5.24.2007

When idealism surrenders to fear

I decided to get off the metro at the Champs Elysee tonight and walk the rest of the way home. It's a warm night out and having just finished a three-course meal, I kind of wanted to walk some of the honeyed duck off.

There are lots of people on the Champs Elysee at this hour, but once you turn off onto a side street, things are darker and there are only the random guys hanging out on doorsteps and smoking cigarettes together. I passed a guy wearing big headphones who was smoking alone and kind of gave him the half-smile that is customary at night, the one that means "hi, you're awake and so am I, have a nice night." It didn't mean anything more.

So about 10 minutes later, I've stopped along the sidewalk to pet a cat and I hear someone call out to me. I turn around and it's the guy with the headphones. "I'm sorry," he says, "it's just that you gave me a look back there and I just... I didn't know... I mean, what are you doing now? Do you want to get a drink or something?"

He looked so nervous, standing there in the middle of the street, and my heart sort of broke for him because he was so brave to have followed me (others might say sketchy, but I really think it wasn't that. Not tonight at least). And he's standing there looking at me like I might just be someone to him and I said "I'm so sorry, I... I have a boyfriend." Which is not true.

"Ah," he said, "well, you're really so charming and it's just too bad." Then he muttered something about if things don't work out and kind of bashfully turned away and so did I.

I don't know why that lie came out of my mouth. I don't know why I, as someone who is basically obsessed with finding love in its most raw form, didn't go with the flow and have a drink. Except that I do know; because what if it was uncomfortable? And what if he was listening to loud, angry music in those big headphones and we wouldn't have anything to talk about? Or (without a doubt the scariest scenario), what if it wasn't anything uncomfortable at all?

The thing that broke my heart the most was that I recognized the look of someone hoping for something, someone searching so hard that they think they see it in a stranger passing a street corner at midnight. I feel bad that I hardened him just a bit, that I didn't create the impossible for him and accept his offer for a drink. Because guys like this, who take chances like that, they're few and far between.

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