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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Playing Hard To Get

I sit across from her, at a table outside a cafe. It's comfortable and cloudy, though windy. I'm having orange chicken and coffee. She's only having water, even though I said I'd pay for her meal.

She just sits there, waiting. Waiting for me to say something, I guess. Which is fine, because I have some things to say.

"Look... I'm tired of the games. You can find someone else to pursue you, or whatever it is you want."

She sighs, with that aggravating patience of hers. "It's only a game because you define it that way. Maybe if you tell me what the problem is..."

Me: "Quit that, please. This isn't easy for me. I've invested a lot of time and effort in you. And still, you won't do the same for me. You won't even make a little effort."

Her: "I shouldn't have to make any effort. And effort you invest in me, well, that's your decision. I never asked you to pursue me, did I?"

Me: "No, but admit it, you've made yourself as attractive as possible. Of course I want you. Of course I want you to be mine. You're what I've wanted all my life." The wind picks up, a few of my napkins take to the wind. I snatch the ones I can.

Her: "I'm sorry. I have all I need. The main problem is you want to own me. You want to be seen out with me, to parade about with me on your arm, to claim me to your friends and put me up on your Facebook status and all. And that doesn't work for me. You're a good guy. But I'm not your possession. That's not me. If you think you can attain me like that, you never really knew me in the first place."

Me: "Then why the hell lead me on like you have? I mean, I guess you just like being pursued, right? I'd never thought your self-esteem was that lacking."

Her, giving me a disappointed look: "Ego has nothing to do with it, and you know better. This isn't about me. I am who I am. It's about you and how you feel. But yeah... pursuing me, that's important for you. And you have to do it to if you want me at all. It's not personal, that's all anyone will ever have of me. People can chase me if they want, and some people get to spend time with me and all, and get to know me. I enjoy that. But put their brand on me? No way. People have tried to do that, and they always fail at it. And I've never presented myself as 'attainable' to anyone."

I cross my arms; a nervous habit. I that when I'm upset. "You didn't say you'd be mine, but..."

She raises an eyebrow and smiles slightly. "But... what?"

I sigh. "Forget it. I see where this is going. You want to be available to everyone, is that it?"

She nods slowly -- not condescendingly, just in that patient way a teacher does when a pupil finally realizes something. "Well, not everyone. Not everyone wants me." She smiles. "Look. It's a big world out there, with lots of people, both men and women. Why tie myself down to just one person, one possibility? Don't you think it's a little selfish to want me to be just yours? A little old school as far as relationships go?"

Me: "Oh whatever. You can't say I don't think outside the box, there. I understand that relationships are subjective, are very different between different people. No one formula works for everyone, I know that. I'm the first one to pipe up with that when people bash gay marriage or polyamory--"

"--but you seem a little attached to the idea of ownership. Yeah?" She smiles.

Before I can reply to this, the wind blows my paper plate with all my food off the table. The plate catches my coffee on the way and spills it. A big mess. "Dammit!" I've gone from aggravated to angry.

Her: "It's okay, don't worry about it. Did you really need that anyway?"

I start to smart off, then I catch myself. She doesn't mean harm; she just doesn't get rattled about stuff like this. I squat down, pick up the plate and cup, and try to scrape up as much of the orange chicken off the ground I can.

And really, she has a point. The food wasn't that great and I'm somewhat relieved I'm not having to eat the rest of it. I'm kinda doubting this is "authentic Chinese" cuisine in any way. It's just there to be consumed.

I'm scraping up orange gelatinous goo and processed chicken with the paper cup, then dumping it on the ruined plate, fighting the wind trying to pull it from my hand even now. I notice that she's helping me, buffering the wind and helping me pick up napkins and my plastic fork and used condiment packets. She puts the trash in my hands when we're done. I dump the food in the cafe's waste receptacle. I look around for a recycle bin for the paper goods, and finally find one outside the restaurant next door. I walk over, toss them in there, walk back, and then sit back down.

Her: "Why didn't you just let the busboy get that? Or just dump it all in the trash? Would've been simpler."

I give her a puzzled look. "Why should I? I made the mess. No need to burden anyone else with cleaning it up. And no need to waste the paper in the trash. It wasn't much trouble anyway..."

Her clever smile tells me she already knew my answer; she knows me, my habits and my ways of thinking. I roll my eyes, more at myself than at her.

She leans over and places her hand on mine, not caring it's dirty and sticky. "I'm with you now. Aren't you enjoying this? Right now, this moment?" I nod, resigned. The clouds part a little, and sunlight lights her hair and features. She's beautiful.

Her: "Our moments together might be fleeting. That's all anyone is ever going to get from me. But I'm always there if you look for me with the right intent, the right sort of want. In your pursuit of me, trying to earn my approval... haven't you grown, improved, become a better person? Don't you consider that personal progress?"

She has a point, and knows it. So I guess no reply is necessary. I shrug and smirk.

Her: "And you never know, maybe one day you'll 'win' me. People have before, you know. Here and there."

Me, amused: "Maybe. I won't in this lifetime though, huh?"

She grins at my joke. "Probably not. Maybe a lifetime way down the road, though. Right?" She winks.

Me: "Thank you, Enlightenment."

She nods. She usually leaves around this point: I learn whatever I'm supposed to about our relationship and she bails. Not sure when I'll see her again... but actually, I do. I'll meet her again when I seek her out and need her, whenever that will be. Which may not always be when I want.

But that's the point, isn't it? I simply have to accept I can't control some things. Enlightenment, and when she comes, is one of those. So yeah, she's right. It's pursuing her, not attaining her, that makes any relationship with her possible at all. I'm just glad she's so patient with me. I may have failed her at times, but she's never failed me.

A lot of trouble and effort for just a little progress. I do think Enlightenment is worth it, though.