fortunate fool

Here we have a young woman who is the master of her domain. She is beautiful, smart, highly competent, and possessed of an effortless sangfroid that is sometimes mistaken for arrogance. She knows exactly how to play her cards, and she is not one to lose. Call her scheming, call her manipulative, but in the end she will get what she wants, and there is not a damn thing anyone can do about it.

Opposite her is a young man, slightly older than she, who could not be more different in mien. Where she is bold and assertive, he is quiet, diffident, polite to the point of fecklessness. Social anxiety is a constant threat, and a burning flush rises readily to his face whenever he feels ill at ease among others. He knows how absurd his behavior is, and this realization only serves to heighten the blush. Lacking in confidence, he contents himself with being merely so-so and stifles his shame at this cop-out.

In him she sees an attractive exterior and a likeable personality, the latter made more so by his sedulous doting on her from the outset. She wins him over with an affected charm that is all but foolproof—this is child’s play for her—and soon has him at her beck and call. He makes her happy, at least for now.

In her he sees a friend, a lover, the pinnacle of feminine beauty—but despite his feelings for her, he is yet hedging his bets. He has followed this rigmarole before, and though somewhere deep within him he believes in the idea of true love, every attempt of his thus far has proved underwhelming at best. He proceeds cautiously, but not without hope. With her he feels safe and strangely alive, as if her presence alone affirms all that he had begun to doubt of late. He is careful to keep such thoughts to himself, but sometimes he slips up.

“You are blind,” she tells him one day as he is driving her home, after he admits he has fallen whole-heartedly for her. “I am not as perfect as you make me out to be. You know that. You are just willfully ignoring so many things about this.” He thinks there is probably some truth to what she says. But he knows he is not blind. “Perhaps my vision is slightly tinged in rose,” he thinks but does not say, “but I do see you; my eyes do not deceive me that flagrantly. And as I behold you, I feel this…this…” He is thinking of the word effervescence, but it doesn’t seem right. Now she is looking at him, awaiting a response. He meets her eyes and the feeling returns: a tightness of the throat, a strange bubbling sensation deep in his belly, as if he has swallowed antacids on an empty stomach. He is growing warm from the inside out, but not in an uncomfortable way. The beating of his heart quickens, reaches double-time. If someone were to chemically analyze his blood right then, they would find heightened levels of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and other heady hormones—a textbook case of what is colloquially referred to as “love”.

He knows this, but in the current context, the point is clearly moot. She is making a cogent argument, after all. “You are right, for the most part…” he says, “but I am not blind.” To this, she is silent. But she invites him in all the same.


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