She had a propensity for talking about her exes. At first, I was eager to listen, not because I cared who they were, but because she was confiding in me and I was glad to be trusted, as a lover in arms, the sensitive and understanding 21st Century man. But, after a while, it bothered me, because I wanted to move forward and she was still casting back, comparing this to that in ways that undermined the moment we could and should be sharing. Presence is the greatest gift you can give and yet, there was always an open window in her mind, which she could never resist climbing through. The other side beckoning, the illusion that every experience was new.
Early on, not long after we met when things were still hot and heavy between us, she told me about an ex-boyfriend she had met on Tinder. It was the first I’d heard of the dude or the swiping, but that wasn’t unusual. Apparently, he idolized Hemingway, talked about his writing constantly and even owned a three-toed cat. He was an aspiring novelist who also taught at a community college.
She slept with him immediately. Got a set of keys to his place. “You know, you’re the only guy I ever dated who didn’t give me the keys to his place” she interjected. “I still don’t have keys to your place.” I shrugged and got up to go to the bathroom, hoping to divert. It’s expensive to get your locks changed. When I came back, she got out her phone and showed me a selfie of herself in the shower at his place, lathering up. It was a cool Art Deco shower, with these quasi-Egyptian deco tiles around the corners. I made a mental note to look through Angie’s List later for contractors, something I’d been putting off in terms of my own redesign.
Anyways, when it came to this dude’s writing, he was always blocked, with a sort of E.D. of the mind, as she put it. Interesting turn of phrase, I thought. Later, I wrote it down, in case I could use it somewhere – like here. She didn’t think he had written twenty pages of his novel, at least while she was around and she found it disgusting. “If you’re an artist, you should work on your practice,” she said, “otherwise you’re just a poseur.”
Needless to say, they only dated a couple of months, the last hurrah being New Year’s Eve, which she spent curled up on his couch all night long in the fetal position, crying over what she was missing. I imagined the scene and felt deep sympathy for this man I’d never met. Finally, she dumped him because his profile hadn’t shown how fat he was. What could I say? I only weighed 160 pounds.
A couple months later, after I requested a move to the friend zone, she told me the same story, with slightly different details. In this version, the dude was a poet, not a novelist, and it was Bumble, not Tinder. He was also an adjunct, instead of a tenure-track professor. But what did it matter, really? I knew her well enough by then to know that she had likely forgotten these details, and to her, that’s how it went down. I found it interesting, in a sort of anthropological way and I was glad to be trusted, as a platonic pal, the sensitive and understanding 21st-century man who could accept differences in perspective over time or in time. So, I listened all the way to the end, as a friend, climbing through the open window for a glimpse of the other side.