When I left to attend the concert, Messa di Gloria, I held within my chest a tiny kernel of hope that I would meet someone as the music swelled around me, or perhaps in the interval some dashing stranger would offer to buy me a drink and we would talk about everything and nothing long into the night. How romantic of me.
I do not know why I hold this infernal hope in my heart, why I do this to myself every time I go out. I should know by now that fairytales don’t exist. During the day I tell my friends I am cold hearted and soulless, I make it clear I have no intention to indulge in the romantic relations others so desperately seek - they are beneath me. On the rare occasions someone expresses an interest in me, I make it into a game, a hunter hunting its prey, but in the end, I am the one who is running, the one who is hiding behind a mask. In my defence, because everyone has excuses these days, I haven’t had the best experiences.
On one of the two official “dates” I have attended, the gentleman in question turned up in full historical costume and I spent the evening trying not melt into the ground with embarrassment every time someone stopped us for a photo. On another two occasions people I barely knew have confessed their love for me. Having grown up in a world of my own creation, I find that love is not something to be trivially handed out. In my mind, to confess so easily represents a foolish naivety of youth and unrealistic expectations, so I have run. I have run from becoming like my parents. Run from living in a house where husband and wife sleep in different rooms and mother talks with daughter about how she wishes her husband would have an affair and cries in the garden shed on Christmas day. On other occasions people have not known that no means no and while I have always escaped, others I know have not, and that scares me. It scares me more than I can put into words, because one day I won’t escape either.
There have been other things to make me run away from commitment and love, but these are representative of the picture I face every time I consider a being with someone, however casually.
Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. But when I saw you in the interval, in a fitted white shirt and dark blue chinos, I couldn’t help but think this was my chance. So foolish of me. While half of me berated myself for dreaming, the other half planned how I could ask you for drinks. Nothing more, just drinks, that was all I wanted. To have a drink with a total stranger and to discuss the performance while walking through the night. At the end of the night, we would go our separate ways, never knowing each other’s names. Such a beautiful lie the storyteller within me painted, such an idyllic idea.
This is what I always do, paint a story of myself as someone I am not. A story where I am beautiful and elegant, where I am brave and captivating, where I am worthy of love, because even if I fear it with all my soul, I still desire it. When I say I want to be worthy of love, I do not expect you to love me, it is just that if you were to fulfil your role, perhaps I would be able to fill mine, perhaps I would be the graceful and charming young lady the story describes.
So I sit through the second half, surrounded by music and convince myself that when it is over, I will ask you to join me for a drink. I plan what I am going to say, “would you like to join me for a drink, I don’t want anything more than that. Just a drink and a conversation. I’ll buy my drink and you’ll buy yours”. Short and sweet, while stating all the facts. No openings for incorrect assumptions to be made.
The concert ends and we both leave, you stand next to me on the elevator then fall slightly behind as you try and figure out how to get to the station. I can hear you walking behind me, your shoes clicking on the ground in sync with mine, but still I do not turn. Still I do not ask. I imagine you are looking at me and wonder what you are thinking. A part of me hopes you will save me from the torment of my mind and ask instead. I drop my scarf and turn to pick it up as you walk past, our eyes meet for the briefest of seconds. You smile slightly, one foreigner to another in this strange city, and continue walking. I do not ask, I will never ask, not now as I watch your head in front of me, and not later when I see you at the station.
I don’t know why I don’t ask. Is it rejection I fear, or acceptance? Either way, two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I –, I took the cowards’ way. I shall continue to live my life and I shall never know what would have happened if I had, for just one night, been one of my beloved fictions, instead I was the girl in a black dress who let the crowds overtake her as she watched your back retreat into the distance.