The Lovers We’ve Become

You really shouldn’t be dating when you’re healing.

Don’t go on dates when you’ve just broken up with someone, Kalas warned me. He took a slow, deliberate sip from his coffee and I just watched him. He has this way of talking that makes you keep listening even when he’s not saying anything. I coped badly when Frances and I broke up, he continued; I went on three dating apps and frantically booked dates with strangers I met online. I went on at least one date for every day of the week. There was a time I even flirted with three people in one night. I was running from one bar to another and then went home with one of them. He scoffed. Stupid, he muttered to himself, as the edge of his cup touched his lips.

We often talked about his philosophies in life, which were often conflicting (he never had the same idea twice) but always amusing because he said it in such a profound, professorial manner. Leave someone before they leave you, he once told me. Don’t wait for a lover to move on. You have to prepare multiple lovers so that you can insure yourself against heartbreak. I remember Kalas telling me this as if it were a secret. We were at one of his bizarre parties. He had invited me and around fifteen other people to come out with him; about five of them were his constants, but the others were different faces every time we went out. Most of them, he admitted, came from online dating apps, and he’d invite more than one at the same time. Poor souls, thinking they were going to go on a romantic date with Kalas. I would sit down beside these people while Kalas was somewhere in the club dancing with other strangers, and I’d ask them why they even agreed to come. They would tell me that Kalas was clear about not looking for anything, and that they just wanted to party too. This was something Kalas always said, but he was obviously looking for something — every night, he went home with whoever it was he invited out.

Nothing about Kalas is romantic. He told me that there was someone who kept flaking on his invites and eventually ghosted him, so to soothe his ego he made five people fall in love with him, and then ghosted them all at the same time. That was bad, he admitted. I know what I did was bad because I know how it feels like. I asked him, So why did you do it? He shrugged and said, Because I can.

Despite being an asshole, people gravitated towards him; he was sweet and helpful if he needed something from you (but cold and apologetic if he didn’t), and he told the best (though slightly exaggerated) stories. He blamed his zodiac sign, Sagittarius. Apparently, a person born under Sagittarius is impulsive and reckless because their unrealistic optimism gets them excited about every small (but worthy) cause. This sign is a fire sign and is ruled by the king of the gods, Jupiter. One might recall that old myths show Jupiter being authoritative but irresponsible, with a large ego that blazes haphazardly through lovers and human politics, leaving a trail of broken relationships and abandoned causes. Yet, this sign is radically and brutally honest, though often unaware of the effects. Once a Sagittarian realizes that they may have hurt someone with their tactless behavior, they would feel some remorse and try to make up for their mistake. This is the redemptive nature of Sagittarius: they can appear to be scattered and agitated, but they genuinely mean well. Each cause or lover they pick up (while dropping another) is kept with feverish integrity. The Sagittarian is a noble rogue, and it sounded like a perfect description for how I know Kalas. I think it’s interesting that Kalas and I share the same zodiac sign — as a philosopher once said, to learn from one’s mistakes is good, but to learn from other people’s mistakes is clever.

Now, maybe the stallion-archer was tired of running. Right after he broke up with his most recent fling, he asked to meet me. He needed someone to talk to. The golden 4 o’clock light made him glow, but his eyes drooped, and his back was arched forward. Outside, he seemed melancholic; inside, his heart seemed out of breath. Unfortunately, it was all his fault. We both knew it. So I said, you know man, with all these dates you’ve been on, you really need to slow down. Kalas replied, I know that, but I’m going through a break up. — Are you looking for a replacement so soon? — No. — What, then? Friends, he said. I’m not trying to make new lovers, just new friends. Well, I said, maybe just don’t lead them on if you’re not planning to go all the way.

Immediately I regretted what I said. One never gives advice to someone who doesn’t ask for it, and people have many different ideas on modern romance. He looked at me with an expression of a policeman waiting for a dumb suspect to understand why he was arrested. Who’s leading who? he asked me. They know I’m going through a break up: I’ve told them. So, why would they want to form a new relationship? I knew I should’ve just listened to Kalas lash out, because he was in real pain but I couldn’t help saying, You really shouldn’t be dating when you’re healing. At this point I could feel his hot breath. He was fuming. He stood up and said, It’s a date, not an arranged marriage. Not everyone who comes your way is your soulmate. Then, Kalas took out some cash and threw it on the table. He looked at me then left. I sighed.

It was only a week later that he messaged me saying, Guess what. I’ve decided to stop dating. I’ve deleted all my dating profiles. Kalas then asked to meet me. He said, Don’t go on dates when you’ve just broken up with someone. I coped badly when Frances and I broke up. I went on at least one date for every day of the week. He scoffed. Stupid, he muttered to himself, as the edge of his cup touched his lips. Then, he said, You were right about what you told me before. I’m sorry.

I placed my hand on his hand. I said, Kalas, none of us know what we’re doing. Let yourself feel something, even if it hurts. Sometimes, that’s the only reminder we have that we’re still alive. He said, I know. It’s just that sometimes… I feel like I’m running out of time, like I won’t be able to use my good looks anymore, and if I don’t meet as many people as I can, I’d end up loveless and undesired. He chuckled, trying to lighten the suddenly dense air. He then continued, saying, I just… want someone to do fun, wholesome, exciting activities with, you know? With online dating, it’s like I could swipe through an entire city in a day and still be unsatisfied. What’s strange is that the people who stick around on dating apps know everyone else who sticks around, so it’s kind of… too intimate.

We talked about other things, but as I drove home, I thought of a few more. First, blazing through multiple people makes it too easy to mistakenly pass on someone who might be the right person. It’s bizarre that the ease and vast scope of online dating apps has allowed for us to abuse the oft quoted phrase, there’s plenty of fish in the sea. Because we know there’s too much fish, we cast wider nets instead of celebrating a good catch. Second, if he wanted to meet someone he could do fun, wholesome, exciting activities with, maybe he should just start doing fun, wholesome, exciting things, because the people who have the same interests would no doubt be there too. Third, maybe the reason we’re messed up romantics has nothing to do with our zodiac sign, the modern dating scene, or even heartbreak. Maybe we’ve just forgotten the simplest truth that we’ve always known, a truth so raw and human we’ve tried to rationalize or ignore: love is messy.

Likes Negronis, psychoanalysis, and the occult.