There is Asha, and there is someone else – another person, something other. But first, Asha’s different to this other person, they’re different from each other and you feel like there’s always been only two types of girls to exist. For every girl, there’s a polar opposite to that person, and the key to understanding one is the other. Now that you’ve found your pair, you think selfishly, there’ll always be a place for you to go to make yourself feel better.
Lana is present as a person and your attention immediately gravitates to what is here. For some reason, your body has always been cold at night, and anyone you’ve shared a bed with is extraordinarily warm. You want to feel her skin, the warmth of the body. In the hours before you sleep, your mind retires to Lana. She’s here and what she’s asking for feels simple; she’s content with you being there – the talk or sex don’t feel like things you have to do to feel closer.
Another night, you’re looking at or into Asha, trying to not get past her. Your mind goes into analysis, starts to deconstruct her. Asha’s hair is light and fine – strands so thin, so much like yours in the way it falters to the wind. You’ve always kept your hair boyishly short, because otherwise it erupts into a shapeshifting pouf. Asha feels obliged to keep her hair long, feels unwomanly without the length, but the thinness of her hair means it is always flat, catching the wind, shedding everywhere. Like parts of her are always coming off, untangling from a core, which might at last be just a pocket of air.
You imagine telling Asha that you love her, how pleasant and romantic it would sound, but then you wonder if it’d make things better or if you should allow it to stay this stale; after a while you’d both get bored of each other and this would be reason enough. You don’t love her. It feels like a word you’ve thought up, a huge vase to fill with water and kind acts and responsibilities and self-change, but you lack the reserve to fill this space. Or you lack the will to build this reserve, to even start. Asha is not the girl, you think wishfully — she’s not.
You kiss Lana; she’s good at this – warm and nice, wet in all the right places – the two of you communicate this way, falling into the same rhythm. It demands no language, this neediness. This kiss, it is simpler than truer than anything you share with Asha. You put your fingers down in between her thighs, and into her, you can feel her legs clamping and opening. Your fingers sticky, there’s a hotness right inside your chest that demands release. Lana there, welcome to receive it. This chemistry is the easiest thing — however slow and meandering everything else can be, you are connected in this hour. But you feel the aftermath waiting to be confronted, a knot in your brain, an unwelcome stranger in the room, a struggle that is hardy and human.
You want something new to jog your writing, to meet a person or to have an experience that can give you a new feeling. Asha is always just there, her sameness and loyalty. She doesn’t stop you from writing, neither does she encourage you – she’s a separate entity altogether, divorced from your creative side. There are times when you attempt to write about her, about the two of you, but it starts to feel plain. Once in a while, you pull in characters, people you know, to add dimensions to a story – and in this realm, things can change, but your relationship with Asha stays the same. An unmoving centre, begging to be pushed, to be altered, to be appreciated, to be destroyed, to be something more.
You wonder if it’s right to try to translate Asha into someone you can write, to want her to be part of your story – to want her to mean something to you, but more so, something to your story and who you are – your future, life and personality are all waiting to gain from or lose something to Asha. You face her, an open Moleskine in front of you, pages empty and mocking. You look to Asha and she doesn’t suspect it, this mission you have to write about her, or this need to write her into a person. You consider her dumb and oblivious for not sensing this sinister detail about you, for not having the curiosity about the kind of person you truly are. Asha is easy in the way she believes you to be a good person; you think one day soon she’ll be proven wrong and she will end up hurt. You don’t want to be the person who makes her realise her foolishness, for her to see that the world is not kind to naïve, little girls.
Asha is the easiness you fall into, because she is an empty page herself. Asha reads a lot; she starts a new book and hops right into it with expectations, comfortably nestling herself in someone else’s imagination. She wants stories to come fully created, for her to consume and be moved by words and passages someone else has put a lot of thought into. She introduces the two of you as a couple, as if she needs this to reaffirm who she is, that she matters.
