Y walked into his ex-girlfriend’s franchised bar/restaurant three weeks after they broke up. The other day, they’d taken a pre-paid professional development class on emotional dynamics in the workplace. The instructor was someone who had built a career coaching commercial actors and executives from large corporations how to negotiate conflict through managing expectations, facing fears, and maintaining a sense of humor. They’d gone through all this in the relationship. She was an actor/writer and he was just a writer.
“I really got a kick out of seeing you guys be astronauts.”
This forced them to interact in the most awkward and neurologically eviscerating 40 minutes of their young, reckless lives. Anger, sadness, joy, and fear in four corners of a cleared out conference room. He tried to figure out if he should go up first, or after X, and then also tried to figure out if there was a way to not be chosen to go up with her, and had managed to partner up with everyone but her, until the end, when, basically, the emotional dynamics instructor asked them if they both wanted to go. They actually received applause. There were only two other participants in the room who understood what had really happened, because they were privy to the abstract details of their breakup.
This one Christmas, X got $150 in tips.
“Let’s spend it on lobsters,” she said.
“I thought you were allergic to lobsters.”
“That’s what the doctor said.”
They met about 12 months ago. He was working at a café, she was a stand-in on a television show. He had to teach a young supporting male actor in his 20’s how to prepare coffee with the actual espresso machine they used to make coffee for actual 20-something year old patrons of the café. She had to kind of just squeeze in-between crewmembers and look like Zooey Deschanel. He told her he had a pubescent fantasy to serve Zooey a triple-shot espresso. She tried to order the same half-double decaffeinated half-caf with a twist of lemon. They both wondered how Steve Martin was doing since the early 90’s while they ate free lunch at the mid-afternoon scheduled break on Zooey’s union tab.
This was a year before they met each other again at her bar, four months before what would have been a 6 month anniversary. If their boss hadn’t assigned them to the same work event he’d have never gone to see her.
This other time, a few months after the breakup, he walked into a train station and encountered her new love interest. Taller and better-looking. Wore some kind of scent that he thought only girls wore. There was something about how their eyes matched that was disturbing. About fifteen minutes into the train ride, some kind of naturally-occurring dopamine built-up, produced a teardrop, and forced him to exit the train at the wrong stop. What followed were tears that, in a world where magick exists, could act as a catalyst for some kind of love potion, like the one Fairuza Balk used on Skeet Ulrich in The Craft (also starring Robin Tunney and a pre-Scream Neve Campbell). Those same tears could also make a houseplant listen better. If used with bathwater and enough candles, it could prevent suicide.
He met her dad, who she called Big Vic, on her birthday in September on a double blind date. They were going to the same Broadway adaptation of American Idiot.
“Thanks for setting us up” said Big Vic.
“She’s great, Dad. You’re going to love her.”
“I still think we’re pushing boundaries.”
X’s philosophy from the beginning was to push rather than get entrenched in boundaries. So, in the spirit of reciprocation, Y went so far as to set up Marianne, 55, a tail-end boomer who worked on the corporate back-end of the bar/restaurant, with Vic. Like Vic, Marianne was divorced, widowed, and had one kid in college. Y sold Marianne on Vic when he told her that Vic used to be a sound engineer for early Phil Spector sound experiments and practiced bass for two weeks with Lou Reed.
The show was horrible, and the after-show drinks and steaks were overpriced. Whoever thought of double dating with your girlfriend’s dad in Times Square was insane. He learned a lot about the 60’s and 70’s that night.
This and a dozen other things raced through his brain as he emptied another shot of vodka, in blue button-down collared shirt, at 5 in the afternoon. He tried to tell her he just got out of a job interview, like it was something you’d say to someone who you lived with. He felt like some kind of psycho-killer, in the shirt, with the beer, with this information. He got up, announced his departure, left a $17 tip and was hit by the end of tow-truck chain outside the bar. The rest of the year was spent in carefully-supervised recovery near Binghamton. His entire memory of the relationship had been erased, just like that movie about the highly creative, but severely depressed guy who tries to erase his ex-girlfriend from his memory, or the movie about an athletic, self-aware, earnest guy who has to face the fact his fiancé’s amnesia means he has to win her love all over again.
Author: S. G. Tarjoto