“You know what you are,” my friend Mike tells me in between puffs of his cigarette as we sit on the bar’s patio, “you’re his emotional booty call.” And we laugh together at this as I sip wine and he sips whiskey, but when that other man calls before I’ve even left the bar’s parking lot, I’m no longer laughing. Because I think then that Mike is right, that although between texts and phone calls we talk more days out of the week than we don’t, I am just this man’s consolation, the thing he chooses because he doesn’t know how to be alone, because he needs something.
When I leave, Mike tells me “Don’t let that man use you anymore.” And instead of saying “I won’t,” I say “I’ll try.” Because somehow, this feels more honest.
And I think then too of that conversation the man and I had had, the one in which he had asked me “what is it you want from a relationship?”
“I don’t want to just take care of someone and I don’t need to be taken care of.”
“What else is there?” he had said, laughing.
There’s a third option, I think. Equality. Balance. When two whole people choose each other, again and again. How much better to have been wanted rather than just needed.
Hadn’t I already had one man tell me that he couldn’t live without me, and mean it?
When the man tells me of the things he dreams, of what he himself wants from a relationship, I think they sound beautiful. But I think then too of Degas’ dancers, of how, when I looked at them, so beautiful, their white swan necks, their bodies wrapped in tulle, I could not help but also think that they were like the good china, the plates kept wrapped in tissue until the holidays. And I wanted instead to be that mug, the one with the chipped rim, the one worn from constant handling. I wanted only ever to be myself—imperfect, and yet still someone’s everyday choice. Not a museum piece.
The man tells me of his dreams and I think they sound beautiful. But I dream instead of just someone in the space in the bed next to me stealing all the covers, someone moving around me in the kitchen, someone for pizza and bad movies and who laughs at me when I want to make Kool-Aid during thunderstorms because it reminds me of the tornado parties my brother and I would have as children, sitting underneath a desk in the basement, scared of nothing in the world. They are such beautiful dreams—but I have only ever wanted something ordinary, a man’s smile, a man’s eyes watching my own, a man’s face held in my hands. Just ordinary, plain, real love, chosen every day.