Mirror Match (Part III) Broken Glass and Sturdy Roots

Mirror Match Part I: You Handsome Devil
Mirror Match Part II: A Crack in the Mirror

I sleep at home for the next few days.  Our conversations are thin and strained.  I’m sorting through my emotions trying to figure out how much did I drunkenly imagine, and how much is just my heart’s hyperbolic exaggeration.  I can’t trust my feelings until I talk to her, like really talk to her.  We make plans later on that night and that’s when I finally broach the subject:

“Did you and Cro-Magnon ever have a thing?”

“That would be silly.”  She replies, laughing anxiously.  That’s not an answer.

“Did you guys ever hook up?”

“Why would you think that?”  Answering a question with a question.

“Honestly?” I press her.  Did you fuck him?  

“No.” she gnaws on her lip nervously.

I pause.  The tell-tale signs are all there.  I already know the answer without having to ask again.  But it’s important that she tell me the truth.  One lie is the gunshot at the top of the mountain that sends an avalanche of everything else tumbling down, burying skiers and baby mountain goats under a thick, smothering blanket of “I call bullshit”. 

“Now is the time to be honest.  While we’re just getting started.  I mean, I like you and I don’t care.”

Clumsly.  Stupid.  Words.

I wince internally as I say it.  The worst feeling for a writer, delivering a product knowing the revisions would’ve been so much better.  When I really meant to say:

If you can tell me what this is, or what it was I can cope with it.  I can understand it.  I can deal with it.  I’m not judging you; we all have our history and our hang-ups. When you lie to me, my imagination runs wild.  And my imagination is a huge expansive space.  And you’re fucking him in there.  Like in a whole bunch of positions, all over your furniture, and my happiness.  Your honesty here determines our chance for anything months and years from now.  So tell me what we both already know, so I’m not fighting shadows.  

But that never came out.  And neither did the truth.   In the weeks to follow, I could see Him everywhere.  On her Facebook, on her phone, in her text messages, in everything she did and everywhere else.

Right now I am good-natured and stoic, able to weather these insecurities.  But these tangled roots run deep.  How much time with the shovel and weedkiller will it take to make Him go away?  What type of victory will it be with calloused palms and poisoned lungs?  I want to build a future, not excavate a past.  

So I quit.

She could never be my Fish with someone else’s hook still in her mouth.  Catch and release.

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Mirror Match (Part II): A Crack in the Mirror

Mirror Match Part I: You Handsome Devil

Her place is furnished in shades of gray: black and white shoji screen doors, battle-ship iron curtains and sheets, and hand towels and pillow cases cloned  from my linen closet.   Even her pile of clothes on the floor, the exact same tangle of muted earth-tones that adorn my body.  We are two souls cut from the same colour palette.  Where her world ends my world quickly begins.

We spend our nights drinking whiskey and wine, out and about so much so we start to know Uber drivers on a first-name basis.   We spend our mornings in her bed hiding from the sunlight, our bodies tangled and curled around each other.  As the sun creeps higher in the sky we’re propped up on pillows our fingers mashing our phones as we Clash our Clans side by side.  She paints my toenails bright ruby red while we’re sitting on her couch watching House of Cards, branding me as off limits to any other woman who might see me barefooted and toes-curling.  And I’m okay with it.  I’ve all but resigned myself to this lifestyle, and the slowly blurring lines between me and her.

Everything is going great.  Until that fateful night we hung out with her friends.  I’d heard stories about most of them, the flamboyant best friend, the supporting cast of kooky co-workers, and that one guy who likes her.

– – – –

Her friends were friendly and forthcoming, with quickly lubricated first impressions within a few rounds.  I start to imagine a future with these people: beach days and barbecues, surprise birthdays and that one big celebration where she wears the white dress and I dress up like a James Bond penguin… but I digress.  I am ready and willing to assimilate fully into her world.  We wandered, quick-comrades from one bar to the next, and that’s when I met–  him.

He was a cro-magnon of a man, someone who might’ve been able to brute force his way into girl’s panties in grade school, but now as adults, his kind were quickly going extinct; hunted to the ends of the earth and replaced by men of words and thought, ambitions and dreams beyond “gym and drugs” and “pose in selfies trying to look, thug”  and you could tell he liked her– a lot.

Cromagnon

Somehow this Cro-magnon managed to pull her away from me.   The second they made eye contact she strolled right up to him and smacked him right across the face, then proceeded to argue like a pair of over-emoting Sims:

sims
(come to think of it, this picture is pretty accurate)

I was left to make small talk with her clique of friends I just met less than a half-hour ago.  Granted, and I’m a moderately proficient conversationalist given the right dosage of alcohol and necessity, but it was unnerving to abandoned so quickly into the night.

