Tag: Hatey McHateface

Three’s a Crowd

Distracted

“Wow. So in the end, you didn’t get the girl, huh?” the radiologist said, dragging both myself and the readers back into the story’s hospital framing device.

I readjusted my open-backed gown as haughtily as I could muster (which it turns out, is “not very”). “Not the girl. I didn’t get one of the girls I met in my lifetime. There were others. Obviously, I succeeded. Eventually.”

The man just shrugged. “Well, how was I supposed to know that?”

I held up my left hand and wiggled my occupied ring finger.

“Honestly,” he said, “you sort of seem like the type to wear a fake ring.”

I gave him a hard glare. “I don’t remember writing you this mean.”

The technician held up his hands defensively before clutching his metal clipboard to his chest. “What I’m saying is, if I understand the bullet points of the story thus far, it’s that you seem to view relationships as sort of a…chore.” He poked his head out the door then, making sure no one had noticed he was listening to an exceedingly long story rather than doing the work he was being paid for. “Or you used to, at least.”

“One…could make that assessment,” I begrudgingly conceded. I leaned back in my chair. “My entire life I’ve been surrounded by people who were miserable because they were alone. And when they found someone, they were usually even more miserable.” It was hardly a ringing endorsement for being in a couple.

Or, for that matter, being single.

The radiologist drummed his fingers on the clipboard absently before sighing. He seemed to have made a decision he wasn’t thrilled with. “Well, in any case, since you wrote me into the story, I’m here if you need someone to talk to.”

I raised an eyebrow. “I’ve been talking to you for an hour.”

“Let’s call this what it is. You’ve been talking at me.”

I considered the offer before waving it off. The idea of using a character I’d created for the purposes of a story as my therapist seemed like something I’d have to describe to a real therapist later. “It’s fine. I’m just trying to close out this bit of the story. I feel like it’s been dragging on.”

“So, what happened with Kay? Did Hatey find out?”

“He did,” I answered. As far as I know, Kay told him exactly what happened as soon as he arrived – most likely over a very tense meal consisting of bad fighting and worse soup.

The technician whistled. “Wow. I bet there were some fireworks there.”

“You’d be surprised,” I said. In fact, I’d been surprised at the time. Hatey had showed up at my door around 2am the following night. (Or morning, depending on your viewpoint.) Despite my concerns for how he’d figured out where I lived and my suspicions that he’d come to murder me, it was actually a very short, fairly polite conversation. “He actually thanked me.”

“You’re kidding.”

Hatey apologized for being an intolerable ass, though he may have used a different word for it. He said he’d unfairly misjudged me as someone just trying to get into his girlfriend’s pants, largely glossing over the entire portion where she’d been trying to get me into them. “It was mostly pleasant vindication, up until he thanked me for not being as selfish as a lot of guys would’ve been in the situation.”

The radiologist blinked at this. “Wow. How dare he.”

“He was telling me that I might be a more decent guy than he thought at first,” I scoffed, shaking my head. “He even said that if I ever wanted to hang out, he thought the two of us could be friends.”

Mocking outrage, the radiologist covered his mouth. “The monster!”

“I didn’t do it for him.” In reality, he wasn’t even astoundingly far off in his initial evaluation of me. And it echoed eerily close to how Kay had also judged me to be an entirely different person than I really was. “I semi-politely declined his offer to be friends. I told him that I didn’t think not sleeping with his girlfriend for reasons entirely unrelated to him was a solid enough foundation for friendship.”

“Ouch. So that was the end of it?”

I rolled my eyes. “It probably should have been – if I, Kay or Hatey had had an ounce of sense between us. But we actually hung out as a group throughout the rest of the year.” Despite our love triangle morphing into something like a love-hate-lust-vague disinterest…triangle, they were still surprisingly fun little group outings.

“Even when nothing had changed between you and…Hatey?” It was clear he didn’t like using the name I’d picked for him.

“It was a little different. It was less open hatred and more…a temporary ceasefire. A gentleman’s agreement to pretend we liked each other,” I said. Spoken out loud, it sounded pretty stupid.

“That sounds pretty stupid,” the technician agreed. “But at least things must’ve been less tense with things resolved between you and Kay.”

I scoffed again. “I never said anything resolved there. She reminded me on an almost daily basis that she’d happily dump Hatey at a moment’s notice if it meant she could pull me into the nearest dark alley and have her way with me afterward.”

