By the grace of the travel gods I have been upgraded to business class and am currently sitting next to a successful art director wearing very expensive sneakers and a pair of well-cut jeans. We bonded when he handed me, without even saying a word, a copy of Interview Magazine. Soon after our dinner accompanied by actual silverware was delivered, we became good chums, toasting the good life with plastic wine glasses filled with cheap Chardonnay. This is the type of stuff that occurs in the forward of an aircraft, unlike what routinely happens to me in coach, which is to be harassed by oafs for pieces of gum and starved out for about six hours. Apparently, getting upgraded isn’t just about the cookies; it’s about the company.
Over the next few hours, the topic of conversation swings from one place to the next: where we’ve lived, what we’ve done, the evidence (unbeknownst to me) that I am clearly the product of my over-marketed-to generation, eventually landing on the topic of relationships. My new friend is older and wiser and married and desiring to impart some knowledge onto yours truly.
“You dating anyone?” he asks, tucking into one of the two ice cream containers he’s been given.
“Nooo. No. No,” I say, pressing my real metal spoon into the surface of my own salted caramel dessert while making a frustrated, bitter beer face that has recently become my kneejerk physical reaction to this question, as though I’ve just been offered a bowl of raw hamburger meat to eat. At my core, I am an emotional infant.
“Why do you think?”
Again, my bitter beer face, this time accompanied by an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders and no sound whatsoever, an indicator less of frustration and more at-a-loss befuddlement. That, and two days earlier I was dealing with the missing wine glasses of the non-married married guy, who my landlord casually asked about this morning, at which point I began to unexpectedly choke on tears and flee into my apartment. Full disclosure at the present moment would not serve the serenity of this plane or the dignity of my person.
“You gotta look at that,” my new friend says. “You gotta to see what about yourself keeps people away. You know, everyone is like a mirror. There are people who will make you feel smaller than you are, people who will make you bigger than you are. Most people are warped like that, and so the reflection of you is warped. But eventually you meet someone and you are a clear mirror for each other. They see you, and you see them, and that’s that. My wife, she’s like a mirror for me. She was the first person who made me see all of the things I was doing before for what they were. And that’s real.”
In an attempt to salvage myself from the garbage heap of damaged goods I believe he is beginning to see me for, I manufacture a well-worn explanation for myself, a reason I believe these guys disappear one after another. It’s apparently a worthy one; my new friend tells me the fact I scare people away is a good thing. It means I’m almost a perfect mirror.
I can tell you one thing. Almost isn’t cutting it.