The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. – Henry Ford
A woman in a coonskin cap stands at the window, her footless legs as rooted to the floor as the plant beside her is rooted to its pot. This pot is blue, like the woman’s pants and tunic, its clusters of leaves green like her shawl. Like the plant, this woman isn’t going anywhere. And this is perfectly fine by her. She has no intention of going anywhere, after all; she is here to settle the land.
Across the way, the frontier spreads out before her: four tall yellow buildings. These buildings are unique from one another in the placement of their bay windows and their decorative red balls, but ultimately, they are a repetition of each other. They are pretty much the same building.
Luke is about your age. A photographer. Like you, he has taken care of his body. It is lean and muscular. He has bright blue eyes, tanned skin. His mousy brown hair is styled in little peaks on top of his head. He emerges from his clean, white car just as you pass by.
“Beautiful beagle,” he says, but you know it’s just a pretext. For a few minutes, the conversation revolves around the beagle, but you’re not dumb. This guy is flirting with you. And you’re flirting back. Why wouldn’t you? Luke is your type. And he lives right up the street from the apartment you’ve just moved into. What providence! There will be a few weeks of flirty texting, dinner at a little Guatemalan restaurant way down on Atwells Street, an afternoon at a beach in Barrington, an early evening stroll in Roger Williams Park. There will not be, however, any touching. There will not be any kissing, either.
Let me tell you why. Luke is not emotionally available. Luke is thinking about someone else. This someone else is gone now, and yet there she is beside him, crowding up the space you might fill if Luke were ready for you. He’s not. You’ve crossed his path too early. Tell yourself this right now: Luke will make a good friend. Nothing more.
Jerry, too, would have made a good friend. Nothing more.
In a clearing in the woods behind the university, you had stopped with him to rest from cross country skiing. It was snowing lightly. The branches of the tree over your heads were heavy with pure white snow. It was so beautiful, so quiet. You’d been flirting for weeks. The moment was perfect for a kiss. The kind you think about for months, years. Why didn’t he see it? Why didn’t he understand? You had to ask. For a kiss. And it felt so dirty. It kept feeling dirty. Frustrating with time. Humiliating, eventually.
But we’re not here today to wonder why you kept at it for 17 years, why you thought Jerry would someday miraculously do things like touch you and kiss you without having to be asked. We’re not here today to dwell on past mistakes. We are here to learn a lesson from them. And the lesson is this: Luke and Jerry are a repetition of each other. Luke and Jerry are pretty much the same building. And the street that separates this building from where you stand in the window may as well be the Rio Grande. He’s never going to cross it. Not because you aren’t worth the risk; rather, because he has business to take care of on the other side first, business that has absolutely nothing to do with you.
Leave him to it, then. Move away from the window. Go for a walk with your beagle. Remember that man you saw a few weeks ago, the one who said hello to you from underneath the maple tree at the riverside entrance to Donigian Park? He’s been hoping to run into you again. His name is Antoine. And with Antoine, you will never have to ask for anything.