And I know it’s true, so I can just say it.
The funny thing about me was that people, our friends in common, always used the same word to describe me: smart.
But I was not that smart.
I was by no means the dumbest man you’d ever been with.
Dennis, if you were to count him on his own—which, you didn’t think of you two as having ever really been together as much as you kind of had the thing with him and James —but even in combination, even with the bump in smarts James offered them as a duo, they still must’ve been the dumbest.
It was a rude standard to rate exes.
But what standard wasn’t?
Harry Dean, much as you did love him simply and completely, even submitting to his corny taste, he wasn’t as smart as me.
And that was the point of this rating system—to put my smarts in context.
So you could admit it.
It was rude, but true.
You never thought that I was as smart as you.
Paul probably wasn’t as smart as you either, but I know you thought he was smarter than me.
Of course in your mind no one would ever be as smart or poor, suffering, self-sabotaging Warren; the efficiency of his mute expression, the vast dimensions of his imagination in making connections.
But there was a meaningful difference between all of them and me.
You never had to consider the smarts of any previous lover so much.
You were compatible in your ways, savoring negotiations, enjoying each other as you did.
And it wasn’t that I was the most self-centered man you’d ever been with.
Brilliant, unable-to-take-care-of-himself Warren obviously had that covered too.
But you had never known anyone that identified so completely with an idea of himself that you so disagreed with.
Everyone else believed like I did.
Our friends in common believed it.
Everyone told you—Oh, Art. He’s real smart.
That’s what everyone said, without exception.
But even I knew the truth.
And you were the only one to ever see through it.
People just thought I was smart because of the confidence with which I’d speak.
I never asked any questions, never left any room for differing opinions or even shading in my statements.
I had always been an answerer of questions, with confidence—This is how it is.
But that confidence which everyone mistook for smarts was nothing more than the confidence of being An Attractive Person.
I was never one of those scorching-hot, flashy hard bodies.
Those poor souls—blessed as The Attractive People were in a lifetime of sexual satisfaction that the less fortunate could never even comprehend—that miniscule sliver of Perfect-Looking People; that was different.
The Perfect-Looking People were not attractive.
Everyone knew that.
They were grotesque, cartoonish perversions of the human form suitable only to the hormone-drenched pubescent and the suburban.
Those freaks were doomed to be stared at as Other and never know human-connection.
But the Attractive People, we got away with things—for example, people misunderstanding my confident declarations as brains—because people didn’t recognize The Attractive People as attractive on a conscious level.
No one ever thought they were unattractive.
And sometimes one might fall into a stunned stare, in certain lighting on a particularly overcast afternoon, or wet hair falling just right.
But set next to The Perfect People, those monsters that people thought of as attractive, The Attractive People seemed like, well, just perfect.
Perfect enough to make people say smart when they just meant attractive.