A Foreward by Jeff Payne


I used to care about this nonsense. I remember a time I was so elated over a girl that I woke up giggling. I remember rolling around on the floor of my living room, seriously giggling like a crazy person. And in a way I was crazy, because I was in love. The normal clichés were in place – the constant sunny days, the feeling of invincibility, the positive attitude, the sensation of leaping cloud to cloud – and I was content to spend my days thinking of this one girl, because she redefined my life. I liked how she challenged me, and that she showed me a new world of music and movies, and a new way of seeing the world. I liked myself and who she allowed me to become. I enjoyed her as a person, and her company was always cheerful, rife with dry wit, and strong, honest affection. Everything seemed possible. I could have skipped down every road through every town, for the rest of my life and been happy. Then it was over.

I hope she rots in hell.

You might think that’s a harsh element to the positive byproducts of our relationship, and you’d be right. I hardly mean it. At one time I did – at least I think I did, or my mind wanted me to believe it. I know now that I said it because it made the pain easier to deal with. I continued to say it because I was never prepared to find out if it was safe to let go of doing so. It became so habitual to say awful things that by the last time I spoke them, or wrote them, I knew I was only reciting. For the longest time, those words kept the pain at a trickle. Then one day I checked, and there she was on her wedding day, and I felt the emotional equivalent of a shrug. I was over it. But, make no mistake: when I was feeling the fresh sting, and drunk, and hurt, and feeling worthless, yes, I hated her fucking guts (and I’d have taken her back in a second).

I haven’t felt that way about a girl since. I’ve liked – I’ve even liked strongly – but I haven’t loved. It’s hard to say if I could. I meet women, sure. I go out, I do the dance, but I don’t see the potential. I’m much more content to find “flaws” in women and move on without pain. I cannot say if I find the flaws truthfully unbearable, or if they just allow me a means to rationalize a way out of a situation that could be potentially harmful. They are flaws that, I realize, may not even exist. I am not capable of determining how often I fabricate them. The tendency to seek out these reasons for departure exists, however, and it has left me leaping from girl to girl with hardly a sense of connection or commitment.

I have grown out of being hopelessly romantic. I am hollow now, and for romantic involvement I can conjure only contempt. I have learned to become a friend to women, but a man incapable of the next level. Sometimes those friendships end up including sexual “benefits,” but for the most part I find myself surrounded by women who see me as a brother figure, and whom I see as sisters. These relationships are full of teeth-gritting tolerance of my despair and self-loathing, but they are also full of caring, devoid of sexual tension. I barely feel the urge to make them otherwise – because what would be the point.

This is the tragedy of The Chase: to know that a man full of hope could end up spiteful and contemptuous of relationships if he pushes too hard the envelope of “being with the person you love” too many times. Contempt finds a way to mole into our cores, to devour the glow of hope, and to extinguish the light of possibility. We all think we are strong enough to stave it off (I would have to believe some actually are). Some are simply too stupid to see that the world is cruel, and that love is a calloused and dated concept, and so they approach each new girl with untainted abandon. Some just want to go on hoping that the world is soft, and that romance isn’t a waste of time, and that perhaps someday, a man can be appreciated for simply being a nice guy who sees women – in the capacities of allure, mystery, and ability to both devastate and excite – as a concept too beautiful for words.

It’s all bullshit, though – or at least that’s what I’ve been saying for a while.

Thanks Jeff! That was . . . kind of depressing. However, I’m not saying you're wrong. Or right, for that matter - a few sentences would not suffice. What follows is my official response to Jeff, and to everyone else for that matter - the cynics, the romantics - to the millions of shades of grey that exist between unparalleled hope and irreconcilable defeat. Its called The Chase - a retelling of every girl that has every graced my life, and more importantly, a story of the way love shapes the people we become, for better or for worse. Its a little long, but I promise it contains not one word more than absolutely necessary. Friends and strangers, I ask you to hear me out on this one.