At the bar, you touch my knee repeatedly.
It seems to be accidental at first, a very slight touch with the back of your hand during dramatic gesturing during climactic points in our conversation. We are drinking whiskey.
You are a person. Maybe using the word ‘person’ makes it seem I haven’t noticed that you are a man. I happen to believe that people outside of myself can’t incite feelings in me, that the feelings I am capable of feeling are the ones that I will feel when my body finds that it is time to feel them, regardless of who happens to be near me at the time.
Still, I often tell my boyfriend that he makes me happy and I mean it and believe it.
I say, “Happiness is my new favorite thing to think about, because it makes me feel horrible.”
We talk about the different ways happiness is portrayed in books and movies. Finding happiness, losing happiness, cultivating happiness.
You say, “Happiness is so nice that it almost makes life worth living.”
My friend Megan is talking to your less attractive friend. She had started drinking before we came out so that she would have the courage to appear composed and confident in front of you, but now she is talking to your less attractive friend and looking a little drunk.
I attempt to make a non-pathetic and non-convoluted smile for Megan but a pathetic and convoluted one is all I can come up with. She doesn’t look at me and I think maybe I shouldn’t’ve smiled at all.
You are making constant eye contact as you talk to me and your eyes are too close together.
Everything I say seems so funny and I don’t want to stop talking to you and miss any of the funny things that might come out of me. (Um, I smoked pot before coming out.)
It is something to consider, if we’re making a list things to consider, that most relationships are mirrors of yourself, and that those who you choose to be around is largely dependant on what you want to see in yourself at that time. There isn’t even enough time to say all the funny things I’m thinking of, so I begin excitedly typing them into my phone.
You say, “Who are you texting?”
I say, “I’m not texting.”
You say, “I have the confidence to talk to you about happiness because I am drunk and because you gave me a nickname earlier today.”
I say, “What was the nickname?”
You answer or begin to answer, but I can’t hear the answer over the increasing volume of the bar noise.
You say, “Do you have a lot of ex-boyfriends?”
And I say, “No.”
You say, “Do you stalk them on the internet?”
You say, “Yes you do. Everyone does.”
I say, “I don’t.”
You say, “You don’t go on their Facebook pages and stalk them?”
And I say, “I’ve been to their Facebook pages but not very often.”
You say, “Yes you do. Everyone does.”
And I say, “No I don’t. You’re projecting.”
And you say, “I’ll admit it. I stalk my ex-girlfriends on Facebook. Everyone does it. I’ll admit I do it. “
I feel this compassion for you suddenly, which isn’t something I feel a lot. I imagine you alone in your apartment, masturbating and trying to write an dating profile based on the clues about yourself you think you’ve found on his ex-girlfriends’ Facebook pages.
I say, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
I think about my boyfriend. I visualize the letters that make up his name, but my brain has written it in Courier and the font size is too small and I feel irritated by it.
At the bar, I order another whiskey, even though I wanted beer, because I told everybody that I was gluten-free and we had this whole conversation about how I couldn’t drink beer. My stupid whiskey comes and I stupid drink it.
“I wrote a story,” you say, in a tone that indicates to me that you think you have revealed something intimate about yourself.
If we were actors I think the camera would zoom in a little to appreciate the calculated tempo of my eyes as they shift from Point A (the top of your left shoulder) to Point B (your left eyebrow) to Point C (a hair on your chin) to Point D (a freckle on your cheek).
Megan and I were on her porch earlier tonight, sharing nostalgia for when we were teenagers, for when we lived together and shared everything, yelled goodnight to each other from our rooms on opposite sides of the apartment, and fought about the chore chart. She said we would never have the same closeness again.
At the time I thought she was referring to our proximity, but now I think she meant something else.
I haven’t mentioned my boyfriend at all tonight to anybody, which I recognize as a betrayal of some kind. But I don’t know what kind.
I say, “What’s the story about?”
It has been a few minutes since you have touched my knee, and I wish that you would touch it, and you do touch it, and I feel guilty for having wished it, and I wish you hadn’t’ve touched it. You touch it again later and I feel guilty again, but to a slightly lesser degree.
Chelsea Martin is the author of EVERYTHING WAS FINE UNTIL WHATEVER (future tense, 2009) and THE REALLY FUNNY THING ABOUT APATHY (sunnyoutside, 2010). She is currently living in Oakland, California.