He grimaced at this. “That sounds…horribly awkward.”

“Tell me about it.” And the fact that she regularly communicated this sentiment to her boyfriend – occasionally while we were all together – made it ten times worse.

“Why would those two even stay together? She didn’t seem all that fond of him. And he was basically indifferent to the idea that he’d be gone the moment you decided you wanted sex more than you wanted to be a good person,” the radiologist wondered.

I honestly had no idea. If the story had revealed anything, it should have been that I was no relationship expert. “I think some people just can’t stand being alone. Even if being together makes them just as miserable.”

“Speaking of miserable, what happened to those crazy kids, anyway?”

I gave him a shrug. “Not a clue. I only know what I was personally involved in, and I eventually had the sense to get out of it before they tried to wrangle me into an awkward threesome or some other mess.”

Still, I told him the end of my part in it. “We hung out for the last time before we all left for Christmas. I take it they spent the holidays at her apartment and things didn’t go well, because the next time she got in touch with me she specifically mentioned we should hang out without him there.” I hadn’t wanted to go, but as I was legitimately busy at the time anyway, I hadn’t had to lie to get out of it.

“It got very difficult to be around her,” I continued, “when every time we got together seemed like a trap to wear me down. It eventually became obvious that if we couldn’t be an item, she wasn’t really interested in being a real friend.”

“No offense, but what did she see in you, anyway?” the technician asked, looking me up and down. The hospital gown probably wasn’t doing me any favors.

“None taken. And I honestly have no idea.” If she’d ever given me an explanation, I’d apparently forgotten it. Among other things.

“So that was the end of it?”

“More or less,” I lied. She had, in fact, called me one last time to say she didn’t even care how I felt for her anymore. She was just so tired of being with someone she felt nothing for that she wanted to feel anything, just to not feel empty for a few hours. I hadn’t bothered explaining to her that I was very much a virgin. Unless she’d wanted to fill the void with disappointment, I couldn’t help her.

I don’t remember how I’d answered. But I’d remained a virgin. So she probably didn’t get the sort of disappointment she’d been asking for.

The radiologist nodded. “It makes you wonder, though. I’ve heard of worse couples working things out. You think they ever got married? Had kids?”

“A guy who abandoned his entire life to pursue a girl it would have been illegal to be with in quite a few states? And a girl who pursued the first guy she saw just to get away from him?” I summarized.

If those two didn’t deserve a “happily ever after,” none of us do.

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A Recipe for Disaster

Disaster.jpg

Like nearly every dark chapter in human history, the end of my never-quite-romance with Kay began with the mistaken notion that rice and soup go together.

Okay. That’s not entirely true. One could probably make a strong argument that any relationship is doomed before it even begins when both parties make a policy of being almost exclusively dishonest with one another. Especially in regards to a lack of feelings for the other, pre-existing boyfriends, etc.

That part about rice in soup causing most disasters throughout history is true, though. Look it up.

“I need you to come over,” Kay said over the phone. I wasn’t normally awake at 5:30am most Saturdays, let alone answering phone calls. Still, I’d assumed that for anyone to call at such a horrid hour, they must have had a good reason for waking me – very likely one that involved one or more of my family members dying.

I rubbed my eyes for effect, hoping the sound was loud enough for the receiver to pick up. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I really need your help and…are you rubbing your eyes?”

Score.

“Help with what?” I asked grumpily.

“Do you know how to make soup?” she asked, in a frantic tone very often reserved for discussing recently deceased family members and only rarely for the logistics of soup-making.

“I…guess so,” I ventured hesitantly. In reality, “knew” may have been a strong word for it. But as most soup was some combination of cooking stock, vegetables and noodles, I didn’t think it could be too hard to fake my way through it. Still confused, I asked, “Are you making soup for…a funeral or something?”

“What? No.”

“Fair enough,” I conceded. It seemed fairly obvious at this point that the entire purpose of the early morning call really was to discuss soup rather than the recently deceased. “What do you need to know?”

She fumbled through a few attempts at words before giving up. “I don’t know. Lots of things. Everything? Just come here!”

“Okay, okay. Calm down,” I soothed. I considered how best to explain before settling on blunt honesty. “Step one: Go back to sleep. Then wake up in five hours and start boiling chicken stock.”

Kay gave me a mocking laugh. “I’m serious. I woke up and I really want soup and I won’t be able to sleep until I make it. Will you just come over here?”

