#7: More

Monday / April 27, 2015 / 5 pm / Seven Grams Caffé, NY

This had all started as an experiment, you know. She was bored, and she was trying to see if it was possible for the fundamental nature of a connection with another person to change – by adjusting the frequency, by adjusting the tenor of conversation with this person that just so happened to be there. She should have known better than to think she, she who took everything seriously, whose fervour was forged in solitude, could treat this as “just an experiment.”

She had contemplated – in theory – the possibility that one day, she might look at a friend differently. But when it really happened, she wasn’t absolutely sure how or why; all she could think of was “when.” She had pinpointed the exact moment of origin – the beginning of the myth, so to speak. He was visiting her in New York, it was dark and drizzling, she had her hood up, he had an umbrella, he offered her his arm in order to share that sheltered space, more out of polite chivalry than sincere affection, but they were friends, she was still getting over someone else, they were only friends, besides she had her hood up and she felt independent, and she looked at him funny (and she panicked just a little) and she brushed him off because she thought it was weird that they might be physically linked in any way, that they might share a brief moment of intimacy, except almost immediately she regretted it, and then, combined with some late-night heart-to-heart conversations that they had shared during his visit, maybe he wasn’t just a friend to her anymore.

It wasn’t the moment they first met, but it was the moment she began to consider the possibility, and perhaps that was more powerful, more transformative, even if it was borne in the space she had put between them.

She mentioned this change in passing to a mutual friend, just because she needed to tell somebody. Maybe she just wanted someone else to know that she was finally beginning to feel something for someone other than the first “him.” She couldn’t remember how he responded or how the conversation ended. But for a long time, this friend was the only one who knew, and this friend had probably forgotten by now. She too had forgotten, for a time, or told herself not to try, because he was always so inaccessible. But just as she had felt a twinge of regret at the space she had put between them, she felt particularly hurt, and particularly drawn to, the space that he had put between them in the years after. And then, a few months ago, they started texting more regularly, more extensively, for hours at a time, and that space seemed to dissipate. It always started with that TV show they both watched, the one that they might call “their” show if… but then the topics broadened and deepened, and she would smile to herself as she read, and responded, and anticipated (“typing…”).

It bothered her how easily it might have been anyone else, anyone else that might have wormed their way into her life, anyone else that she might have wormed into her own mind, given the right circumstances. She wasn’t sure if it was real, or if it was the direct manifestation of her own loneliness. He had just been there at the right time, that’s all. That was the case with the first one, right? Why him, now – because he annoyed her a little less, or because he annoyed her in the right way? Because had offered her his arm in the rain four years ago? Because she felt a deep connection between them as keenly as a deep void? Because he talked to her more now, as if something had changed (even though she knew it was probably because he had just been bored)?

Because he seemed equally lonely?

Wait – she remembered long ago, another friend to whom she felt a brief attachment. What the hell was wrong with me, she asked herself. Why had she considered almost every…? The answer to “why him, now” must be loneliness then, even if she ultimately rejected the prospect with each of the others in turn. It must be loneliness.

She had spoken to multiple people about the fact that she, empirically, had no proof that she was lovable (in that way), simply because no one had ever made known to her that she was loved (in that way). Sometimes she thought that she just desperately wanted to be loved. Who didn’t? But really, really, what she truly wanted was for someone to accept the depths of her love, a kind of love that had only ever been directed towards emptiness. Maybe the reciprocation was just a bonus, maybe all she wanted to was to be allowed to love, to not have to pretend it didn’t go that deep, that it wasn’t that type of love. And he had been there for her to express such feelings – not the love itself, but perhaps something that had the potentiality of love – through text alone, from a safe distance. And he had responded, not because he felt deeply about her, but because he simply felt or at least thought deeply, and she could pretend it was for her sake.

At the very least, she didn’t feel wracked by the intensity – the jealousy and depression, the endless looking-for-signs – that marked her experience with the first “him.” She told herself that if he found someone else right now, she would be truly happy for him, and that if she found someone else right now, she could forget him. And yet, as days upon days filled the space between her and their last communication, between her and her last unanswered question…

The more she felt like she should have taken his arm that night four years ago, the more profound their correspondence, the more days separated episodes of said correspondence, the more geographical distance separated their two beings, the more space for yearning, the more… the dangerous, expanding more.

Berny Tan