When I was in high school I would look at certain girls and think, “I would like to be the sort of boy who dates a girl like that. I am not entirely certain that I am loveable, but if I asked that girl out, and she said yes, then I would be the type of boy who dated a girl like that and that would mean that I was lovable.” I would get very nervous before I asked out these types of girls. There was just so much at stake. Sometimes these girls would say, “No,” and I would hang up the phone thinking, “Of course. So that proves it.” Except it didn’t really prove anything because I would then find myself asking out another such girl and sometimes she would say, “Yes,” and I would rejoice, thinking, “That proves it!”
Except it didn’t prove anything, because I would never feel quite as worthy of love as I had hoped that their company would make me feel, and soon they would drop me or I would drop them, and I would think, “There, that proves it.”
And then one day I saw a play and there was a girl in it, and I thought, “Who is that, who is that, who is that?” It was not so much a question as a command: meet her. And so I asked my brother, who had been in the play with her, “What is her name?” And he said, “Her name is Jennifer.” And I said, “What is her phone number?” And he said, “I will find out.”
So I found myself at the phone again, preparing to call a girl I had never met or spoken to. As I began dialing I felt a familiar fear rising in me—except it wasn’t fear at all. It was the memory of fear. Once her phone began to ring I understood that there was nothing to be afraid of because I was merely obeying a command, which removed all the uncertainty upon which fear must feed to survive.
It was odd to meet such a girl, to talk for the first time and yet feel as though you are merely continuing a conversation you had started long ago. There was no drama. Instead, I had only something I knew but could never prove, something that felt exactly as old as me.
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