She is immensely interested in him. She has even secret mischievous moments in which she wishes she could get him alone, on a desert island, away from all ties and with nobody else in the world to consider, and just drag him off his pedestal and see him making love like any common man. We all have private imaginations of that sort. But when it comes to business, to the life that she really leads as distinguished from the life of dreams and fancies, she likes Freddy and she likes the Colonel and she does not like Higgins and Mr. Doolittle. Galatea never does quite like Pygmalion: his relation to her is too godlike to be altogether agreeable.
Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw
Okay, maybe it was a little mean after you broke up with me to hope you’d roast yourself in a fiery car crash and then spend three weeks in a burn treatment center writhing in agony before finally dying. But that was twenty years ago, when I was young, angry, and jacked up on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill.
Now I’m the same age you were when we started. . . . How do I characterize our interactions? Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle with benefits? That sounds about right, even if it is a cliché. But once I finished your class and we started dating, you really didn’t take much interest in my education, though being lower middle class with pretensions, I certainly needed schooling in the finer points of academic and social respectability.
Do you remember that time . . . of course you don’t . . . when we made dinner at your house and you said, “Grab the broccoli steamer,” and I bluffed and handed you the popcorn popper instead? I can still see your bewildered face. How the hell could I have known about a broccoli steamer? Rural southerners don’t steam broccoli. We boil the shit out of green beans with a little bacon until the juice looks like sinus infection mucous. (Nothing wrong with it, though.) How funny that the most valuable thing you taught me involved a cooking apparatus, not a Shakespearean sonnet.
I’m not bitter . . . I just wish I could rewrite our script in the tradition of fine cinematic art . . . maybe . . . Legally Blonde. Like Elle Woods, I’d do something so magnificent with my life that you’d fall madly in love with me after all. And I’d tell you to stuff it. I’d certainly leave that scene where you say, “I think you’re a nice person, but I’m not in love with you. I’m looking for a high-powered intellectual” on the cutting room floor. I’d also edit out that part where you end up with an even younger, prettier woman with a Ph.D. from Harvard. In my Director’s Cut version, I’d have the upper hand.
See, that’s wrong, isn’t it? Not reality. Reality is what happened this afternoon, when I tripped and fell into the romance novel display at that Manhattan Barnes and Noble and heard your familiar, bewildered voice saying, “Elizabeth, is . . . that you?” Reality is that I can’t even vacation in a city with eight and a half million people without encountering the one person I didn’t need to see. Reality is that I got back here to my hotel room and realized I had talked to you for twenty minutes with a piece of . . . Damn it! . . . broccoli stuck between my front teeth. Reality is that you invited me to lunch tomorrow.
And I accepted.