Uggh. I remember this.
The fawning hours before any new coupling can take its full shape: soul mates, long-term love, short-lived flame, friends with an understanding, late night lovers, bitter enemies. Before hoisting out any such labels, an abominable spell of time must first be spent wrestling down uncertainties and second-guessing your infallible intuition (which is always, simply, “do it” or “don’t do it.”). Obviously, with no inclination of where the introductions will lead, we spend the thin, early hours wondering, overanalyzing, waiting and… hoping.
I forgot how much I hated this part.
Truth be told, I don’t think I was wise enough then to dislike the Hoping Phase. Back then, I believed that the simultaneous heady and sinking sensations I felt were the signal of budding affection.
Do it or don’t do it? Does he or doesn’t he?
I can remember how trying not to check the answering machine (yes, it’s been that long) became an extreme sport of wills. Spreading out the transcripts of mundane conversations with my girlfriends turned into a scholarly search for embedded clues and portentous markers. A touch on the elbow or glance during commercial breaks would always seem more epic in the recounting. Seem more like the adaptation we’d write, if given the opportunity.
How couldn’t I see the blatant torture in this before?
With a seasoned outlook on life and love now (and a souvenir basket full of soul aches and heartbreaks), I try to keep my dial on “don’t do it” and “he doesn’t.” For the past few years I’ve fiercely resisted the inclination to coo, creating an always-just-short-of-romantic road that’s been fairly easy to travel.
But there’s always a yummy boy standing at a fork in the road. A yummy boy with a cell phone.
I don’t even know if I truly like aforementioned yummy boy, I just know it’s disruptingly possible that I could. With that –completely against my will and better judgment – I find myself checking cell phone notifications with Pavlovian precision. My fingers don’t cross in hopes of true love (necessarily), just a little reassurance that I’m not out of my mind for unshackling these stomach butterflies. Vulnerable is more tolerable when you’re not wading through the muck of it alone. By the time we’re hip deep in the mire, we realize that these undefined moments can either shape themselves into a beginning or remain a gelatinous blob. In either event, we know this to be the point we’ll look back upon and confess, “I knew it.”
Do it or don’t do it.
At this stage, I’m merely hoping for another call. But that’s unnerving enough; I remember how quickly this can move. Hoping for more calls becomes hoping for more clues, becomes hoping for more time, more flirting, more surprises, more romance, more sharing, more sacrifices, more consideration, more date nights, more help with housework, more spontaneity, more understanding, more effort, more respect, more magic, more everything. Everything. How is Hope supposed to contend with Everything?
I should know better about this hoping business. In fact, I invested myself in a rather elaborate reprogramming to become much more practical and empirical about the yummy boys. I thought I had it down pat, but I’m sitting here gazing at my cell phone, hoping it will ring again soon.