Tag: relationships

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 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.

Story Time – Going Solo

han-solo
Okay. So story time. I was at the movies with my wife and while I was using the bathroom someone dressed as Han Solo used the urinal between me and another movie-goer.
 
No big deal, right? I mean, I figure Han freaking Solo would understand the rules a little better when it came to where he should and shouldn’t pee in the men’s bathroom, but okay. His presence alone wasn’t all that strange given the premiere of “Rogue One” in just a few minutes.
 
But here’s where things take a dark (or hilarious) turn, depending on who your significant other happens to be.

I walk out the bathroom followed by the guy who wasn’t Han Solo a few seconds later. And as he comes out, he’s grinning and tells a girl (who by their held hands I can assume is at least his girlfriend), “Wow. I just peed next to Han Solo.”
“Uh…okay?” she says – a statement that suggests this is an everyday occurrence. (Which it may or may not be in the women’s bathroom.)

“No,” the guy explains. “A guy dressed as Han Solo just rolled up and used the urinal right next to me.”

“Who the hell is Han Solo?” the girl asks.

Somewhere, a man hurriedly starts playing the record player he’d been ignoring for the past four decades just to pull the needle off and make the sound.

“What?”

By now the girl looks like she’s starting to get annoyed. “Who the hell is Han Solo!?”

Her boyfriend sputters through a few failed attempts to even respond to that and finally gives up. Instead, he turns to me. “Are you hearing this?” he demands, his tone suggesting hope that I’m about to reveal he’s on some sort of hidden camera game show.

But he’s not, and I don’t.

“I don’t want to hear this,” I say, not sure how else to respond.

The couple walks away, their voices somehow getting louder the further away they get. Apparently they have a great deal to discuss. I don’t blame them. And while it’s possible he’s just explaining forty years of “Star Wars” history to her, I find it far more likely that his statements are more along the lines of, “How do you not who that is?”, “What’s wrong with you?” and “Shouldn’t lizard people like you have at least a baseline of human knowledge to try and fit in better?”

Just before they disappear around the corner, my wife reappears and I’m hopeful that she’ll inform me that I’m on some sort of hidden camera game show. Which she does. But only because she’s got a quirky sense of humor and that’s how she always greets me.

I turn to the couple – now very noticeably not holding hands – and say, “Wow. I think that couple just broke up.”

Anime Pet Peeves

inuyasha

I’ve recently had the opportunity to watch more anime and it’s been good for the soul. It brings me back to simpler times in college when I had only $133 to my name but no real expenses to speak of after food. Hence, anime was the flaming garbage can I chose to dump a lot of my money into.

Over time that sort of lifestyle started to become increasingly unlivable. I mean, there was more and more money after I graduated (for reasons entirely unrelated to the diploma I received, I assure you). But the idea of spending three-quarters of my available funds on buying anime started to become more and more pathetic as I started making larger and larger amounts of money.

Not to mention the huge amount of debt (for reasons very much related to the diploma I received) I had to pay off every month.

But now anime is pretty much free to stream. (Cough, plug for Crunchyroll, cough.) So aside from that small cough, things are good here.

On the other hand, anime is a bit of an emergent property – a larger whole that isn’t obvious from its smaller pieces. Adorably stupid characters become infuriating after thirty episodes. Overpowered characters are obviously going to be the solution to any problem after you see them do just that for the tenth time. In short, you may want to think twice about binge-watching anime. Like cheese, what’s pleasant in small chunks might become essentially indigestible in large enough amounts.

Anyway, you know the drill by now. Bold first sentences. Supporting evidence. Let’s do this.

Relationships that never progress. Pretty much every series feels obligated to have a relationship these days. Even in cases where an ancient evil is on the verge of breaking out of its magical seal and bringing about the end of the world. I mean, we need to reach the top of the Mountain of Spirits in the next four hours or else fire will rain from the sky until the end of time, but you know…let’s have a filler episode where the girl takes the hero shopping and she’s not sure whether it’s a date or not.

I’ve made my peace with these, no matter how tacked on they feel. But you’d think there’d occasionally be some sort of resolution. Nope. For the most part, any time a couple seems to actually be progressing there’s some misunderstanding or a one-episode villain who steals a kiss or a fog that gets everyone drunk and they’re so embarrassed of confessing their true feelings that it sets them back again. And we’re stuck in a holding pattern until the main character’s undead ex-girlfriend dies all over again.

