“Sounds like he’s crazy about you,” I suggest, not wanting to offend her.
“Oh, he is. He absolutely adores me.” She smiles, but there’s a touch of bitterness in her laugh. “I am all women to him. But not just women out there in the world. I am all women in all fictional worlds too.”
The lines around her mouth are drawn tight as her mood shifts. She clips her words. “And I have to tell you, it’s not easy. Not easy at all. In fact, it’s impossible, this idealisation. Because if I’m all these other people, I’m not really me. Can you understand what I’m saying? I’ll always fall short. At some point or another, the reality will come crashing down. I’ll do something or say something less than ideal, and he’ll turn away. But he must idealise someone. If it isn’t me, it’ll be someone else. It doesn’t matter who. Anybody who passes by—as long as she keeps to the fantasy, pushes the reality out of view. The minute a woman can’t hold to the ideal, she vanishes for him.”
“Is that what happened between you? Did he find somebody else?”
She shrugs. “Oh, he might have. Maybe more than one somebody else. I don’t know really.”
She looks away, sips her cup of tea, taps her toe. After a pause, she reaches over and squeezes my arm. “I really don’t mind. Let him have his ideals. And his other women. They’re the same thing.”
She crosses her arms, waiting for my response, challenging. Before I can speak, though, she interrupts with an impatient wave of her hand.
“Don’t you see? It’s only a temporary rivalry. Eventually, the other will fall short of the ideal. It’s only a matter of time. Because she’s flesh and blood and lives in the real world, not in some 19th Century novel. She’ll fall short; then he’ll turn back to me.”