Abby wasn’t really attracted to Manny, but she always somehow convinced herself to fall in love with just about anyone who came along. She realized that it was from the need to be loved, and she figured that if she put out love, she would receive love back. This hasn’t quite worked out yet.
She met him on Craigslist. She put out an ad for a tennis partner, because, she was in earnest, looking to get better at her tennis. Manny replied very politely and pleaded with her that if she gave him a chance, he would work really hard at being the best tennis partner possible. She replied back in an instant.
But it soon became clear at their first meeting that he was really low energy, a depressive. Playing with Manny was bringing Abby down, and it was affecting her tennis. It was obvious that he was going through something in his life, and there was nothing attractive about his personality. Despite all of this, she found a way to be attracted to him. They continued to play with each other throughout the summer.
Summer came to an end and with that, so did tennis season. Manny wanted to start playing again the following summer, but Abby waved him off.
Three years went by, and she got an email from him during the first of the year when all those match.com and eHarmony commercials come on TV. He asked her if he wanted to go to dinner with him some time. Abby’s fleeting attraction to him wore off a long time ago, but she didn’t see the harm in it. They went to a Spanish tapas place a few blocks up from Abby’s apartment. Abby didn’t even bother to put her contacts on and wore a T-shirt and jeans. It was obvious that she wasn’t taking this date seriously. They had a nice conversation, but Manny was his usual self to Abby; not expressive, not inspiring, just mellow and quiet. What she did notice during the date was Manny looking around at other girls in the restaurant. Abby sighed to herself, “He’s just like the rest of them. Always looking for something better to come along.”
She returned home alone. Manny reminded Abby of a gopher: Someone that spends his time buried in the ground, but as soon as he pokes his head out and sees her looking at him he buries his head into the ground again. So she refrained from showing any sort of interest in him because at least from where things stood, he was still poking his head up from the ground.
As soon as Abby typed out the forbidden word “friends” in their last email exchange she didn’t hear from him again. It reminded Abby how touchy this town can be. We never say so-and-so is our friend. It’s always, “We know each other through tennis, or yoga, or from a wine-tasting class, or from a poetry reading at Strand’s.” It seems that we are all walking around this city as magnets with the same charge, repelling each other from getting too close.