(…) Dans les moments de bonheur, par exemple en contemplant un beau paysage, je sais instantanément que je n’en fais pas partie, le monde m’apparaît comme quelque chose d’étrange, je ne connais aucun endroit où je puisse me sentir chez moi. Dieu, lui-même ne peut résoudre ce problème, d’ailleurs je ne crois pas en dieu, il n’est pas nécessaire, ni ici ni au paradis. Je crois en l’amour, c’est la seule chose valable que nous possédions, mieux qu’un programme de fitness, mieux que le sport. Peut être qu’un jour mon rêve d’éternité se réalisera, je serai alors une créature avec des jambes, des ailes ou des tentacules, peut être ailleurs. (Michel Houellebecq).
Early that summer I read a new book of Siri Husvedt “The summer without men” – turned out this particular summer was not that “empty” and “man-less”. I remember he made fun of me because of my “post-separation after years in couple” lifestyle. He said that it was not normal. Any other woman could have stayed alone after so many years in couple, he told me. He was somehow right, instead of choosing this option, I preferred going through some “human experiments”.
HE was my number TEN for that summer and he knew it because I have told him, during one of our nights spending together, between sex and discussions. When I tried to explain my choice of life and why I was a bit shocked he found my sex life very “unusual”, and that, if he did, other people probably would be even more judgmental, he kept repeating: “Ma che te frega ?” which means literally “why do you care ?”. He has always told me not to care about what people think because, he said: “anyway they think something about you”. Maybe I don’t really care how people think about my life; I do care about how he thinks of it and until today.
He was not my friend first but I used to talk to him about everything. We used to share the office for almost two years. He was the person the less judgmental I have known.
I spent two years, everyday in the office without having a slight idea or thought of him other than a professional relationship. There was no such ambiguity between us. Then when he quit his job sometime by the end of summer, we decided to become some kind of “friends with benefits”. It had been the first time for me to sleep with someone who knew quite well my life. I have set a thousand of rules for myself, one of which: “never sleep with your friend or someone close”. Choosing to sleep with someone outsides my circle of friends or acquaintances was the safest way for me to not losing real friends. It sounds simple and easy. Having a sex friend who is not a friend is quite easy to manage. When things fall apart, the sex goes away so does the “non-friend” relation. And things stay the same. Sex friends are not meant to last. I think human beings are not made to share intimacy with other persons without feeling anything after a while.
But back to number TEN. The first time I slept with number TEN who was (not) my friend, but with whom I share quite a lot of stories in my life (hum…things formulated like this, sound terribly complicated already – he was not my friend but I loved talking to him, but well, finally it turned out fine, because Number TEN was the most “gentleman” friend, certainly because he is more Italian than Swiss German, and most of all, because he is an easygoing guy. Any concept seemed to fit him and we have always managed ourselves to have a good time together, things were easy. I have never changed any of my behaviors after we started with this concept of “privileged friends”.
During the time we were seeing each other, there was a movie “Friends with benefits”, another movie with a Hollywood happy ending. I did not like the idea that in the movie Justin Timberlake realized he was falling for his friend with benefits. I said that it was not possible to fall in love once one had decided to be friend with benefits, the outcome of being in love is so unlikely that made the movie unrealistic. We discussed the movie sometime between “bed” and “dinner” – Number TEN protested, he said that statistically the probability of two sex friends falling in love with each other was equal. There were four scenarios possible: (1) 25% the girl falls in love, (2) 25% the guy falls in love, (3) 25% the two friends fall for each other, (4) 25% no one falls for no one. Hell, it was just so wrong because stating this amounted to assume that men and women were exactly the same. If so, why did the guy who wrote “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus” become a millionaire? Is it true that women fall more for their sex friends because we are more sensitive and because we have other genes which trigger love more easily?
Most of the times, we talked and shared movies and music. One day, he told me that he loved sad movies, especially when the characters were involved in some kind of incurable illness, and these kinds of movies made him almost cry sometimes. I was surprised discovering him under this aspect. He has an athletic and sporty look (years of free fight did help him to get the look) with tattoos, it was hard to imagine he could cry or get sad over a sad movie. But that is also all about Number TEN, hardly ever we thought that we could understand the way he functioned, yet he was not that kind of person. And this has always triggered my curiosity.
Number TEN was hard to define. I think somehow we were alike. He was rational, unconquerable, free and fearless. Everything with him was weighted like a statistic variable. He told me he has never been in love in his entire life because he had this habit to analyze and calculate everything scientifically so there was no room for surprises and spontaneity or emotions. He thought that “love at first sight” would be his only salvation, it would be the only way for him to fall in love. That kind of love that just hits him right in the face that he could not do anything about it, he could not have time to prepare himself, or to manage the new variables and perform some kind of statistic calculations. Although I found that immature, I understood why he tried to stick to this idea of love at first sight. All other kinds of love and affection will never leave him on a high note, it will always become routine and he would get bored. He was not capable of letting any emotion intervening with his rationality. I was the same. The funny thing was that we usually talked about these things, naked on my couch. And still, our judgments and full capacity of analyzing things have never been altered by our sex drive! We were so rational; at least I have always thought so. I even told him once to let go sometimes, to let some emotions invading him for once in a while and he kept telling me “No way”. I told him what I wanted to tell to myself. At some point I wanted to let some of my emotions going through my stubborn head and these emotions would mess up all my plans summed up in a piece of Excel spreadsheet.
