"I'm so confused," I whispered, surrounded by high ceilings and interesting exhibits and a small but milling crowd. "We're colleagues, yes, but also friends! I've been tipsy with him, seen him in pajamas, giggled and talked and shared huge disappointments and thrilling successes. And then...and then I say hello and he acts as though he barely knows me. Like I'm an intrusive near-stranger who dared invade his personal time."
"Well," Doug said, glancing down at me while I frowned, "some people separate their personal from professional lives. It may have been weird for him that you approached him."
"But it was weird for me that he acted that way!" I protested and lapsed into silence as I tried to sort through the wide gap between expectation and reality. I redirected my attention, pleased this was a fourth date and I didn't have to hide every neurosis from poor Doug, and found we enjoyed the same pieces as we traded stories and comments. For the most part.
"People love it or hate it," he concluded after explaining a large piece done in grayscale. I frowned again, standing shoulder to shoulder with him as we looked over the ledge and down upon the canvas.
"It's like a dark vortex of nothingness," I repeated. "And I don't hate it, but..." I paused, cocked my head and stared harder. "No," I corrected myself. "I do kind of hate it. I like color and light and happiness." And beloved colleagues who greet me with equal enthusiasm when we meet in a public place on a rainy Saturday. I even looked nice! My hair shiny and straight, new cashmere cardigan a nice contrast to my blue sweater underneath.
I looked at Doug - you'd like him and I'll ask if I can tell you more about him sometime - and sighed. He'd handled the whole Adam atrocity with an easy grace - guiding me away from additional encounters, offering conversation so I could avoid eye contact when we continued to meet in random galleries. And I had a lovely time - enjoying his company and our surroundings.
The reason it bothered me, I have decided after some sleep and additional obsession, is the mixture of hurt feelings related to that specific moment and confusion over dating in general. Nobody likes rejection, I know, but I seem to take it - even the implication of it - very hard. And as I look at this picture - which I love - and how the curves and light extend backward as far as I can see, I wonder how this momentary but surprising reaction to my presence from a colleague translates into the future and more personal situations.
While having a man interested in me is not unique, it is a rather rare occurrence. And in the past, when I do attract the notice of someone I find somehow wonderful, he always changes his mind. There is always a metaphorical moment where I say, "Hi! How are you? Why haven't you answered my email, you silly goose?" and must blink with pained surprise when he can't make eye contact and shuffles his feet and mumbles words whose meaning is lost behind the overall 'please get away from me and never return' message.
And I do, of course, manage a wounded and inelegant retreat from the situation and person, left to forever wonder what I did. I did ask once, adding to the pathetic reaction I have when rejected, begging for insight into what shifted so I could predict it in future situations, avoiding the stupid shock in addition to the underlying pain that someone I had grown to know and love wanted nothing so much as for that situation to stop. (He, by the way, gave an 'it's not you,' reply that was, if memory serves, quite kind but utterly useless. If it's not me, then what was it? And how do I avoid it happening again?!)
So that's where I'm stuck - as if I'm a chord that's sharp and can't fix it because my instrument is out of tune - and knowing it may not be me, but it affects me too much nonetheless.
Note: This post marks my blogiversary! I have been posting for five years, having pressed publish for the first time on November 13, 2005. And while I'm still not without issues (see above post), I do think I've made remarkable progress, both in writing and in life. So I will thank you for your presence and patience in my life - for offering support and encouragement and gentle suggestions - as I've struggled to grow up. And as I reach to give you a bloggy hug for being so wonderful, do not turn away and pretend you don't know me. It hurts my feelings.