Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
Slow Flashes (Part 9: Breaking Up Is Not As Hard To Do As Neil Sedaka Would Have You Believe)
I have broken up with exactly three women who loved me. Twice the breaker, once the broken.
Jennifer: destroyer of worlds and children. During the summer break between my junior and senior years at Torpor Heights, she decided I was worthy of her company again. I told her how I used her as a shield for my first year of school, and she laughed instead of getting angry. I think this was progress. When I told her about leaving Kate for Beckee, she got quiet. A congregation after the priest announces he's vacating his position to pursue a career in child pornography. "So" silence "tell me more about this" silence "Beckee."
I don't know if she was jealous. I just know that we became lips and hands for a few weeks. Movie dates. Dinner. All the things we hadn't done during the four days before she'd broken up with me in middle school. She filled me in on all the gossip about the kids at Pilgrim's Academy, and I realized that I didn't care about any of them but her. And when autumn came in its typical premature fashion, we promised to be faithful to each other and call once a week and other stupid promises that neither of us had any intention of keeping. During the first week of school, I spent an hour feeling up Beckee in the basement of the theatre. Jennifer never called me, so I figured we were even.
The problem with Beckee was everything. I didn't like her any more than I liked Kate. She was funnier. She had her own personality, but I didn't care about it. I didn't love her the way I loved the idea of Jennifer, and every time I closed my eyes and kissed her I was thinking of someone else. And that's all Beckee was: lazy entendre, smile, kiss, hands under clothing, fumble, fumble, kiss, ear nibble, fumble, I've got to go. I would meet her for a free period between calculus and biology. We would eat lunch together. Some nights, I would go over to her dorm and lazy entendre, smile, kiss, hands under clothing, fumble, fumble, kiss, ear nibble, go home. I don't know which one of us was the most boring lover in the world, but I fear that it was me. So I decided to do the unspeakable. On Valentine's Day, just before calculus, I ran to the school bookstore and bought a stuffed purple teddy bear, exactly the color of Beckee's hair. In its hands was a big red heart that said "Available" on it. I wondered how long it would take her to realize what it meant.
Three days. Three days after Valentine's Day, she called my dorm for the thirty-seventh time. This time, I answered it. "Available??? A-fucken-vailable? You piece of shit. I can't believe you dumped me on Valentine's Day. And didn't even have the cock to tell me. A-fucken-vailable???" And I couldn't argue with her because she was right. And I couldn't talk to her anymore because she was right.
I didn't tell Jennifer about my second term with Beckee. But I did start talking to her again. Once a week promised phone calls. Reestablishment of us as a couple. Perfect barrier against needy chorus girls and aggressive theatre students. I told her how excited I was to have chosen and been accepted by a college: a tiny little four year school in Sulfur City Florida, a couple of hours away from Disney World. I even invited her to our school's version of the prom. Torpor Heights being appropriately hoity, but not quite fancy enough to be toity, all our mundane high school rituals had different names from their public school counterparts. Our prom was called The Shat. It was technically spelled with a capital C, and was short for the Chateau where it took place, but the evening was generally believed to be The Shit, so when it was over, it was The Shat. Jennifer couldn't make it, thus fueling the popular rumor that she didn't really exist. I had resigned myself to not going, when I received a written plea for armistice from Beckee. Could we go The Shat? As friends?
I accepted. Her mother flew in the weekend before from Wisconsin, and presented me with an antique cane that perfectly matched both my tux and Beckee's goth girl meets preppie prom dress. Contrary to my fear, I was not, at any point in the night, beaten over the head with the cane. I wish my night had been that simple.
Shortly after our absurdly expensive filet mignon dinner, Beckee and I returned to campus to dance, kiss, and all those other popular prommish activities. As we entered the lobby of The Chateau, we were greeted by gigantic silver and black balloons, the underclassmen orchestra playing an instrumental version of Head Like A Hole, and, oh fuck, "Jennifer?"
Jennifer: destroyer of smiles and proms. Dead stunning in shimmering silver architecture gown. Her hair, for the first time in the six years I've known her, cut shoulder length and the angle of her chin and her sparkling who is this eyes. "Surprise."
"Yes." Beckee growled. "Surprised."
Luckily for Beckee, unHarry had gone stag to The Shat, and was more than happy to pick up my discarded date. Still, the truce was broken.
"She keeps glaring at me." Jennifer said. "Are you sure she knew you two were just friends?"
And I could look her in the eyes and reassure her that I had written proof that Beckee and I had agreed to be nothing more than friends. But Beckee and I both knew how easily written words belie their intentions.
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