There will be instances when we will meet random people who will turn out to change our lives. Sometime last year, I met a certain stranger.
How do I begin to describe what happened? It will sound like a cliché. It felt like something out of a really good chick lit. He was the uptight, smarty-pants who was always bound to the rules. He didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t really go out a lot. And I was—at least to him—the witty, no-nonsense, beer-chugging, twenty something whom he could not hold down.
Frankly, I found him interesting at first mostly because he snubbed me. And I thought he was funny when he was trying to be sarcastic. Needless to say, I didn’t stop bugging him, and before I knew what was happening, he was calling me “Sweetie.” I woke up one morning to him texting me, “Good morning, sweetie.” Others would have found it a positive development. But I was positively horrified—partly because things had gotten completely out of hand very quickly. But mostly because I strongly, passionately hate terms of endearment with every inch of my being.
Eventually, he was saying all the right things the protagonist was supposed to say to get the girl, things I’m sure would make any girl’s heart flutter. Unfortunately, my heart remained unmoved. He would always call me, and would want to talk for hours—which I hated because 1) I had work during the day that needed my concentration, 2) I wanted to catch up on my reading at night and 3) I hate it when someone calls out of the blue just to “chat” for hours. Text first, for God’s sake. One time, he asked me to read him a poem, after which he admitted that he didn’t really understand the words and only wanted to hear the sound of my voice reciting poetry. I read him O’Hara’s Having a Coke With You—not exactly a short poem. Bummer.
But cliché and loathing for terms of endearment aside, something else was pulling me back. Perhaps it’s a personality flaw on my part; I’m not exactly the sweetest, most romantic gal in town, I can say that much. Maybe it’s because I don’t easily buy into the whole sweet-talking your way into someone’s heart. I admit that it was nice, but not nice enough to change my mind. Or maybe it’s because I realized that what was happening was his story, that I wasn’t meant to be the one he ends up with. I was only a very brief chapter, a plot point in his life. And he was in mine. We were parts of two different books, and just happened to cross each other’s paths in one chapter, like when TV shows do crossovers.
In books, when secondary characters meet, you don’t really care what happens to them after their chapters are over. You are focused on the principal characters, like how Pat will realize that Tiffany had been in love with him all this time. When Sam kissed Charlie, you didn’t care that Mary Elizabeth got between them for a while. Neither did you mind when any of Kinsella’s heroines finally dump their boring boyfriends and went for the tall, dark, brooding and handsome fellows that were meant for them.
But just because they’re secondary characters doesn’t follow that they are not significant in a way. Now that that chapter of my life is over, I realized something—I dropped too many secondary characters when I didn’t even have a main one. And it dawned on me that I always do this.
Whenever I meet someone I thought I liked, I never feel the need to be with them all the time, or even talk to them constantly. I don’t spend days on end daydreaming, there is no urgency to want to be in a relationship with them, and, frankly, I could live not talking to them for weeks and still like them. Apparently, there’s a certain discord between my thoughts and actions.
Is something wrong with me? Did it finally happen? Have I become too comfortable with my mostly humdrum life, which involves a lot of lying down on weekends with a book and bottomless tea? I’m starting to think that my book is never going to see its ending if I keep thinking that with all the people I meet, I’m only always somebody’s chapter, and vice versa.