“Well”, she said. “I am sorry I reacted that way. I am not sure why, but I think it’s just that I feel… I sometimes get this strange feeling, I feel liked by you -I am sorry, I know you don’t- and I do not want you to like me, I do not wish to be liked -or feel liked I should say- it makes me upset. It makes me mad, it bothers me, so I reacted violently to your twisted sense of humor -if one can call it that-”.
I wished I still smoked.
“It’s OK , I told her and she meditatively said “no, it is not. I am sorry. I know it’s my problem and you should not have to deal with it. This happens to me from time to time. You have given me no reason to feel this way, but I still get like this; I am sorry” and then she went on to talk about her job and family, and her impending trip abroad.
“Well, those are all valid reasons to be stressed”, I said. “It’s quite normal, but, let’s be clear on one thing, I do like you”. There was a small pause in which I allowed her to gather her thoughts; “You have made it clear you do not wish to like me, and I intend to honor your implicit wish, of acting as if you didn’t -do not want you to feel pressured and hurt your delicate canadian sensibilities- but you have sort of dropped the fact that ‘you think I like you’ as a fallacy and went on with your speech -a tacit request for me to pretend it is all just a misunderstanding- yet I am afraid I will not comply with your request, I will not pretend I do not like you, regardless of the fact that you are willing to pretend that you do not like me.”
“Peter, but I do not like you, or ‘not that way’, as I recall the proper phrasing is, if my memory from my college years serves me right” I jumped in interrupting her,”look, you obviously do not wish to talk about this, as you have subconsciously devised this plan to establish this pact, this agreement of an idea, in which we were to pretend that we do not like each other, so there is no need to talk about it, as long as it’s clear that you wish that you didn’t, but you do, and you wish that I didn’t, but I do”.
She spoke with the little air she had in her lungs, obviously perturbed by the twist of events “but!, but!, I don’t even know where to start, you telling me what I feel, or who I like, I do not mean to be insensitive, but I truly, really, positively do not like you”.
“Sweety, I am the first person you call in the morning, and the last person with whom you speak at night. We text each other all day long, we hang out all day, we make plans, we tell each other all we feel and think, we share favorite books and movies, we ask each other what we like and hate, we tell each other how we want to raise our children and all that. Trust me, you like me. You may have the shadow of a particularly significant ex-boyfriend following you around or some such thing, and that’s all fine and dandy, but trust me, I know when a girl likes me, and you like me plenty”.
She said in a matter of fact tone of voice “And you have got to trust me when I tell you that I know when I like a guy -’shadow’ of an ex-boyfriend or not- and you also have got to trust me on this one, I do not like you, I am sorry to say”.
“OK”, I told her, “so; how was your day? besides all the stuff with your family”. “No,” she said, “No. I am sorry but we are not going to just leave it at that; if we are going to be friends, and I hope we are, I demand we agree on the fact that…” I interrupted her again; “we do not need to agree on anything”; and she said “but we do. Look, perhaps this is just your way of dealing with it, you may feel rejected, but don’t, you are a” and I said “please do not give me the ‘you are a great guy’ speech. I do not care to hear it; since, as it turns out, I am a great guy. If you really didn’t like me -but you do- it would not mean anything. Some women like me, some don’t, it’s not big deal; it just so happens that you belong to the group that does” and she could hear the smile in my voice. She snorted a laugh and said “well, I am sorry I do not think you are the amazing guy you seem to think you are” and I jumped in, saying “that’s OK, I’ve known myself longer than you, I know myself better than you, and so I can tell you, I am a great guy” and we both laughed.
“I thought about this long last night, before I went to bed” I said. “Perhaps it’s a mixture of things, bad timing for sure, but also, I guessed I do not fit into the idea of the man you see next to you”.
She allowed herself to sound silly for a moment and asked “really? and what, if I may ask, would that idea be? what is my idea of the ‘man’ I envision next to me? I am sure I am going to love this one”
I said “I don’t know, let’s run some tests. Do your mom and dad get along?” and she replied in the negative, saying she grew up with her mom. “Is your dad short and stocky like me, or tall and lean as your other boyfriends?” and she laughed again and when she caught her wind said “This is just hilarious”.
“OK”, I continued, “so let’s run with this new piece of data. Mom and dad don’t get along. Dad is short and stocky and so you go out with tall lean guys; all emotionally detached as to match your own modus operandis and the guys probably are of the outdoorsy type, forever carrying a backpack, resourceful -so you do not feel bad when you leave them- and of course they have got to be the muscular type; so they represent you as a person; I hate to use this term, but sort of a trophy boyfriend. He has to be a ‘down to hearth’ type of guy, who makes it a point to show the world that he does not mind sitting on the dirty floor. He only wears Timberlan look-alike shoes while never working up the nerve to buy the real thing -let it not be said he is vain-, and I could go on”.
