I just thought, you know, you’re great…”
This is the part where my ears start ringing and my throat clenches up, my body tries to curl into itself, incinerate, disappear. I feel like an apartment stumbled across by someone who wasn’t planning on moving, but who thought it was too great to let go. If they couldn’t have it, a friend would. I am just a piece of property, getting shuffled from hand to hand until someone gets tired of house hunting and signs the lease because of timing and convenience.
“No… no, I definitely don’t need that,” I say.
He fumbles for some words while I stare at the ceiling.
“No, no, really, that’s okay,” I repeat, and then I laugh to push away any real emotion. Depressingly, this is the third time I’ve had this exact same conversation.
The first was riding an elevator with a boy I had a very sophomoric (read: bizarre, dysfunctional, and clueless) relationship with during a time when I had no idea how any of this boy/girl business worked. “You know,” he started, “in a couple months, when this isn’t weird anymore, I have a friend that I think would be really good for you.” This conversation ranks up there in my Top 3 Most Depressing Post Coital Conversations Ever.
The second time was just a few months ago, with a person I fell in love with in 2007 and still, to this day, have unresolved feelings for. “How’s dating going?” he asked, having called me up out of the blue just to chat. “Bleak,” I laugh dryly. And then he keeps asking me questions, gives me the “intelligent/ beautiful/ funny” line and tells me I won’t have a problem finding somebody. “Do you know Brett So-and-So?” he asks. “No,” I say. “He’s a really interesting guy. Maybe I could try to set you two up.”
Murder me. Please.
Now here I am again, the girl for everyone and no one, getting match-made by ex-notfriends, some version of Fiddler on the Roof from hell.
(Photo: Courtesy of Care2)