I knew I wasn’t interested in him anymore when I saw him at the track one day, after our eighth date. I had finished running and was stretching on the quiet section where people stretch, or practice capoeira by themselves. I looked up and saw him off in the distance, walking his dog and looking at his phone.
Instead of walking over to talk to him, I ran.
I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
When I told a friend she said, “That doesn’t have to mean you’re not interested . . .” She said that if she were out running and she saw her husband, she might do the same thing. “It’s my ‘me time,’” she explained.
I think that maybe she is not interested in her husband.
I had been seeing this man for a couple months and our eighth date would turn out to be our last. We had watched Girls on his couch. The date before that we watched Arrival on his couch. We were already in a rut. It had become a two-weeks-in-a-row ritual. Every Friday night for two Friday nights. I went to cheap yoga, then I went to the expensive Korean grocery store and bought snacks, and then I went to his house. On the night we watched Arrival I brought gluten-free yellow corn bite-sized tortilla chips – he was vocally, managerially gluten free, a container of guac, and a bottle of Beaujoulais from the Natural Wine Store. He was ecstatic about the chips. Really ecstatic. He did not eat the guac, which I did not realize until I offered the remains to him as I was packing up to leave, and he replied that he didn’t eat guacamole, and I realized that meant I’d eaten 2/3ds of it by myself. He did not drink the wine. His quiet refusal of the wine made it official that he officially did not drink. Which was fine, of course. If I was to be open-minded about other people’s healing. But I wanted to know why. The wine was a test. I announced it like this: “And I also brought wine.” And I kind of slowly pulled it out of my bag with fake hesitation and said “I don’t know if you’re cool with that. . .” And he said, “I’m not really drinking these days.” And I said, “That’s right, I thought so. But, I wasn’t sure if this was okay, like if you were okay with it in the house. . .” I was trying to see what sort of alcoholic he was. He just said “It’s not for religious reasons.”
I wanted to ask if he was sober.
We hadn’t talked about anything real yet. We circled around each other at a great distance, trading coy comments about our immediate present moment that demonstrated our wit, and skill with basic punctuation. For example, I needed to buy snowpants for an upcoming ski trip, which kicked off a three week banter about snowpants – which is kind of a funny word to say as it conjures up memories about all the time you’ve spent sausaged into snowpants, which are an affront to the elegance of man and really quite absurd.
I remember the first time I saw the timeline of human evolution of the Museum of Natural History. I looked at the sketch for modern homo sapiens hunching along at the front of a line of many other no-longer-in-existence manlike mammals, and said out loud to no one: “So, we are going to die out.”
And probably quite soon. The homos that came before us had the insurance of calloused soles and body hair; we poach ourselves with plastic blades and pedicures. Then we swath our hairless skin in puffy pants so that we can bear to go outside. We are doomed.
It was all he and I talked about for a while.
Another day, another flirty text about snowpants.
He said it was okay if I had some wine. And then he pulled down three non-tumbler glasses from the top shelf of his cabinet and let me choose the one I wanted to drink from.
- Water goblet stolen from a catering hall
- Laser-cut vermouth snifter
- Marie Antoinette-sized champagne glass, probably also stolen from a catering hall
Which one did I choose?
The champagne one.
I drank three glasses of wine and we both said stupid stuff about Arrival. Like I said I wanted to know more about those aliens and he agreed. Then we watched the pre-loaded Apple photo slideshow play on the screen and he kept saying stuff like “Hmm yes there is my windmill in the Netherlands.” Then we made out barely and I left. Later, he texted to say he’d hooked up HBO, and so we planned a repeat. I didn’t ask about his drinking and he didn’t ask about mine.
On the night we watched Girls I brought the chips, fruit, soba noodles for me and Kombucha for me. He had pulled out the champagne glass before I arrived, and had it waiting on the sideboard. I told him I didn’t bring any wine this time so he offered to pour my Kombucha into the glass. Girls was hilarious. The new season had a lot of blatant full-or-partial bush vagina, which seemed to signal some type of revolution. I laughed more than I think he expected. I laughed in a loud, non-polite way. After four episodes it was late and I had to leave and I packed up in record speed. We hugged goodbye but did not kiss. His next three texts were about Girls, but I didn’t write back ever again.
I started thinking about the diagrams at the Museum of Natural History. The long parades of hairy men sketched out as the best example of the race of mammal they represent, and I wondered, who is art directing these things? Because if an alien really did Arrive here from another dimension and was looking for a homo sapiens who looked like me, for example, but referred to the front guy on that diagram as the prototype of what to look for, I don’t think the alien would be able to connect the dots.
It’s not that I’m expecting more “diversity” per se, but maybe when the time comes to sketch out examples of our current herd of hairless beasts, we round up five or so representative samples.
One could be another nude lumberjack type. I know a theme when I see one. But let’s also pencil in a smallish nude one with breasts and a vagina. She could either have the actual amount of body hair a woman produces in all of the places it grows – armpits, arms, legs, toes, chin, pussy, ass, nipples, head. Or it could be adjusted to reflect modern hygiene and aesthetics. Leave it up to the art director. And then maybe also we toss in one who is so swaddled in the accessories of modern life that he is barely recognizable. He’s not nude, for starters, he’s wearing snowpants. And he is not looking forward in the direction of his genetic evolution, he is looking at his phone, which explains why he is in the way of all of the hairy guys behind him. He is anxious, and he has addictions. He is in debt. If he has offspring, he is irritated by them, while also being deeply in love and terrified. He is sucking in his gut and it’s obvious. He finds great joy in companionship, and he tries to be kind but he experiences terrible swings into anger. He wishes he was taller. He loved Steinbeck when he read him in high school and he wishes he’d kept reading novels, he really does. Can you also paint the ocean behind him, or the mountains? Maybe a small cabin, with a tree next to it and a light on inside. Can you make it clear that there are other people in there, waiting for him, cheering him on as he tries his damndest to represent the best of the last of man? For the aliens, so they know what to look for.
Bridget McFadden lives and writes in Brooklyn. Her work has also appeared in BlazeVOX and she is a contributor for Brokelyn.