I wanted to date a nice man to prove to myself that all the therapy had worked. I’ll admit, I got into it. I had plans for the two of us. I thought that we could go for a picnic or skate around the roller rink. A friend told me that irony is over, so I would have been authentically doing those things had I gone. He’d have taken a photo of me smiling and felt proud of how happy he’d made me. If things had worked out with the nice man, it would have meant that I’d developed the ability to attract good healthy people into my life. My mediocre sadness would be over. I could have grown to love him.
When I was younger, my mother used to come into my room and tell me that it was my fault that she was sad. I’m not angry about it. We all get drunk. I think she’s a good person who just got stuck. I don’t really know her life. I used to watch a show about a girl who was best friends with her mom. It was interesting to me because I always wanted an older person to care what I did.
After our second date, the nice man and I went back to his house and we talked for a long time. The topic of cocaine came up but it was obvious he’d never done any. I said I hadn’t either. He didn’t know anything about me and I could be who I wanted. He went on talking about drugs he’d never tried that he thought would help him concentrate and I nodded periodically. I remembered the acting classes.
They weren’t really acting classes. It was just a game I used to play with a man I used to know. We’d do it when we were fucked up. If I were writing a movie, the opening scene would start with a dark room.
Wax drips over candle holders that rest on mahogany furniture: a wardrobe, a dresser and two bookshelves built high into the wall. A man and a woman sit on a four-poster bed with red curtains pulled back. The man is older than the woman and they look odd together. The man is dressed in black skinny jeans and a black t-shirt. Grey hair in his beard. The woman is partially clothed in a black bra with a pair of thin black tights. The woman’s hair is in a bun. She smiles at him then slowly sways her head, as if possessed. She looks down so her chin is almost touching her neck, and then she looks up at the man until she’s smirking while making eye contact. She says a line. Writing the line that she says would put too much significance on it but she says the line; it’s obviously from a movie they both enjoy.
She slaps him, hard. He responds with an amused look. It’s difficult to tell if he’s restraining himself. Her head moves when his hand hits her face. He reaches over to the table beside the bed and offers her a small glass tray. She does the line through a silver straw. She smiles.
I got tired of the nice man while we were on our second date. We were sitting on his couch. He opened his eyes wide with hope and went in to kiss me. I told him I didn’t like kissing anyone. It’s true. There were too many questions in my head for me to be in any position to perform sexually or even have a conversation. I began to pick at the skin on my thighs underneath the long socks I was wearing. He said nothing. I reached for my phone on the side table with the intention of showing him a clip from a film. One that once moved me.
The day after, I went to the botanical gardens. I walked through the flowers and held the warm cup of tea that was in my hand. I put my nose close to the lid, feeling the steam rising out. The scent of ginger soothed me. There was a purple flower that was dangling alone on a concrete wall. I looked at the plaque that said its name. I wanted to take a photo of it, all alone. I pulled my backpack around so it was resting on my stomach and felt through it for my phone. I took a moment to center the frame around the flower, making sure it was in focus as if this diligence would allow people to mistake my photo with the ones being taken around me with real cameras. I posted the photo online, having already forgotten the name of the flower.
The path out the door of the botanical gardens was lined with shrubs that reminded me of building blocks. Outside, I pulled my coat over my hands because the weather warranted gloves but I didn’t have any yet. I went and sat on a nearby bench underneath a tree that was nearly bare.
My mother and I exchange texts. I don’t always find it comforting because her words roll off me the way a compliment from someone you don’t care about does. She writes things like, “don’t worry.” I am always worrying and trying to control things. I used to daydream a lot when I was a kid about living in a treehouse with a group of loyal friends. And my mother, she seems nice. We’re just not that close. We just don’t like the same things. I thought of how her day must be going, and I tried to think of something productive that I was doing to report to her. I pictured her happy now that I lived far away from her.
Maybe I was just in a dark mood on my date with the nice man. I could be picky as a way of avoiding intimacy. If he sent me a message, I was going to try to make it work. My phone had been vibrating in fraught bursts. No message from the nice man. There was one on an app that I use to talk to someone far away. I couldn’t look at it just then because there is a sadness that came with it. That came from wanting someone you won’t see in a while. Nothing disastrous, just a lack. I pushed my hand into the bottomless pocket of my oversized coat and began to discover various objects: a pink lighter, a pack of cigarettes, a lipstick called “temptress” and a pair of wireless headphones held in a container resembling a package of dental floss.
I tried to read the preview of the message. I wanted to see what was written without the app indicating that I had read the message the way it does with a little checkmark and an R. I read the previews. One with a link that read, “listen to this album” and one that began with “I don’t think…”
I left the bench. The emptiness of the street in the afternoon surprised me and it took longer than I’d have liked for a cab to drive by. Once inside I felt rude sitting with my headphones on. I took them out and smiled. There was a silence that made me feel like an asshole so I commented on the weather and we talked about that. Another silence followed. I opened the message on the phone. The man who was far away had sent me an album I already knew but didn’t listen to because it made me feel sorry for myself. After the album preview: “he was talented but he ended it. He couldn’t do it.” And in a separate message: “I don’t think that’s you.”
When we reached my apartment I said thank you while patting my coat pocket to feel for my house keys. I propped both hands on the outside of the door and pulled myself out of the cab. I felt tired and dizzy. I’d done nothing but look at colorful flowers and repetitive content on my phone. I tried to run up the stairs like someone with energy and joy would. I made it halfway. I had to slow down and catch my breath.
I always wanted to have the same hair as my mother. Mine’s straw blond but I use a box dye to tint it the color of dark cherries. My mother’s hair is that way naturally. It’s the texture of our hair that’s the same though—the only thing we have in common, really. Our hair is fine but there’s a lot of it. When I’d see her across the dinner table, I’d wonder where the similarities began and where they would end. Would I grow up to be drunk? Would I shout at people in my home? My mother has a beautiful Welsh accent. It will probably be the last thing I think about before I die.
I went straight to bed, dropping my coat on the floor and kicking my shoes off with my feet. It was not uncommon for me to be exhausted at four in the afternoon. My memories had drained me. I could hear the clock I once found on the side of the road that was circular and holographic. The clock had to be cleaned once I found it. We’d run out of any sort of spray cleaner. I didn’t feel like going to get some. I played classical piano music to relax me as I searched around the apartment for some kind of product that would clean the dirt off my new holographic clock. I ended up borrowing my roommate’s beard oil. Then I walked back to the kitchen, grabbed some paper towel and sat at the table. I pushed a basket of bananas and apples away to clear room. I carefully dripped the oil onto the glass covering the face of the clock. It worked well. The grime on the clock seemed to be coming off just fine. The oil smelled like tree sap. It reminded me of when I used to climb trees in the forest behind my mother’s house and stay there.
What song would I pick for the dark bedroom with the camera? The movie I was writing in my head seemed cool. I didn’t know if it would be easy to pick a happy song while two assholes were slapping each other and enjoying it. A sad one would be melodramatic.
And was I putting too much weight on the slapping? It was just a little thing the lovers in my movie would do. Just something that used to be done. The line she repeats to him? I know it well. I can’t write it down yet. I can only play it in my head.
Screenplays are rarely made into movies. Even if I wrote this one, no one would make it and no one would see it. Two assholes doing cocaine. There are already movies about that. No. The movie wasn’t my problem. Cocaine wasn’t either. I could take it or leave it, I think. I could deal if it was all gone.