She Cries Beautifully
Thoughts in the middle of a fight
(Art by John Romita Sr)
She looks so beautiful while she cries, curled up on the bed, clutching a pillow by her face. She's always beautiful, I'm just struck by how it carries over to when she's expressing hurt.
I'm worried that her beauty manipulates me into making bad decisions that I wouldn't make in front of someone who wasn't so pretty. She's crying because of me, but not at me, she's just frustrated like I am at how everything isn't working out between us. I'm sitting on the edge of the bed. I'm fully dressed, sex was a while ago, she's only partially dressed.
I got dressed because a long time ago I once had a fight with a girlfriend as I was getting dressed, and I only got as far as getting my socks on before the fight took precedence over dressing, and as the fight got more serious I felt more ridiculous. I decided after that time that in the future I'd never let myself be disadvantaged like that again. You never know when you might want to storm out, or chase after someone storming out.
I'm quieter now, it's been a long time since I've raised my voice in a fight. These days I don't worry so much about having my voice heard as I worry that I'm not being myself. It has the unintended effect of making me seem colder as I think about whether or not the decisions I make are because of my weakness.
She's so pretty, and I'm shallow enough that it has an impact on me. I worry then, that if I apologize, change my position, if I bend, then it's not because I'm making a mature attempt at compromise, but simply acquiescing because I want to fuck her again in the future.
Then my inner pendulum swings the other way. I become defensive, though I make it look mature by calmly stating that if we can't see eye to eye then we just shouldn't be a couple anymore. Then I feel like my hard lines are just a reaction to my reaction to the hold I perceive her having over me. I'm reacting to reacting to reacting, swatting at my inner pendulum like a tetherball.
I lock up, I get quiet, lost in my thoughts about who do I want to be in this situation, while she cries. I watch her, I think about how she looks like an angel, I put my hand on her back to at least be outwardly comforting.
I'm such a manipulative asshole, though. I run my hand from her shoulder down to her waist and then up and over the curve of her hips. The outward appearance is that I care. The inner monologue is that I think I should at least look like I care just in case I eventually decide to be more conciliatory. And even if I don't, having seemed like I was being caring for the duration of the fight will make it look that much more like I tried before I left. Who am I trying to sell on the idea that I’m a good person? Her? Me? A universe of people inside my head that I imagine are judging me?
I'm okay with a certain level of shallowness factoring into my decisions. One time, long, long ago, I met a girl at a club in Shimokitazawa. It was a dark club, I could barely see her, but we danced and laughed all night long. We left the club together at around five in the morning, and when I could see her clearly in the morning light, I wasn't so attracted to her. I felt like such a shallow jerk. I had just spent five hours or so having a great time with her, and now because she didn't meet some particular standard of mine I was going to walk away from that? I decided to try being what I thought made me a better person, to try and see past outward appearance and appreciate her character.
We went out on a date, and it was fine, and we ended up back at my place, and the attempted sex was awkward and didn't go anywhere. I just wasn't attracted, and my body wasn't going to be duped by the noble aspirations of my brain.
Is it really any more noble, though? I have a type, she wasn't it, so who is benefiting by me trying to supersede that with a morality that I've inadvertently taken by osmosis from the world? Ultimately I decided that it's fine to have a look that appeals as much as a character, just so long as I don't assume anyone is obligated to live up to it for me.
And as long as I don't prize it so much that it negates other decisions. After that incident, I went on to make the opposite mistake of allowing myself to indulge so much in my fetishes for appearance that I maintained long, unhealthy, constantly fighting relationships with women who satisfied my fetishes and nothing else.
I don’t want to end up in that situation again either. I keep learning new ways to discover that what I thought was a solution to a previous problem is the doorway to new circumstances with their own universally unique downsides that force me to change again. It’s a constant ping pong action between an infinite variety of paddles.
That’s what I’m thinking about, sitting on the edge of the bed, wondering if she’s crying because of anything like what I’m dealing with inside. It’s easy to assume other humans are simpler, they’re never as complex as our precious multidimensional selves. I imagine that if I could listen in on her thoughts right now, she would be thinking something to the effect of, “He’s such a jerk! He won’t do what I want!” It’s minimalist, and isn’t fair to her because it demotes her to acting merely out of stimulus response, like an amoeba. She’s no less evolved than me, though, so she must have a context in her mind that shapes this problem between us into something she can find a tool for dealing with, just as I do.
But I can’t know all the moments that created her, I can only see into the ones that made me. In the absence of having her life flash before my eyes, I have to go on her outputs, which is her, crying, beautifully, and I don’t know what to do with that.
Looking back over my catalogue of images from girlfriends past, I can recall other times, very similar to this, of watching my girlfriend cry. I try to find one that is like this time, to see if maybe I can do better this time. Which is the point of having been with different women, isn’t it?
There was one time when I got accused of bragging because I mentioned a number of women I had been with in another thing I wrote on my website. The accusation was so weird to me, because no one would be less impressed than me by anyone using their number of sexual encounters as a point of pride. There’s no correlation between how many people you fuck and how... what? Successful? Attractive? Better? I don’t even know the game being played, let alone determining who wins.
When I think of all the women who I’ve been emotionally and physically intimate with, it’s in the context of wondering how it changed me. Did I learn anything that makes me a better person? I hope so. I know I feel less at the mercy of my emotional whims now, not wanting to relive the pain of failed methodologies of the past.
And I guess I hope that the evidence of becoming better is to handle new challenges with new women better than before. Sitting beside this new beautiful woman while she cries, as much as I want her to feel better, I want me to solve this problem so that I know I’m a good person. I want the proof that each relationship was an arc toward something. Is that selfish of me? To want to be a good person, but only because it would give a shape to a life I’m otherwise afraid doesn’t add up?
In the middle of my silent existential reflection, she says that she wants to be left alone. She’s not saying it while stuttering through tears. She’s calmer now, her tears have subsided, so she really means it. I wonder if I failed in some way by not being the one to make a decision. And I’m concerned that as much as I’m bothered that it wasn’t me who came to some kind of conclusion, I don’t like the lack of control. Now I don’t know if she only wants to be left alone now, or for me to leave her alone indefinitely.
I don’t ask, I just get up and get ready to leave. I say that she can message me when and if she wants to get together again. It sounds reasonable enough, but really it’s designed to test her. It absolves me of having to think about when might be the right time to reach out to her, and if she contacts me, then I know it’s worth wondering about continuing. Or maybe it’s a fair enough way to leave things, to give her the space she’s saying she wants. My mind starts tether balling again. I don’t know if I’ve become more respectful of her wishes, or merely better at the tactics of protecting my chances of fucking her again.
At least there’s no screaming, no drama, no attacks on each other’s character, no ultimatums. There are ways in which I’m better at relationships. Though that’s maybe because in my earlier days I established such a low standard.