The Relationship

Let's say Ned is attracted to a woman name Jennifer. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anyone else.

And then, one evening when they are driving home, a thought occurs to Jennifer, without really thinking, she says it aloud: "Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?" And then there is silence in the car. To Jennifer, it seems like a very loud silence.

She thinks to herself: Geez, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Ned is thinking: Gosh, 6 months.

And Jennifer is thinking: But, hey, I'm not sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes, I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep on going the way we are, moving steadily forward...I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading for marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really know this person?

And Ned is that means it was...let's see...February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the Dealer's, which means, ... Let me check the odometer...whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Jennifer is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I am reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed -- even before I sensed it -- that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

And Ned is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at that transmission again, too. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It's 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Jennifer is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry too. God, I feel so guilty putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Ned is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty. That's exactly what they will say, the scum-balls.

And Jennifer is thinking: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on a white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly decent person, a person who I enjoy being with, a person who I care about, a person who truly cares about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Ned is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their...

"Ned," Jennifer says aloud.

"What?" says Ned, startled.

"Please don't torture yourself like this," she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. "Maybe I should never...oh God, I feel so..." (she breaks down, sobbing.)

"What?" says Ned.

"I'm such a fool." Jennifer sobs. "I mean I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse."

"There's no horse?" says Ned.

"You think I'm a fool, don't you?" Jennifer says.

"No!" says Ned, glad to finally know the correct answer.

"It's's that I...I need some time," Jennifer says.

(there is a fifteen second pause while Ned, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally, he comes up with what he thinks might work.)

"Yes," he says.

A befuddled pause...

"Oh Ned, do you really feel that way?" she says.

"What way?" says Ned.

"That way about time," says Jennifer.

"Oh," says Ned. "yes."

(Jennifer turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last, she speaks.)

"Thank you, Ned," she says.

"Thank you," says Ned, more confused than ever.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn. Whereas, when Ned gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he has never even heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure he would never understand, and he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it.

The next day, Jennifer will call one of her closest friends, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for weeks. For six straight hours, in painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months never reaching definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.

Meanwhile, Ned, while working on his car with a mutual friend of his and Jennifer's, will pause, frown, and say:

"Did Jennifer ever own a horse?"