On the way to the restaurant, ana is clearly trying to give kevin and me a common thread upon which to build a relationship. It feels so strange. I get the distinct impression that ana is trying to make sure kevin and I get along. she’s trying to make sure I like kevin. she’s never done that before. she’s never cared. Most of the time, meeting me is their death knell. she uses me to let them know that she doesn’t need alone time with them, that we are all friends. this isn’t that. she’s not kicking him out the door. she’s inviting him inside.
“How did you guys meet?” I ask from the backseat. “oh, at yoga,” he says, paying attention to the road. “yeah, kevin was always in my tuesday night class and he was just so bad”—she laughs—“that I had to personally help him.” “I’ve tried to explain to her that instructors are supposed to help their students, but she seems to think she was doing me a favor,” he jokes, and I laugh politely as if this is hilarious. I’m missing whatever it is this guy has going for him. “Worked out in my favor though, since it got her to ask me out.” “Can you believe that, elsie?” ana says, half turning her face toward me in the backseat. “I asked him out.”
I thought he’d been joking.
“Wait,” I say, leaning forward. “kevin, ana asked you out?” kevin nods as he enters the parking garage and starts to look for a parking space.
“Ana has never asked anyone out the entire time I’ve known her,” I tell him.
“I’ve never asked anyone out in my entire life,” she clarifies. “so why kevin?” I ask and immediately realize that I have not phrased it in a polite way. “I just mean—what made you change your mind? about asking people out, I mean.” kevin finds a spot and parks the car. ana grabs his hand. “I don’t know.” she looks at him. “kevin’s different.”
I want to vomit. I go so far as to make a vomit noise as a joke to them, but neither of them finds it funny. they aren’t even paying much attention to me. I realize, as I try to climb out of the backseat of this shitty little car without injuring myself, that kevin has hijacked my dinner plans with ana and they are just letting me come along as a courtesy. I am a third wheel. you try being a widow and a third wheel. you will never feel more alone.
We get to the restaurant, and it seems pretty cool, actually.
kevin and ana are having a good time regardless of whether I am. “How long have you two been dating?” I ask. I’m not sure what to expect, or rather, I don’t expect anything.
“uh”—kevin starts to think—“just about a month?” he says. ana looks somewhat uncomfortable. “More or less,” she says, and then she changes the subject. How could my best friend have been dating someone for the past month and never mentioned him to me? I refuse to believe that she talked about him and I wasn’t listening. that’s not who I am, even now. I try to listen to other people. How could ana go from a person who would never settle down, never care about a man, to a woman who asks a man out and invites him to crash dinner with her best friend? and she did this all on her own time, never mentioning it to me, as if it were a side project of self-development that she didn’t want to reveal until it was complete. after dinner, they drive me back to my house and say good night. kevin kisses me on the cheek sweetly and looks me in the eye when he says it was nice to meet me. He says he hopes to see me again soon, and I believe him. I wonder if maybe the thing that kevin has going for him is that he is very sincere. Maybe ana is attracted to how genuine he is. If that’s the case, I can understand.
I call her a few hours later, and my call goes through to voice mail. I’m sure they are together. I try again in the morning, and she puts me through to voice mail again but texts me and says she’ll call later. she’s still with kevin. kevin is different. I can feel it. I can see it. It makes me nervous. I’ve already lost Ben. I can’t lose ana. she can’t change her personality and priorities now. I’m just barely hanging on.
She calls me sunday afternoon and offers to come over.
When she gets here, the first words out of her mouth are “What did you think of him? adorable, right?”
“Yeah,” I say. “He was really sweet, I liked him a lot.” this isn’t entirely untrue. even if I don’t see exactly what about him is exceptional, he still seemed perfectly nice and likable. “oh, elsie! I’m so glad to hear you say that. I’ve been nervous for you two to meet and he was over yesterday afternoon and asked if he could join our dinner and I wasn’t sure how to—” she cuts herself off. “I’m just really glad you liked him.” “He was cool. He seems a bit”—how do I say this?—“out of character for you though, am I right?”
She shrugs. “something just clicked in me,” she says. “and I realized that I want to love someone, you know? I mean, everyone wants to love someone, right? I think I just mean, I finally feel ready to be with one person. and of all the people I’ve dated in the past, I think the problem was that I wasn’t into them. I was just into how much they were into me. But kevin is different. kevin wasn’t even into me. We would stay after and I would be helping him with his poses and touching him in these ways, you know how yoga is. and most men perk up when you get that close, they make it sexual when it isn’t sexual, but not kevin. He was just really genuinely trying to get the pose right. so I started kind of . . . trying to make it sexual . . . just to see if I could get his attention, but he was just really focused.” so I was kind of right. It’s the sincerity that has made her smitten.
“And I think I just . . . I want to be with someone that approaches things like that. that doesn’t think of me as a thing to possess or obtain. so I asked him out and he said yes and it made me so nervous, but I was proud of myself that I did it, and then from our first date, I just felt this . . . connection . . .” I start to get mad because a strong connection on first dates is for Ben and me. It’s not common, it doesn’t just happen to everyone. and she’s watering it down. she’s making it seem like it’s not mine anymore.
“I don’t understand why you didn’t mention it sooner,” I say. “Well.” ana starts to grow uncomfortable. “I just . . . you are dealing with your own stuff and I didn’t think you wanted to hear about this,” she says, and that’s when it hits me.ana pities me.ana is now the one in love;ana is the happy one; I am the sad one; the lonely one, the one to whom she doesn’t want to rub it in. “What made this ‘click’ just happen?” I ask. My words are sharp; my voice is bitter.
“What?” she asks.
“It’s interesting that you just ‘changed’ like that. you go from being this . . . kind of . . . from someone who . . .” I give up on trying to name it. “Well to turn around now and be the poster child for love. What made you change your mind?” “you,” she says. she says it as if it will pacify me, as if I should be happy. “I just realized that life is about love. or at least, it’s about loving someone.”
“Do you hear yourself? you sound like a valentine’s day card.” “Whoa, okay,” she says as a reaction to the anger in my voice.
“I’m sorry. I thought you’d be happy for me.”
“Happy for you? My husband died and I’m sitting here miserable and alone, but you’ve learned from this whole experience how to love. Congratulations, Ana! We’re all really happy for you.”
She is stunned, and unfortunately, because it is a silent stunned, I am able to continue.
“let’s all celebrate for ana! she’s found true love! Her life wasn’t perfect enough with her perfect apartment and her perfect body and all of these men chasing her, but now, she’s evolved enough to see in my husband’s death a life lesson about the importance of love and romance.”
Ana is now almost in tears, and I don’t want her to cry but I can’t stop myself.
“Was it love at first sight? this romance of yours? are you going to get married next week?”