I just want the beginnings. The middle makes you start to realize that the sheen and shine of the beginning has worn off and the ends make you want to end your very self from how brutal they are to endure. In the beginning, there is novelty. You are special, all full of different intellectual (and physical) angles and sources of depth. Soon after (six months if you’re lucky), that freshness you once possessed has grown impossibly stale for the other person. You’ll try to “add zest” to your aura by buying shit you don’t need and that won’t amount to him noticing much change; this is how the lingerie industry stays in business.
Where once you always spent time together, you suddenly find he’s gone back to his old ways, staying out late, drinking with friends, presumably flirting with other women who can give him a new beginning.
Ever since my first beginning, I decided to cut it off before the second act can even arrive. After the two-month mark, I bolt, I give them reasons like, “I don’t have time for the pecuniary details of your life.” They put up a fight at first, but don’t really seem to mind after the initial moments of the shock of rejection. That’s really what’s excruciating to withstand when a breakup happens: someone has rejected you, the essence of who you are. They decided to say: no, you’re not for me. There’s something horribly wrong with you.
Around the fifteenth boyfriend (that sounds high or low depending on your level of serial “intimacy”), as I was approaching my thirty-ninth year, it was becoming more of a challenge to casually finagle them. You see, men aren’t as open to cavalier relationships with older women. They find it strange that she should be on her own for so long, as though the scent of damaged goods is wafting off of her. And if Damaged Goods was truly a bottleable fragrance, it would smell of careerism, dry cleaned skirt suits and nondescript Asian takeout–in short, me. And yet, this didn’t stop my latest beginning from being interested.
I met him at a cocktail bar on the Lower East Side, which is where people who shouldn’t go to bars anymore are permitted to do so because it’s “adult” if expensive drinks in small portions are served. He was two years younger, a testament to how old I was getting. He sidled up to me and delivered a pickup line too singular in nature to ignore: “I’m looking for someone with the constancy of a 70-year-old’s ever-forming varicose veins.” His gross-out wit naturally delighted me, and I turned all the way toward him to acknowledge the innovation of the opener.
He was subtly handsome, in that way that could be underlooked or mistaken for ordinariness. I saw him for what he was: a danger to my ability to know when act two was coming. But before I could assess what kind of peril I was in, he motioned to the bartender and said, “She’ll have another one.” My drink was still full.
Vincent already knew my weakness. Or he simply understood the innate alcoholism of everyone in a cocktail bar at 4 p.m. on a Monday. He told me his name after giving me three guesses based on a few distinct clues: “Thriller,” The Price is Right and Van Gogh. After such cerebral stimulation, I simply gave up my name to him, no questions asked.
“Verity, eh? That’s quite a name to live up to.”
“Not really. I think denial helps everything seem like verity,” I insisted as I downed the latest drink he had bought for me.
“You’re someone I could really like,” he offered. And he was probably being serious in that moment. But that’s the trouble with moments–they’re quite fleeting, especially for men. One minute they see you as Venus, the next La Befana. I don’t know what it was about Vincent, but I couldn’t handle the thought of having another beginning come to its invariable conclusion. Right then, Vincent loved me in an authentic and artless way. I wasn’t going to take him home only to lose that love the way I always had, whether as a result of self-preservation or the natural “fizzle out” that all long-term relationships manage to encounter.
Every end is a death, a way that a part of ourselves is killed off. But I’ve never liked snakes and I’m not one for shedding skin. So I won’t let him go, I’m going to keep him in a cage, locked up for when I want to feel like it’s still the beginning, that nothing has changed, and his love for me is at its peak fervor, the kind that can only seem to exist at the outset of meeting someone.