It’s Just Me, Max
I’VE RECENTLY COME TO SEE—that no matter who you are or how you live—people will always disappoint you. Not letting it surprise you is really the only thing you can do. I’ve also come to see—through months of happy-hour fueled self-reflection—that I’ve failed to live up to my full potential, and that I’m a full-blown psychopath. Not the scary kind, no danger to anyone, besides maybe to myself, but rather, a self-aggrandizing, manipulative son of a bitch. Basically, the way every woman describes her ex.
The Tom Bradley International Terminal is buzzing as I find a seat. I’ve got a beer in hand, and though I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to leave the bar with a beverage, I tipped the bartender a twenty on top of my three overpriced pints—so he let it slide. Nobody has said anything, so I sit here sipping.
In my other hand, I’ve got a folded USA Today, which I paid $2.75 for at the snack shop next to the Starbucks. When I inquired how a paper that’s clearly priced at two dollars—could cost $2.75, a tiny Chinese woman in a yellow visor yelled at me, “Dis is California, we do what we want!” I was too tired to argue, so I paid her in exact change and a Pan Am smile.
On my lap sits a now crumpled flyer that was handed to me by a heavily caffeinated hipster as I exited my Uber. It’s information for some online Osho seminar, and for whatever reason, I didn’t throw it away; even through security, I tossed it in the bin. On the front is a black-and-white photo of some bearded Bengali guru, laughing next to a beautiful woman looking up at him in total admiration. The neon pink and purple title reads: You Love Me and I Love You.
I stared at that stupid slogan for most of my walk through the terminal, through my two beers at the bar, and now as I sit here in silence, thinking of the last time I said I love you to a woman. It was actually just a few months ago, and I may have even meant it. But now, once again, I see love for what it is; a path to misplaced promises and unrealistic expectations; a fallacy, a manmade myth meant to keep us miserable.
Thus far, you could say I’ve lived a pretty laissez-faire lifestyle; where women come and go with the ease of a toast or a text, and the words I never do this, always lead to sex; a lifestyle where every pilgrimage in my passport is more important than a new Porsche or a park view.
I sit at the gate rubbing my fingers through the four-day unshaven shadow swallowing my chin, savoring the last sips of my Sam Seasonal, and staring at those words for what must’ve been a while; for when I glance up to a fresh whiff of wintergreen, my eyes are met by a striking blonde. We both look up at nearly the same time, and for a second, we get stuck in each other’s stare. I hold my eye contact for that extra moment, and surprisingly, she holds hers. Before I know it, it seems as though we’re entangled in some sort of staring competition to see who will look away first. My smirk is growing into a smile, and I almost let out a simple hello; but I’m not much in the mood for conversation, so I keep my mouth shut, turn my head and lose.
She has a pretty face, not super beautiful or anything, but plain and pretty. She’s fair-skinned and skinny, with her hair pulled into pigtails. She’s in her twenties, and judging by the perfectly crisp passport she has in her hands, she hasn’t been out of the country much, if at all. And after taking a second to solidify an opinion of her, I’d confidently wager this is her first overseas trip, at least alone; and that if I wanted her, I could have her. Sure, that’s somewhat of an arrogant assumption, but it’s just how it is. I don’t presume to be recklessly smug, but over the years, through extensive trial and error, a fair amount of failure, and a shitload of success; I’ve come to recognize—with an uncanny certainty—whether or not I could sleep with a woman; typically within moments of making eye contact. Malcolm Gladwell refers to this type of tightly tuned intuition as “thin-slicing”; it’s definitely not an exact science, but I’m nearly never wrong. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to knock her out right here at the airport; I’m no Mötley Crüe member or anything. But, according to the Cathay Pacific ticket bookmarking her passport, she’s on my flight. If I struck up a conversation, listened to her tell me why she’s going to Asia, and how she just loves to travel. Then throw in a few seemingly random stories I’ve acquired in the fifty or so countries I’ve seen thus far, there’s a better than not chance she’d wake up in my bed after that first night in Hong Kong. In reality, she most likely doesn’t stand a chance not to. But for some reason, I’m not really up for it right now. Don’t get me wrong, I can tell she’d be a blast in the sack, and I can sense she’s hoping I say something, as her eyes keep trying to catch mine. She’s dying to tell someone her story, and in an effort to make this journey she’s on as memorable as possible, she most likely wants to share her body with someone as interesting and free-spirited as she sees herself. At least that’s how it usually goes. But, if I’ve learned anything in this life, it’s that she’s probably sitting there, thinking to herself—that she could have me too.