David Susman

Take the E-Match Quiz

For women seeking men

1. What is your favorite color?

2. What is your idea of the perfect evening?

3. How long ago was your last relationship?

4. Did he know what your favorite color was? Did he ever try to create the perfect evening for you?

5. Was it a serious relationship? Did it last longer than the relationship before it?

6. When did you start seeing your relationships as a sequence? When did the sequence become something to be studied and understood, like a strand of DNA?

7. What attracted you to him, your last boyfriend? Was it his careful dishevelment? You noticed that his clothes—his blazer, his corduroy pants—were not exactly ill-fitting, but they were aloof from his body, and his hair was just long enough to be called long. Wisps of his hair would lift and stir slightly, reminding you of smoke. Was that what attracted you?

8. Did you think he had beautiful eyes? Even as you told yourself that every man has beautiful eyes, that no woman in history has ever failed to describe her lover as having beautiful eyes, expressive, soulful eyes, eyes that are limpid or crystalline, eyes that seem to look at you so deeply, eyes that one could get lost in—did you find yourself thinking about his eyes?

9. Or was it later? The attraction? Was it when he said he was a writer? Or was it the moment immediately after? He smiled and dodged his head away and said, “Well, not a writer yet. Not a real writer. Barely published, actually. Just one of the many giving it a go.” But when he talked about language and art, politics, history, current events, even movies and old television programs, you found yourself swimming in his words. Intelligence, writerliness, rose off him like vapor. Is that when the attraction first happened?

10. Did you, for as long as possible, maintain that state of non-anticipation that you know to be the wisest way to start any relationship? Did you apportion yourself to him slowly? Did you smile thinly at first, sometimes letting your tongue sit lightly, just perceptibly, between your teeth? Later, of course, there would be opportunities to let your smile broaden, to have your face open up like a sunrise. But early on, armed with the memories of failed romantic campaigns, moments of revealment that left you predictably but still terribly, devastatingly, exposed, you maintained the strictest of discipline, didn’t you?

11. When did you start to see relationships as well-executed military strategies?

12. What did he do to finally—as they say in the women’s magazines that you never read—break through your defenses? He told you about his writing, of course. He talked about his plans for a novel about a man who fears his own memories. “Mnemophobia,” he said, his eyes alight with wonder. It was, he said, an actual disease, everybody’s disease, really, certainly an American disease, making his central character the ultimate everyman, an agent of history. He skimmed his eyes across the horizon while he talked, trying to understand the vast scale of his thoughts.

13. And he told you (didn’t he?) about growing up, about the father who couldn’t throw a baseball, his unpracticed arm jerking like a three-year-old’s whenever he tried to convey the ball to its target. He told you about his mother’s middle-class cooking, the disturbing texture of casserole, the taste of ketchup atop overcooked heaps of spaghetti. He told you about the schoolteacher who informed him that little boys who hurt bugs with magnifying glasses turn into grown-up murderers, and his certainty—for years! for years! he said—that he would grow into the most heinous of men.

14. What did you tell him in return? You told him that when you were seven years old, you tried to pierce your baby brother’s earlobes with a pin, and as punishment your parents took you to the mall to have your own ears pierced, and the gun (they went out of their way, it seemed, to show you that it was shaped like a gun, it was actually called a gun) was terrifyingly loud against your head. You told him that when your grandmother died, all the grandchildren were invited to put letters in her coffin, and you wrote Fuck you, Grandma and dropped it in, and it resides there for all eternity.

15. Did you think that the telling of these stories would make them new? Did you believe that sharing stories would draw you together in ways that are—according to the women’s magazines you never read—practically molecular in their effect?

16. At what point did you start to feel more comfortable with him than without him? At first, you simply enacted the well-choreographed dates that mark the beginning of any new relationship: the Thai restaurants, the movies in crowded cineplexes, the farmers’ markets. But eventually his presence came to feel like something other than a presence, something unadditional. It felt strange, at some point, not to have his arm around your waist, his hand on your neck, his mouth on your body.

17. And he unleashed great amounts of language. Wonderful, uncalculated language. His words spilled out like water sloshing over the side of a bathtub. He told you that he loved your taste in music. He loved your unwillingness to see any movie, ever, that featured an animal in a starring role. He loved your skin, he especially loved the delicate wrinkles where your forearm meets your bicep. He said that people really do lead lives of quiet desperation, and that he just wanted his to be loud. He told you that he has always wanted to get a dog and name it Cerberus, and that he doesn’t care what the shape of a big puffy cloud reminds somebody of, and that he can no longer enjoy most novels with their moronic plotlines and insipid characters, and that he often doubts whether he can be a writer himself, a good one, a real one.

18. And isn’t it true that when he spoke, you listened—but you also sifted? The word love flashed at you like a promising yellow nugget in a pan.

