As we’re eating, I moan satisfaction at the food.
“You make a lot of noise,” Hotman remarks.
“Do I? Weird I hadn’t noticed that.”
The way he mimics my mannerisms is mean like a mean girl, like the hottest, coolest bitch at the party who gives herself the authority to rank and file the clothes, bodies, and mannerisms of anyone who approaches. Hotman’s made several of these types comments during our afternoon together and I become self-conscious. When I’m anxious like that around a man, I either clam up or go into seduction mode. Seduction comes out in many ways, but its purpose is to erase bad feelings and encourage both parties to think only of sex; sex being the great anxiety neutralizer, of course. Not long after dinner, Hotman lays out on the couch and reads a magazine and I sit reading in a chair opposite him. All I want is a man who I enjoy reading with (and looking at) and Hotman is fully embodying my fantasy. Half an hour into reading, I yawn and suggest a nap in bed.
“Uh oh, a ‘nap’ she says,” he says making air quotes. He refers to me in 3rd person a lot, much like he does with himself, and honestly it’s weird. Then again I also a habit of making people into characters for stories. Everything about Hotman is just way too close to home. Or maybe Hotman is juuuust right.
Years ago at a party, after several vodka shots and glasses of Champagne, I told a psychoanalyst at the party that I write a lot of long emails. She cringed and said, “Ugh god I hate long emails. People who write long emails and texts are control freaks.” I remember feeling resentful when she said it because writing and sending long emails and texts was almost my passion! I’d write to men I was obsessed with to feel like I was on top of the issue at hand and HAD IT ALL FIGURED OUT. I’ll figure you out in poem, essay, and prose. I’ll manage my feelings in emojis, clever one-liners, and walls and walls and walls of fucking texts.
After dropping Hotman off at the metro that night, my first instinctual thought about our day together is: he’s bad. Not a bad person, but bad for me. But then my brain works hard against my instincts and begins building a case for his worthiness and goodness. It does this for two days straight, making him the real hero of my life, letting him move into my apartment, the strong bricks softening into porous mud. I write him a long poem, and more long texts wondering where he is, what he's feeling. Eventually he responds:
"Carmen, I'm at the same place I was a week ago: tired, overworked and hiding it. I'm in love with someone I can't be with, who I'm worried about, who doesn't feel like herself these days. If I've ever felt empty, it’s now. I barely have energy for myself right now, so no, I don’t have much to offer you. I'm choosing to take care of myself before anyone else.
That is probably what you’re talking about when you question my enthusiasm. I'm not meeting you where you are. But I just can't. You are special, intriguing, talented and a lot of things I don’t know yet, but it feels now the intensity you need is not one I can provide. Am I wrong ? I like our times together as well, but I need to hide. I’ve been trying to hide for a while actually."
He presses his empty weight onto my body with his empty superhero strength and I flatten out like a flat female character.