She hated that he was a waiter in a restaurant and was Nepalese. She absolutely did not want me to see him at all. It's been 15 years and even with the benefit of maturity and hindsight, I can't understand what she was worried about - that I would get pregnant? that I would get pregnant and have to marry him? that he would rape me? that I would get my heart broken? It is also curious that she continued hanging on to these fears even as I told her that I wasn't in love with him.
But this is more curious, perhaps: at the height of my infatuation with him, when I was writing things like how I loved being with him and how he made me feel safe, I was very much aware of the fact that I wasn't in love with him. This is what I remember from my fling with this guy: there was a lot of physical attraction, I was a horny 16-year-old, this guy was 5 years older and exotic and, frankly, super fucking hot, he was my first boyfriend, I was curious, it was exciting. But there was nothing much beyond that. I don't even remember having any interesting conversations with him. One of the few things that stick out most in my mind when I think back to this 'relationship' was a particular moment when I was over at his and we were in bed together: a rare intimate moment when he said, almost forlornly, 'You only like me because I look good, huh?'
I might have acquiesced to that by silence. Or I might have protested, unconvincingly and in vain. But it says something significant that this is one of my most vivid memories of the relationship - this, and the day that I broke up with him. The irony is, at the height of my infatuation, I was worried about getting hurt; it didn't occur to me that I would get bored of him and be the one to hurt him.
This is probably an apropos of nothing, but: Gen - the first boyfriend - was the first and only person that I dated from the food/service/hospitality industry. After him, all the guys that I'd dated were from school, or had a similar educational background, or he was Wouter (who doesn't fall into either category).
15 years later, I seem to be doing what I did when I was 16, and I seem to be facing the same objections that I faced when I was 16. Apparently, my friends thought that I chased Gen too much, made things too easy for him; I'm not sure what to make of the fact that this observation that they made has become an ingrained tendency that prevents me from playing games, playing hard to get, quite happy to make things easier for the guy, not at all interested in artificially making him work to get me. And so it is with Matt: I made the first move, I take the initiative with him in a way that I wouldn't with many other men (though that's largely because I wouldn't have to with the men that I usually date), and apart from making him wait a bit before having sex, I don't think I've made him work at all to get me. But I'm just not that kind of person; if I want something, I will ask for it. It comes as no surprise, then, that I've done more of the chasing than he has so far given his passivity.
Would it also be unsurprising when I inevitably lose interest and end things with him? I suppose the only question here is whether I would lose interest before or after he leaves.
But objections from friends: John has been at his most vocal and passionate about his deep opposition to my going out with Matt. I don't want to get into his reasons because I know what they are and I don't think they're particularly salient in this situation because neither Matt nor I are pretending that it's going to be long-term, and so long-term considerations do not apply. But why should we think that there's no value in a short-term relationship (using this term loosely)? Is the value of a relationship contingent upon its longevity? Surely that cannot be the case, for we've all had many meaningful relationships that did not last, that came to an end, relationships that were life-changing in the present but unfortunately ended for whatever reason. Do we think that those relationships were worthless because they ended? Can we not take any positives from a good relationship that didn't last?
So the meaning and value of a relationship are not dependent on whether it lasts; in any event, all relationships end at some point because we all die in the end (which was what Georgios used to say to justify his going out with me despite the shortness of it). Why should I be hung up on whether Matt and I would last when I know that it won't, and I don't think I want it to last anyway? I should be hung up on whether there is any value in my going out with him, presumably to the exclusion of all others. I should be working out what I am getting from this, and when the day comes that I no longer have an answer to the question 'what are you getting out of it?' is the day that I should stop seeing him.
For now, I still like spending time with him, talking to him, sleeping with him (both figuratively and literally, though more the latter than the former). It also helps that I really like his accent and his voice, so talking to him has an added bonus.
I got a bit annoyed over dinner with John and Raffie when they were talking about him, especially with John when he was making these claims about how the only thing that Matt had going for him was that he gave me free coffee and that I liked the attention. Of course I liked the attention, and it's always nice to get free things, but how can that logically be the only thing that he has going for him if it's been almost a year since this thing with him started and I am still interested? Granted, a part of it has to do with his perceived aloofness; apparently, women are triggered like fucking Pavlovian dogs when men are distant, aloof, seemingly disinterested. I am ashamed to be susceptible to this.
But I like that he is different. I have always liked this about him. I like that he brings something different to the table than what I'm used to (in many different ways, actually). He shows me another side to life that I don't see often, he takes me out of the Cambridge academic bubble, he makes my life here a little bit more real. Will I ever form a deep and meaningful connection with him? That depends on how willing he is to deal with his feelings and emotions. But he is who he is. I am determined to take him as he is. And so I will try to stop the comparisons that I don't even realise that I am making until I am thinking of the person to whom he is being compared; try to stop the overthinking; and try to just enjoy this while it lasts, expectations tempered.
The final thing that I want to write about in this entry is my Sunday evening with James.