19. When did you start to see relationships as basically sediment?

20. Did you ever fight?

21. Was your first fight—as they say in the women’s magazines that you never read—constructive? Did it settle the matter? At a party (among, it should be said, his friends, on turf that was certainly more his than yours, already putting you, you would later tell him, in a position of vulnerability), you saw that he talked for a long time to the same person, letting her lean into him. His body seemed loose when he was with her, and his voice was easy and winning. When you joined them, he stiffened and became (you would insist to him afterward) artificially polite, like an idiotic talk-show host.

22. Did you cry? Later, at home with him? Did your sharp silence deteriorate into exactly the kind of scene you hate, it’s so goddamn clichéd? Rubbing the heel of your palm into your reddened eye, did you tell him that you were bothered more by your own reaction than anything else?

23. Were you comforted, finally? He held you for a long time and told you about the very few meaningful relationships he’s been in, and why yours matters more than any of them. He said he had a preternatural ability to fuck things up, and that he was determined not to undo the future that he hadn’t even created for himself yet. He told you about his unhappiness in the world, with the world. He said he had a plan to write an updated version of Dante’s Inferno, with modern figures enduring all the tortures that Dante originally visited upon the ancients. Donald Rumsfeld and Ann Coulter and Henry Kissinger and Anita Bryant and Margaret Thatcher would all writhe in tall sheets of flame or drown in bogs of sulfur.

24. After putting the fight behind you, did it seem like there was a renewed bond? Your conversations were effortless. He asked questions, and he listened to you for hours at a time. In bed, propped on his elbow, he appreciatively ran his finger along the curved skyline of your hip. Your bodies drew together as easily as water. “Is this the proverbial ‘happiness’?” you said to him. “I’ve heard a lot about it.” For entire moments, you lost every sensible inch of yourself. You imagined that it could stay like this.

25. Didn’t you?

26. Was it inevitable, in your opinion, that the days should become harder? Not hard, you reassured yourself, but harder. The moments began to require deliberation and planning. The conversations needed a kind of inauguration. You told him that your therapist once said you didn’t actually need therapy, that you were just one of the “worried well,” and those words, oddly affronting, have always stayed with you. You told him that the sight of someone tasting wine, sloshing it noisily in their cheeks then spitting it out like mouthwash, has always made you laugh uncontrollably.

27. Was it troubling that when he listened to you, he no longer bobbed his head thoughtfully or tilted it inquisitively?

28. Was it worrisome that his face was, in fact, as expressionless as a moon?

29. Isn’t it true that you often didn’t see him, even when you were both in the same apartment? You came to know him as a sound, like the footsteps of a neighbor.

30. Isn’t it true that he often wasn’t in the apartment?

31. Isn’t it true that he was sometimes angry, and that he would angrily tell you that he wasn’t angry at you?

32. Did you remind yourself that a relationship is a process, and that when considered in full, when played in your head from beginning to end at a speeded-up rate, the relationship was basically good?

33. When did you start to see relationships as time-lapse photography?

34. When did you start creating ridiculous metaphors for relationships?

35. In a conversation where you were both very, very tired, he looked at you evenly and said that he didn’t know what to say to you, that obviously you were unhappy but that he didn’t know what he could do about it, and what exactly, he wanted to know, were you asking him? He said that his soul was on fire most of the time, that probably every soul is on fire but it felt like his especially, and he didn’t think about the relationship as much as you did. He told you that he couldn’t answer the question of whether he needs you, he doesn’t know what need means. He said yes, sometimes his thoughts are elsewhere, with the woman at the party or a hundred other places. He talked about the experiences that have collected poisonously inside him like plaque inside a person’s arteries. He said that he wants to write a novel in which Jesus finally returns, but the modern world with all its hypocrisy can’t deal with him, and the multinational corporations and the Vatican conspire to have him crucified all over again.

36. Were you, fundamentally, interested in what he said?

37. Did you still want to be with him? You knew, of course, that the relationship was approaching its dribbled end. But did you, on some level, for reasons that would surpass even the wisdom of the poets, want it to continue?

38. Really?

39. Really?

40. Was there a final effort of sorts? In your last days, were your conversations methodical, your tone careful and uninflected, your words as specifically chosen as if you were speaking to a reporter?

41. Did it, finally, matter?

42. How did it end? Or was there an end, exactly? Did there just come a point at which—without fanfare, without moment—you realized that you were no longer with him?

43. Did you find that there was anything, honestly, to be learned?

44. Is there anything to be brought forward into your next relationship?

45. What do you want from your next relationship?

46. Have you decided that want isn’t the issue? Even if, in some paradisial future, your wants are met, you will have traveled through too many questions, thousands of them, more than you once would have thought possible. With the haziest of insights, you sense that each question is asking the same thing, something large and important, something that must be understood. And yet, each question is its own voice, each one pitched with its own identity. You fear that the questions will not end, and that they will never leave you. They will soak into your skin, they will thicken the air in your lungs.

47. There will always be questions, won’t there?

48. Wearily, but also hungrily, you will answer them, won’t you?

49. So who will you date next?

50. What are your turn-ons? Do you like sunsets and long walks on the beach?


Return to Volume 4.4






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