When It Seems Like All the Good Ones Are Taken
The outdoor Salvador Dali exhibit along Reforma in March
I ring the buzzer for apartment 406, then take a couple steps back to get a better view of the building. It’s a typical Mexico City concrete four-story, nothing fancy, but it borders a tree-filled park and has a two-month sublet available.
The door opens and a tall, thin man introduces himself as Andrés. His head is bald and shiny as a grapefruit, and behind a pair of thin-rimmed glasses he has dark, deep-set eyes. He’s about 6’2, unusually tall for a Mexican, and looks to be a few years older than me.
He shows me around the place, explaining he’s subletting the spare bedroom while he goes to Europe for work, but he’ll be here for part of each month too.
The spare bedroom is empty save for a double bed, and it has a glass door that opens to a large, lovely terrace overlooking the park. When I point out that neither the glass door nor the bedroom’s window have curtains, Andrés jokes, “Curtains are for slackers. You should get up with the morning sun.”
“I’d need to get a dresser for my clothes,” I say, “And a desk to work at.”
“Geez, you’re complicated.” He smiles. “Just sit on the terrace all day.”
I think his jokes are an attempt at flirting, and I’m charmed by this because I suck at flirting too. I notice how graceful his movements are, and the way his eyes crinkle up when he smiles. His energy is eager but confident, and I like it.
“So, do you want to sign the lease?” he asks.
“What?” I blink. “You mean—right now?”
He nods. “It’s a great place,” he says. “I think you’ll be comfortable here.”
“I need some time to think about it,” I tell him.
Strolling down the street a few minutes later, noticing how many cute cafes and restaurants there are in the neighborhood, I get a text from him: “I hope you take the room. I got a really good vibe from you. Let me know.” Wink emoji.
I’m flattered and a little weirded out by his pushiness. What’s with this guy?
“I don’t know…” I write back. “It’s pretty far from the subway. I’ve been walking for ten minutes and I’m not there yet.” Wink.
“You don’t need the subway when you live in the city’s belly button!” he replies. “You can walk everywhere.”
Untrue. I definitely need the subway—this city is gigantic.
We banter back and forth a little more. I’ve already decided not to take the room—I don’t want to buy a desk and dresser and put up curtains for just a two-month stay, plus I might be interested in this guy and that would make it a bad idea to live with him.
The next morning I write, “I’m not going to take the room. But we can be friends if you want.”
“Ok. Want to have lunch on Saturday?” he replies.
On Saturday I comb the knots from my hair and trade my usual yoga pants and t-shirt for jeans and a beaded tank top. I’m excited—Andrés seemed smart and quirky and I don’t doubt he’ll be interesting to talk to.
When I get to the restaurant he chose he’s seated at an outdoor table, a slightly ridiculous-looking fedora on his head (I dislike men in fedoras almost as much as I dislike men in jewelry).
We chat and look over the menu. He tells me he rented the room to a Canadian consultant. “She’s probably sitting on your terrace as we speak,” he says with mock sadness.
He’d mentioned he worked in the same building the apartment’s in, and I ask him about this. He tells me he’s an artist, and his studio is the whole second floor, and it’s really convenient because he works crazy hours. When he says he does mixed-medium abstract visual art, I nod as if I know what that means.
“Where in Europe do you go for work?” I ask.
“Paris,” he replies. “It’s not just for work. My wife and son live there.”
I freeze, my spoon hovering in midair as my brain twirls around the word ‘wife.’ There wasn’t an “ex” before it.
“You’re married?” I sputter.
“Yeah. I told you that when you came to see the apartment.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes I did,” he insists.
I shake my head firmly. I’m 1,000% certain Andrés did not tell me he was married when I went to look at the apartment, because if he had, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now on what I thought might be a date.
My eyes flit to his left hand. “Why aren’t you wearing a ring?” I demand.
He shrugs. “I kept taking it off to work and to exercise, and after losing it a couple times I just stopped wearing it. It’s on my dresser at home.”
I frown. What a convenient place for it.
Staring into my bowl of lumpy cream of broccoli soup, I wonder how best to salvage this situation. We’re already sitting here having lunch, and though I’m annoyed by Andrés’s obvious pleasure at learning I’m attracted to him, it doesn’t seem worthy of leaping to my feet and storming off. After all, I was the one who’d suggested we “be friends.”
I decide the best course of action is to laugh it off and try to enjoy the rest of the meal.
“This is Marianne,” he says, showing me a photo of an attractive brunette in a yellow dress.
“She’s beautiful,” I say.
“Yes, she is.” He sounds proud, as if he’s to thank for this phenomenon. “And this is our son.”
“Cute,” I say absently, barely glancing at the screen. The waiter swoops in, takes our soup bowls, and sets down our salads.
“So why don’t you live in Paris with them?” I ask.
