Perhaps the problem with adulthood was that you weighed the consequences of your actions too carefully, in a way that left you with a life you despised.
Still, she really did seem to be absurdly into this. It was almost existentially unsettling, that two people in such close physical proximity could be experiencing the same moment so differently.
She doesn't know what to call it—this free-falling sensation she feels every time she looks at Taylor, like her hands are closing again and again on emptiness—but she thinks she knows better than to call it love.
Why do you like me? Why can't you tell I'm not that into you?
She puts her head on his shoulder, and for a second, it's like the other good night, the night of the bonfire, the brief lifting of the yoke, freedom from the circle: Marco hurting Anna, Anna hurting Ted, Ted hurting Rachel, these endless rounds of jealousy and harm.
He'd never empathized with Rachel more than he did in those moments, imagining what it would be like to be innocently eating lunch with a person who had been acting for all the world as though he liked you, who had given you no hint that anything was bothering him at all, when suddenly, out of nowhere, wham, it turned out you were completely wrong about him, and that everything he'd been telling you was a lie.
Every so often, over the next day or so, she would find herself in a gray, daydreamy mood, missing something, and she'd realize that it was Robert she missed, not the real Robert but the Robert she'd imagined on the other end of all those text messages during break.
Given how little contact Ted had now with actual Anna, it was like he was in a relationship with an imaginary friend.
He unrequitedly loved Anna; Anna unrequitedly loved Marco; Marco probably unrequitedly loved some rando none of them had ever met. The world was pitiless. Nobody had any power over anyone else.
Whenever he was bored or anxious, his brain distracted itself by worrying at the question of whether he could ever make Anna like him, like a dog working the last bits of marrow from a bone.
Ted was wildly uncomfortable. He wasn't quite sure who Rachel was on a date with, but it didn't seem to be him. He'd contributed nothing to the outing; as far as he could tell, she could have brought an inflatable doll with her to the movie and had an equally good time.
And yet sometimes he'd lie awake at night imagining Rachel telling her story to a tribunal of all the girls who'd ever rejected him, regaling them about his deceptions, the way he'd pretended to like her when he didn't, the mask of 'niceness' he wore when the truth was he was a selfish, lying piece of shit—and he saw all those girls, Anna at their center, shocked but not shocked, nodding and agreeing that yes, of course, they'd known something was wrong with him all along.
Did he even exist in her mind, as a living, breathing, thinking person? He spent so much time trying to figure out what she was thinking, but what kind of a consciousness did she imagine lived behind the mask of his face?
For the first time, Ted imagined fucking Anna the way he (almost) fucked Rachel: cruelly, without concern for her comfort, fully acknowledging that as much as he loved her, he hated her, too.
What is wrong with me, that even this fucking loser won't give me what I want?