Then you wonder, is this not supposed to get easier with age? Is experience not doing its job if this is the effect? Is it arrogant to take this as a failure?
Oh its nothing new. You’ve heard it a million times. A little ‘like’ and some love slowly morphs into something unrecognisable until where you thought the shooting star would have landed, turns into a blob of longing.
A seething blob, that whimpers at the gentlest prod.
We met online – Twitter – January 2015, when I thought I saw someone that looked like him while jogging at UCT.
“I don’t go there,” he said. And that was that.
Cue 10 months later when he told me someone else messaged him to say they saw him on the train. We were dealing with a doppelganger. It was our story. It was whimsical and whenever I told it I would come alive.
My face lit up and people smirked at how cute I felt, and they laughed at how animated I told the beginnings of our tale.
As my current relationship wound down to its natural end, this burgeoning friendship took off. It was purely direct messages on Twitter. It was exciting and fun and innocent.
“Hey youre somewhat of a language expert, right?” he asked while I was out on an assignment.
“Whats a bottle job wanker?” he asked.
Another of our jokes.
I replied between glasses of water and walks around the block, upon waking and well into the night. I couldn’t wait for the messages. They became frequent and inquisitive – “hey” and “hey you!” were commonplace. I would light up when the chat conversation was initiated.
I was not pushing, nor was I hoping. This was new territory for me. Did I mention he is a scientist? Swoon! Later when we met he would tell me about his research and I thought how exciting that’s going to be when completed. He came alive as he explained his thesis topic and I loved it. But that was only much later.
Between October and December this was the routine. It wasn’t all perfect – there was the time I called him the Hitler of something. He didn’t take that analogy well. Granted. We got over it pretty quickly.
He offered to donate books for a charity drive I was helping out with. It turned out it was an excuse to meet and buy me a coffee. It worked, but never happened. Not just yet.
We spoke about movies all the time. He was a nerd. I thought I was one too.
“Say something in nerd,” he challenged.
“I think I’m more nerd lite,” I conceded.
He was competitive. We played thumb wars and he always won. We were the dream 30 Seconds team. Every team Ive played on has won. I looked forward to winning with him.
But before we got there, I passed the audition and went from direct message to WhatsApp. It was a triumph – a logical outcome for these things, but a triumph none the less. It felt well-earned and the next step.
We met at the theatre – nerds! – to watch Singin’ in the Rain at the Artscape. It was one night, and many chat conversations, where the courtship went completely over my head.
For someone who gets told that they’re smart, my brain would shut down and be completely oblivious to signals being thrown my way.
I was throwing myself at you, he would later say.
I look back and the lightbulbs pop all over my mind like a faulty fuse box.
“Its not as easy as you… me…date” I texted one day in the last week of December. We were talking about dating and how hard it is to find a decent man.
“Hey Jerome. You.. me… date,” he said.
I LOL’d. I was not used to forthright, candid and cute. I was used to being dealt assumptions and then next steps. Direct messages were direct!
“You could have just said no,” he said.
An awkward tug-and-pull set the tone for things to come, as I said “don’t go, come back, I misunderstood”.
The situation was placated.
That same night I got invited to the house he was house sitting. There was a hot tub. I had already started a process of spontaneity and better living. This “say yes” mantra coincided with my leaving my house at 11pm at his invitation, with work the next day and a half-hour drive to see him. It was worth it.
I met his brother, his cousin and her boyfriend. They seemed to like me.
“Oh you’re the journalist?!” was what greeted me by his slightly drunk cousin. “And you must look after him,” she said between getting to know me.
Yes, yes I will, I thought. He spoke about me! He must like me! She must sense something that I don’t yet! She was being maternal. They grew up together and this was a good sign! The exclamations were aplenty that night.
“Don’t laugh at my body,” I said.
“Don’t be silly,” he said.
I still thought I was a little too doughy and pale next to him. He had swum 70 laps that morning. I had sat at my desk and read tweets and made phone calls.
“Would you really not date me?!” he asked again in the pool.
This one is persistent, I thought.
But it paid off. After some jostling, and with my 1am curfew approaching, I left. But not before another “say yes” moment.
“I’m going now,” I said, half inside my car.
“No really, I’m going now! I said. I have work in a few hours”
“Okaay,” he said unconvincingly.