“Please do not” she said, her laugh saturated the line; she added “to be further off the mark you’d have had to have described a little green man walking the surface of Mars, Pete. You have no idea what you are talking about, you have described a person I have never dated nor would ever date. I can show you pictures of my former boyfriends, if that would allow you to consider the remote -remote to you, of course- possibility that you may just be wrong”.
“As Ford Prefect said, ‘prove it to me, and I still won’t believe it’. Gosh I loved that book”, she added “never mind the book, but if proof does not constitute proof, couldn’t that suggest that this is just wishful thinking on your behalf?” and I said “nahhh, I could quote references all night. Working Girl, when Harrison Ford is offered the explanation “Maybe I just don’t like you” by Griffith when being denied an invitation to dinner, he replies ‘who, ME? nahhh’.”
She said “You seem to be diverting a bit from the main point for someone who manifests to be holding a supreme truth in one hand and the book of life in the other”, and I added “as I said, we need not discuss this any further, as we would incur in needless repetition. We each had our say; we can move on now”.
“It was just getting interesting” she said. “Well,” I interjected, “I was just losing interest. I say lower taxes, you say raise taxes. I can tell you that the candidates never come to an agreement, they just go round and round; so we may as well leave it at that”.
“It would never work” she said. I asked her “What would never work?” and she said “I can tell you, I’ve gotten to know you; and I am not the one”.
I said “You try hard at times not to be the one -and you excel at it with rare dexterity- but when you forget how much I get on your nerves and relax a bit we get along doggedly.” Then I paused. “And,” I added, “There is nothing that would or could not ‘work’, as you insist on insisting that you do not like me”. She said “I am sure it’s written somewhere that you are not allow to say what you just did, but I am going to ‘insist on insisting’, I do not like you.”
“As you know”, I said, “I have to read a lot for my work, and I have to write a lot. I am sometimes confined to unfamiliar offices for unseemly stretches of times, so I have taken to buying DVDs of TV series that like-minded friends recommend. I watched Dr. House. There is this great part in which he is doing a mass job interview in which he eliminates candidates, who are sitting in a classroom, based on their answers to his questions. At a given moment he challenges them to suggest a diagnosis for a series of symptoms. The most attractive woman in the rooms offers an answer, and he looks like he is about to agree with her, but then thinks better of it, scans the room and asks the least attractive guy to ‘repeat what she just said’, and the guy does. ‘As I suspected’, he says to nobody in particular. Then looks at the woman and says “no, you are wrong, you are fired’ “
I allowed her a few moments to make the connection, but she did not need them.
“Yes,” she said, with theatrical effort added to each word, “I told you, I do not like you. That means that I do not find you attractive; and I can assure you it guilts me not. I am fine with being a mammal and wanting to mate with good looking samples of my species. Looks are not all, but as you put it yourself with unchallengeable loquacity not a week ago ‘aptitudes are fine and all in a partner, but we do have to mate form time to time’, so yes, if you are suggesting that I am vain for requiring attractiveness from the guy I date, then I am fine with that.”
“But you do find me attractive” I said, “just not in a way you are used to. You have taken to touching me lately, you hold me by the shoulders, touch my back, grab my arm, you have even offered your hand for me to hold at table, on your birthday. You will now say that you do that with all our friends, but you do not.”
“Predicting the answer does not mean it is the wrong one, you know” she said, “you are very familiar with words, but you cannot pull those tricks on me. Just because you know what I am going to say it does not mean that my reply is true or not. I do hold hands with some friends, I can give you their telephone numbers if you like. I also do not like them. I know when I like a guy and believe you me, I do not like you and, you were right, this conversation did get boring” she said.
I went on “Oh?, now look who’s walking away from the arena. I tell you that you do like me in a new non-familiar way and what?, you are done talking?”
I could almost hear her thinking. “You are the guy, no wait, let me add to that: from the ‘guys I don’t like’ group of guys you might even be the one who I like the most, but I am sorry to be repetitive here, ‘just not that way’, how is that?”.
“Well,” I said “that’s a start. For you, I mean. For you to aknowledge that I am, presently, the guy you like the most, it’s a good start for you. As for me, I know what I know; please let us not speak more of this earthbound things”. I could hear her breathing on the line.
I inhaled and then continued, “Should we make plans for the weekend?” and she answered a <<yes, let us make plans>> that was not without a charge of warnings; warnings which I can swear crackled like long-ago-dried logs, on a lively fire. Her yes said “yes, but let’s just be friends”.