Instead, Lana feels like a person who is fuller and richer. Lana doesn’t want to be noticed and in that way she stands out, so fully immersed in who she is and what she’s meant to do with her life, so sure of herself that nothing could rattle her world, not even you. This is the way you exist with her; Lana loves or doesn’t love you for exactly what you are.
Easy, that is how it’s come to feel. As if the process demands so few things from you, it is able to work on its own. Your time can be split into Lana and Asha, and you are as easy and blameless as the both of them. The story has its own drive; the narrative is not yours to control. It’s supposed to feel easy, but sometimes it doesn’t. Every time you finish with Lana, your body now removed from need, your mind enters a sleep state where it becomes less able to defend itself. You take a shower, or else there’s a thick scent of Lana’s that lingers on your skin, on silly parts of your body, like the vertical length of your dick – confronting you with the harsh things you’ve done. In the shower, you are slowly baptised, into what you were before and what you’ve always been. For a while, you are new and easy. That’s when you feel reassured that the situation can divide itself into Asha, Lana and you – fresh-smelling you – and you now only have yourself to worry for, and if it had to, your life could probably continue on a path separate from these two women.
But the knowledge of what you are doing – the big picture of it – doesn’t settle; it’s there in the middle of your damn head, conjuring different reactions. Sometimes you laugh and tell your friend Adam about it; you want to tell him about this stupid thing you’ve just done. Adam feigns surprise and asks you how you feel; you laugh a bit more but then it pains you to laugh. I don’t feel good about myself,you say.
You’ve become a man without commitments to another person, you have nothing real to lose. Lana and Asha could walk away, you’d still be whole. This is what you’ve wanted, to become this easy. This is what you keep reminding yourself, with persistence, with all the arrogance of the man you are – the man you’ve always been – that this easiness will one day make you feel happy.
Months later, you are alone. No Asha, no Lana. True enough, you’re still here. Alone is not what you want to say it is, but it’s the word that comes to mind. You sit in your apartment, pondering from the balcony the clearing roads, the eerie quietness of the night. Where is everyone? Shouldn’t there be laughing families, riotous men watching football, barking strays? The night takes away the comfort of these brute noises, just when you require them most. You try to assign the night, this standing on the balcony alone, a certain peacefulness. You try to contemplate, thinking about your family, your work, all the things you could be grateful for – and then you try to be present, assimilate yourself into whatever the night has to offer. Alone is what it still feels like; the world has abandoned you to your thoughts.
Sometimes you miss Asha and you want to call her, apologise for all the things you did. You know the two of you have a comfort to return to. With Asha, the two of you won’t have to be alone; you’ll listen to her, tell her good things about herself she doesn’t notice, hold her in a way Asha – and not just any girl – should be held. You think this small correction, to bring her back into your life, would make it good again, give you somewhere to be, if only to flee from this aloneness you’re stuck in.
But the vision of Asha and you, happy – even in your head – feels dishonest. It comes apart quickly; you remember the things you hated about each other, all the reasons why you could never work for the long run; you intuitively know these things will still be there, and that Asha is still not the girl.
Lana was in your life for a while, until a few weeks ago. She comes by your apartment; after some fun you finally tell her about Asha, which of course doesn’t move her. You knew she wouldn’t explode, but her indifference hurts you a little. She says she’s been seeing some guy for months now, she says this casually. That’s when you feel low again, to realise what you are to Lana. It makes you feel dirty, worthless – a word so big and ridiculous, you’d never say it out loud, not even to Adam. That’s the last time you see Lana. She’s out there, having found her own way to be happy, by keeping herself unscarred from careless men like you.
At the balcony, you breathe. You tell yourself it’s going to be okay, people become okay with being alone, you say. It’s not easy, but right now it doesn’t need to be. Things don’t have to change, but you must. And this is what comes down to — you decide to Try.
Image is ‘Lady Light’ by pni on Flickr.
Al wrote this after reading ‘This is How You Lose Her’, a Junot Diaz collection of ‘breakup’ stories told entirely in second person.