The Slip

I’m an inconsistent person. I’m in love with multiple exes at once and it bothers me. I’m not always funny, I’m not always charming. I let things slip. My weight, the way I dress. These things need constant attention and, well, I tend to lose track of things.

My biggest fault must be that I fall in love far too easily. All it takes is the right alignment of celestial things—a laugh, a joke, a wry smile in a dim light. And as I was thinking about this the other day I realized that I never really fall out of love with someone. These feelings of admiration drag my lapel and hoist me by the scruff of my neck until it’s 3am and I’m paralyzed by the loves I’ve, if not lost, then certainly mismanaged.

But somehow I feel guilty for cheating on my exes by loving them all still.

No one ever told me as a kid that these sorts of relationships between people could be so impossibly complicated. I fear there’s a programmer hacking away in /Users/robin.rendle and that person doesn‘t seem to care the slightest about how things will work out in the future.

It’s like this person has root access to all my emotions and memories. And they can’t stop typing.

So I find myself in love again. Although this time, as with every other, it’s different. When I fall in love I always expect the same rush but it appears to me that there are no rules and regulations that apply consistently.

For example this time I didn’t fall in love right away. It was the sort of thing that was drawn out over several months and then in a single conversation all that went—zip, zoom, pow—I find myself talking to someone that five minutes ago was just another person, but now?

Of course this is someone I most certainly shouldn’t be in love with.

But this bundle of feelings was like an exciting jolt at first. Well, this is certainly new! I thought in my rather Bertie Wooster sort of way (even if these feelings wouldn’t, and couldn’t ever, be reciprocated). There was this lightness I felt for the first time in months. No longer was I worrying about CSS or design or my visa. There was just this lightness at the center of things.

The moment when I snapped went like this: as she walks over to me she strikes up conversation but I realize that we’re talking and yet we’re not really talking. We’re doing this whole other thing. I’m pretending to be someone else and she’s playing along and all of a sudden I can’t remember the last time I had a conversation that made me feel like the one I’m having right now. Soon I find myself counting the number of times she’s laughing and I start playing a game where everything in the universe is now a prop or a setup for a joke, for her.

Halfway through this conversation I bump into some kind of metaphysical boundary that looms out in all directions. Aw beans, I thought (rather poetically). I’m in love now I guess?

I have so many questions though! Is this all it takes for me? A few giggles and a private joke?

A couple of days zip by and she walks over to my desk again. Of course I stop coding and all my attention is on her because quite frankly everything else can go straight to hell. This job, my visa, my apartment, my motorcycle—I find that whenever I’m around her I enjoy being myself—I also find that I’m counting each laugh again but this time categorizing them in my mind. Okay, so she laughed at thing 1 and thing 2 but not thing 3. Logging that for later. What makes her smile? How does she see the world? What excites her and frightens her and what does she want next from life?

In giant, grotesque letters behind me I imagine a flashing neon sign:

Aw, beans.

As the conversation comes to a close though I become the physical manifestation of a Shania Twain lyric; I want this feeling and this moment—this dumb conversation we’re having right now—to last forever.

“Every conversation for you is a performance isn’t it?” my ex replied and looked up from her drink.

I had just told her about the laugh-counting thing I do in my head sometimes. Like when I’m bored in meetings or conversations, but especially on dates, I tend to kick off a stand-up routine where I bounce jokes off the other person until they laugh, or until they despise me.

“Yes,” I replied after a short pause. “Everything I do is an act, in one way or another.” And I smiled back, pretending that I wasn’t still madly in love with her.