On Shrinking Mr. Big. Or, Not.

“I don’t want to hear his name ever again,” A announced, sitting across pair of laptops and another of peppermint iced teas from me at an air conditioned coffee shop on the Lower East Side.

“Really?” I said, startled. “Have I ever said that to you?”

She shook her head and turned back to her work, while I turned back to mine–miffed.

Later, A acknowledged that she is presently trying to summon her own will to cut off an Unreliable, On-Again, Off-Again guy who has been in (and out) of her life for years.”I’m trying to walk my talk,” she said.

I understood. But, too, I had to explain: I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to do the same.

So, we’ve both got em: these sort of Long-Distance Mr. Bigs, guys who appear and disappear, who make promises they don’t keep, who you know, for whom, whenever they threaten to show up, you ought to have at least two backup plans–but for whom, you also know, you will be hard pressed not to drop just about anything to see. They’ve got that something: that charisma, that sex appeal, that semi-glamorous lifestyle that you find intimidating as well as a wild turn-on, and you find yourself, often, despite your better judgment, helpless in the face of their charms.

Mine hasn’t been around as long: only six months, most of which were spent on opposite coasts. His communication is so wildly erratic I often thought I might never hear from him again; but the intensity of what intimacy we had made me unsurprised when, each time, he turned up.

And, as I told A, I thought I’d found a pretty successful place of managing what I expect from him. I told her, in fact, that I had “zero” expectations:

“I enjoy the flirtation and whatever it is, for now,” I told her, assuring us both that I’d long since let go of any ideas about it being something deeper, more lasting, more committed.

“I just don’t think there’s anything toxic about it,” I said. “I’m doing what I want to do.”

“That’s great,” she replied, resuming a supportive stance. “I’m happy for you.”

But I wondered, even as I said the words, whether I was full of it: is it, really, ever possible for me to keep a romantic connection separate from the longing I do–undeniably–have for something more “real”? Am I capable of approaching something, really, with “zero expectations”?

The jury’s out.

I know, rationally, that there is basically no chance this guy will ever be as reliable and present as I need a partner to be. (Or, at least, not before the time it takes to produce a successful HBO franchise and subsequent set of extravagant, minorly racist Hollywood films. What, life doesn’t imitate art? Nevermind.)

I also know that, in the immediate aftermath of our most recent rendezvous, I found myself texting him unnecessary photos of my potato salad; digging through a stack of papers in pursuit of an essay he wanted to read; looking online for yoga poses to help soothe his minor breed of back pain.

In other words: thinking about him way too much for someone about whom, supposedly, I expect nothing.

In other words: I know, by now, that I shouldn’t have expectations. But that doesn’t mean, still, that I can always stop myself from wanting to.