Sunday, December 30, 2007

Loosening the ties

For unfathomable reasons, it was decided that the most effective way of confronting the awkwardness was head on.

I already had plans to meet my friend (henceforth referred to as TG) for drinks on Friday night. She arrives at my house, and with only a little trepidation, tells me that C was likely going to be at the pub.

Another deep breath.

"Oh, what the hell!" I exhale. "Might as well beat down the awkwardness as soon as possible, and it would be good to see him."

She comes and sits on the bed of what is now the guest room, which my mother has doused with family photos. Sitting, watching us from an end table, is a photo of him and I in prom regalia.

We giggle a little frantically. She picks it up, joking about taking it to the bar and putting it on the table directly in front of him.

We start to thrive on the notion of awkwardness, and begin one upping each other.
She suggests we start calling him sloppy seconds.

She then calls him, and leaves a message telling him to be ready to meet us with shots and to be prepared for plenty of awkward silences.

I think that maybe this won't be so bad, with the whole situation out on the table, and that perhaps we can all grit our teeth through an awkward hour and emerge unscathed.

It is only later, with a little reflection, that I realize that the Sean Connery impression she did over the phone to him was what I used to do back in those days.

We arrive at the bar. I notice him noticing me at the bar, but head to a table with my sister, letting them greet one another. He arrives at the table a few minutes later carrying a tray of tequila shots and caesars. TG pretends to introduce him to me for the first time. Nervous laughter erupts.

We all engage in awkward conversation. Him and I do a decent job of playing catch-up. In hearing that I am working in a forensic clinic, he makes a few remarks about his "work" with criminals. He also makes a vague reference to a Nepalese prison, which it was not clear if he was visiting or otherwise.

Just as I start to think that this situation will be bearable, I notice that the two of them have been drinking a lot faster than me. We're talking ordering two at once, and still needing another round before I finish my single drink.

It's like they have suddenly regressed into the teenagers I used to know. She is slurring and making crude jokes. He is pulling out the textbook class clown act I remember so well, pulling out goofy accessories from his bag, pretending to shout at people walking by.

They also begin, as my sister later called it, "canoodling", getting more touchy feely as the night went on. When my sister leaves to go play pool, I feel like the epitome of a fifth wheel, and I get the sense that it would be horrendously awkward even if I hadn't spent a year in her place. I interrupt their whispering to say I'm going to check on my sister for a bit.

Ten minutes later, I get several drunken texts from her asserting that she loves me, and then a voice mail saying she is too drunk and thus left.

I spend the remainder of the night on a pool team (creatively dubbed Team Awesome) with a 19-year old whose older friend has fallen in love with my sister, and have a remarkably good time.

She visits my family's open house on Boxing Night. We work as a winning duo at Pictionary and drink Baileys. She mentions he will be out with her again that night. I tell her its fine and I really don't see the point in overanalyzing the situation anymore (Ed note- I do recognize the irony of this statement in the middle of such a post).

I see them but for a brief moment that night, in the midst of a hubbub of "Oh-my-God-what-have-you-been-up-to"s. He catches my eye while standing alone by the bar, and it feels like the most genuine recent moment we've had. They quickly scurry off, claiming the crowded bar was too overwhelming for them, and I face a barrage of questions about their new relationship, trying to remain nonchalant while being pushed for a reaction.

Moving on to Friday night...
TG texts me and invites me for drinks and bowling. I meet her, him, and her sister at the house she is housesitting.
We have a few drinks, and manage a few laughs. It feels softer in the room, as though the ice has been broken, and we're all a little less tense.

And then the alcohol takes its effects.

The tension strikes again, as we are walking to the bowling alley. Her and I are reminiscing about a particularly crazy character we encountered on our journey to Costa Rica.

She nudges him. "You remember I told you about that, right, baby?"

My feet keep their pace, but my head starts going. That event happened when him and I were together. I told him that story.

We arrive at the bowling alley. Fitting with the emerging theme of regression, we make immature bowling monikers. As I glance over from where I sit, his hand is grabbing her ass directly at the level of my head.

The pattern starts to emerge again. Empty glasses start to line up, outnumbering the drink I am nursing. They begin first by quick pecks between rounds, to full on arms around each other kisses.

He starts doing the moonwalk and popping his collar. I recognize this facade from a mile away. His whole act is nearly transparent to me, like the back of my hand, like nothing has changed since we were 17 and he used such antics to belie all that pain.

Each time I turn my back to them and hurl the ball down the lane, I wonder why I forget the cardinal rule that history repeats itself. Not only that week, but over the years. I question why I am even in this bowling alley with two people who have both made me cry on more than one occasion. I ask myself why I always play this role, and why I pretend to be what I'm not in talking to them, why I downplay my achievements on their behalf. I ponder why I spend so much time worrying on each of their behalves. And I know that I can't say anything, not only for the sake of my pride, but because someone would undoubtedly toss the "jealousy" card into the equation, when in fact it is nearly the opposite.

As we leave the bowling alley, in the dark of the parking lot, he grabs her and pulls her in for a passionate kiss.

