“Hey, Jenny. It’s ____________. Your friends gave me your phone number after you left. Give me a call or text me whenever. I’d like to buy you a drink.”
After being single for practically four years, you would think a text message like this would leave a girl swooning, but not here, not in New York. The phrase “give me a call” immediately sends my stomach falling through the floor, my senses overcome with a combination of paralysis and nausea. Give me a call… This isn’t the charmed opening for a lifelong relationship; it is the death knell for my own sanity, a Venus flytrap I have finally begun to see for what it is. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 43 times, shame on me. Like an old basketball player fearing broken bones, I have taken myself out of the game.
This place and these men have killed all hope in me. A request for a phone call isn’t seen as the decent, gentlemanly thing that it should be, that it once was, but merely the preamble of a broken heart, a forwardness that, in the now-distant past, only sped along a five-week relationship towards a brick wall. Do you believe in fate? Will you be my girlfriend? I know it’s only February, but will you want to come with me to ________ for Christmas? Every night a phone call, every morning a message. I heard it all. And none of it meant anything.
Last night I was at dinner with a friend. “How are the guys?” he asked. Six months ago I would have rambled on about someone I had just met that I was interested in. I would have said something about where he was from, what he did, what he looked like. But that’s just the hope talking, that stupid part of your brain that used to get excited when you met someone new, thinking they’d stick around for more than three days. Instead, my mind goes blank, struggles for a response as though the answer to the question were the fundamental theorem of Calculus. Right now I have no one I am dumb enough to be excited about.
“Eh,” I began, my eyes wandering into the far corners of the restaurant, making sure not to come into contact with anything that could call me a liar. “I’m just so busy with work. I just… I just don’t care anymore.”
“That’s good,” my friend said. “You’re focused.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Focused.”
It used to be easier to see the difference between my own personal guardedness and the blind determination of my career. Now I use one to explain the other. These countless and useless flirtations, the dinner dates, the never-ending barrage of the same questions poised to different people – after awhile it drains you, steals the focus away from things that matter. Love should matter here, but it doesn’t. Career matters here, because you can control it. Everything and everyone else is just a distraction from that lofty goal that says one day you will be somebody, even if that means you might not have someone standing next to you, who is proudly able to say, “She’s my somebody.”
And so when I sense I am about to be taken for a ride, that cheap distraction stands poise to derail my progress, I shut everything down. Even the slightest inkling of disinterest sends me running. Then again, now interest does, too.