(Note from S: I'm e-mailing this post. I'll go in and add links to old posts later!)
I was talking to the Relief Worker on my way to sushi with the girls last night when B called. I ignored his call and returned it a few minutes later. He invited me to dinner with some friends and I told him I'd meet them for a drink after dinner since I was in route to sushi.
Before I put my phone away, I noticed that I had a voicemail. It was from B, obviously let while I was talking to the Relief Worker.
He said: "S, it's B. We're going to dinner at [Popular Restaurant and Bar]. It's me and Best Guyfriend and Other Woman and her friend. Come meet us."
Other Woman! I almost swerved my car into oncoming traffic.
Some backstory – I met B. We got along. We had long talks over beer. We had fun at bars. We kissed. And kissed some more. And then BAM! He's seeing this girl. (I call her Other Woman.) She's been friends with him for awhile; he really has liked her for, like, four years or something ridiculous like that. He doesn't want me to interfere with that. I can understand, but am still obviously unhappy. Then there is still some kissing when drunk. All of our friends can't figure out why we aren't dating. Some think we are. This goes on for months. About a year later I find out that B wasn't dating Other Woman. Maybe he thought he was at some point, I don't know. Maybe he's a tool with no cahones so he lied to me. Maybe she was stringing him along (much as he was stringing me along) and he legitimately thought they'd get together. Suffice it to say they were hardly in the throes of deep, meaningful relationship. And by the time I found out about all of this, I'd made my peace with the B situation (for the time being, anyway) and we were friends and I didn't hate him so much and it seemed kind of silly to have a huge explosion of emotion. I'd just be his friend and move on. I thought. But I had never met Other Woman and I'd always been curious. (B keeps his friends segmented and few people cross groups – I have a little bit, but it has been a tough transition and many of his female friends were very standoffish with me at first.)
But back to last night.
So, I stop myself from causing a major wreck and call Best Friend Ever, who answers the phone, "I am about to get on a plane to go to Las Vegas and I am VERY stressed out right now."
"But I'm having a crisis! I need you!" I say.
She lets out an audible sigh. "Go ahead, what is the crisis?"
I tell her about Other Woman and B and dinner and I'm freaking out. "Do I go? I can't go! I hate her! I've never met her, but what if she sucks? What if she is wonderful? I can't go," I quickly shout, running a spectrum of emotions before she can interrupt me.
Best Friend Ever lets me stress for a few more moments. When I stop, she laughs.
"I do not know who is being more ridiculous here. You for acting like this is a big deal and flipping out or him for inviting you to dinner with her after all of this time," she said. "Go. You're curious. But be nice."
I had to admit she was right, both about me being ridiculous and me being curious.
The girls I was dining with agreed that I should meet B and the Other Woman after dinner for a drink, just to see. My very reasonable Banker friend said, "S, you shouldn't want her to be horrible and terrible. Because then you were blown off for someone horrible. You should hope she's wonderful."
My very emotional Party Girl friend said, "I hope she's ugly."
So, after sushi, I reapplied lip gloss, called my College Roommate to get her advice (I need a Task Force of people to weigh in on situations like these) and headed over to meet B and company. I thought I looked cute – black pants, a flowy lace top, pretty new purse and pointy-toe heels.
I scanned the restaurant, took a deep breath and joined their table.
She was nice. And cute. And friendly. And as much as I wanted her to be the worst person ever in the world, she seemed pleasant enough to be around. A bit naïve or possibly inexperienced and immature, but not a terrible, horrible mean woman.
She's the exact opposite of me. One of those naturally tiny girls who I imagine could eat everything in sight and not really have to work out much. She recoiled in horror when the guy sitting next to her, possibly a guy she's dating, pinched her side. "Stop grabbing my fat!" she gasped. I could work out six times a day and eat nothing but celery and I'd still not be so petite. (That's just life.) Pretty dark eyes and tan skin.
She played with my friend's Treo. She hung all over some guy that wasn't B, but it became pretty obvious that she wasn't hooking up with this guy. In fact, she hadn't even kissed him.
B rolled his eyes when this came to light. "Figures," he muttered under his breath. Obviously there was some unrequited sexual tension there.
We didn't have a lot in common. She's from a very small town. She didn't seem to have things to talk about except for shallow things people say when they're trying to make conversation. She talked on her phone and squealed that some boy had to come meet her to go out to a strip of College Bars. (She's not living here right now, I think.)
I text messaged Party Girl, "She's cute, but sort of dumb." (That was terribly mean of me. I know. I'm a bad person.)
Party Girl messaged back, "That's why he likes her and why you shouldn't ever like him."
I tried to engage in conversation. I don't know how well it worked. All I could think is, "We are so different. Polar opposites. How could he have liked both of us?"
But perhaps he didn't like both of us. Perhaps he only really liked her and I was just a friend he made out with a few times. And then self-doubt started creeping in. And I'm watching this girl flirt with the guy who's hanging on her who she hasn't kissed and I'm watching B react without trying to look like he's reacting and I'm starting to think that maybe she just likes attention from guys and doesn't really intend on having relationships with them.
She was drinking my favorite beer. A beer few people drink. It is smooth and dark with a sweet aftertaste. McEwan's Scotch Ale – a beer B and I discovered one of our nights exploring exotic beer at a local pub. We had never had it and we tried it and I was hooked. I abandoned my repertoire of cider beers for stouts and porters because of this beer. And B would drink it with me and when we were with a crowd he always pointed out how it was my favorite. It reminds me of nights we spent engaged in conversation at a bar. It is familiar.
Seeing her made me wonder about everything. About the flirtation and the beer and if any of it was real to B or if this was all just something I felt so strongly and wanted so badly that it mattered to me and me alone.
I had a McEwan's, engaged in small talk and ducked out before they went to another bar. I blamed this on an early meeting, but I really just didn't want to watch. I felt exposed and emotionally naked and I wanted to be in my bed, alone, beneath my down comforter, away from friendly girls and a guy I'd been over the moon in love with.
College Roommate e-mailed me this morning to find out what had happened. I sent her a scathing e-mail that was really unfair to the Other Woman and pretty much everyone else in the situation.
She wrote back that she thought that I was over this. "Good Lord," she wrote.
I want to be. I am. I've been with other guys. And I always relapse when I don't have someone else to obsess about.
I just want a friendship with B that is like the McEwan's we so often drink – refreshing and rich, yet smooth and interesting. Different, but still familiar and comforting.
Unlike the beer, the aftertaste of this drawn-out flirtation isn't so sweet.