The Rosie Project Page 61

Rosie had the window seat and I was by the aisle. I followed the pre-take-off safety procedures, for once not dwelling on their unjustified assumptions and irrational priorities. In the event of impending disaster, we would all have something to do. I was in the opposite position. Incapacitated.

Rosie put her hand on my arm. \How are you feeling, Don?\

I tried to focus on analysing one aspect of the experience and the corresponding emotional reaction. I knew where to start. Logically, I did not need to go back to my room to get Gene\s book. Showing a book to Rosie was not part of the original scenario I had planned back in Melbourne when I prepared for a se*ual encounter. I may be socially inept, but with the kiss underway, and Rosie wearing only a towel, there should have been no difficulties in proceeding. My knowledge of positions was a bonus, but probably irrelevant the first time.

So why did my instincts drive me to a course of action that ultimately sabotaged the opportunity? The first-level answer was obvious. They were telling me not to proceed. But why? I identified three possibilities.

1. I was afraid that I would fail to perform se*ually.

It did not take long to dismiss this possibility. I might well have been less competent than a more experienced person and could even have been rendered impotent by fear, though I considered this unlikely. But I was accustomed to being embarrassed, even in front of Rosie. The se*ual drive was much stronger than any requirement to protect my image.

2. No condom.

I realised, on reflection, that Rosie had probably assumed that I had left her room to collect or purchase a condom. Obviously I should have obtained one, in line with all recommendations on safe se*, and presumably the concierge would have some for emergencies, along with spare toothbrushes and razors. The fact that I did not do so was further evidence that subconsciously I did not expect to proceed. Gene had once told me a story about racing around Cairo in a taxi trying to find a condom vendor. My motivation had clearly not been as strong.

3. I could not deal with the emotional consequences.

The third possibility only entered my mind after I eliminated the first and second. I immediately knew - instinctively! - that it was the correct one. My brain was already emotionally overloaded. It was not the death-defying climb from the surgeon\s window or the memory of being interrogated in a dark cellar by a bearded psychiatrist who would stop at nothing to protect his secret. It was not even the experience of holding Rosie\s hand from the museum to the subway, although that was a contributor. It was the total experience of hanging out with Rosie in New York.

My instincts were telling me that if I added any more to this experience - if I added the literally mind-blowing experience of having se* with her - my emotions would take over my brain. And they would drive me towards a relationship with Rosie. That would be a disaster for two reasons. The first was that she was totally unsuitable in the longer term. The second was that she had made it clear that such a relationship would not extend beyond our time in New York. These reasons were completely contradictory, mutually exclusive and based on entirely different premises. I had no idea which one was correct.

We were in the final stages of our descent into LAX. I turned to Rosie. It had been several hours since she asked her question, and I had now given it considerable thought. How was I feeling?

\Confused,\ I said to her.

I expected her to have forgotten the question, but perhaps the answer made sense in any case.

\Welcome to the real world.\

I managed to stay awake for the first six hours of the fifteen-hour flight home from LA in order to reset my internal clock, but it was difficult.

Rosie had slept for a few hours then watched a movie. I looked over, and saw that she was crying. She removed her headphones and wiped her eyes.

\You\ e crying,\ I said. \Is there a problem?\

\Sprung,\ said Rosie. \It\s just a sad story. Bridges of Madison County. I presume you don\ cry at movies.\

\Correct.\ I realised that this might be viewed as a negative, so added, in defence, \It seems to be a predominantly female behaviour.\

\Thanks for that.\ Rosie went quiet again but seemed to have recovered from the sadness that the movie had stimulated.

\Tell me,\ she said, \do you feel anything when you watch a movie? You\ve seen Casablanca?\

I was familiar with this question. Gene and Claudia had asked it after we watched a DVD together. So my answer was the result of reflection.

\I\ve seen several romantic movies. The answer is no. Unlike Gene and Claudia, and apparently the majority of the human race, I am not emotionally affected by love stories. I don\ appear to be wired for that response.\

I visited Claudia and Gene for dinner on the Sunday night. I was feeling unusually jet-lagged, and as a result had some difficulty in providing a coherent account of the trip. I tried to talk about my meeting with David Borenstein at Columbia, what I saw at the museums and the meal at Momofuku Ko, but they were obsessed with grilling me about my interactions with Rosie. I could not reasonably be expected to remember every detail. And obviously I could not talk about the Father Project activities.

Claudia was very pleased with the scarf, but it provided another opportunity for interrogation. \Did Rosie help you choose this?\

Rosie, Rosie, Rosie.

\The sales assistant recommended it. It was very straightforward.\

As I left, Claudia said, \So, Don, are you planning to see Rosie again?\

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