Today it's you. There's always been you and others like you. Recently, and stretching way back.
I'm smart. I've avoided some of you. They threw up red flags. Or I was paying better attention then. In other words, I don't fall for it every time.
When I'm savvy, I know which one of you is friend material and who is only good for some fun on social media or at a party. Because people like you are always fun.
I know who to make excuses with, whom not to be one-on-one with, who is charming with an edge. When I know I'm being manipulated, I'm immunized.
Then there are the other times. Maybe I get together with you when our mutual friends aren't around. We exchange email addresses. We take it up a notch.
We share some laughs and a confidence. There's two ways it goes bad.
There's the slow burn. Something doesn't feel right. It's a flower blooming, only ugly. It happens gradually and I never get to see the unfurl. I put the puzzle together as clues come in.
There's the quick scorch. I figure you out in a flash. Instead of the pieces connecting methodically over time, I'm hit over the head with you.
Once I have you figured out, whether it's the fast way or the slow way, the next few hours will feel like crap.
I'm pretty disappointed in myself for not heading it off before. Here's what softens my critique.
One is that I picked it up when I did. I could just as easily be commenting on your post, meeting you at Shake Shack or giving out unilateral support. Now is infinitely better than never. Or later.
You have no shortage of friends, so it isn't just me.
Social media can make the sifting harder, but I'm getting wise to that. You and your brethren are putting up signposts.
You're good at what you do. It's easy for you. This is your stock and trade, your shining talent, your decathlon. Nature, nurture or a freak accident made you this way, and that's how you'll stay. I speculate then stop. It's useless.
I inventory what happened and say I'll know better next time. And often I do. It's important to mention that.
But there will be a next time. You're all cut from the same cloth but you come in a dizzying array. You're all viruses. You morph.
Still, I found out not long ago that there's a name for what you are. So I slap the label on you. It's not personal. It is what it is. And it helps.
That is when things turn cordial between you and me.
There is no fanfare. No recriminations. There's no conversation or long goodbye either.
I wait. I'm patient for the moment, an easy opportunity, predictable as rain. You become absorbed, rapt either in yourself, or someone else. I steal away, on tiptoe, the trained dancer that I am and the one I've become.
I've turned the tables. You're the mark now. You'll never even know what happened.
If you could craft the words, you'd say you miss seeing your reflection in me. But if you were capable of that, I wouldn't have such a problem with you.
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