I sighed. “I’ll be there in half an hour. What kind of soup are we making?”

“Chicken and rice.”

“An hour and a half,” I amended with a groan. I needed more rest if I was going to be dealing with the tapioca pudding of all soup recipes. I instructed her to buy the necessary ingredients before I arrived, to save time.

“Well…okay. What do I need?”

“Chicken, rice, some sort of broth and…” I hesitated, already out of ideas. I stared longingly at my destroyed computer, realizing it wouldn’t be much use in quickly looking up a recipe. I hedged my bets. “Everybody likes different veggies. So probably carrots or celery or…” I acted like I was trailing off meaningful there to let her fill in the blanks. In reality, my mind had gone totally blank when it came to soup-worthy ingredients.

Luckily, she didn’t seem to catch on. We exchanged our goodbyes and I set my alarm for an hour later. I was asleep again halfway through unplugging my phone.

Two hours, a short nap and a long walk later, I was at Kay’s off-campus apartment, mentally preparing myself to make a soup that should have never been.

Technically, this was against school rules. Freshman were required to live on campus their first semester for reasons I’ve already forgotten. But a number of fairly wealthy individuals had bypassed this rule by simply paying for off-campus housing and their dorm room. And overall, it’s not important to the story except in explaining how we were able to cook when dorm rooms offered very few options beyond a small, dirty microwave attached to our mini refrigerator.

Kay greeted me with an enthusiastic hug and gave me a quick tour. It was the first time I’d set foot in her apartment, though it was at least the fourth time she’d invited me in the course of our week of knowing one another. In hindsight, that probably should have told me something. Though, in case you’ve forgotten, I should point out that I’m incredibly, stunningly oblivious.

“So…want to make the soup?” she asked. “Or…did you want to do something else?”

“Soup, I guess. What else would we do?” I’m going to save you some trouble. I don’t get any less oblivious to the fact that someone is throwing themselves at me. You may as well stop expecting it.

For her part she didn’t seem upset. She just took me into the kitchen and showed me the supplies she’d gathered. “Okay. We start with the rice…right?”

I considered voicing my objections to the ingredient but gave in. She seemed fairly set on it. And it was her soup, after all. “Right.” I summoned the woeful amount of knowledge I possessed on rice. “It takes longer to cook than the rest. So you start boiling that first.” I didn’t add the “probably” that belonged in that statement.

“How much water do we need?” Kay asked.

“It probably says on the…” I trailed off, seeing the plain, unmarked bag that looked to have come from a farmer’s market. “Maybe…two cups for every cup of rice?”

“Maybe? I thought you knew how to make soup.”

“I know how to make soup without rice, yes.” I then said something incredibly smart. “If there’s too much water, we can just drain the excess.”

“Oh. Good idea.” It wasn’t. For those who don’t know, rice is small enough to fit through the holes in most colanders. Ten minutes later, we had no choice but to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater and start from scratch.

As amusing as this cooking adventure was in its own right, I’ll skip to the end, though. It’s a cute little backdrop to a much bigger story. But the truth is that it also has nothing to do with that story, aside from being that backdrop. So for the sake of not stretching this out any longer, let’s just cut to two hours and a halfways decent pot of homemade soup later.

“Do you want some?” Kay asked.

“I’m actually pretty full from tasting the ingredients.” And this was entirely true. Of the two pounds of chicken we’d cooked, I think only a pound of it made it in the final product. “It’s all yours.”

She shook her head. “Nah. I ate breakfast before you came.”

This struck me as odd. “I…thought this was the craving that woke you up. And then woke me up.”

Kay gave me a long look that went from gentle amusement to sadness to acceptance. “I was…” She smiled. “Nevermind. Doesn’t matter.”

Silence dragged on, begging either of us to blurt something out.

And then, as if I’d understood the past week a lot better than I really had, I said, “You like me, right? I mean, like…not just like a friend.”

Of course I do,” she said, sounding almost annoyed. “I’ve been throwing myself at you for the past week and today…” She made an inarticulate gesture with her hands before letting her arms fall to her sides.

A great deal seemed to dawn on me at once. “Oh. Oooooooh.” I nodded, probably being the last human being on the planet to understand the situation.

She almost growled. “And now it’s too late. Hatey is coming over at ten. I thought we’d have all morning to…make soup.” She sighed. “Instead, we actually made soup.” The fact that she finally seemed as upset about rice soup as I was was small consolation.

