The Right One

By MAXIM BILLER


Men are kind of like women, only much more romantic. They donít have multiple orgasms, they hardly ever read novels, they are silent when they should talk, and when they talk, people think theyíre gay. Besides, men really believe they can conquer a woman. The reverse is true, of course. Itís the woman who chooses the man. And from that point on, she does everything to ensure that he desires her; that he thinks he has chosen her.

And still. Still there have been a couple of times in my life when I knew that the woman who had chosen me was the Right One. I liked the way she smelled in the morning. I didnít care about her strange fashion sense. I looked into her eyes when I slept with her.

Then a few weeks or months passed, and she was still there, but I suddenly started to fling open the bedroom windows in the mornings. I gave her sexy denim and asked her why her underwear looked as if she were still playing with dolls and in love with Enrique Iglesias. And when we had sex I didnít look into her eyes all that much because we hardly ever had sex any more. The Right One had turned into the Wrong OneóI really donít know why.

Only once in my life did I meet the Truly Right One. I knew after just a few days. We were strolling through Hamburgís Innocentiapark, it was fall, the air was cold, and I had brought along my little daughter. I said something, then the Truly Right One said something, then we both didnít say anything for a while. Then we talked again for a little, no idea about what, and later we had tea and cake together in one of those bright, boring Hamburg cafťs. Then she took me and my daughter to the nearest taxi stand, and my daughter and I went home. In the taxi, I turned around to look at her and saw that she was watching us depart. I was sick with excitement because I couldnít believe that it all could be so easy. And it wasnít, in the end.

The Truly Right One was one of these women who live with one man but want to be with another one. I was the other one. We met in cafťs, at my parentsí apartment in Hamburg, or at my place in Berlin. When she arrived, she was more excited than me, and when she left, she was afraid to return to her husband. But she was also thinking: And what happens if this tender, attentive, brutal writer doesnít actually want to be with me because Iím a shy bourgeois from Hamburg? I know that because I read it in her notebook.

Sometimes I waited for her for days. She just didnít come, although she had promised she would, and when we were finally sitting on my balcony in Berlin, drinking Budweiser and smoking old Czech cigarettes that Iíd brought back from my last trip to Prague, it all was a little better still than before: She looked even more beautiful, she resisted even more, and then suddenly she was sitting half-naked on the floor in the hall, and I sat on the floor in the bathroom and was watching her.

Once we even went to Amsterdam together. The day before, I cut my leg with a long, sharp ruler. The cut was 10 centimeters long, one centimeter for every month I had waited for her. I got stitches and a bandage, and when we were undressing for the first time in the Hotel Ambassador on the Herengracht and she saw my bandage, she said: ďOh my God, thatís disgusting!Ē

And here are the Top 10 things that joined the Truly Right One and me to each other:


1. We told each other things we hadnít known before.
2. We always wanted to make the other one laugh.
3. We loved the same three books.
4. She taught me to believe in God for a while.
5. I taught her to believe in herself.
6. We never peed in the other oneís presence.
7. We were crazy about throwing money out of the window together.
8. We didnít find dirty sex dirty.
9. It was as if we had known each other since childhood.
10. We were compiling Top 10 lists all the time.


Some other time, we met in her apartment in Hamburg. Her husband was at a furniture fair in Milan, she said, but I didnít believe her. We spent two nights and two days in the dark, large loft apartment, picture- and carpet-less, but full of black, cold steel-pipe furniture. We had been, embrace by embrace, in every corner of the apartment. Weíd even been in the bathroom, and that was the moment when I thought: This isnít going to work out. And: Would she do the same thing to me? I had hardly left when I received a new text message from her. She wrote: ďThereís a new graffiti on the wall of my building: ĎI SAW EVERYTHING.í Do you think that was him? Shit!Ē I didnít answer.

The Truly Right One and I are no longer together, if we ever were. Thatís why she was only the Truly Right One, not the Absolutely Right One. The Absolutely Right One is even more amazing than the Truly Right One. Basically, she is just like her, the difference being that the Absolutely Right One isnít afraid and isnít a liar, or sheís only a little bit afraid and lies only a little bit; that just like me she is romantic enough to consider a relationship the continuation of love by other means; that she wants a manónot a nurse, psychiatrist, and doormat; that she likes brutal, sensitive, chaotic writers.

For the woman who chooses me wonít lead a quiet life. After all, love isnít a ladiesí sanatorium. After a month, a year, a decade, everything will be like it was in the beginningóonly much more confusing and beautiful and difficult. I will never keep my true feelings to myself. I will never keep my true thoughts to myself. I will cry when I feel like crying and scream when I want to, and when I want to sleep with her Iíll do everything to make sure she wants to just as badly as I. In a word, Iíll be getting on her nerves, not just she on mine. Basically, Iíll be a real man. And not an indirect furniture salesman from Hamburg whoís watching his wife cheat on him from the street.

A while ago I wrote another letter to the Truly Right One. It ended with a Top 10 list of the things I miss since sheís no longer there. It was a very good, manly, decisive letter, but it also had a few weak and tearful passages. But that shouldnít be a real problem. If she answers my letter, she might be the Absolutely Right One after all. And Iíd even have chosen her myself.