Number TEN was “dark” and tortured. He seemed to reflect quite a lot about human conditions, about life, political and social issues (that is why he loves hip-hop music where the lyrics shout out all the injustice in this world). He was so tortured that Michel Houellebecq was his favorite writer. He once told me that when he woke up in the morning he said to himself: “Another day to live”. He asked me if I felt the same and why not. I looked at him and answered that I was quite pessimistic too but I could always enjoy a few nice moments in life, for example I felt happy when I had an appointment with him in the evening. That was something that made my day. He looked at me as if I was a fool. Yes, I was a fool thinking that happiness could even exist through this simple thought of having him in the evening for sex and discussions.
Number TEN was the one who did not understand why I could turn down a handsome man in a bar or even George Clooney because he was my “friend with benefits” at that time. This was the second time he stared at me and truly believed I was crazy. I was quite clumsy when I tried to explain why I could not sleep with another man (me, who was totally undisciplined when it came to handsome men) without showing him my feelings. First I answered: “because I have you”. Then I saw his eyes so astounding that I stammered: “no, no, I mean I don’t want to sleep with a handsome man if I bump into him tomorrow because I just had so much sex with you today, so it means that tomorrow I will be so exhausted to have sex again.” What a lie!
Talking about lies, I remember a funny episode with his parents whom I met during a free fight championship. His father was an Italian old man, from Napoli, the kind of hard-working and honest man. His mother was beautiful and sweet. His father never liked the idea of his son deciding to travel abroad for one year. During the show, we talked about this and his father told me he did not agree with his traveling plan. Carried away by the sincerity of the moment, I told him that I was not happy either with that decision. The father looked at me and said to me in Italian with all the typical gestures of the hands: “Io no sono content, ma tu perché?” (“I am not happy but you why?”). And there came another lie: “Oh, yes, I am not happy because I don’t like it when my friends are away for a long time”. It was lies and truth at the same time because, indeed, he IS my friend.
Number TEN was black belt in Karate. Free fight and Thai boxing seemed to be his religion. I remember once I have spent the whole Sunday afternoon watching videos on free fight championships on YouTube. It freaked me out but come on, wasn’t I supposed to be interested in my (sex) friend’s hobbies?
He was the one who thought that I should play ping pong instead of working out in gym club. He was the one who still finds my body fine even though I told him that I gained some weight after my trip to the US.
Number TEN was full of contradictions. He could not see the means and the ends of a relationship, love, fidelity but his parents were happily married and still in love after 30 years and they are his daily vivid example of a couple. He could practice sport like crazy but swallowed all that was written by Houellebecq in a few weeks. Yes, full of contradictions. But he was reliable, and the incarnation of fineness and trustworthiness. Sometimes I just wonder how he managed to balance his dark and soft sides, hiding all his kindness and softness behind tough theories about women and love. Difficult to imagine that when you had the chance to be with him for a while.
Our relationship was not limited to evenings spending together, the two of us. It happened that we went to the movies or had dinners with my friends. He was the one who warmed up a room when he was there. Whatever it is, you get the idea; he was the effect, the cause of so many things going on in my head sometimes. But I have never thought of its importance more than it should be. Then it should be nothing more than what it has already been. We kept on living our lives separately, independently without feeling any frustration. We had this “arrangement”, this “thing” going on, whatever it should be called or labeled. We did not mix our lives together. We preserved our spaces. When I spent an evening with him, the next day, I felt just calm and happy. It was like I have absorbed all the happiness and intensity our relationship had emitted. I have never felt the need to see him more often. However, he was not a parenthesis to my life – someone I kept apart like the other men whom I used to see. He was a whole, but a free electron.
But, to some extent, Number TEN turned upside down my “friends with benefits” concept. He made me doubt. Rules I have made for others could not be applied to him. But rules were never made to break so I decided to stay the same way.
Number TEN was the one who thought that I was a tough independent woman who was perfectly in control of her sentimental life, especially the so-called sex friend situation. Viewing my way of handling emotions, sex and other events in my life this past year, I don’t blame him for getting this wrong idea on me.
He went abroad after that summer. And things went back to normal. I have decided to go for a winter without men. He told me that it was the most unlikely thing he has ever heard. I started harpsichord and yoga class. Number TEN was the one I have sometimes missed inside and outside the bedroom. That winter was long. The “Friends with benefits” movie sucked. The “equal 25% probability in the four scenarios” was wrong. And my “love/affection/emotion” variables weighted far more significantly than all the other “rationality/logic/lucidity” variables. But most importantly, somewhere, somehow, he has ceased to be a “number”, or maybe, he has never been just a “number” – He was true, real, he is my friend and I do hope that he had found in me a friend too.