He tells me he and Marianne met when he went to Paris to study under a world-renowned artist (whose name I’ve never heard). They’d married there and their son had been born there, but his dream had always been to open his own gallery back in Mexico. He’d finally succeeded last year, and now that things were getting off the ground he was spending more time here than there.
We talk about what it’s like to go back and forth between Mexico and a more developed country, him singing Europe’s praises and me staunchly defending Mexico. He asks me about my job, and mentions he’s working on a book and will need an editor eventually.
I’m relieved when, at the end of the meal, he doesn’t try to pay for my share. I’m ready to say goodbye and hurry off, but when he suggests we take a walk around the neighborhood, I agree.
He points out restaurants I should try and those I should avoid. We stop in a department store and look at shoes, then a bookstore where we browse used books. We peer in the window of a gallery, its windows dark, where he says one of his pieces is displayed.
He tells me he doesn’t have much of a social life here because he spends all his time working; he can only make time for “interesting people,” which apparently I qualify as. It’s around 7pm when he says, “I’m getting hungry again. Do you want to get dinner?”
I hesitate. I’ve had a nice time despite his revelation, or maybe because of it—the pressure came off and I could enjoy his company without wondering if anything would happen.
But I’m not sure he’s thinking the same thing, and I don’t want to encourage any doubt on his part about where my intentions lie. So I tell him I have plans, give a quick hug goodbye, and hop in a cab.
By the following day I’ve succeeded in putting him out of my mind and writing the whole thing off as a misunderstanding. When a text from him pops up on my phone, though, I reflexively feel a little thrill, followed by a wave of guilt, then one of annoyance.
This dude has a wife. Why is he asking me how my day’s going and sending me a video of a big dog trying to squeeze through a small dog door (which, admittedly, makes me crack up)?
I’m not looking to be a sexy mistress, an evil homewrecker, or in-the-meantime entertainment. And the way I see it, those three scenarios are the only possible outcomes of this situation.
Or are they? What if Andrés really does just want a friend? Maybe I’m being incredibly presumptuous. He’s probably just a bit lonely, and liked the attention I was giving him.
In a moment of curiosity, I google him. That’s how I find out that, at least in the world of mixed-medium abstract visual art, Andrés is famous.
He’s had solo exhibits in Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, and Berlin, among other places. Some of his pieces have sold for more than I make in a year. He’s been in the New Yorker and the New York Times. He has a Wikipedia page.
I’m impressed by how discreet he was when he could have been boastful and arrogant, and this instantly ups my respect for him.
At the risk of sounding opportunistic, I decide Andrés is a good person to know. With my only ulterior motive being to maybe snag the gig as his editor once his book is ready, I message him saying we should have lunch again sometime. It’s 8pm on a Sunday night, and he replies, “Have you had dinner yet? I’m cooking.”
Hmm. Friends go to each others’ places for dinner on Sunday nights, but not when they met on Craigslist and one of them is married and they barely know each other. I head off his invitation by saying I had a late lunch.
“Maybe they have an open marriage,” a friend suggests. “So it wouldn’t be cheating.”
“Not interested,” I reply immediately. I don’t even like sharing a bowl of popcorn; why would I want to share a person? Open relationships seem to be the new big thing, but I’m fairly certain they’re not for me, at least not at this point in my life. Even if Andrés has an open marriage—which I doubt—to me he’s still fully taken.
Thinking about this, a bubble of cynicism wells up inside me. Andrés is successful, down to earth, easy on the eyes, and over 35. Of course he’s taken; why wouldn’t he be?
It seems like every time I see an attractive man who also looks kind and like he’s got his act together, he’s wearing a ring. Every time. The men who aren’t married either don’t want to be, or they’re too young, or they’re far from being ready to form half of a couple.
A common consensus among 30-something singles is “I’ve waited this long, I can’t settle now.” We feel that our patience and perseverance in searching for the right partner will ultimately yield a reward; if we just keep trying, we’ll find that amazing person, even if it takes longer than we thought it would.
But I often worry that the opposite is true. What if, by waiting this long and being this picky, I’ve let the playing field get so narrow that all the good people have already left it? What if all the good ones really are taken?
The dating pool obviously does get smaller as we get older, and it’s scary to realize that a lot of what’s left are duds.
But when this starts to freak me out, there are two things I remind myself of.
First: Lives constantly shift. People move, they break up, they get new jobs and hobbies, enter different circles of friends, start to want something they didn’t want before. I’m a good one and I’m still looking, so there’s got to be other good ones in similar circumstances.
Second: I don’t need there to be hundreds or even dozens of good ones available—I only need there to be one. In the grand scheme of things, one is a teeny, tiny number, and to believe that not even one is left would be absurd.
Andrés and I do have lunch again, keeping the conversation mostly about work. He occasionally messages me with English or editing questions. After I leave Mexico in the spring, we fall out of touch.
I’m ok with that, because he’s a good one but he’s taken, and I need to look for a good one who’s not.