I have always found the times when another person recognizes you to be strangely sad; I suspect the pathos
of these moments is their rareness, the way they contrast with most daily encounters. Thhat reminder that it
can be different, that you need not go through your life unkown but that you probably still will--that is the
part that is almost unbearable.
From then on, as long as I was at Ault, I would never be alone. Martha and I would get along, our friendship
would last. I felt certainty and relief. Years later, I heard a minister at a wedding describe marriage
as cutting sorrow in half and doubling joy, and what I thought of was not the guy I was seeing then, nor even
of some perfect, imaginary husband I might meet later; I thought immediately of Martha.
I was, of course, obsessed with kissing; I thought of kissing instead of thinking of Spanish verbs,
instead of reading the newspaper or writing letters to my parents or paying attention during Indian
sprints at soccer practice. But to imagine it and to have Cross next to me wanting to kiss were
different. I didn't know how to kiss. Kissing terrified me, as an actual thing you did with
another person, and there was no one it would be more humiliating to kiss badly than Cross.
Cross shrugged. "You'll be okay." There was something in his shrug I envied--an ability to prevent
misfortune by choosing not to anticipate it.
Life is clearest when guided by ulterior motives.
He was still smiling. I loved boys, I thought. All of them.
more on boys
Girls always like when boys were around, but it often seemed to me that boys preferred to be by themselves,
talking about girls in the hungry way that, I suspected, they found more gratifying than the presence of
an actual girl.
yet more on boys
In some ways, boys were easier to read than other girls--with boys, it was pursuit and lust, it was effort.
Of course, now I wonder where I had gotten the idea that for you to participate in a gathering, the other
people had to really, really want you to be there, and that anything short of rabid enthusiasm on their part
meant you'd be a nuisance. Where had I gotten the idea that being a nuisance was that big a deal?
more on shyness
I believed then that if you had a good encounter with a person, it was best not to see them again for
as long as possible lest you taint the previous interaction...This anxiety meant that I spent a lot of time
hiding, usually in my room, after any pleasant exchange with another person.
The senator laughed, and I wished that I had never come to Ault, or that I'd been born a different
person, or that at the very least I could lose consciousness immediately but not in a way that would
be disruptive, not, say, by fainting and collapsing to the ground--more like by simply vanishing.
This desperate aversion to seeming like you wanted anything, or worse, to going after it, stayed with
me for years after I left Ault. When I graduated from college, my father told me he was concerned that I
didn't express enough enthusiasm in job interviews, and the comment shocked me. Enthusiasm was a thing
you were supposed to show? But wasn't it a little disgusting, didn't it seem the same as greed and
neediness? Of course you wanted the job, I thought, and the interviewer should know that because why else
would you have shown up in his office?
Once I had asked, "But are you a Democrat or a Republican?" and Jonathan said, "I'm socially progressive
but fiscally conservative," and Doug Miles...lifted his head and said "Is that like being bisexual?" Which
I actually thought was funny, even though I was pretty sure Doug was a Jerk.
Marth was the kind of person who would never leave her underwear around, whereas I was the kind of person who
thought I wouldn't but actually would.
on screwing up
I had been indiscreet. That's what it was. How much better it would have been to f*ck up in a normal,
preppy way--to get caught the week before graduation smoking pot, or skinny-dipping at midnight in the
gym pool. To make politically charged complaints to a New York Times reporter, on the other
hand, was just tacky.
on the messiness of breakups
Now I think that it was far-fetched, that my impulse was feminine, and that the
masculine response (maybe I just mean the detached response) was to realize that our final interaction had
been overblown and unfortunate but that we each understood well enough where the other stood. Another
exchange would be reiteration, not clarification.
[as an aside, i think it's actually an injured response, not a feminine one]