The Story of Book

Thirty seconds, that’s if I’m nice. Really, it only takes about five. In five seconds, I can scan over your body. I can give more than a passing glance to your face. By the end of five seconds, I know if I will ever be attracted. For half of men, this is a ‘yes’. However, for a greater percentage of those ‘yes’s, nothing will ever happen. Mostly because these are strange men passing by on the tube or down the aisle at a bookstore. I’ll never see them again. Then for a large portion of those remaining possible lovers they turn out to be idiots or assholes or both. The initial look is a very imprecise science to gage the success of a yes impression. The opposite holds true for the ‘no’. A ‘no’ will always stay a ‘no’. In those first five seconds, if I know that I am not attracted to a man, this will never change. My vagina instantly and permanently turns off. This problem is what brings me to my friend John Book.
In the first five seconds of meeting Book, we didn’t even speak. I saw him, leaning against in wall in a pair of jeans and almost ridiculously baggy shirt. He had a constant slouch to his frame and a massive blond beard and large blue eyes that honed determinedly on everyone else in the bar. To be honest, I thought he was a strange and creepy looking fellow but the rest of my friends knew him so later on I was social. At the time I was in a relationship, so I wasn’t even looking at men with any intention. It wasn’t until after the breakup, when Book asked me out for lunch, I realized that I had written him off as a ‘no’. But I had to admit, it took balls to ask me out. So, I thought five seconds be damned and I said ‘yes’p.
From the first time we hung out on our own together, Book and I have had a great time. He is certainly one of the oddest people I’ve ever known, something about the way he gestures or his horribly bad jokes, so forced or overly pun reliant. However, he’s also extremely brilliant. He’s a crime reporter for the local paper, he does crosswords, he owns a tv that remains covered in dust while the overflow from his bookshelves takes over any available space. Book is without guile or manipulation. He is earnest in every fathomable way, particularly in how he feels about me.
The words have not been so much spoken, but even I’m not so daft I can’t realize that he’s in love with me. He talks about how life has improved, hinting because I’m in it. He wrote me a birthday card a few weeks ago that also referenced as much. Though hanging out with Book is filled with so much fun and laughter, though he’s someone whom I speak candidly to because no one else has ever bothered asked, I cannot bring myself to fall in love with him and god knows I’ve tried.
Sometimes when I know he’s not aware I just watch him, I look over his face and I tell myself over and over that this is a man who makes me happy, who has been there for me. I search for something in his eyes or in his lopsided smile that will make my heart loop around. Every so often I can almost feel it, like the flash of a lightning bug in the distance, a flicker of something more, deep and loving, but when I try to hold on to it, to reach for it, the glow disappears, as it does, and in my hand, rather than a living thing, I clutch only emptiness.
When he kisses me, I try to direct to his lips to something more that matches mine. But even there, it all feels mismatched. Even as he does exactly what I tell him, the kiss feels awkward and unpleasant. But I keep trying. Because I think, if I could only love this man, my life would so much the better.
One night, we played scrabble in the local park behind the water tower. The bottle of wine disappeared quickly, so we went for food and more booze. We came back with bottles of hard cider. The drinking continued, the buzz in my head got louder and hazier. And I knew I was going to have sex with him, I was drunk enough to get turned on by the most minimal of thoughts. It was the opportunity, a make or break moment. I imagined if the sex was good something might turn on inside me.
We fucked there in the park on one of the picnic tables. He suggested we go back to his place, but I worried about sobering up and I knew the allure of being in public helped keep me in the mood, which I needed. The sex was adequate. It wasn’t fantastic, it wasn’t horrible. Though he had trouble keeping it up. Technique was fine, but the problem was me. I just didn’t have that spark no matter how I tried. In fact, it got worse. His little moans like savoring dinner while we kissed, already annoying, now made my stomach turn. His ridiculous grins, so utterly happy, made me want to turn away. And his stupid tongue, flicking out to the side like a twisted harlequin fool or a spoiled child, simply made me want to punch him in the face. While there were moments where it was nice, where I did all the work and managed to feel some sort of enjoyment, they weren’t enough. And rather than make me feel closer, more intimate with him, it made me hate myself. Worse than that perhaps, I’ve taken some of that hate out on him. The more he pushes for intimacy or any sense of closeness, the more I pull away, the less I talk to him, the more I flirt with other guys in front of him like I always warned him that I would. I told Book from the beginning I didn’t think I could love him. But I realize now that he thought he could change it, just like I did. Now, I don’t know what would be worse, to keep being cruel until he hates me like I hate myself or to just tell him what no man ever wants to hear, that for no reason at all it’ll never be him.

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