It might have started when I was 6, flying to Disney World, 11, to Las Vegas, or 16 to California, but I sure as hell hope it didn’t start at 20, on my way to Costa Rica. This tendency to entertain the same exact daydream every time I take in the view from a descending plane, “Look how many people I could fall in love with here.” It especially hits me once I’m close enough to see the moving cars, since I’m not cut out to be a housewife, as much as I’ve tried. In the car of life, I am a passenger, casting awkward, sidelong glances of adoration at whichever new boyfriend happens to be showing me around whichever new city.
Before and after my five year engagement, I tended to fall in love in tight, convenient bursts. Amtrak love, where one of us would inevitably disembark hours before any small thing could possibly go wrong. A paragraph of intimacy in a chapter of scenery, rolling hills punctuated by a gasp of ecstasy before the next stop and the next chapter, completely unrelated to the first, could open. Except it’s always related. It’s the same chapter with different scenery, and that one distinguishing moment I can never write. The guy in the trench coat with green eyes, Irish, I think, who bought me my first whiskey. That song he sang. The Mexican who stole my first stolen kiss in the hallway, or me asking “Please, don’t be honest. We only have an hour, let’s do this right.” I can never write that odd confession, the strangled breath that makes it different. It doesn’t really belong to me. People aren’t robots, though, so it always happens. Maybe I am the robot, pretending not to remember. My chapters go from bad to worse and I never even notice until I start writing again.
Of course, while taking in the scenery of the moving cars from so far away, I was always at least semi realistic. I took restrictions into account, but even after the exclusion of age brackets, STDs, current incarceration and relationship status, I felt like I had at least 1,000 options. Then I’d subtract the ones who would turn out to have insurmountable problems, the ones who couldn’t handle all of mine (which of course, I hoped to be rid of by this age anyways), the accidents of fate, and I’d leave myself with about 100 potential husbands.
It was only after I found the one person I didn’t want to take it further with that I realized the extent of my delusion. Love isn’t common, unless you go to all the lengths to make sure that the person in question won’t get close enough to hurt you, and will leave within a couple of hours. I’d always prided myself in being able to find love in the most uncommon nooks and crannies. From the innocent bursts like the lady at the cash register who laughed at my Korean and tried to help me, to the uncanny ability I have to isolate the lone viable prospect in a room full of females and bring him the fuck home before anyone else can. Other people are successful in work and school, I seriously thought, but look at me. I’m good at love.
Sadder still than that assertion is the fact that I must have felt the need to adapt. To take love wherever I could find it. Why does a chameleon change colors? Predators.
And I’m starting to wonder where the whole plane daydream came from.
My ex boyfriend and I had several cute stories. One of which was when I was 20, on the way to Costa Rica, and he was cranky. There’s no other word to describe it. When he got cranky, he would say the same silly, aggravating shit over and over, and I would react as maturely as possible, until I took a nosedive on it.
“Your friend John is an asshole.”
“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. But you know, he is my friend and you’re going to have to put up with it.”
“Well, he’s a drug addict, too.”
“Yeah, he has his problems, but you know, he’s my friend, and I don’t have that many.”
“He’s a real asshole.”
“Ok, but just keep it to yourself, please.”
“Ok, but I’m just saying, he’s a giant dick.”
This would inevitably escalate until somehow, seemingly out of nowhere, as far as he was concerned, I proclaimed that his mother was a whore. Which of course, she’s not, I was just trying to prove a point. But the look of shock and betrayal on his face was unfounded and the argument lasted forever, with him playing the victim.
“How could you say that? My mom’s so nice to you!”
“Yeah, well…I don’t know. Sorry.”
And a similar argument.
“Your glasses are ugly.”
“Well, that hurts my feelings.”
“Well, I’m not saying you’re ugly, but those glasses are horrible.”
“Ok, but I can’t see without them, and they’re basically a part of my face right now, so please stop.”
“Ok, but they’re hideous. I bet John picked them out.”
“No, he didn’t, actually, my mother helped me pick them.”
“Come on, admit it. He picked them out, and they’re ugly, and you’re just embarrassed.”
“Well, at least I don’t have a big nose.”
“WHAT? Oh my god, how could you say that?”
It was following that particular fight that we were almost kicked off of our short flight to Costa Rica. I had to get up and stand by the bathroom just to get away from him. When it became clear I wasn’t coming back, he casually walked by and passed me a note. “I flushed your credit card in the toilet. Have fun being alone and a woman in Costa Rica!” I almost laughed at that, because there was no way the credit card would fit down an airplane toilet, and he had to know I knew that. But I imagined the scenario and I knew exactly how it would go. He would spy on me from some bush to let me feel the full effect of abandonment, and wait for me to cry, at which point he would come out and give me a hug. Only I would never cry. I would stalk out into the streets and pretend to confidently hail a cab and he would come running out to catch my arm and gruffly apologize. I would gruffly accept, and we would move on. We just so happened to make up before the scene played itself out, but upon recounting this story, I had to close with another I won’t include here. Suffice to say we almost tore each other from limb to limb like a couple of wild animals over a burger king meal in an airport once.
And she laughed until she cried, asking, “How are you not still with this person?”
As the lyric goes, the book of love is filled with things we’re all too young to know. There are dark moments that would take the element of charm away from my entire life story, let alone my one love story. I’m also not willing to disrupt the all important flow of a nicely packaged narrative, although I’m clearly willing to put down my prerogative of humor in order to continue writing.
Suffice to say that I am alone in a foreign country, telling and retelling the same cute stories, and bragging about the only person who remembered to send me my Peeps on Easter. And also to add that I don’t entertain the same fantasies, and that I might never go back home again. That I might just get more and more cats. You can fill in the rest.