I Was 23 Once and So Were You

By Heather Newberger

This is the scene and let me set the stage for you.

You are sitting on your bed watching that new Mike Mills you’ve put off for a long time because you know you’ll like it. Your Boyfriend is sitting next to you and he is trying to put his arm on you, someplace, wherever you’d be ok with his arm being, but you’re leaning up against the wall. Your best friend is on his other side and she is watching the film intently. She has seen it before, and she loves it.  You might only be 15 minutes in, but you already know why.

Ewan McGregor is the star of the film, and he is at a party when he sees the most beautiful girl. You watch him see her, and you know that this is acting, but it still looks real. She is wearing a suit and her hair is under a hat and she cannot speak, but he will not stop looking at her and neither can you.

You wonder what Your Boyfriend is doing.  If he is looking at her or looking at you, and if so, how much his eyes look like Ewan’s eyes, and if they light up in the same way.  You think that there is a chance they do, but you’re not 100% and it would take too much effort to turn around.

Ewan and the girl are passing notes back and forth and then they are running, chasing each other through the streets and ending up in a hotel room.  She kisses him and there is something about her lips that makes all the lights around them turn into little circles and everything feel hazy and light.  And you think to yourself, this is what I want. You want all the lights around you to fall in place and set the stage, to make you feel something about how beautiful and surprising the universe can be.

You remember a time in college when you wrote your favorite quotes on notebook cards.  Later, you asked a boy you liked to help you put them inside library books, so that someday, someone! would find them and think that they were beautiful.  And afterward, after you ran around the 3rd floor and peeked at each other from behind tombs of American literature and practical philosophy, you each stood on different sides of a large column with your backs to each other, and talked about how nice it would be if you could touch. You were both safe to say how you felt because there were at least 2 feet of cement between you, except then you moved and so did he. You both turned around, and there was the other, and you could touch, so you did.

You’ve been telling yourself for a little under 8 months that life is not a romantic comedy, except that sometimes it used to be, if you remember right.  But not since you met Your Boyfriend, or rather, since you moved to New York City and graduated college and everything started to feel a lot more mixed up.  And you like spending time with him, you do, or maybe what you like more is not having to spend time with yourself.  But you’re not ready to encounter your emotions yet, you’d rather feel safe.

And your Boyfriend, he says he loves you and you say I love you back, but you also want to cry because if this is love, and by this point you’ve convinced yourself it is, how disappointing, how much more lackluster than you thought.  You’re watching the screen, and there is Ewan, kissing the girl, and you want to grab him, and call Mike Mills and say HEY, stop lying! Nothing can be this beautiful and also true! Except that if you think about it, they used to be, they just aren’t for you right now.

This is moment you realize you have been incredibly sad, and you don’t know for how long, or how to make the feeling stop.

Heather Newberger is a freelance fashion stylist and narrative non fiction writer living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

She blogs @ www.over-t.tumblr.com.

Image by Heather Newberger