I've meant to write something meaningful about dating. About men and sex and maturing in my view of myself and my relationship-y capabilities.
"No," I replied to my colleague as he sped through the streets of Madrid to deposit me at my hotel. "I've dated but I'm not married. I guess," I paused for I'm never good at articulating it, "I like being in love but don't like being hurt. The idea of a partner is appealing but constant compromise really isn't. I want it to be fun and it's sometimes more frustrating. So, no. I'm not married."
The book I'm reading is about twins and I wished while showering that I could break off a part of myself and send her on an alternate path.
"Pseudo-Katie," I would instruct kindly, "throw yourself into the relationship with Doug. Then let's meet up in 3 months or so and let me know how that goes." Or - 3 months ago - "Don't scare Will away. Be chic and sophisticated and, for goodness sake, have sex with the ridiculously sexy man! And when it ends, we'll decide if it hurt more my way or yours." Or "You'll meet Jack for dinner and then get a room. Semi-safe, semi-anonymous sex is an adventure and we do hate being bored! Oh, and in advance, apologies is something goes awry and you perish."
But there's just me, signaled with a raised index finger when requesting a table or purchasing a ticket to enter some wondrous place. And I can't figure out if I mind. It's pleasant to be here alone - to go to bed early or sleep late, eat when I'm hungry and stare at whatever I like. When my leg cramped on Passeig de Gracia, I hobbled to a bench and rotated my ankle, reaching to rub my calf through my gray tights. And I thought - as I sometimes do in the morning while dressing - of Will and his affection for hosiery. And I wondered, just for a moment, how it would feel to rest my forehead on his shoulder while he soothed the sore muscle and we set off again, our goal to chat over architecture and admire the terrace at La Pedrera. Afterward, I thought as the pain eased in my leg, we'd drink wine and nibble snacks, exchanging increasingly suggestive comments until indulging in said mood once we returned the privacy of our room.
I chatted with a woman in line for said tour and she mentioned her children were tired of the constant activity. I smiled and thought of Mom and her ambitious agendas and wondered how it would feel if Doug and his son went to explore nearby while I waited with his daughter and discussed how that doorway, with the wrought iron? Gaudi designed it to look like honeycomb. And how, after we walked through the building, we'd go get juice with mango in it.
And I panicked, feeling my breath catch and stomach turn as I looked at the curving structure beside me with the twists of metal and shimmering glass and none of it was right. It was interesting, but not right. And I closed my eyes, afraid and ashamed, thinking of the black glove that remained in the back of my Jeep after I'd taken Doug to the airport for his own vacation not long ago. It rested there, palm up in invitation, when I grabbed my bag before catching my flight from home. And I shook my head at it, locking it into the darkness of my vehicle parked in the deck, because I can't - or won't - accept said invitation.
Hours - and a brie sandwich, coffee, 3 bottles of water and much walking - later, I handed over two coins for a mango-coconut-strawberry juice and was no closer to answers as to why I can't - or won't - with Doug. It is, I decided painfully, as simple as my love for the juice. It's something in the way it smells and tastes and feels - the experience just triggers the happy neurochemicals and I feel good and want more.
And I don't know if it's Daddy issues or fear of commitment or something else that leaves me withdrawn from Doug. But I can't. Can't change it, can't throw myself into him and his family and this promise of something truly meaningful. So I sipped my juice and walked down narrow streets into El Raval. I finished my juice and paused to shake a pebble from my shoe. I smiled at babies in strollers and dogs on leashes and skirted more slowly moving pedestrians while others brushed past me.
There is a part of it - a part of me - that's sad.
But there's a part of it that's also affirming and hopeful and lovely. To explore someone - to know and appreciate him - and to decide to continue on together or apart. My guess is that Pseudo-Katie and I are headed in the same direction. That regardless of little decisions, we'd end up at the same spot with slightly different experiences on the way.
And with the knowledge of such constant things, I wrote postcards to my parents and nieces, stopping to buy Barcelona Futbol bears for the latter (and one for me - he's wearing little cleats and has a hole in his shorts for his tail!) on my walk back to the hotel. And when looking through the 100+ photos I'd taken today, I paused at a self-portrait and stared. Camera just below my chin, I'd captured the image of me looking into a mirror in the foyer of La Pedrera's apartment, chandelier sparkling over my shoulder and audiotour headphones over my ears. I looked, I decided, thoughtful and quietly happy. And somehow confident that I may - eventually - figure this out.