It is like they are performing for me.

And I realize that though their birth certificates may claim otherwise, they are still stuck in what once was adolescence for me. They are working the same jobs as then, entering the same relationships, using the same coping mechanisms, playing the same games. I'm just not there anymore.

And I am glad.

TG's sister and I walk ahead of them as they giggle and push each other into snowbanks. She is actually the one who appears angered. I turn off to head back to my parents, and shout goodbye.

A few minutes later, as I am about to put my headphones in, I hear my name being called, and the two of them are running across the street towards me, no longer pressed to each other.

Breathless, she exclaims that she was worried about me walking home alone, and asked if I was okay.

I can't tell you how good it felt to look her in the eyes and say "Why wouldn't I be?" and mean it.

Because I realized, that night, that at this point in their life, they deserve each other.
And I don't.


Anonymous said...

Wow. Okay, first off, amazing post. It was engaging, interesting, well-written. May actually be your best ever.

Secondly, I am so proud of you. You're not saying that you're better than them, just that you're not in the same place they are. Maybe they're happy in the place that they're at, but you're definitely happy where you are. And you should be! You've earned it!

I also read something a while back that couples that exhibit a lot of PDA are the ones that aren't affectionate behind closed doors. The ones that are on the rocks. I've personally found this to be true, but I'm not necessarily saying it is for them.

Larissa said...

This post felt so cathartic - it captured all of those moments in our lives when we realize we're in a better place than before. I'm happy for you!

Princess of the Universe said...

I agree with the above- this was a genuinely engaging post.

I'm glad that you managed to handle it with so much grace and class, because they certainly didn't.


eric1313 said...

Canoodling is the word of the year.

I wish the Duke had been there with you.

Yes, this is engaging, but I feel terrible for you and had to say something. I'm only half done.

eric1313 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eric1313 said...

Damn her for usurping your stories of Costa Rica! I'm sure he diligently pretended to be hearing them for the first time to her.

Ugh... You deserve a medal for not punching her in the schnoz.

You don't deserve whatever kind of sick little game they were playing. Yes, it is best not to ponder their antics too deeply, since they are both caught in a time loop that you quite naturally grew out of long before.

But none of that is your fault. You were kind and compassionate and tried to be a good friend. They repaid you by putting on a tasteless show of their immaturity.

And it's quite fitting to end it by you walking alone, because in every sense, you are in a class by yourself, in their presence or not.

Maxie said...

I wish I had your strength. There is no way that I could hang out with my ex and his new girlfriend.

Airam said...

That's the thing about moving forward. Sometimes you do it thinking that everyone around you is growing up too and then you realize that it's not the case. Some people are just stuck in a time warp for some reason. I suppose they feel that their "youth" was the most meaningful time of their life and they are not ready to let that go which is why they still do the things they do. You've been taking steps into your future all along. Sometimes it's nice to reminisce but you can't stay stuck there for too long. Hopefully they will realize it's time to move forward. In the meantime you are doing exactly what you are meant to be doing. And please PLEASE do not downplay your successes for them. If they are truly your friends then they will celebrate those with you. You deserve to brag a little about your accomplisments!

Psychgrad said...

I don't really see it as usurping your both experienced the same story together. But it seems to be evidence of how far you have grown apart. The stories she has to connect to you are those that you shared when you were with C. Now she is with C, living the same life she lived before but you have moved to on to new things (maybe bigger, better?).

Good for you for facing the awkwardness. I think you did your bit for being open-minded. The whole drunk make out (in front of you) thing seems pretty immature considering the relationship you and C had.

Michelle said...

it definitely sounds like they are still living in the past. good for you for recognizing that you are past all of that. there is no reason to subject yourself to that constantly. i can't say i blame you.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap love. I'm so glad how it all worked out, but I can understand the awkwardness and discomfort, more than you can know. It's always strange watching your past reappear in the present, especially when it's two aspects of your past.

Either way, I think you are amazing, and wonderful, and the way you presented that to us was phenomenal.

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

Some people evolve. Some people don't. I'm glad you are not attracted to teenage boys. :)

Princess Pointful said...

Thank you all so much for the kind comments. You made me feel a little more sane in the midst of all this, as though I am not overreacting.

This is especially cathartic because I am hesitant to talk to anyone here about it due to an allergy to any more small town drama.

The one thing I left out of this post because it ruined the flow-- in this attempt to avoid small town drama, I may have to spend New Years Eve with the happy couple. Long story short- we have a mutual close friend who I promised I would spend New Years with, and it would be even more of a mess if I ditched out, no matter how tempting it would be. *sigh*

PrincessPolly said...

That made me so angry to read that - fair enough that your old friend is seeing your childhood sweetheart or whatever, you could probably forgive her that - but what about their "performances" in front of you??? It's like they've REHEARSED it or something, like they're somehow deliberately trying to hurt you and there's no need for it. You're right - they're not worth it and you don't deserve them. All credit to you for not punching them in the face.

Anonymous said...

I'm insanely proud that you were able to be an adult in the midst of children. Go you!

