did i ever tell you about Anna? we dated in the summer of 2001. a hollow romance to begin the millennium. she was tall and thin and had one of those strikingly beautiful faces, the kind everyone is taught to love. she felt awkward in her beauty though, and this made her even more endearing. she was an undergraduate med student, in many ways smarter than i'd ever be, and was celebrated among our friends as a humble, well meaning citizen that exceeded all our trust. at the time a close friend and myself shared an incurable crush on her. she was everything you could ever want in a girlfriend. whispering our affections to each other when her back was turned, we revered her. put her in an ivory tower. placed her on a pedestal way out of our reach.
so you can imagine my surprise when gossip started circulating about her having a crush on me too.
i did try to charm her whenever she was present. acting as a buffoon for her slight attention. and apparently, my clownish approach towards seduction had begun to grow on her. soon the hushed talk turned into casually intimate inquiries turned into subtle prodding turned into a sly set up for a date. and we found ourselves sitting across from each other on a table top ms. pac-man game, making shy glances and nervous jokes, fidgeting with our hands and trying to get to know one another.
we went on a few dates, mostly where i just made out with her, afraid to go too far for some reason. one day she asked me why i hadnt try to have sex with her yet. i couldnt really answer, stumbling over my words, unsure just how to say that i was scared, so i just said i dont know and she leaned in and kissed me and we had we had sex right then and there.
it was... ok.
i blamed my own nervousness on it. it not being so good. no way could my dream girl not be good in bed. it had to be me. im sure it really was. but either way, i tolerated it; it was the idea of her that i wanted, way more important than the actual thing, right?
we continued dating. we went to see independent foreign movies at the fancy art house theaters downtown. we groped each other at the underground parties on a bench or in the corner of a warehouse. we went to the beach and listened to the gulls. we had dinner at the fancy restaurant she worked at. she laughed at my jokes and whenever she made one, i laughed at hers. but she didnt talk much, i did most of the talking. and sometimes her awkward silences would grow boring. but my anxious adoration of her would win over, and id try to find something profound in her blandness.
so, i had my idea and we had our clean romance, and when she first told me that at the end of the summer she was moving to new york to attend NYU med school, i frowned but shrugged my shoulders. it was fun, but i knew it would never last. id been involved with the princess, but im no prince, so she would never marry me. we made some final dates that would carry us till the end of summer, and i thought that would be it.
but wouldnt ya know: it wasnt.
at some point between her telling me she was going to leave and her actual leaving date, i convinced myself that i was in love and would not be able to live without this girl. i grew desperate to talk to her, trying to see her in all our free time. i began to get more maudlin in my emails, more sappy and emotional. i grew weak, i told her i loved her. i think i even said it in the subject line! that was my way of initially telling her how i felt. in an email, with the words 'i love you' in the subject line. it was pathetic. i became unbearably vulnerable. a fragile, dead weight of a person. and when she finally moved to new york, i'm not faulting her for feeling finally rid of me.
but of course, the idea still raged on.
so i kept in contact with her, trying to maintain the relationship as if there wasnt an emotional chasm of 3500 miles between us. i made plans to visit new york in the fall, we would stay together over a long weekend. but the relationship would be running on empty by then. when my flight finally landed, that November at JFK, she had already decided it was over. even though i knew it was coming, it still hit me like dull surprise. she never even said it, it was just an ache. by this time the towers had already fallen. we spent the thanksgiving holiday forcing ourselves to smile at one another. me brooding about, stinging from her rejection. her sighing and blushing, paralyzed by how uncomfortable it was for me being there. we slept in the same bed, in a loft she was subletting in chelsea, but i swear it was one of the loneliest holidays id ever have.
on the last day there she finally just admitted to me that she wanted to break up, even though we already technically were. it was hard for her to do but i didnt care. i guess i wanted to hear her say it, since i had flown all the way across the country and all, and pressured her to do so. it was one of my final petty gestures in the relationship. on the way back to san francisco i leaned my head on the plane window and cried for the second time over a girl. i felt minuscule. insignificant. i was hurt like id never been before. and i know she felt hurt too, but it was the hurt you prefer, not the one you usually get. she was on the other side, only feeling the pain of moral guilt. the hurt you get from hurting someone. in truth, she was already ok, it was me who had yet to begin the healing process.
of course i did heal. it all passes, things happen, we grow. there were more girls who would break my heart even worse than she did on the vista. so i would stop pining for her, and eventually not think about her much at all, but i will never forget Anna. she put a light upon the darker roads so that i wouldnt get lost going down them again. she helped me discover an ugliness inside that ive been refining ever since. its not easy becoming who you are, but its part of the whole thing. the thing we go through.