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My neighbor was sitting on the stoop smoking a cigarette, bike messenger cap propped at a jaunty angle, looking morose. I stopped to say hi. I normally enjoy conversation with him because as a bike messenger dealing with DC cabbies, rampaging Metro buses, lackadaisical cops, and douchey BMW-driving yuppies glued to their cell phones he usually has some funny stories to tell. Plus, his personal history is dramatic, having fled New Orleans with his girlfriend when their home (yes, in other parts of the country young people are able to afford a house together) was flooded by Katrina and winding up in DC living in a one bedroom basement apartment to carve out a new life for themselves. He had dreams to open a Cajun-style restaurant.
But this time was different.
“Yeah, me and my girl broke up.”
“Wow, sorry about that, man.” I didn’t need to ask who dumped whom; it was obvious by the way his voice trailed off when he spoke.
We talked a little more. He didn’t give specific reasons for the breakup and I didn’t console him beyond the most perfunctory acknowledgment. Consoling is for women. Men advise and motivate. So I told him to hang with me and my buddies next time we were out, there would be plenty of new women to meet. He said sure, but his slumped body language revealed a beaten man.
I remember the dark thoughts that went through my mind the first time I met him and his girlfriend a year ago: Scruffy low status bike messenger with cute, young Asian girlfriend moving away from the relatively provincial and poor New Orleans into one of the high-flying East Coast megalopolises, right smack into a rapidly gentrifying yuppie neighborhood, filled to brimming with players and alpha males on the make, flashing high status jobs, degrees, bottle service, connections, and sheer overwhelming numbers. As much as they are obviously in love now, their relationship is doomed.
I already knew their trajectory. She compared him to the competition, whether she was aware of this or not. He came up wanting. She flirted and soaked up her newfound power. He looked around and saw 5s acting like 9s and realized he was in a Twilight Zone where his girlfriend was now considered out of his league. She reassessed her sexual market value and slowly withdrew sex, snapping at him constantly for perceived infractions. There was nothing he could do with the meager game skills at his disposal. He reassessed his sexual market value and decided to move out of DC.
Turns out their unconditional love was very conditional. Sometimes all it takes is a move to a different environment to prove that.
People often accuse me of being too abstract in my writing; that what I say doesn’t have much real world relevance to the average person, except in the most extreme circumstances and under laboratory conditions.
On the contrary, everything I write about has the utmost importance to every one of your lives. The arid world of the theoretical is always lurking there in the shadows, stalking you, ready to pounce and devour you in a flash, leaving you wondering why your dopey new age beliefs or romantic visions of love or confidence that the mudbath of human nature doesn’t apply to normal people like yourself weren’t enough to spare you the claw and tooth attack of reality. You are all slave to your beast masters.
I hope bike messenger guy doesn’t see this post.