Any rational decision that I might have made would have been vitiated by the surprising strength with which I missed him during the last few days of my week apart from Matt: I missed him with a dull ache in the chest that sometimes manifested itself physically as tears that I had to fight back when, in a spare moment when I had nothing to do but walk twenty minutes to the law faculty, I thought about the silence between us, the silence manufactured by me. It was especially acute when, minutes ago, I had stood in the place where we'd met, in the same position, in front of the coffee machine, where I had stood on countless previous occasions; but this time, I kept silent, listened to my iPod, pointedly looking out across the street at absolutely nothing, my mind - seemingly my entire being - unwilling and/or unable to engage with the person whose absence from my life suddenly took on a magnitude, exacerbated by the nearness of the gaping distance between us, that was irresistible, undeniable. On those countless previous occasions, I'd looked to him to make conversation; I'd looked at him and waited for him to say something to me, and he'd pretty much always delivered. Sometimes he'd say something vaguely complimentary: 'That's a nice scarf', 'You have a lot of clothes', 'Did you do something to your hair? I like it'. I always left with a smile on my face.
The contrast between all of that and the abject sense of dejection that crept up on me as I walked these 20 minutes to the law faculty, then 20 minutes back, transmuted into a sense of loss. Why was I in this situation? Why couldn't I reach for my phone and reach out to him? What was it that prevented me from doing so and changed my mind every time I formed the intention to end the impasse, fill up the silence, at least let him know that I was still thinking about it, and wasn't avoiding him or acting strangely because I'd decided to stop seeing him? My mind that can't stop analysing every single thing, including this situation, had distilled it into three plausible options: I keep seeing him on his terms; I reject his terms and stop seeing him; and the most likely course of action - the only course of action I was ever going to take - I tell him that I want to keep seeing him, but I need more from him.
And it was because the third option was really the only option that I kept hearing the words that he said to me a week ago, when we'd last seen each other: 'If you want more, then you're not looking at the right person.' He'd be ready to break it off, I thought, especially since I kept seeing the look of resigned defiance on his face as he told me, 'It's up to you whether you want to continue seeing me or not. No disrespect but I'll be fine if you don't. No hard feelings.' He'd made it seem like he didn't care, that it didn't matter to him one way or the other whether I was in his life romantically. Why did I care then? Nobody could understand why I was so stuck on this one guy who didn't seem to be invested enough for me to want him the way that I did. You can easily find someone more suitable, they said. You should just ditch him. You need someone who can match your intensity and give you the emotional connection that you crave.
My rational mind thought those verdicts not untrue. My heart, however - my heart, soaked with an undeniable sentimentality which merely masked, not eradicate, my genuine yearning to have him in my life again; my heart was stuck on this one guy.
And so there was no other way to break the impasse except with an honest vulnerability that I had hitherto not exhibited around him, always affecting to be interested only to an extent, parading the magnificent fiction that he didn't matter that much like an emperor's new clothes. The strength of my missing him in the last few days of my week apart from him exposed that as wishful thinking at best, a self-deluded lie at worst. I didn't want to hide my true feelings anymore; hiding my feelings so far had led me to this point, staring down the possibility of losing him when I'd barely even had him. I wasn't ready for it to be over. But I didn't want him only to an extent; I didn't want a diminished version of him. I wanted all of him. But I wasn't going to get it unless I opened my mouth and said the words that had been floating around in my mind for the past week; and I was willing to risk losing him entirely just for the chance at a meaningful, authentic connection with him.
This is what we live for, isn't it? These authentic moments of honesty, vulnerability, defences withdrawn, two hearts on the sleeves, a nakedness penetrating beyond the flesh; this feeling of lightness, a gentle glow slowly thawing the icy silence of the past week, a slow smile as he says, 'I hope you think that it is worth the effort to date me', and then, 'If we keep doing what we've been doing, but I put in more effort, would that be okay?' This is the reason we date: for moments like my grabbing his hands with no prior thought whatsoever as I realise, for the first time, that I matter to him more than I'd thought, because it is the most natural thing to do, because the only way to convey the sudden swelling in my heart is through physical touch; for moments like the pure gladness that I feel when, in response to my confession that I missed him a lot, he says immediately and without missing a beat, 'I missed you too.' We live for these genuinely human moments, for these incomparable highs when he kisses me with intent, with purpose, in a moment when no words are needed, no superfluous words that we clumsily snatch at to describe the indescribable - that which can only be experienced, a momentary but weighty connection between two people enjoined in a single reality shaped by a mutual desire and wanting so great that the rational mind is cowered into submission, then silence. This is what keeps us going: the comfort in the tight warm embrace of one's beloved, the constant search for this sense of safety when it is taken away, and a stubborn unwillingness to let go for no good reason (or any reason at all) when it is right in front of you; when he is still here, when he still wants you, and when your rational mind is not strong or convincing enough to erase him from your heart.
And so I tell him, 'I would rather miss you when you're gone than to miss you while you're still here.' (He says, 'That's poetic.')
I have been through this before. I am prepared to accept the consequences of my choice. But I won't settle for anything less than a genuine human connection; and Monday night proved that it is more than possible between us. It is already there, at whatever level. This is not to say that I am asking him to fall in love with me; he is probably prudent in cautioning both of us against that (though I countered, 'How can you control it?' He conceded that it can't be controlled). All I am saying is that I don't want Robot Matt. I don't want to be alone in developing an attachment to the person that plays tennis and Scrabble with me, who hugs me with warmth and enthusiasm, who holds my hand in his.
But of course, being me, after we left each other and I was done grinning to myself, I couldn't help but start analysing how it might go wrong. Did I inadvertently cajole him into changing his mind about a course of action that he'd decided would hurt him? Should I tell him that he should end it if he feels like it is too much? Did I do the right thing?
Ivan was right: I just need to stop thinking. There was a particular late summer night, while Matt and I were walking back to my college, I told him, 'Sometimes I wish I could take a break from myself.' Sometimes, I just want to stop thinking; just be present, be in the moment; just be.
But we are who we are, right? And Matt is who he is, and so I don't actually expect him to do anything differently. And so it was important to me that he offered to put in more effort. It fundamentally contradicted my expectation that he'd tell me that I wasn't looking at the right person, that he couldn't give anything more. I'd just needed to know - to feel - that I mattered to him, too.
People have asked me why I like him; not because of our superficial differences, but because of this apparent clash of personalities, and the fact that his isn't the type that I usually go for. I have more or less always dated, and have been drawn to, assertive, Type A, alpha men: men that go after what they want, who make their interest in a woman crystal clear, who stake out their territory and make sure that all their competitors know it. The only reason that Matt and I dating is because I go after what I want; though to give him credit, he did come back after two months and signalled his interest. If he hadn't told me that I looked hot in my tennis outfit, I would probably not have gone back to dating him; in fact, I definitely wouldn't have, as I'd already written it off in my mind. Still - he handled this with no sense of urgency whatsoever, which confused me so much, but it is just who he is.
There is no ostensible reason for me to like him, is there? Actually, there are plenty of reasons for me to like him. He is genuine, warm, soft-hearted, trustworthy, reliable, and I know that he is a total sweetheart. There is no sense of entitlement to him at all. He has good work ethics. He is responsible. He respects people, treats them well. He is polite and (except for littering public streets with cigarette butts) well-mannered. He is also a liberal, which is great. He is smart and knows interesting things that I have no clue about. He is a genuinely good person, and he doesn't need some pretentious rationally-arrived-at moral principles or some fictitious religious beliefs to tell him how to be a decent human being.
Plenty of reasons for me to like him. Our superficial differences don't matter to me.