I walked up to him and we kissed. Tentatively at first. Weary. Soft. Eyes closed. I was still speaking. The words escape me as they escaped me.
“You talk a lot,” he said, smiling, teasing more kisses from my lips.
I pushed him against the wall and I stopped talking.
“Where is he?” we heard his brother ask.
He jumped onto the wall and said, “I’m still here”. And the jostling continued until I forced myself to leave.
New years eve was the next night – “I want to see you.”
Work took forever. All I could think about was the impending night and seeing him. No expectations. I survived the dreaded new year’s shift and rushed home to shower.
“What should I bring?” I asked.
Condoms and vodka, he said.
Ok, I thought, not over thinking – my default setting.
It was a joke, made worse by the slow cellphone reception.
But the night was perfect, punctuated by hand holding, movie watching, talk of being serious and exclusive (he asked, I said yes) and drinking games. Getting-to-know-you games as we called them that night. There was truth and dare and skinny dipping. Say yes, remember?
Then the descent. Surely you didn’t think there was no descent?
Act three and the energy shifts. Messages take longer to be replied to. Time is negotiated. Jokes are taken out of context. Other jokes are made.
“I make myself too available to you,” I texted. “Im going to friend zone you, just to keep things fresh”.
“Are you serious?” (of course I wasn’t!)
“Of course not!”
“Don’t joke like that. That kind of thing will make me put up walls,” he said.
It was a shock. He was the one who said 90% of what he said shouldn’t be taken seriously.
“I’m the funny one. You’re the serious one,” he said.
I happen to think I am mildly amusing at best. At least! Hmph.
Dates were still fun, but the lightness had gone. We teased each other. Sometimes it went too far.
He rubber-necked when a hot guy would walk past. I humoured it. We all stare, I thought. But that much? In my presence? Surely I should be enough. It was not a question.
“You ARE enough,” said a friend. I doubted it.
Cue to more dates being planned, but with a weariness that proved waning interest.
“You cant dump me until after Valentine’s Day. Any time after that will be ok,” I joked. It was to be preemptively prophetic. 19 days after the new year had started, more misunderstandings and miscommunications.
“Are you comfortable with your sexuality?” was the message I received that got the ball rolling.
Of course I am, I thought.
“Yes,” I said.
I didn’t kiss him when I took him home. I didn’t get a kiss the previous time, so I went with what I knew and thought “Go with that. Read the signs. Respect the space and be content with boundaries”. His granny was sassy, and I didn’t want to cause any offence (even though that night it was dark and we were outside in my car), but I considered her and people who might have been around, instead of claiming my kiss.
It translated to an insult. I had offended the ego and it wrecked havoc with his self esteem.
I wasn’t affectionate enough. I didn’t place him on the pedestal, like his ex did. He later regretted comparing me to the ex, but it was out there.
The wistful mentions of said ex went over my head at the time, but the tentacles of doubt took hold. I never made a big deal, but they were there, hanging on. As was I.
As the conversation – THAT conversation – flexed and contorted down the rabbit hole like a falling cat, the clearer it became that it was over.
But we have a date in three days, I thought. What about V-day?! You cant break the binding clause of St Valentine!
But it was broken. As were we. It became clear later in the night, with my usual insomnia now in full lucidity, that while I was asking “Are we ok?” an d even “Are you awake?” despite that glaring “Online” sign, he was avoiding the issue at hand.
“But he could have fallen asleep while still online,” is the rationale of the desperate. I am not 19, I thought. I am not supposed to be feeling this way. But it was over.
“I am sorry” was one message.
“Didn’t mean for this to happen” was another.
I made my usual appeasing jokes and blocked him on all social media platforms. I was not taking any chances. My eyes were puffy and I still had work in the morning. I got up and prepared lunch, at 2am. Sleep was not coming anytime soon. More tears.
I thought I was special. A whole 19 days. Surely a world record. Do we even count the online time?
“Pen your thoughts down. Write,” was a text from my mother. It was her birthday. I was supposed to wish her, instead I was up and wondering where it all went (goes) wrong.
Everyone thinks they’re special when we collide into a wall. But as you approach, open your eyes. There are skid marks and dents where others have been before. Its just another love story with an aborted end. Others have been here. You may be alone, but you’re not the only one who was here. Its just the same old story.
<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>