It was as though a da Vinci profile had come to life and condescended to walk among us. People gasped when they saw him. A light came on in their eyes when he entered a room.
He was aware of it too, this strange power he had, and I admit the first time I saw him I was as taken in as anyone else. Intoxicating actually, to be in the presence of such a man.
I didn't imagine he would be interested in me so it was easy to chat him up. (The stakes were so high I decided that they simply weren't worth worrying about). His conversation was about the offers he had received for - wouldn't you know - employment, modeling, film roles and sex.
His life was a thrilling roller coaster ride. He was anxious to be everywhere, meet everyone and do everything. Perhaps an internal stopwatch drove him on too, I don't know.
He seemed fairly well adjusted to me, though a little detached, obviously. He explained that he went to high society parties in Palm Beach, to polo matches in the Hamptons, and that he had first arrived in America in someone's private jet.
Well I'm from Donegal, I heard myself thinking, but I didn't say it.
“You must be living a very heady life,” I said. He nodded as though this signified something grave.
We started dating. It was the 1990s. He would step out of a taxi in a striped Armani jacket, with an artfully arranged white shirt and blue jeans - always the right shade of blue.
It was uncanny. You could throw an old t-shirt at him and his strange alchemical beauty would transform it into spun gold.
Waiters adored him; strangers passed him their cards, even when it was quite clear he was in the company of someone else.
Other things? I saw the world through his eyes sometimes and it gave me vertigo. Gifts, overtures, offers, declarations – fast, fast company. Nowhere I wanted to be.
What did they all see in him? Was it him or what he signified to them?
What did I see in him myself? Other boyfriends had not led me to these endless interrogations – so why should I suddenly start now?
Because he was, I finally realized, a fairytale. He was Prince Charming, he was the Answer, he was rainbow’s end. All that overly familiar Hollywood guff.
Now I sat across from him in the restaurant noticing how the soft light seemed to know it should gather around him. But disconcertingly I also began to allow myself to acknowledge that I had never found his conversation terrifically insightful. I was starting down a path, I knew, and my heart sank.
“What’s wrong?” he asked me eventually.
“Nothing,” I lied.
It took weeks, months actually to understand the enormity of what I was doing. Here he was, the thing we’re supposed to long for, within my grasp, at my table, the man of everyone’s dreams.
What the hell was wrong with me that I was refusing to see what the entire world was teaching me? This was Primo, Class A, as good as it ever gets.
We broke up. I gave him a speech about hating all the competition, but that wasn’t the truth and I regret that now.
The truth is that otherworldly beauty is a marvelous thing, but what's the point if it can’t tell good jokes?
I was sick of the land of polished mirrors that was his life. He was not just himself but what he signified to others. It was an affliction, I came to realize, not a gift.
And it was starting to make me feel tired, not enlivened. He was a nice man, he didn’t need me, someone else would be along in a minute I was quite sure.
So I kissed him on the cheek, and waved goodnight on West 14th Street. And in the taxi on the ride home, quite out of the blue, a great soaring joy filled me. As if a spell had been broken, not cast.