… “I think I should tell you a few things. I don’t think I’m ready for a real relationship right now.” He says this not to Mirabelle but to the air, as though he is just discovering a truth about himself and accidentally speaking it aloud.
… Understanding. For Ray Porter, that is good. She absolutely knows that this will never be long term. He goes on: “But I love seeing you and I want to keep seeing you.”
“I do too”, says Mirabelle. Mirabelle believes that he has told her that he is bordering on falling in love with her, and Ray believes she understands that he isn’t going to be anybody’s boyfriend.
…So now they have had the Conversation. What neither of them understands is that these conversations are meaningless. They are meaningless to the sayer and they are meaningless to the hearer. The sayer believes they are heard, and the hearer believes they are never said.
… Some nights, alone, he thinks of her, and some nights, alone, she thinks of him. Some nights these thoughts, occur at the same objective moment, and Ray and Mirabelle are connected without ever knowing it. One night, he will think of her as he looks into the eyes of someone else, searching for the qualities that Mirabelle defined for him…
…But Mirabelle now feeling the warmth of her first reciprocal love has broken away from him and as Jeremy offers her more of his heart Mirabelle offers equal parts of herself in return.
…At this point Jeremy surpassed Ray Porter as a lover of Mirabelle because what he offers her is tender and true.
…As Ray Porter watches Mirabelle walk away he feels a loss. How is it possible he thinks, to miss a woman whom he kept at a distance so that when she was gone he would not miss her. Only then does he realize that how wanting part of her and not all of her had hurt them both. And how he cannot justify his actions except that well… it was life.
From the novella Shopgirl by Steve Martin