I glanced at the clock to see it was after 9:45am. Depending on Hatey’s particular viewpoints on punctuality, he could be there at literally any moment. It was then that I blurted out something else that turned out to be surprisingly insightful. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised he’d be showing up. He always does.”

“Well…yeah,” Kay said. “He is my boyfriend.”

I gaped.

“What?” she asked, noting my surprise. “You knew we were going out. I must’ve told you…” She hesitated here, going through the past few days of conversations. Then, a less profound look of surprise appeared on her face. “Oh…wow. I never actually told you that, did I?”

“Not so much, no.” The picture suddenly become clearer, and far less pretty. “And you had me come over today to…cheat on him. Huh.”

“Well, I wouldn’t use those exact (accurate) words, but…I take it you’re…not okay with that?” she asked, apparently not expecting this outcome.

It was strange. Because with as little experience as I had with dating and relationships, it’s odd to think I’d have actually formed an opinion on the matter or have standards of any kind. And yet, here we were. I shook my head. “No. I guess I’m not.” The answer seemed to surprise us both. As did my subsequent apology for…I’m not even sure what. I apologize a lot.

“Oh…” Kay looked embarrassed. “If it made you more comfortable, I could…break it off with him…I guess?”

I held up a hand. “If you don’t want to be with him, that’s fine. But…” I gave her the closest thing to honesty I could muster. “I’m really not the person you think I am. I’m…pretty sure what you’d have with me isn’t worth throwing something real away for.”

I stopped short of admitting I’d never really developed any actual feelings for her. Or that my interest in her at all was largely due to the broken part in my head that equated someone treating me decently with romantic compatibility. In that regard, I guess it wasn’t really that honest.

I started to leave before things somehow got even worse, but she grabbed my arm. “Stop. I don’t want things to be awkward. This feels like it went…really badly.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m sure this isn’t even in my top ten most awkward moments with a girl,” I said, trying to make her feel better with a little self-deprecation. Despite how the morning had turned out, I still felt I had some sort of obligation to not make her feel terrible if I could manage. As to why, I’ll refer you back to my previous mention of things being broken in my head.

Kay smiled but seemed uncertain. “We’re…still friends, right?”

I almost said something very honest before smiling weakly back. “I’d like it if we could be friends,” I said instead.

And I meant it. I would have liked if we could have been.

A Knack for Forgetting Faces

Hatey

Having solid confirmation of someone’s feelings for me, I immediately jumped into (in)action. I proceeded to march right up to Kay (the following day), looked her right in (the vicinity of) the eye and never once brought up what she thought of me.

While anyone with the appropriate amount of guts and the requisite number of spines might have broached the subject, I took a different tack. I went with the tried and true method used in dozens of romantic comedies – finding relationships by saying literally nothing to the potential love interest until she’s basically ready to leave the country in utter disgust. Or…maybe less “tried and true” and more “tried and tried,” anyway.

I mean, it hadn’t worked well for those guys in the movies. But that only meant it was bound to work for someone eventually, right? Maybe even me?

…Right?

More importantly, I wasn’t really sure it was a good idea to seek a relationship with Kay at all. And as much as I’d like to pretend the reason was primarily my being a coward, it wasn’t. In truth, having more or less not noticed her for three full weeks despite seeing her five times a week, I wasn’t sure I had any feelings for her worth pursuing.

Still, for all my cowardice and uncertainty, she seemed dead-set on spending time with me. And I certainly didn’t mind having a friend. We walked to class together. We ate lunches and dinner together. We studied together. I even started inviting her along to my semi-nightly arcade adventures.

And at the end of the week, I searched my heart and finally realized the truth: I didn’t much care for Kay’s friend who seemed to invite himself along everywhere we went.

I wasn’t sure what it was at first. I didn’t strictly view our outings as dates, so it wasn’t like I was jealous. But there was just something that rubbed me the wrong way about him. It might have been his sense of humor. It might have been the way he carried himself. If I had to guess, though, it was probably that, for someone who insisted on being literally every single place I was for ten days straight, he really, really hated being around me.

Of course, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at this point that I don’t recall his name either. The only thing I really remember was that he looked a lot like the oldest brother from “Malcolm in the Middle”…if he also hated me and glared at me whenever he thought I wasn’t looking.

For the purposes of this story, I’ll be calling him Hatey McHateface – or Hatey, for short.