Beth said...

You've matured - gone beyond them. (Still, a little sadness, regret and nostalgia...)
Here's to new wisdom, a new life and a Happy New Year!

Yoda said...

I hate it when that happens. If there is a couple in the group, must they rub it into the others faces by being all kissy and shit?

I know how it is ... that's the very reason I don't keep in touch with my HS friends anymore. There's just way too much weirdness w.r.t the past.

The Butterfly Bar said...

Happy New Year from all of us at the Butterfly Bar, Princess.

Drop by if you get the time, our new year's extravaganza promises to be entertaining.

La said...

Wow, that was an insanely good post. And I agree, I would never have the strength to hang out with an ex and his new flame, but it sounds like you handled it with grace. Here's to a wonderful 2008!

Ant said...

Good conclusion. Yes, the key here is that it was a performance entirely for your benefit. They are both feeling intensely insecure and unhappy in whatever situations they find themselves and are just trying to leverage this "happiness" over you to make themselves feel a tiny bit better.

Related note: I think this is possibly tied into your success in general too. I witness crap like this (to a lesser degree) when I go home for christmas (point-scoring, jealousy of my achievements, etc.) and is one of the main reasons why I've embraced spending christmas elsewhere for the past couple of years...

Sheila said...

I know you're too far away to hear it, but I was cheering you on!

They may never change. I have some friends who are both older than me (both are 40) and they behave the same now as they did when they were 20.

Some people never learn how to move on, some people don't want to. I am glad you have!

Wendy said...

Go you! you dealt with the whole thing remarkably well but you shouldn't have to deal with such immature crap. At least you've move on. :)

cdp said...

My God, woman. You are awesome. Awesome awesome awesome.

And you know, I've often had that moment, too, when I have to ask myself why I play that role.

You rock. And I lurve you.

Maithri said...

You sum it all up in that last line.

They deserve each other...

and you deserve far far more ;)

You write beautifully, from the heart. With a simple eloquent grace...

May the year ahead be worthy of you,

Love, peace and power, M

captain corky said...

It's kind of bizarre how she basically has become you in that relationship.

I'm glad you've come to terms with everything and realize that's not where you want to be.

Happy New Year, Princess!

ana said...

Do me a favor, give yourself a pat on your shoulders. It was an amazing post.

brandy said...

I loved this. I loved every single word. I think that this post was beautifully written- and the timing was perfect. Reading about how capable you are, and your ability to move away, move on- from people who don't fit quite properly into your world now is the perfect thing to read at the beginning of the new year. Well said my friend, well said! (And I was on a charades team this holiday season dubbed 'team awesome'- we definitely would get along I think!)

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

It's like some curious sort of Karma, like a Ghost of Christmas Past/Future.

In a wierd kind of way, it seems to have allowed you to draw a line under C, to say goodbye to him without guilt or remorse.

And what better time of year for that?

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

Firstly, you handled that far better than I would have, and I consider myself a pretty well-adjusted person.

Secondly, that was very well written....very Sex in the City monologue-ish.

Finally, looking forward instead of back seems to be the healthier thing to do, so congrats for being able to see what is important.

libby said...

ahhh! i loved that PP!!! so amazingly written. and the end? that just took the cake.

good for you sistah!!

Deepak Gopi said...

Hi Nice 2 meet you
happy new year :)

Clueless Cat said...

Great post!! And happy new year :)

benjibopper said...


soudns like you lived the movie 'beautiful girls' over the holidays. seen that one? it's a great you-can't-and-probably-shouldn't-anyway-go-back-again flick.

Happy 2008.

Miriam D said...

Oh my, that is awkward!! They seemed to want to put on a show for you. However, I really think you came out on top!

Awesome post.

mcgee said...

Wow. You are awesome. And I want to be like you when I grow up. That's all.

Eve said...

Holy shit. I don't know what to say/write. That is so strange on a few levels, but it sounds like you've come to a healthy conclusion.

You're your own therapist. Whoa.

eric1313 said...

Yes, you, saw your comments elsewhere about being sick of talking yourself down.

I could never see you as a braggart by any stretch, but certainly you do deserve to revel just a bit in your hard-earned glory, and demand a little respect in your pwn quiet way. After all, you've stressed a few of those nasty years off the end of your lifespan, you deserve to truly live for the balance.

Rock on this New Year!

And check by when you get the chance, I have a crazy Vietnam flashback/Johnny Cash delusion poem that hints at a parallel to today's conflicts. I may need a diagnosis from a mind in the know!

(my word ver. is mobilitee! I hope that's a good sign! About the car and about life)

eric1313 said...

Prose poem thingy, actually! The ones you like. OK, back to my side of the continent...

Peace, a'ight?

Lisa said...

Dude. I so wouldn't have been able to sit through that. Props to you and all your awesomeness.

Anonymous said...

I used to hang out with my "ex" and his girlfriend.. it was fun. For, like, a whole year.

And by "fun" I mean awkward and forced and a waste of f-cking time.


lissa said...

wonderful post. love that ending. good for you!