I saw Closer last night with the Gypsy. She is a girl I dated a few years ago for a short time. You would be amazed at how often you run into exes in this city. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t be amazed, but I have been amazed at how often I run into ex-girlfriends in this city. Except the Gypsy with her Egyptian eyes is not really an ex, not in the sense that ex usually means with me.
I don’t talk to my ex-girlfriends. Well, not completely. I’ve been in love with 3 women in my life (more than I am owed, for sure; less than I hope I end up loving, to say the least), and while I talk with two of them from time to time, it is not friendship, nor the continuation of a relationship. It’s just something we do. Having to know each other is okay and surviving; happy and living.
With the Gypsy we didn’t date long enough for her to become an ex in the sense that I am used to. We met a few years ago when I was getting over someone, but was not yet ready for the responsibility of another life in mine. So we had our few weeks. We then ran into each other a few months later, and I was with someone. A few months after that she was with someone, something I found out when I leaned in to kiss her and she pulled away. “I’m seeing someone,” she said. But she had been touching my leg, my arm, playing with her hair; things she always does around me. Things I associate with our attraction to each other. We always just seem to have bad timing around each other.
We ran into each other a few weeks ago and started e-mailing, trying to find a free night that we might meet up. It finally happened last night. I had come out of my company Christmas (read: Holiday) party at 6:30. She had cancelled a date she had with someone else. We went to see Closer.
This will not come as a surprise. Closer is a terrible date movie. But an intriguing movie, a well done tale, a good and compelling and thoughtful and well acted film. Natalie Portman is amazing, and the rest of the actors (Jude Law, Clive Owen, and Julia Roberts) lend themselves nicely to the tale. Although it is interesting to watch Clive Owen out Jude Law the real Jude Law. He is kinetic and vitriolic; a scandalous cad.
I had read a couple of reviews of the film that expressed disappointment with the dialogue. One reviewer wrote, “People just don’t talk like this,” which I thought was odd, because if films made a point of hashing out realistic dialogue you’d have too many films that read like this:
“What you doing?”
As I watched the film I kept thinking, he was right. People don’t talk like this. Most people are idiots.
It’s an uncomfortable film to watch on a date. The central premise explores the notion of truth in relationships; what can we rely on and what do we believe. The subtle difference between those things we say and the things we think and the devastating effect that real honesty, that brutal truth, can have when practiced between two people. For 2 hours you watch the characters be the most truthful when describing how, within the confines of the relationship, they have been the most untruthful. They do not confess for the sake of forgiveness, they seem to confess because it hurts the other.
The movie pegs men; how we can ask for too much information, seek answers to questions we don’t want. I learned this with the 2nd woman I fell in love with, a woman I dated for 5 years and briefly lived with. There was something I wanted to know, something I had to know. I poked at it, pried it loose, and when she ultimately told me (and answer I had set her up for, a problem of my own design, something she walked squarely into, and perhaps should have known better) I couldn’t live with it. Her truth caused the worst insecurity in me. I never recovered from it.
Watching the male characters, I knew where their need to ask came from, but it was a lesson I learned long ago.
After the movie ended we went to a bar. We started our dance. Weaving our way around each other, feeling each other out. As we flirted and touched we talked about what we had been up to.
We went outside for a cigarette and I kissed her. And she kissed me back. We returned inside and ordered a vodka tonic and Makers and ginger.
“I have to tell you something,” she said. “I just got out of a long relationship; something I thought would be forever.”
This is something I have some experience with. I know that pain, that imbalance. “Then you don’t owe me anything,” I said, and while at the time I meant it, we both know I don’t function like that. I’m not one of those guys who compete. I don’t go half way into dating someone. When someone is with me, they are with me. If they want to date someone else, they have my blessing. I just won’t be around.
Of course, if someone were dating other people I really wouldn’t know. I learned long ago not to ask questions you don’t want answers to.
I woke up this morning in her bed and took a shower in her bathroom. I put on the same clothes I’d worn the day before, an outfit that just advertised the entire night to my co-workers. Not the walk of shame, just the same damn clothes.
On the subway to work I stood there staring at her. It’s never the right time with her. I was thinking about what I needed after Mel; the ability to be alone can be a subtle gift, one not many people take advantage of. I’m not going to be a thing that takes that away from her. I won’t be the soft ground to fall to.
Perhaps we will keep hovering around each other, maybe our gravities continue to pull each other towards the other; who knows? Or perhaps she's just that girl; we all have them. The one we always wonder about, the one who's presence in our lives is more question mark than exclamation point, but it's such a damn appealing question mark.