June 10, 2007

"'What's the quickest way to make this man go away?'"


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I asked out a girl who works the register at my local health-food store; she said no. Embarrassing. There's a sort of multilayered regret that spans the whole event, from thinking it was a good idea in the first place to its actual implementation. Particularly cringe-inducing is my decision to double back to ask her out after initially getting flustered. Should have waited for another day. No: should have waited until the heat death of the universe.

There's a lot of shame built into interactions like this. Implicit admissions of loneliness and longing. Because of course asking someone out takes some degree of courage, often built up over a series of days and imagined poppings of the question. What did my invitation truly say? Not just that I want to drink coffee with you. So much more: That I'm single and lonely. That no one sleeps next to me at night or hugs me when I come home, and that my life as it stands has become objectionable enough to make me break the softly decreed boundary of propriety that separates strangers. That I've probably thought about you a great deal more than you've thought about me. And in fact for the past couple weeks you've been kind of a constant fixture in my mind. I've thought about what we could give each other, how you could make my life more whole. All this has led me to study our interactions, and I have projected an interest in me onto you by systematically misreading every smile you've ever given me, for you see, I am inept at reading social cues. How do you think I got so lonely in the first place?

The grievousness of my error is clear to me now as I notice that your reaction to my invitation is not a happy one -- that the smile you give me now has a tension beneath it, a resentment for my having crossed the boundary uninvited (especially when you are trapped behind a register at work and thus denied freedom of movement or expression). As your eyes focus on the horizon it is clear that you are thinking of an answer to the question "What's the quickest way to make this man go away?" The dent that my projections had made in my perception, allowing me to see you in the fun-house mirror of desire, suddenly pops back out and I see that that friendly smile is really a pitying, embarrassed grimace. Here I stand, King Ass, surveying his stinky domain, his subjects averting their eyes, but not in reverence. My crotchless pantaloons, which, though firmly wedgied, somehow still exaggerate my fundament to monstrous proportions, swish with each step I take as I slink off stage to my moldy bedchamber. "Shit. Head." the swish seems to whisper. "Shit. Head. Shit. Head. Shit. Head. Shit."



contributed by Galen Menzel

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