When he told me that he had a spliff in his car that we could do after tennis, and I said 'okay!', I wondered at the back of my mind the nature of his offer - of the times that he asked me to play tennis, including the impromptu request on Sunday (which I only saw on time because I happened to glance at my phone when he texted). In other words, I wondered if he liked me in a more than friendly way; I also wondered how I would handle it if he made a move to kiss me.
I briefly mentioned to him my lack of sleep the previous night. What I left out, and rather deliberately, was that I only went to that bar for drinks with friends because the guy that I am dating was bartending there; I left out, too, that the said guy came round to mine at 6.30am and had to go to work again at 10.30am and that was partly why I didn't get much sleep. I left out all these things, almost as if I didn't want him to know that I was seeing someone.
On second thought, let's not be coy here with the 'almost as if'. It was exactly that. I didn't just wonder if he was interested in me; I sensed it from the comments that he was making. I could have adjusted his expectations simply by saying the words 'the guy that I'm seeing', but I didn't because I didn't want him to know; because I liked that he seemed interested - because I liked the attention.
So I wondered what I would do if he made a move. I wondered if it was a good idea to do weed with a man who was not yet a good friend and whom I wasn't dating when I'm dating Matt. I wondered, but didn't care; I just wanted a different experience, something to sully my sanitised life, and I would rather have been going over to Matt's to smoke some weed, but I took what I could get in the moment and I didn't care about the consequences.
There is also this other thing: I do not discourage attention from another man if I don't feel as if I am getting enough attention from the one that I am seeing. Sometimes I seek it out. Sunday wasn't one of those times, but I was questioning Matt's level of interest for the second half of last week and I was still reeling from that a bit, and so I didn't mention Matt at all...
...until James and I were sitting on a bench in Jesus Green, smoking the spliff. Well, he was smoking it; I was just letting everything escape through my nose. After a while, he started to explain what he'd meant by his getting paranoid when he gets high. It was because he was sitting on a bench next to me, he said, and there was all this sexual tension, and if I weren't from the tennis club, he'd probably try to kiss me, but he'd had terrible luck with girls and he didn't want to spoil things. He liked me, he said. And this situation made him anxious, and the weed exacerbated that.
I don't know why I was surprised, but I was. I wondered if he liked me but I cast that thought aside when we left the club, and I stopped thinking about it, reverting to my tendency to downplay any possible interest from a man in my mind, not wanting to assume that a man is interested in me romantically/sexually just because he wants to spend time with me (is it possible for me to be that naive? But I actually really am). He'd also never really asked me out, and I don't consider 'let's play tennis' asking out because it's not a proper date, is it? In any event, I didn't really care what he was after as long as he provided what I was after.
But after he said that, I came clean. I'm flattered, I said. I didn't know that you liked me. The thing is, I'm seeing someone right now...
He seemed more relieved than anything. 'That settles it then' was basically what he said.
But the weed had put him in a bad mental/emotional state. He's bipolar or some sort; he mentioned it, but it wasn't clear whether he'd been diagnosed. Not that it mattered, really. I could tell that he was not in a good state, was a bit embarrassed, was freaking out, was getting into a bad place where he felt bad about himself, kept saying how he wished he were normal.
I hadn't known him for very long, and it'd been a while since I'd last seen him; and during the times I did see him, I'd sensed that he was a bit strange, but he seemed like a nice enough guy despite that. At tennis earlier when he said that people at the club thought that he was inconsistent, I immediately thought bipolar, but didn't ask because it seemed rude. And so in that moment when he was going off at himself, my heart went out to him. He seemed so vulnerable and destitute, so full of self-loathing, that I wished I could take it all away from him, lighten his load, toss it all into the Cam so that he'd never have to feel this way again.
There was nothing much that I could do except listen to him, ask some questions, say some reassuring words, and this surge of compassion towards him made me rub his back as we walked along the river, hoping that it would help.
We spent about an hour and a half walking and talking. He calmed down after some time and blamed it all on the weed. Later, he texted me to say that he was embarrassed about what happened; but it was one of the most authentic and emotionally real evenings that I'd had in a while, and so I really didn't mind. It seems a bit weird to say that I had a good evening because he clearly didn't for a while; but I did have a good evening. He works in film and loves film, and when I said that my favourite film is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he said that it made him feel better about being weird. Haha! He obviously knew David Lynch and Mulholland Dr.; I was so surprised, and still am, that Matt confused David Lynch with David Fincher and had never watched Mulholland Dr. and The Elephant Man. But Lynch is really too obvious for a self-professed film geek; what got me really excited was that James had seen Tsai Ming-liang's films, and was enthusiastic about Wong Kar-wai and Chungking Express. Hell to the yes!
I also liked that he didn't laugh at me when I said that I wanted to be a film director when I was 14 because I was watching all these movies. What I liked more was that he said a story can be borne of the simplest of scenes, such as a conversation by the river. I should always remember that when I am trying to do my writing.
I am tired.