Date posted: September 1, 2006
At the end of a great day, I lay in bed with a peaceful smile on my face and dozed off. Suddenly, my heartbeats were racing, my brain was pulsing, my breath was heavy, and my eyes flashed wide open as the clock struck 12 midnight. We are now officially the 18th of September! It is his birthday; he just turned 33; I have known him for 4 years; his mother gave birth to him at 10:30 in the morning; he is a Virgo; he is tall, dark, and handsome; he is a successful marketer; he is witty, sarcastic, and funny; I loved him at first sight; it is over; it never started; I buried him and everything he stood for in a big soundproof box deep down in a forgotten corner in my heart and moved on. Why do I remember his birthday? Why do I have an internal timer with an awkward buzzer that goes off automatically every year on his birthday?
Let me tell you about my story with Mr. Benchmark; one June, I was sad, hurt, lonely, and lost. I was trying to recover from a bad breakup that I enforced on myself; I never realized how much it could hurt to leave someone by your own free will because it was the right thing to do. A few months after the breakup, I created an account on "one of those sites" looking for a distraction, a quick fix, or a painkiller. I came across his profile – which did not say much – and I sent him a message asking "what next?" His reply was witty and cute, we exchanged emails and we began corresponding. Being a writer, I got attached to the emails; to the person behind the emails; to the mind who believed in the ideas in the emails. My imagination fed my heart with visions, my heart fed my mind with thoughts, and my mind sent shudders to my body – yes, I am saying that I loved him before I even met him.
After a few weeks we began chatting, exchanged pictures – I was wowed – and numbers. Our first call lasted three hours; there was no ice to melt we just hopped from one topic to the other like best friends. We talked on the phone daily and the shortest call was at least an hour and a half; seeing his name on my mobile phone screen put an instant smile on my face; he talked about sports, job interviews, ex girlfriends, marketing scams, funny ads, movies, traveling, and many more topics. I have no recollection of what I talked about. After a few calls we decided to meet. He was not based in Cairo and he only had weekends. His weekends were filled with errands to run and things to take care of. We fitted our first date between a funeral and an outing he had to go to. He called me when he was parked under my building; I flew down the stairs – five floors – and got in the car.
The memory of that day is so vivid in my head; he was wearing a black shirt and black pants, he had a lovely wide white smile on his face, he smelled of perfume and fresh laundry, and I had the most idiotic look on my face. I stumbled on words like a blind man would stumble on garbage cans in the streets of Cairo. We drove around for a few minutes and I do not remember any eloquent anything that could have come out of my mouth. He was looking at me and I wanted to hide from his eyes into his arms. He was talking but I was trying to work on that stupid look on my face. He drove me back, he learned that I live alone, he sent disapproval vibes, I replied back with pleading vibes, he decided to give it a half-hearted chance, and I was grateful.
That was the first of many sleepless nights yet to come. I knew that I was blown away and I also knew that I left a very pale impression. At the time, I had not yet mastered the arts and games that I know now; I still had an innocent spontaneous little girl within. More calls followed and I got more and more attached; I thought of nothing but of being with him. I knew in my heart that we could have had the same vision for the future; that we could have had the best kids; that I could have made him a president with my strength and support. I wanted to love unconditionally and to give unlimitedly. I wanted to put any resources, skills, or talents at his disposal; hence, I arranged a press interview for him. He had to be in Cairo for the interview and I was dying to see him afterwards. He finished, I was at the gym, he called me, thanked me, and told me that he was too tired to go out and we could meet up the day after or any other day. Had I known then what I know now, I would have agreed with a smile, but being the silly girl I was then, I genuinely offered to keep him company at home. I missed him enough to claim temporary insanity.
There was a split second of silence, then a courteous acceptance of my shocking offer for a second date. In what seemed to be one timeless moment, I got off the treadmill, got out of the gym, got into my car, and drove off. I realized halfway that what I said was so inappropriate but common sense, self control, and good judgment seemed to have abandoned me. I went. He greeted me. I still had the same idiotic look on my face. I could not utter one coherent sentence and he looked adorably perplexed. To hide my nervousness, I folded my legs and wrapped myself around them in one odd yoga posture, he was amused. To further amuse him, I showed him a few moves, stretches, and splits from my taekwondo days, then we were both laughing again. To entertain me, he got a photo album and began showing me pictures of himself, his friends, his exes, his parties, his vacations, and his family. We were sitting next to one another and our arms were touching. Sparks flew, and we hit second base.
Guilt struck him immediately and he began talking about religion, not wanting to do "wrong" things, not wanting to be in a relationship, not wanting to be committed, …etc. The list of the things he was not ready for and did not want did not need any sort of decoding. I knew he was slipping away; I knew that I was wrongly judged; I knew it was over; I knew I lost him; I knew it was my fault; I knew I had to leave his house. He was decent enough to walk me to my car, to call me on the way home, to call me after I was home, to call me the next morning, and to position me as a dear friend. From that point onwards, there was no stopping to the shit from hitting the fan and from flying allover me and all around me. I held on, he pulled away. I sent angry emails, he sent friendly replies. I sent more emails, he stopped replying. I wanted a chance to get to know him, he was way gone. The more I held on, the more desperate I looked, and there is nothing sexy or appealing about a desperate woman. In a few months he developed some unheard of allergy towards me. He could not stand talking to me on the phone let alone seeing me.
After a series of failed attempts, I finally built my soundproof black box. I packed him along with my feelings in one dark black bag, I put the bag in the box, and I threw it in that forgotten place in my heart. Every few months he would sabotage my dreams, but I learned to live with that. He became a faraway star high above in the sky; a star that I subconsciously measure every man I meet to. I know very well that most stars shine from a distance but if you reach out and hold them in your hand, they are, at best, nothing but dull rocks, and, at worst, nothing but a piece of fire that can burn a hole into your palm, carve a grave into your heart, or turn your life into a living hell. It has been some years now since our doomed second date, and had I the chance now to be with him, I will gracefully decline it. I am not now who I was then; I have crossed all the fine red lines, some bold red lines, a few thick red lines, and about a handful of wired red lines. That said, I got out of bed, reached for my phone, sent him a message wishing him a happy birthday, and hoping that next year he will be happier, wealthier, and wiser, and went back to sleep.