I Think You Understand Why That Can Never Work
by MARK ARTURO
You were sitting on a stool in midtown, perfectly erect even without the backing of the chair. It was not unusual for you to look your best when I was at my worst.
Later, I looked up a place to meet another woman, who I will call Sam. When I arrived, nearly an hour before she did, the waiters applauded. She kissed me goodnight next to the 6 train. She wanted to go to another bar, one that was not so stiff. I said, no, I had to get home. The subway is the most fulfilling place to cry that time of night.
Sam worked for this internet company that was on the verge of unprecedented wealth. For the first time in her life, she was going to become seriously rich, even though she had done very little to merit it. However, there was an expectation that she would amass considerable wealth at some point; this just happened to be the way it occurred.
At the same time I was dating another woman, Kelli, who lived downtown. Kelli is a secretary at a law firm. Neither of the women knew anything about the other, and it was a few months into this whole thing that I realized they would not have liked each other very much.
It is a gratifying and useless thing to be admired. In every good pairing I have seen, a mutual admiration at least develops over time, if each is the sort of person they represent themselves to be. If that feeling never develops, they are unhappy.
Kelli did not respect anyone who did not work hard. She took her own work very seriously, more seriously in fact than I have ever seen someone take their work. This was a positive commentary on whatever was inside her. During sex she shuddered like a mouse in a trap.
So that bar in midtown is supposed to really take you back to the day. I went back a few times, mostly when I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t run into Sam because I knew she hated the place. You feel like Don Draper but the music is even more terrible than that. Some Sinatra is expected but they played the worst kind of jazz, like what white people believe in their hearts that jazz should sound like.
The bartender would always have her girlfriend and her girlfriend’s mother come in and sit at the bar. She made them all kinds of crazy drinks and would describe how she made them. It was the only thing she ever had to say. In contrast, Sam talked a lot. Her family was from Mississippi, but I think she had been glad to leave. All her brothers were married now, and her father had been in the merchant marines and was a very hard man. She was the smartest person in her entire family, and she did not come from money or anything like that.
Sam shared her apartment with a Korean woman who was always traveling with her boyfriend to some far flung place. The first night I ever went over there, her kitchen looked like it had never been used. The only thing in her refrigerator was water because she worked so much. Her bed was insanely low on the floor and uncomfortable. She probably lives in a really nice apartment now, but this was not one. It was on a great street in Brooklyn though with a bar I still go to. The bar has this massive fireplace and they give you tons of free drinks and food, I have no idea why. I have never been in a place like that.
Maybe they were nice to me there because of Sam, or because they thought I was Sam’s boyfriend. (I wasn’t.) Despite working for a tech company and coding very well, Sam did not love the internet or being on it, so I doubt she is reading this right now. When we were together she seemed to melt on me. She had been in a relationship with a not-so-great guy. I think because of that, she didn’t want monogamy, which was fine with me because whenever I was in Manhattan, walking through Central Park just felt like a ghostly visitation of you. The boats moved in and out, and a glass window protected me from them.
It was too confusing seeing both Sam and Kelli, and things sort of petered out. I will say why for the sake of completeness. With Sam she had a lot of friends from her company and she was always drinking and getting wasted with them, and it sort of turned me off. They got high all the time and when she was high she was a disaster. Some parts of it were actually nice, but mainly it was like anti-therapy: the steps a person takes that make them less mentally well.
With Kelli she was really into fighting and I think she wanted someone who was also into it. That is sort of me, but I like serious arguments with emotional conclusions. She liked emotional arguments with serious conclusions. I think you understand why that can never work.
For awhile after that I was alone, and I spent most of my time walking along the Hudson. Remember that park we went to? I sometimes went there, and eventually met an anesthesiologist walking a poodle-cocker-spaniel mix. She lives on your street; well not exactly on your street, but closer to the projects. At times how emotionally unavailable she was made things easier; naturally soon after that it made things harder. After we broke up, she brought my coat back to me.
I think she could probably never love me, or anyone. I longed to tell her how much I loved her and how great she smelled and how perfect her skin was. You could tell her maybe one percent of that and she would accept it, but any more and she would smile and roll her eyes. Here was someone, I thought, who just did not give a fuck whether anyone admired her or not. It was obvious it could never work, but her apartment was so clean and cold. It was like making love in an icebox. Actually it was making love in an icebox.
The winter’s dangerous, and you might not live in the city anymore. Meeting someone now is taking a chance, I know, and it is both fortunate and unpleasant that it buries you still deeper. I told you I bought plane tickets for us, and for a second you believed me. I told you I was willing to do this or that, and that I wasn’t willing to do some other things. You believed me. I told you that I loved you and that you were a mystic of the north and south and east and west, and that I had never met anyone like you. You believed me.
Mark Arturo is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan.