The other day a couple comes in to work. A lovely looking lady with a silver bob and a handsome, slightly younger man in a dark red T-shirt and jeans. They’ve been regulars for a while. My co-worker, my personal Jesus, is talking about having crushes. He’s telling me I should try and act on it when I’ve got one, something he’s trying to change for himself as well. I haven’t dated someone in a year and change.
To the couple he says, "Here’s today’s poll. One, how did you two get together? Two, when you have a crush what should you do?"
The lady laughs. “How I got him? I just pounced on him. Literally. We’d worked together for years and I just jumped on him and I told him to love me. That was 20 years ago.”
I’ve mostly had boyfriends long term. Some months, I’d have flings, romances, interests. I acted on my crushes, they acted on me. Love and sex moved simple and easy.
These days, a love affair looks like this:
A chef that works across the street -- I pass him when I’m jogging. We lock eyes often. When I pass, I imagine he’ll grab a fistful of my billowing old B.O.-stained tent shirt, slam me against his sanitation letter A and softly cradle my jaw in his sizable palms, sweetly tongue kiss me and carry me, one armed, to the dry goods pantry.
Or just ask my name.
At my apartment, two brothers live beneath us, they look like they've been sent from above. Architects. My roommate and I invent scenarios about how to meet them; she’s been wild about them for a while. In one, I pretend to be foreign, have a sort of seizure at their front door and force them to haul my dead-weight drooling body up a flight of stairs where she waits, rose in teeth, cream silk robe on, saying, "Let's stop beating around the bush."
It gets out there is all I mean.
My favorite gangly customer, “Softlips,” comes into the video store, I joke about his BBC movie selections, smile big and eventually pretend I’m doing something else, since if I look at him too long, my cheeks start twitching, my face flames. His eyes sparkle, he leaves without saying much.
And as far as it goes.
To act on these crushes? To extend the fantasy, to flirt more intently, to attempt to make it more? Even to just have a fleeting fuck? I think about that sometimes; I consider it. But the truth of the matter is: I just don’t want to. I am fine with the dry spell.
At times I’m acutely aware of my relationship status and question if my disinterest, even my confidence or enjoyment of being alone is odd, off. I feel the weathered pressure and rhetoric of dating, an expectation that I am supposed to be actively looking for coupledom or the perfect Bertolucci liaison.
That doubt creeps in, sure. I start assessing myself to the Standards. I wonder if I’ve become a shut-in, a chilly witch tit, an old shoe, a closed door. At times I say, “Bite the bullet on a crush or two, lass, get loose with a crowd or something, otherwise you’ll be dating ghosts and soft-lipped fantasies forever.” I wonder if I fell in love too early and too well, let it slip like a greased rope through my youthful palms, leaving a pastel mirage of the most particular expectations.
I see my friends doubt themselves too, aching for a mate or bedfellows, over considering coupledom, musing on meeting someone, drinking rose on flat dates and seeing the streets turn into framed live portraits of taut bodies in better cut pants. How it can seem like we’re all just posturing, posing, waxing on, effacing, building up, breaking down.
That doubt, I decide, I want none of. Strange or not, I exempt myself from the worry.
I think about nights I have, walking down streets after work when light hits the sidewalk in such a white yellow way, going along long and quietly, having to answer to no one, feeling tall as a building with a bursting weightless possibility alighted like a cracking match in my marrow. These times my life as is feels like a good decision, a nice place to be, and sits with a certain knowledge that there will be a day when it is different.
The couple leaves the store that evening, the silver-haired woman stops in the doorway, arms wrapped around her partner’s shoulders.
“So, your crushes” she says, “the answer is pounce.”
And as if remembering something, surprised, “But only if you find someone worth pouncing on.”