When Sebastian asked me to go to Paris with him, he didn’t ask, so much as say, Let’s go.
And I said, Of course.
Because it seemed the only appropriate response. When someone offers to take you to Paris you say of course. Why, yes, of course.
We’d already broken up twice. Or rather, the first time he broke up with me, he actually just defined the thing as casual. And I misunderstood.
And I tried to be cool about it.
But casual drives me crazy. Casual means that whoever uses that word first gets to do whatever. they. want. Casual is a one way street. And the other person--the other person in the oh-so-casual relationship--can’t do a damn thing without the threat of it being deemed not-causal-enough.
Casual and cool are eager bedfellows and neither interests me much.
So when I told him that casual wasn't-good-enough, we broke up for the second time.
It was an ugly ending. I mean, not too ugly as neither one of us was tremendously invested, but ugly enough.
Then somehow, mid-December, just a month later, we went to dinner. Sat at a bar and chatted. And for me it was a second chance at an amicable end. A quick rewrite of our brief history. I was charming at a distance. I was quick with my retorts and lovely to the bartender. And before long we’d been there for hours and the conversation turned to the new woman he was seeing. And then I got very quiet, very fast.
I was tired, I said, smiling. I needed to get home.
We got him into a cab and I took the train home to Brooklyn, when Brooklyn was still home, and in the solitude of my studio apartment, I cried.
I didn’t love him. I was never going to love him. But still, it stung.
Because, well... casual and not-casual and good-enough and worth and what-the-hell and all its many iterations.
Two weeks later he suggested Paris. Two weeks later he did all the things I’d always wanted him to do when we were dating.
Two weeks later it felt not-casual.
I didn’t ask about the other woman. And as for Paris, as for his quick about-face, I didn’t ask how or why or to what end.
Because I knew--I already knew--that if I asked, and if he answered, then Paris would not happen. That our misaligned desires would make Paris an impossibility.
The irony was--the blessing was--that weeks later, that’s exactly what Paris was: an impossibility.
And all of my questions were answered when he could barely look at me.
Suddenly there were new questions, but those didn’t seem to matter much--the why-of-the-situation suddenly dwarfed by the yeah, but-it-happened.
I should have asked. Right from the start, I should have asked, what are you after? Because the asking has to do with the assertion of basic needs and basic truths, and those things are important. And because time has a marvelous way of revealing answers despite our best efforts at avoidance.
Which is what I mean when I say we must say (or ask) the things that scare us most--the very thing that may drive the person away. Because if that’s all it takes for them to go, well, hell, let them.
They would’ve gone anyway.
Asking the questions has to do with figuring out boundaries that have nothing to do with casual.
And you, my dear, don’t do casual.
The words that are hard to get out, are had to get out precisely because they have power and value and weight.
Beyond that, this is what I’ve got:
Clean your purse. Often. Keep it as a bare bones as you can.
Keep the originals. Document everything--in situations where contracts are involved, document everything. Because lies that are only ever spoken aloud are are slippery, little things that while important, aren’t worth much.
Get comfortable with asking for help.
Adapt. Abandon when need be. And be flexible.
Resole your shoes. Be willing to get things dry-cleaned. Find an excellent tailor.
Everything is an investment.
Be willing to admit fault.
Allow yourself to be moved by the gesture of a man you barely know placing the lid back atop your coffee.
Have faith in all the good that is yet to come.
And when your dearest friend sits across from you in a small midtown restaurant and tells you how envious she is that you are single, suddenly free of so much “stuff”, and thus able to go anywhere and do anything, believe her. She is married. And she is happy. And she loves New York and her life is good. And she knows it. And yet, part of her, still regards your situation with a very tangible longing. There is a lesson in this. Be open to it.
Anything is possible.
Perhaps everything that has just happened is an invitation to a new adventure.
Life is short. And life is odd. But hell if it isn’t lovely.