These dalliances, they require persistence. Persistence to see them through, most probably because they cannot rely on actual presence. I make myself available online — I am a patient listening ear: the TV set to mute, my laptop tethered to headphones. I have their voices in my head, echoes of conversations that are quick to dry up and become imagined sounds, then degrade into white noise.
I persist, like I said, to be present for these men. I hold up my part of the bargain like a good trader. In return, they strive to honor my attempts at realness. They send me photos of traversed landscapes, nameless faces, objects they value. They leave long drawn-out voice mails full of longing, proffered plans, promises of meetings. They gift me with lines and lines of intimate chats that I read when the days are long and need to be filled.
We are strangers, though, for all our insistence on that meet up in real life (IRL). I know the drill by now, the swapping of calendars, the constant arranging and re-arranging of days so that separate lives may dovetail. Still, all that desire does not transmute into commitment. I am a ghost that passes through their lives, briefly. They all hold me closely, as though at any second I will flit away. They offer promises of permanence, as though that will hold me down, as though that is what I want.
I’ve discovered that there is a song for this.
Quote of the day:
“You’re a good woman, Ana.”
Apparently, one of my multiple personalities is killing it out there.
Of all the dalliances I’ve had, this boy is the most, shall we say, puppy dog like. Maybe it’s the age thing, the younger they are, the more needy they seem.
The distance doesn’t help, of course. I find myself giving out reassurances that I may not be able to sustain, so I stopped giving them. Unsurprisingly, this did not go over well on the other side of the ocean. There was radio silence for days. And then there was that one night we were messaging, when he sends me a missive: “Tell me you do not love anyone.”
That made me pause, mid-key. I’ve just been given a sort of ultimatum, and the skittish girl in me wanted to run, fast. But then I thought, if I do not love anyone, that makes for such a sad life. If I do have a love and it’s someone else, that will not be palatable to him as well. Maybe it’s the grammar that needs work, some nuance lost in translation, but I get the feeling he is looking for something that may not be there. And so, there is no happy answer to that bit of chat, no emoticons that can ease the heart into believing all is well.
That’s the flip side of asking for the truth, you might learn more than you care to know.
I can’t quite figure it out when men tell me, “you’re curvy.” Is it kind of a backwards compliment or is it veiled criticism? The reference to curves could be a slight poke at the extra poundage I’ve cultivated from having had two humans pushed out of me, or it could be a somewhat vague appreciation of my over all abundance.
So which is it — are you saying I’m curvy-fat or curvy-sexy? Choose carefully.
I made a friend during my stay in Istanbul. He is Muslim, a kind, hardworking man who is devoted to his family. He wonders why I travel alone. He can’t believe that I don’t have ‘a man that’s responsible for me.’ He would always remind me to be careful when walking around town alone, to be watchful, that not everyone is kind.
When customer traffic is light at their restaurant, he would leave for a few hours of break and walk with me through the streets, pointing out things of interest, local hangouts, places to avoid. In one of our leisurely strolls through Istiklal Caddesi, we came to a stop at St. Anthony’s Church, a Catholic church right in the middle of the shopping district. I told him I stumbled into that church a few days ago, that I stopped and took pictures. He smiled and told me he goes there sometimes with his prayer beads, takes a seat, and passes the time away in a dark corner, meditating.
That surprised me, and I said the obvious, “But that’s a Catholic church.” He chuckles at that and looks at me as though I am clueless. “No one tells me to leave, they let me sit there and relax. It’s all the same to me.”
I had nothing else to say to that. We walk on until we come to our little street corner and sit down to have some tea. It takes me the entire glass of tea to let that sink in.
A religion of sameness. That would really be something.
I didn’t die at age 40, much to my dismay. You know how it is — at age 22, 27, even 30 — you think you know so much, you think the world has become so tiresome. You think that you’ve seen it all, experienced everything life has to offer, and that 40 is a good age at which to end it.
I used to think that at 40, I would have accomplished a lot. I’d be at the top of the career pile, have a couple of grown kids, done some charity work for the conscience, cultivated lifelong friends. As a know-it-all in my 20s I thought, my god 40 is so old, I don’t want to live through that.
How little did I know. I’ve known all along that grown ups do not have all the answers, that was obvious to me even at a young age. You see the adult mouth agape and lacking the words, the eyes tinged with fear of the unknown. So I didn’t really put that much expectation or anticipation to growing older or wiser.
And age proved me right, today at age 40-something I’ve learned that the more you know, the more you realize there is a whole other lot you don’t. I’ve passed the big 40 a few years ago, and I’m seeing there is life beyond it. We’ll see how the rest of it goes.
During one of our video calls, the boy suddenly stands up and tells me he has to show me something. He disappears from the frame momentarily, then returns with a big black object. He swivels the thing around in several directions to show me what turns out to be one of those huge duffel bags with a metal frame and wheels.
Boy: I got this from one of the shops down at ISAF. I can use this for check-in luggage. What do you think?
Me: Baby, it’s huge. I can probably fit in there.
Boy (chuckles): Yeah, you certainly can.
Me: I hope you’re not planning to chop me up in pieces and stuff me in that bag.
Boy (nonchalantly): No, no need for that. I can just chop your head off and you’ll easily fit in there.
See, at my age, dating is no longer that complicated. The most you can hope for is that the guy is not a psycho killer. Or maybe a big enough duffel bag.