She called at six o’clock the next morning and made a number of curious observations, the principal of which was, “I feel like you’ve been neglecting me.”
“Honey” I just spent the last two days with you. I went to that godawful concert just to be with you. How could you think I was neglecting you?”
“Sometimes... when we were walking, I’d ask you a question and you wouldn’t respond.”
“Do you realize how many questions you asked me? You were like Barbara Walters on speed.”
“Oh. But sometimes it seemed like you weren’t giving me your full attention.”
“This happens, you know. Boyfriends don’t always hear what girlfriends say. But I was trying.”
“I’ve got to get to work. I’ll call later. ‘Bye.”
He didn’t hear from her for days, and spent his week conducting an unofficial survey of his friends.
“No, it was not a smart move, lying to her. But I think it’ll work out. Just give her some time. I’m sure she’ll realize that it was a foolish lie, not a malicious one.”
“Dude, she really needs to cut you some slack. You know and I know, the two of you broke up because you were poor. But consider the reason you were poor. You were pursuing your life’s dream. So, what? She snaps her fingers and you’re supposed to be back on her leash? It would be different if you were screwing Angie, but at most you were just testing your feelings. If she’s going to hold this against you forever, then the hell with her!”
“Geez! I guess I’m flattered that she considers me such a rival. Does she realize that you and I always end up talking about her? If you were trying to get me in the sack, that’s a pretty piss-poor approach!”
“Sorry, man – you blew it. You took a tiny little thing and made it big. That’s what’s bugging her, yaknow. If this date with Angie was nothin’ special, why didn’t you just tell her? Then you had to tell all those other lies to cover up Lie Number One. You have to ask yourself, what was so all-fire important about hanging on to this little shred of independence? Weren’t you saying, ‘No, you can’t have all of me yet’? The hell with the blame. Blame gets you nowhere. What are your actions telling you about your feelings?”
As the biggest screwup on the panel, Wendy naturally made the best point: how did he feel about Tacoma? Come Saturday, after five days and no calls, he came to something of a conclusion. He was sitting in a seafood place at Point Defiance, sharing fried clams and a beer with Pancho.
“She kept telling me that a relationship is hard work. But not all the time! Every couple needs to build their story, their mythology, and every mythology needs a paradise, a perfect time. What was our paradise? A month after we meet, she’s diagnosed with bipolar!
“So this time, I ask for three easy months. And I’m holding back ten percent of myself as insurance – that’s the ten percent that wanted to lie about Angie. And now... she’s obviously given up on me, because she hasn’t called, and she asked me not to call her. So I’m thinkin’, we’ve done it again, man. The slate is clean.”
Pancho had run out of opinions. They sat and watched the ferry pull in from Vashon Island. Shawn’s fingers tapped the table in a metronome tic. Drummers, thought Pancho. Even their tension has rhythm.
“I’ll get us another pitcher,” he said.
Pancho went to the bar, hit the speed-dial on his cell phone.
“Hi. Me. All right if I hang with Shawn a bit? He’s having a hard time.”
“Yeah, sure. Take it easy, though. YOur daughter doesn’t need a DUI daddy.”
“We’ll take a kayak. Oh, ‘scuse me, hon. Got a call comin’ in.”
Shawn turned to find Pancho holding a full pitcher and a cell phone. He gave the phone to Shawn.
“Oh... for me? I... Hello?”
“Hi. I’m sorry I haven’t called. I’m in the hospital.”
Photo by MJV