The Right One
By MAXIM BILLER
Men are kind of like women, only much more romantic. They don’t have multiple
orgasms, they hardly ever read novels, they are silent when they should talk,
and when they talk, people think they’re gay. Besides, men really believe they
can conquer a woman. The reverse is true, of course. It’s 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 didn’t 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 didn’t look into
her eyes all that much because we hardly ever had sex any more. The Right One
had turned into the Wrong One—I really don’t 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 Hamburg’s 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 didn’t 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 cafés. 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 couldn’t believe that it all
could be so easy. And it wasn’t, 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 cafés, at my parents’
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
doesn’t actually want to be with me because I’m a shy bourgeois from Hamburg? I
know that because I read it in her notebook.
Sometimes I waited for her for days. She just didn’t 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 I’d 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: “Oh my God, that’s disgusting!”
And here are the Top 10 things that joined the Truly Right One and me to each
1. We told each other things we hadn’t 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 one’s presence.
7. We were crazy about throwing money out of the window together.
8. We didn’t 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 didn’t 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. We’d even been in the bathroom,
and that was the moment when I thought: This isn’t 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: “There’s a new graffiti on the wall of my
building: ‘I SAW EVERYTHING.’ Do you think that was him? Shit!” I didn’t
The Truly Right One and I are no longer together, if we ever were. That’s 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 isn’t afraid and
isn’t a liar, or she’s 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 man—not a nurse,
psychiatrist, and doormat; that she likes brutal, sensitive, chaotic writers.
For the woman who chooses me won’t lead a quiet life. After all, love isn’t a
ladies’ sanatorium. After a month, a year, a decade, everything will be like it
was in the beginning—only 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 I’ll do everything to make sure she wants to just
as badly as I. In a word, I’ll be getting on her nerves, not just she on mine.
Basically, I’ll be a real man. And not an indirect furniture salesman from
Hamburg who’s 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 she’s no longer there. It was a very good,
manly, decisive letter, but it also had a few weak and tearful passages. But
that shouldn’t be a real problem. If she answers my letter, she might be the
Absolutely Right One after all. And I’d even have chosen her myself.