There's a Kind of Crush
All Over the World Tonight...
This is great writing, the kind that reminds me why I can't live without my weekly dose of The New Yorker magazine. And, no disrespect to my girlfriend, but I can relate to it, like any honest homo sapien. Men are beasts and fantasies, along with strong coffee, are what fuel us and get us through the day.
Four Short Crushes
by Paul Simms
(from The New Yorker, May 1, 2007)
Well, well, well.
Just look at you, walking into this dreary bar and lighting the place up like the noonday sun at midnight, twirling a lock of your long auburn hair pensively as you search the room—for what?
For a soul mate, perhaps?
(I know, I know—I hate that phrase, too. Maybe that will end up being one of those things we both hate.) Maybe a few weeks from now, lying in your bed on a Sunday morning, I’ll ask you, “What’s your least favorite word or phrase?,” and you’ll say, “ ‘Soul mate,’ ” and I’ll laugh till you say, “What? Tell me!,” and I’ll tell you how I knew that from the moment I first laid eyes on you, and then we’ll have sex again.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. You haven’t even noticed me yet. That’s O.K. I can wait.
Maybe when your gaze settles on me, and we lock eyes in that mutual Hitchcockian tunnel-vision effect where the camera is, like, pushing in at the same time it zooms out, or however they do that, you’ll come sit down next to me and we’ll—
Now you’ve spotted the friends you came to meet. They look like good friends.
Maybe they’ll be my friends, too.
Your eyes just came to life like emeralds lit by subterranean torches, and as you move across the room toward your friends you shriek at them, “What the fuck is up, yo?,” in a voice so piercing that the entire bar goes silent for a moment, and I have to check my glasses to make sure the lenses didn’t crack. You continue to bellow your every utterance (including the lines “Jägermeister is the bomb, dawg!” and “Just ’cause I’m a white girl don’t mean I don’t got some serious junk in the trunk!” and “Random! Random! Random!”), and the bartender leans in and whispers something to his bar back, and they look at you and laugh.
You must be a regular here.
(Duration of crush: seventeen seconds.)
Oh my. What have we here? A rainy night in the city has cleared the sidewalks of all but the most intrepid pedestrians, and those who didn’t brave the elements have no idea what they’re missing.
Because there you are, gliding along on your bicycle, just a few feet ahead of me.
You’re obviously not one of those tedious hard-core cycling enthusiasts—no skin-tight black spandex for you. No, just a simple white T-shirt (soaked through to the skin, clinging to the small of your back) and a long blond ponytail, whipping back and forth like the tail of a cartoon pony, as those long legs of yours pump the pedals and you raise your face to the sky, letting the raindrops freckle your cheeks with sweet diamonds of moisture.
Dare I try to catch up to you? I’m on foot, carrying a bunch of shopping bags, but you’ve paused at a red light, and—what the heck? I don’t know what I’ll say to you, but even the clumsiest of introductions on these glistening nighttime streets will give us a romantic how-we-met anecdote that we’ll love telling for years to come.
And there you are. I see now that you’re a dude. My mistake. It was the ponytail that threw me off.
(Duration of crush: thirty-three seconds.)
Another restaurant dinner with my boring girlfriend, another lecture about how I never really listen to whatever she’s yammering on about.
But how can I listen—how could anyone?—when across the room, alone at a table, reading the newspaper and nursing a glass of white wine, is a silent confection like you?
You, with your jet-black hair (like a latter-day Veronica from “Archie”) and your skin so pale that the bubble-gummy pinkness of your pouty lips seems almost obscene, especially when you scrunch them up the way you do every time you lick your forefinger and turn the page.
And I know you see me, too. Your first glance betrayed a glimmer of recognition—as if you knew me but couldn’t remember from where—followed by puzzlement, your eyes entreating me to silently remind you, which I couldn’t do at the time because my current girlfriend was staring across the table at me, apparently waiting for my answer to some kind of relationship question that I thought was rhetorical.
And so it goes. For an eternity, it seems—through the entire meal, until I watch you ask for the check, and pay it, and get up to walk out of the restaurant, and my life, forever.
But what’s this? You’re crossing the room toward me? So brazen—just as I knew you’d be. Are you going to surreptitiously slip me your number, written on a sugar packet, perhaps dropping it in my pocket as you fake-jostle me, like a spy handing off microfilm?
My heart beats like underwater thunder in my ears, until you tap my girlfriend on the shoulder, and she sees you and says, “Hey!,” and you say, “I thought that was you!,” and I realize that you are one of my girlfriend’s college roommates.
After you leave, my girlfriend tells me a hilarious story about how one time in college some guy broke up with you, so you found some photos of him nude with the word “Patriarchy” written on his chest in Magic Marker which you took for an art class, and you sent them to his parents and then posted them on your blog, where you apparently like to write incredibly detailed confessionals about the asshole guys you always end up dating, and also, while you don’t use the guys’ real names, everyone knows that the guy you immortalized as Pencil Dick is actually a guy I used to work with.
(Duration of crush: forty-five minutes.)
So silly does my impatience now seem, stuck as I am in the Starbucks line during the morning rush. But that was before I noticed you in line ahead of me.
And now that I’ve seen you—with your gossamer hair still damp from the shower, with your well-moisturized ankles strapped and buckled into high heels that make you wobble and sway like a young colt just finding her stride, with your scent of lilacs and Dial, and, most of all, with your infectious sense of calmness and serenity, which makes me wish that the world itself would stop spinning, so that gravity would cease and we two could float into the sky and kiss in the clouds, giddy with love and vertigo—
Now you’re at the register, and the dreaded moment when we part without meeting rushes toward me like a slow-motion car crash in a dream.
You’ve been at the register without saying anything for, like, fifteen seconds now, still scanning the menu board with those almond-shaped eyes that would make Nefertiti herself weep with envy.
Seriously, you’ve been to a Starbucks before, right? I mean, it seems like there are a lot of choices, but most people find a drink they like and stick with it. And order it quickly.
But maybe I’ve caught you on a day when you’ve decided to make a fresh start. To make a fresh start, to try a new drink, to walk a different way to work, to finally dump that boyfriend who doesn’t appreciate you.
O.K., even if that were the case you could have picked out your new drink while you were waiting in line, right? I mean, come on.
Well, you’ve won me back, my future Mrs. Me—by turning to me and mouthing, “Sorry,” after you finally noticed me tapping my foot, looking at my watch, and exhaling loudly. Sensitivity like that can be neither learned nor taught, and it’s a rare thing indeed. The rarest of all possible—
Jesus Christ, you’ve ordered your drink and paid; do I really have to stand here for another forty-five seconds while you repack your purse, the contents of which you’ve spilled out on the counter like you’re setting up a fucking yard sale or something?
That’s right, the bills go in the billfold, the coins go in the little coin purse, the billfold and the coin purse go back in the pocketbook—no, in a side pocket of the pocketbook, which seems to have a clasp whose design incorporates some proprietary technology that you haven’t yet mastered.
I think I hate you now.
(Duration of crush: five minutes.) ♦