While I wasn’t comfortable discussing Kay’s feelings with her, I was eventually forced to mention Hatey’s. “Does Hatey…hate me or something?” Keep in mind, again, that wasn’t his real name, and this question didn’t sound so weird using his actual name.

“He’s…a bit overprotective,” she explained, though she was at least quick to apologize for it rather than pretend I was imagining things. “Sorry. We’ve known each other since we were little. I think I’m the only one he really gets along with.”

Judging by what seemed to be the eternal side-eye he was giving me, I certainly couldn’t argue her theory. In my wisdom, however, I came up with a more diplomatic answer. I then immediately dismissed it and said, “Maybe he’d make more friends if he wasn’t such an asshole to everyone except you.”

“Oh, be nice,” she said teasingly.

“Have I been anything but nice to him?”

Kay considered this for a while before letting out a pent-up breath. “No. You’ve been fine. But maybe you could try being nice enough for the both of you.”

Despite how immensely fun and likely to succeed that sounded, I gave her a doubtful look before sighing. “Maybe you could at least try suggesting he make some other friends in class or something? I don’t know. Seems like it would mellow him out a bit to have other friends.”

She gave me a confused look before something dawned on her. “Oh. He doesn’t go to classes. He doesn’t go to school here.”

My expression become a mirror of her prior confusion. “…How’s that, exactly?”

“He was going to go to school over in Allentown when he graduated. But he decided to take a few years off because he didn’t want to be away from me when I went to Penn State,” she explained, in a tone that suggested it wasn’t utterly insane. She went on to explain – just as calmly – that he’d made this decision when he graduated from high school a full three years prior to her.

I managed to muddle my way through the remainder of that conversation without saying any one of a few hundred very reasonable points I could have made that, notwithstanding, seemed like they might not have gone over well.

It was then that I came to two realizations. The first and more obvious of the two being that Hatey was utterly infatuated with Kay. And, in a similar vein, if the situation was as filled with landmines as it seemed to be, I had to decide soon whether or not I even wanted to be involved with a girl with so much baggage.

At which point I proceeded to make a very bad decision for reasons very much related to my own not insubstantial set of emotional luggage.

Rather than pretend my decision was anything other than idiotic, I’ll instead draw attention to one of my more important flaws. When it comes to love, relationships or any number of similar topics, my childhood had taught me very little. And what few details I’d pieced together were almost invariably wrong in every regard.

I had, for example, never gotten the strong impression that my parents liked – let alone loved – one another. My mother seemed to resent my father being at work. And yet, the more time he spent at home, the more time they spent fighting. By the time I was a teen I came to the very reasonable conclusion that marriages were relationships built almost entirely out of misery and loathing. What few redeeming qualities they seemed to have came from the brief moments when the fighting stopped.

Or…at least, it was the most reasonable answer I could have possibly come to given the completely broken data I was being fed.

Rather than walking away from a potential relationship with Kay based on a hundred very sensible reasons, I ignored them all. Instead, I focused on the one thing that mattered to me. She seemed very fond of me. This, I irrationally rationalized, meant that it would be some time before she reached the inevitable point of mandatory loathing in a future relationship.

And to a lesser degree, well, I didn’t want to let her down. Despite not really feeling anything for her, I felt somewhat obligated to at least pretend to reciprocate. The alternative – turning down someone I didn’t like that way when they had so graciously gone through the effort of liking me – seemed almost…rude?

Thus, armed with enough bad ideas to replace a suitable spine, I met her the next day for a rare unchaperoned lunch. “I was thinking…maybe you and I could start hanging out more often like this…with just you and me. You know?”

Kay positively beamed at the idea. “I’d really, really like that.”

“And…everyone else will really like that, too?” I had the feeling that, if Hatey had been there, he wouldn’t have been beaming at the notion whatsoever.

“We’re two adults. We’re the only two opinions that matter,” she said. I didn’t beam. I wasn’t, after all, much of a beamer. But I very likely did some approximation of what a normal person might have done to express happiness with my mouth. “And…you’re sure this is what you want, too?”

“I am.” I wasn’t. I was, in fact, making the decision based entirely on her feelings, rather than any I might have had on the subject.

Then again, I wasn’t nearly as unsure as I was going to be, when I found out Hatey was her boyfriend.

Oh? Did…I not mention that little wrinkle earlier?

Well, neither did she.