I actually started that paragraph speaking in a general sense, but by the end, I’m pretty sure I was just talking about “Inuyasha.” Wow. Through almost 200 episodes and four movies, the closest thing we got to romantic progress was a non-canon movie kiss.

Granted, depending on your interpretation of the ending, Inuyasha and Kagome eventually got married, but that was a pretty long walk for a thirty second payoff.

And speaking of not knowing how to resolve things…

Series that don’t know how to end. Maybe they knew how in the beginning. Maybe they had a good idea where they were headed. But by episode 800, it’s pretty clear that their actual intent is to wait until the Sun goes red giant and vaporizes the Earth, thus ending it all for them.

I don’t mind long series. In fact, I’ve rather enjoyed a number of series with an upwards of 26 or 52 episodes of very rewarding story. Both the “Fullmetal Alchemist” series were over 50 episodes. “Yu Yu Hakusho” was pretty great, too, and that was well north of 100.

“Case Closed,” on the other hand, is currently sitting around 832 and is as close to ending as it was fifteen minutes through the first episode. (The creator mentioned having an ending in mind, but that was in 2007 so I’d take it a grain of salt.) Even if it ended tomorrow it’s build itself up so far that no outcome could be worth the wait. It would be like your parents giving you nothing for Christmas for 17 years in a row. By that point you’d probably just give up on the whole mess or (more likely) assume you were Jewish.

Series with a perfectly good ending and then they just kept going. I get it. Money is a thing. And writers and artists tend to get more by continuing a series than they would by stopping and holding out their hands to random passersby on the street.

The classic example was “Dragon Ball Z.” Depending on who you ask, it was originally planned to end earlier or much, much earlier. As a result we slogged onto a few different planets, through a few more enemies who absorbed people to become stronger and what felt like seven or eight years of “Dragon Ball GT.” And say what you want about the material that followed, it’s always best for a series to end on its own terms on a high note than to be run into the ground.

A more recent example (specifically of the “running into the ground” variety) was “Bleach.” Despite having a perfectly good ending after our hero gave up his powers to defeat the enemy-turned-god-turned-butterfly-turned-god-again, they decided to head into another long training arc where he regained his power on the way to continuing his adventures. Only…he didn’t. Sure. I mean, he got his powers back, but with the sudden end of the series immediately after, it was a lot of run-up for a very short jump.

Or, maybe more accurately, a stumble directly onto its face.

Oh, and this crossed my mind while I was writing this, so consider it a bonus. It’s not technically a problem with anime itself. But it did come up an awful lot while I was trying to finish a few of the longer series that hadn’t finished getting dubbed yet.

Starting a series in one language, then switching to another. This isn’t a question of whether the original Japanese or English voice actors are better. Like the reddish stream running behind the local Pepsi bottling plant here, that’s an argument I just don’t feel like wading into at the moment.

(For me personally, it depends. Having a kid means it’s nice to watch subtitled anime when he’s around during the occasional flurry of f-bombs. And other times, well, if I wanted to read I’d get a book. Or, more likely, I’d get an audiobook so history’s most pleasant British people could read it to me.)

In any case, there’s something just fundamentally wrong with the characters switching voices in the middle of a series. Recently I tried watching “Cowboy Bebop” in the original Japanese. After listening to Steve Blum nail Spike Spiegel over the past twenty years, it’s weird to hear some other guy’s voice coming out of his mouth. It would be like your mom suddenly having a new voice when you woke up one morning. And also, she was speaking Dutch.

Unless she started out as Dutch and…well, you get my point.

Since I’ve been watching a lot more new anime as it comes out recently, I tend to watch more of it in Japanese first with English subtitles. And yes, it’s just as weird the other way. I tried watching some of it translated and it feels like everyone is talking in slow motion or something.

Also, people scream differently in English versus Japanese. You’d think being terrified would have the same sound no matter where in the world you were. Then again, you’d be just as surprised looking at one country’s list of animal sounds compared to another’s. What does the rooster say? Kikiriki? Like hell he does.

In the grand scheme of things I realize it’s a minor nitpick, but aren’t they all, really?