Countdown to the down-for-the-count (something about your hand wants holding)

by Charlotte E. Wilde

“Nothing is ever as good as we can imagine it,” and I hate to harp, but how many times have I said it? While most people would be hard pressed to argue with such a statement those with particularly vivid imaginations will find that the inverse is also true. I was just such a person, and we were just such an imagination. Perhaps I’m merely a little-miss-know-it-all, but it never ceases to amaze me just how much I really do know.

I like to make lists, fill up the pages with coincidences that multiplay their ways into the eeriness of everyday life. Living inside my head has always meant that moving– upwards, downwards, across a continent or ocean– has never inhibited me from constructing streets of perfectly imperfect proportions. Here, my highways are cobblestones that give way to personalities looming larger than life and scenarios in which I am both the hero and the anti-hero wherein his lips dont find mine after awkward indian food and I make decisions to walk away instead of linger on the fringes of a life worth forgoing.

It’s human nature, perhaps, to believe that we are unique in our strifes as in our triumphs. Yet, December found me sitting in the passenger seat of a red sedan watching as the windows slowly fogged with secrets. Passive, that’s how she described herself and honestly as I listened to the tears rising in her throat I realized that despite my hardened pretense those painted lips looked a lot like mine. The difference between us existed only in my much more hefty accumulation of “stories,” which for several years had been ticking their way towards that particular shade of jade I like to call “have no cake and eat it too.” Also known as: ‘you’re barking up the wrong tree, buster.’ Also known as: ‘allow me to show you to the door of our relationship.’

If my twenty-something years of life have taught me anything it’s that dating is a game, often a game in which you lose. It’s as if we’ve stepped into some sort of fake monopoly board of rules that reveal themselves as innate, designed to be read in the length of a skirt, the lids of a languid look or the ratio of cucumber gimlets to the cost of the final bill. It’s a game in which someone pays for the pleasure of someone else’s company all the while estimating  how many doors must be opened before “go” can be passed and a pile of rainbow colored paper is cashed in for the final prize. The pay-out being the moment between the cheek heating can-i-come-up and the interminably awkward whose-sock-is this-anyway, mildly smokey, probably hungover morning after. (Disclaimer: cash prizes will be divided amongst the winners, taxes collected, and meager remains spent on a fittingly sigh-inducing consolatory pity-party or brag-fest, respectively.)

And for what? Do we thus remind ourselves that we are desired? Does this keep us from forgetting that the thing in our chest we call a heart does more than pump blood, but beats with the excitement of the chase? Does the click of heels on the stairs to my apartment or those slender cold fingers that found mine that night after dinner, begging me to understand that what objectifies is also objectified, reveal a wisdom I’m not yet willing to admit? Does it remind me that living is more than just the subtraction of a dress, the addition of a pair of hands and the sway and slip that keeps us up whispering until we remember that tomorrow we go back to being just as we were. No worse for the wear, perhaps, but worse for the want.

The truth remains that we all wear laundry-day underwear, we all clench our teeth in our sleep, we all slink out the next day with the conviction that this time a lesson has, in fact, been learnt. Once again reassurance comes riding on the thought that next time we’ll know better than to go looking for ourselves in the approving regard of a stranger. Despite weak-kneed evidence to the contrary we will not find any answers lingering in that feeling we get from a glance that slides down and pools desire. Such moments remain, as always, just a lose-lose scenario with too many rules amounting to nothing more than a series of mistaken identity and misinterpreted looks designed to pass the time in an otherwise monotonous night or life.

Nothing is as good as we can imagine it, but I tell her “nothing is as bad as we think” and I suppose it amounts to the same message. We are not some sliding scale of good or evil, but a series of Tinderellas and Prince Charmings gone-wrong, all just trying to find a pair of fingers to fill the spaces between the thinking and the feeling. We’re all sitting, sipping, jotting down our sloppy love letters on a cocktail napkin, written in haste and dedicated to this violent need for something upon which to base a sentiment or sigh.

It seems far more likely that the answers we seek might be located in the introspection caused by the fears of a friend.  The true knowledge held in a realization that sometimes in life you find someone who may indeed be better than you could have imagined and that this perfection is located instead in how very imperfect they reveal themselves to be.