I’ve been thinking of what the last 4 minutes of La La Land were really about. I mean, logically, if Ryan Gosling had kissed Emma Stone the minute she stepped into that club where he was playing the piano, that would be sexual assault. But somehow, despite our knowledge of that, our having witnessed the lives they lived otherwise made that sexual assault and everything that followed so much more preferable. I think it’s because deep down, we know we’re fuck ups who continually cock up our lives because we don’t have the fucking balls to fully embrace the possibility of the other. And we know that sometimes, we really need criminal assault to get us out of the ruts our lives our in.
Like the other day, I bumped into Mark. After years of not having spared him a thought,' I met him just out of the blue. It happened as I was driving towards work and I saw him waiting for a cab. Instinctively, I stopped and offered him a ride. He said something nonsensical, I berated myself mentally for having presumed too much, and finally after 4 long interminable seconds (yes, seconds) of an interaction, I drove on, feeling stupid. And cowardly.
And then just a couple of days ago, I met him again at my job. He’d come to meet my boss and I was just leaving her room. I wasn’t unaware that we may see each other, so I'd had time to mentally prepare myself for a better interaction. I knew exactly how the conversation would go. He would be shocked to see me there, and his entire body language would change setting to ‘Implode’. He would frown as he examined the floor or the walls trying to settle his facial expression to neutral asshole - rumour has it that it's his go-to expression when dealing with others. I can’t really complain since I believe I had a hand in making him who he is today.
In any case, I would stop in front of him, smile and say 'Hey!’ Given the norms of polite behaviour, he would say Hi and I would explain to him that his meeting has been delayed by 15 minutes and would he like to wait with me outside. Looking at the sea of strangers around him, and the confidence that I naturally exude on my home turf, he would say Ok. We’ll step out and as we wait awkwardly over coffee for a few minutes, neither knowing what to say, I would blurt out my congratulations for his film that is doing well, and then explain how I still had to go watch it. He would smile and nod and look impatiently at his watch, wondering how quickly he could politely excuse himself and get away from me. I would take that opportunity to say that I felt really silly about leaving him on the road side the other day and how I should have insisted but was afraid I was being presumptuous. He would smile awkwardly, disarmed by my candour, and say that he understood - and will acknowledge that even he'd felt weird.
We would smile briefly and then he would be called in for his meeting. We would look at each other - a hug too intimate, a handshake too silly - and then we’d wave to each other as he went in to work while I took a breath. On his way out, he’d ask my colleague if I was still around and she would say yes and call me and I would come downstairs and he’d tell me that he needed my number because he had to send some literature across to me to read, as my boss had said.
A few days later, he’d call me and instead of talking about the expected literature, he would ask me if I’d want to have coffee again. I’d say yes. And we would meet and it would be just a little bit less awkward, and maybe we would laugh once. Like we used to. We would both know that we couldn’t possibly go back to who we used to be, but maybe we could reintroduce ourselves, see if our grown up versions, the people we both had a hand in shaping, if we would stand up to the test of being scrutinised and appraised. And if, for just a few moments every day, we would dare allow the other to affect us again.
These coffee meetings would lead to early dinners to hanging out with significant others to house parties and dancing and there will be laughter. Incrementally, but surely, there would be a dropping of our guard. And maybe, just maybe, one day we would tell our story to a third party friend who will sit across from us and wonder what it takes to build a real friendship in today’s world of social media alienation and we would say, looking at each other, that you have to let the important ones shape you, and then forgive them if they fucked up the design, but still allow them to shape you, and then learn to love the shape of you that the other made. And vice-versa.
I knew all this in those 3 seconds as I walked towards him when he entered my work place. And I smiled and said Hey! And his brain imploded when he saw me, and I said that he would have to wait for a few minutes before my boss would be ready to see him. And he said, “What? What does that mean?” And I said, “You’ll need to wait…” And he said, “I don’t understand…” and suddenly something struck me. I said, “You’ll need to wait for a few minutes - not necessarily with me…” And his body language setting changed from Implode to Relaxed Neutral Asshole and he nodded and said Ok. And then my colleague said, “Let me show you to the conference room” and he said OK. And I nodded, and we walked away from each other towards two separate destinations.
Maybe at that time some assault is exactly what was needed. Not the kissing kind - *shudder* - but more the assertive Bitch Taking Control kind where I would have stopped him from walking away and said, “No he’ll be waiting with me outside where we shall be having a long-fucking-overdue conversation, Even if it kills us.”
Maybe it’ll still happen. At this point however, I feel really bad for that third-party friend who will never hear this awesome story of friendship and redemption and how something amazing can still be salvaged out of our meandering repetitive lives and then there will be nothing to stop him from making the same stupid mistakes that we already lived every excruciating fucking detail of.
It’s really him I feel bad for. Otherwise, I’m fine.