Chapter no 34

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)

We had not finished the wine at the restaurant. I decided to compensate for the resulting alcohol deficit and poured a tumbler of tequila. I turned on the television screen and computer and fast-forwarded Casablanca for one last try. I watched as Humphrey Bogart’s character used beans as a metaphor for the relative unimportance in the wider world of his relationship with Ingrid Bergman’s character and chose logic and decency ahead of his selfish emotional desires. e quandary and resulting decision made for an engrossing film. But this was not what people cried about. ey were in love and could never be together. I repeated this statement to myself, trying to force an emotional reaction. I couldn’t. I didn’t care. I had enough problems of my own.

e doorbell buzzed, and I immediately thought Rosie, but when I pushed the CCTV button, it was Claudia’s face that appeared.

“Don, are you okay?” she said. “Can we come up?” “It’s too late.”

Claudia sounded panicked. “What have you done? Don?” “It’s ten thirty-one,” I said. “Too late for visitors.”

“Are you okay?” said Claudia, again.

“I’m fine. e experience has been highly useful. New social skills. And final resolution of the Wife Problem. Clear evidence that I’m incompatible with women.”

Gene’s face appeared on the screen. “Don. Can we come up for a drink?” “Alcohol would be a bad idea.” I still had a half glass of tequila in my hand. I was telling a polite lie to avoid social contact. I turned off the


e message light on my home phone was flashing. It was my parents and brother wishing me a happy birthday. I had already spoken to my mother two days earlier when she made her regular Sunday evening call.

ese past three weeks, I had been attempting to provide some news in return but had not mentioned Rosie. ey were utilizing the speakerphone function and collectively sang the birthday song—or at least my mother did, strongly encouraging my other two relatives to participate.

“Ring back if you’re home before ten thirty,” my mother said. It was 10:38, but I decided not to be pedantic.

“It’s ten thirty-nine,” said my mother. “I’m surprised you rang back.” Clearly she had expected me to be pedantic, which was reasonable given my history, but she sounded pleased.

“Hey,” said my brother. “Gary Parkinson’s sister saw you on Facebook.

Who’s the redhead?”

“Just a girl I was dating.”

“Pull the other leg,” said my brother.

e words had sounded strange to me too, but I had not been joking. “I’m not seeing her anymore.”

“I thought you might say that.” He laughed.

My mother interrupted. “Stop it, Trevor. Donald, you didn’t tell us you were seeing someone. You know you’re always welcome—”

“Mum, he was putting you on,” said my brother.

“I said,” said my mother, “that anytime you want to bring anyone to meet us, whoever she or he—”

“Leave him alone, both of you,” said my father.

ere was a pause and some conversation in the background. en my brother said, “Sorry, mate. I was just kidding. I know you think I’m some sort of redneck, but I’m okay with who you are. I’d hate you to get to this age and think I still had a problem with it.”

So, to add to a momentous day, I corrected a misconception that my family had held for at least fifteen years and came out to them as straight.

e conversations with Gene, Phil, and my family had been surprisingly therapeutic. I did not need to use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to know that I was feeling sad, but I was back from the edge of the pit. I would need to do some disciplined thinking in the near future to be certain of remaining safe, but for the moment I did not need to shut down the

emotional part of my brain entirely. I wanted a little time to observe how I felt about recent events.

It was cold and the rain was pouring, but my balcony was under shelter. I took a chair and my glass outside, then went back inside, put on the natural wool sweater that my mother had knitted for a much earlier birthday, and collected the tequila bottle.

I was forty years old. My father used to play a song written by John Sebastian. I remember that it was by John Sebastian because Noddy Holder announced prior to singing it, “We’re going to do a song by John Sebastian. Are there any John Sebastian fans here?” Apparently there were, because there was loud and raucous applause before he started singing.

I decided that tonight I was also a John Sebastian fan and that I wanted to hear the song. is was the first time in my life that I could recall a desire to hear a particular piece of music. I had the technology. Or used to. I went to pull out my mobile phone and realized it had been in the jacket I had discarded. I went inside, booted my laptop, registered for iTunes, and downloaded “Darling Be Home Soon” from Slade Alive!, 1972. I added “Satisfaction,” thus doubling the size of my popular music collection. I retrieved my earphones from their box and returned to the balcony, poured another tequila, and listened to a voice from my childhood singing that it had taken a quarter of his life before he could begin to see himself.

At eighteen, just before I left home to go to university, statistically approaching a quarter of my life, I had listened to these words and been reminded that I had very little understanding of who I was. It had taken me until tonight, approximately halfway, to see myself reasonably clearly. I had Rosie, and the Rosie Project, to thank for that. Now it was over, what had I learned?

  1. I need not be visibly odd. I could engage in the protocols that others followed and move undetected among them. And how could I be sure that other people were not doing the same— playing the game to be accepted but suspecting all the time that they were dierent?

  2. I had skills that others didn’t. My memory and ability to focus had given me an advantage in baseball statistics, cocktail making, and genetics. People had valued these skills, not mocked them.

  3. I could enjoy friendship and good times. It was my lack of skills, not lack of motivation, that had held me back. Now I was competent enough socially to open my life to a wider range of people. I could have more friends. Dave the Baseball Fan could be the first of many.

  4. I had told Gene and Claudia that I was incompatible with women. is was an exaggeration. I could enjoy their company, as proven by my joint activities with Rosie and Daphne. Realistically, it was possible that I could have a partnership with a woman.

  5. e idea behind the Wife Project was still sound. In many cultures a matchmaker would routinely have done what I did, with less technology, reach, and rigor, but the same assumption—that compatibility was as viable a foundation for marriage as love.

  6. I was not wired to feel love. And faking it was not acceptable. Not to me. I had feared that Rosie would not love me. Instead, it was I who could not love Rosie.

  7. I had a great deal of valuable knowledge—about genetics, computers, aikido, karate, hardware, chess, wine, cocktails, dancing, sexual positions, social protocols, and the probability of a fifty-six-game hitting streak occurring in the history of baseball. I knew so much shit and I still couldn’t fix myself.

As the shue setting on my media player selected the same two songs over and over, I realized that my thinking was also beginning to go in circles and that, despite the tidy formulation, there was some flaw in my logic. I decided it was my unhappiness with the night’s outcome breaking through, my wish that it could be dierent.

I watched the rain falling over the city and poured the last of the tequila.

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