“What makes you think that?” I asked, ignoring the fact that it’s rude to answer a question with another question.
“It’s just… I don’t know how to say it. It seems like…”
“Just say it. There’s no point in beating around the bush.” I interrupted.
“Okay. Before this mess, you were so sane. And then this person comes and all of a sudden you’re forgetful and quiet and always distracted. I don’t know what to make of it. You say you’re serious this time; that you aren’t playing anymore. It seems to me like you’re playing a lot of games and neither of you really know the rules.”
“I don’t know. I’m not in love,” I said. “I, uh, I don’t believe in love anymore.” She raised an eyebrow as I struggled to explain.
I wanted to sound as witty as possible but I’m pretty sure it didn’t seem that way to her. I took another sip of my Americano and thought of a way to change the topic.
“As a generation, we have lost the capacity to love. We are all just mounds of flesh filled to the brim with lust, need and friskiness.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Deny something’s existence because you failed at it. Of course, love exists. We’ve talked about that so many times before.”
“I’m sure decades ago, it still existed but nowadays, no one takes the time to fall in love anymore. We’ve become so honest and so comfortable with each other that it kills any chance for romance to bloom.”
“You’re twenty-three. How would you know how things were back then?”
“It’s clearly depicted in movies. Back then, scriptwriters and directors took the time to show how love begins and blossoms. These days, a man meets a woman, they do it and boom! They’re in love.”
“Okay but that doesn’t really tell me anything about love and honesty. How can you say that being honest and comfortable kills romance? Isn’t it good that people in this decade are more open to sex and intimacy?”
“There is no intimacy. Like I said, there is only lust…”
“Need and friskiness. Yes, I got that the first time.”
“We’re too honest. No one takes the time to pretend they’re okay anymore. All we ever do is whine and complain. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that a boyfriend is someone who will listen when you’re having a bad day at work or whenever things don’t go your way. How can we ever fall in love when we spend most of the time complaining?”
“So are you saying that to fall in love, we need to pretend? I thought the whole point of falling in love was to share your life with someone, not censor it. How do you truly love when you’re not really being yourself?
Suddenly, a man walked by our table and let out a huge glob of spit. The afternoon sun reflected on the bubbles that formed on the surface.
“Think of it this way: no one spits on the street. It’s gross, it’s tactless and very rude. Think of love as a street and we are people with spit in our mouths. The polite thing to do would be to quietly suffer with spit in our mouths or swallow. Instead, because we have been too comfortable with each other, we spit on the street. He spits on the street. She spits on the street. You and I spit on the street. Sooner or later, that spit collects and now we’re drowning in a massive sea of saliva and phlegm and no one wants to take the blame.”
“That’s gross and doesn’t really stand to reason. Plus I don’t think you know too much about love to form a valid opinion,” she retorted.
“I don’t know everything about love but I think I know enough.”
“So where does that leave you? Are you going to pretend everything’s peachy for the rest of your life? Is that why you pull away the minute you feel like it’s starting to get serious? Does that mean you’re just going to spend the rest of your life playing with other people? Swallowing your spit while they drown you with theirs? That’s not very nice.”
“No, it isn’t.” We were quiet after that. Too many things said and unsaid, I guess.
“Can’t we talk about something else?” I asked, breaking the silence. “I swear, that man’s spit looks like it’s got a life of its own.”
“I know, right? So gross.” We carried on the rest of the afternoon talking about other things. A true friend knows when to stop prying.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I was still thinking about her question. Was I really miserable? After spending close to an hour twisting and turning in bed, I gave up and decided to spend the remaining hours of my night doing something else.
I sat in bed practically motionless. Questions. So many questions. What did my friend see in me that I couldn’t? Why do I pull away the moment things get serious? Did I mean the things I said or was I just feeding her bull to numb the ache of failure?
There, in the comfort of my solitude, I let down my walls and tried to be honest. If I can’t be honest with myself, who can I be honest with?
I went to the bathroom. The fluorescent light was harsh and it took my eyes some time to adjust. I inspected my face. The days have not been kind. I need a haircut. My face seemed rough and coffins of pimples laid to rest glared at me like some haunted audience. I turned on the tap and let it run for a few moments. I cupped the water in my hands and splashed it on my face.
In the mirror, I looked the enemy straight in the eye. I’m sorry I wasn’t honest. I know I said I don’t believe in love anymore. Truth is, I just stopped believing it could happen to me.
Smile Like You Mean It