Too Far Douglas
“Too far,” she said. “You went too far.” This was what she said to me. I said, “How could I have gone too far when I don’t even know where too far is?” This is the joke. I used to say the same thing in grade school, like when some bully would come up to me and call me a name, call me faggot, like “Hey Douglas, you’re a pussy,” or douche bag or any other of the names kids call other kids, and I’d say, “Oh really? How can I be a pussy if I don’t even know what a pussy is?” That was the joke, no existence without self-awareness.
I was thinking, right before I went too far as she said, of nothing at all. Apparently this is how you go too far: feeling instead of thinking. Acting instead of reacting. I guess, I think, this is where acting and feeling get me: too far. Felt comfortable, which I guess is the first component of going too far, not how I expected to feel, expected to feel awkward, which is to say uncomfortable. She smiled, and when she leaned in to hug me I smelled her hair. “It’s good to see you again, Douglas,” she said. “You look good.”
“It’s good to see you too,” I said. “You look good too,” I said, and we both smiled because I was just repeating the same things she’d said to me back to her even though we both knew I was the one who meant them most. We were waiting in line to see a movie, a romantic drama, comedy of errors, thriller whodunit documentary, for which we’d both read excellent reviews, two thumbs up, a film of startling beauty and insight. Not since Casablanca, not since Citizen Kane, not since Clue has a film captured the zeitgeist of a particular time in history, we’d read. It’s cold, starting to rain, and she leaned in to me for warmth, and it wasn’t sexual, not yet, just body against body for warmth, as I said, but I felt a quiver run through my legs and I shivered and she said, “I know,” she said. “It’s cold.”
We were next in line so I went ahead and bought the tickets, “Two please,” I said, even though we’d both agreed ahead of time to go Dutch, but what with the lean and all she’d gotten me flustered and I wasn’t thinking straight, pulled out my wallet and said two instead of one before I could even stop myself, and even if I could have I don’t think I would have because she’d leaned, leaned into me like nothing at all and that just wasn’t part of the rules, too far she’d gone, I thought if I was thinking anything, though didn’t say it if I even thought it which I’m not even sure I did.
The film ended, the credits rolled, and she was still sitting there, one of the two types of people who go to see movies and not the type who gets up right when the film ends. Maybe she was waiting to see who’d composed the score or whom the filmmakers wished to thank, but I didn’t think so, thought instead she was really waiting to be alone with me in a dark room, as it was only after the lights came up that she stood up, smiled at me, collected her things and walked up the aisle to the exit. I followed. Of course I followed.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting,” she said. “And I liked that, liked that it didn’t defer to my expectations.”
We were standing outside the theater in front of my car and I was trying not to hope our conversation wasn’t really just subtext for us, which is why I don’t know why I said, “Actually, the movie really failed to impress me,” I said. “I guess it was just my expectations were so high there was no real way to live up to them, but I found it to be, I don’t know,” I said. “Insincere, I guess.”
“Insincere?” she said.
“Insincere,” I repeated. “Insincere, for example, when the gardener confronted the lady of the house in front of the peonies and she confessed that she had always loved him, insincere because peonies are a perennial and it was the dead of winter,” I said. “For example,” I said.
“I think you’re insincere,” she said, smiled as she said. And like I said I wasn’t thinking, just comfortable with her. Comfortable like when you’re telling jokes amongst friends and everyone’s laughing, every word out of your mouth is the funniest goddamn thing they’ve ever heard in their life and you’re golden, you’re loved, and then suddenly you make a joke about dieting and the Holocaust and suddenly they’re not your friends anymore. Suddenly they’re an overweight guy sitting next to a Jew sitting next to a German and they’re all staring at you and they’re not laughing, and I guess it was like that when I said I love you, too far, the worst joke ever told.
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