She and Cro-magnon come back to the table after what seems an eternity of being left adrift.  I’m curious, who is this man that is able to draw so much of her scorn?  I get my answer right away.  He’s a one-upper and a boaster.  Any story told, somehow he’s got to tell a bigger one, in a way that makes him sound amazing, usually at the expense of someone else.  He also calls women, “feee-males”   as in “I was talking to this feee-male…” or “I was getting freeaky with this feee-male”  or “This feee-male was super into me…” (and yes unfortunately, those three stories happened, consecutively)

She smiles over at me and holds my hand, as if to say, ‘yeah I get it, this guy is scum but he’s my friend so we need to put up with him’.  We’re on the same page and our lines blur again.  It’s not just me seeing this.  But in a few minutes he has her pulled off to the side again, and they argue for another half an hour.  And I am left to fend for myself again.

This is weird.  Very weird,  fuckin’ weird.
(Aaand that’s my second Rent quote in the Mirror Match Saga)

Her best friend ends up apologizing to me.  Not ‘I’m sorry this doesn’t normally happen’, or ‘I’m sorry something big just came up which is why they are arguing’  it’s more like… ‘I’m sorry this is how our world is’

– – – –

The night is coming to a close, and I’ve been stuck amongst her friends for most of the evening.  She and Cro-magnon resurface again.  Good, we’re getting the hell out of here.   As we’re walking out of the bar through the parking structure, Cro-Magnon is telling her to punch him, which she does with great satisfaction.  Can I get in on that action?

She and I are ready to take our Uber home, when Cro-Magnon insists we all pile into his little Nissan.  Under the guise of a chivalrous gentleman, and he wants to give us a ride home.  I’m too tired to argue at this point.  We all pile in, she on my lap, and his punky friends.  And we get out at her place, and they all pile out.  I guess we’re all going in.

I get up to use her restroom, and I can hear his muffled voices:

“What a scrub.  You think I should give him cracks?”  I hear Cro-Magnon through the bathroom door.  “Just my left hand, 50% powah.”

“Stop…”  I hear her giggle.

“Wat?  I won’t hurt him… that much.”

You’re going to let him talk about me like that?  

I wash my hands and exit the bathroom.  He is still sprawled out across her couch, with her sitting about five feet away, cross legged in the middle of the floor.  I wrap my body around her and give her a solid kiss on the cheek before lowering myself to the ground with my head in her lap and the rest of me curled around her like a snake on the branch.

“How long have you guys been friends?”  I ask him, trying my best to sound innocuous and friendly.

“A couple years.” he mutters.

“That’s a long time.”  Do I like her?  Or do I want to beat  him?  I can’t tell the difference anymore.

“We just met, what… three weeks ago, babe?” I’ve never called her babe before.  “…and we just hit it off so well.” I give her bottom a playful slap.  I watch him shift uncomfortably.  Babe.  I used it with her for the first time as a weapon.  Something about this feels unhealthy. “We were just strangers, and now look at us.”  I give her a gentle kiss.

“It’s funny you guys never dated.”  I turn my head up to look at him.  I watch his face darken, his eyebrows furrowing downwards like two clenched monkey fists.   The implication of course, is she never wanted to date you.   She glares at me. It’s too late.  I’ve endured him too much.  All night of his sorry ass kidnapping my date, and story after self-aggrandizing story inflating his ego like a balloon, and I am ready to be the sharp prick.  My mouth is already on this unstoppable trajectory of attack.  “I suppose once a girl decides you’re just a friend there’s really no escaping that.”

balloonpop

“What do they call it babe?”  I poke her playfully.  She wants no part.  She ignores me and focuses on the soft glow of the television.  “Y’know where you’re in that zone of just being friends….”  I tap my chin in mock contemplation.

“Ah, friend zoned.”

He rises from his sitting position.  I think he might strike me, while I’m lying here sprawled in her lap.  If he hits me, he kills the snake and snaps the branch in one fell swoop.

“Goin’ out to smoke.”  He says.  And leaves.

“You shouldn’t antagonize him.”  she scolds me.

“You should stick up for me.”   This is our first fight.

She’s quiet.

Which means she won’t.

Mirror Match Part III: Broken Glass and Sturdy Roots

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Mirror Match (Part I): You Handsome Devil

I’ve often wondered what would ever happen if I encountered myself on the dating scene.  I mean not me exactly, but a female version of me, without the mustache, preferably.  Because I am a self-loathing narcissist, just as likely to curl my nose in contempt at the sight and sound of me, as pat myself on the back for being absolutely amazing’ in every possible way.

Mirror Match
Round one, Fight!

Our first date was not going well.  She had this lack-luster lackadaisical expression on her face as our conversation lulled and lagged un-customarily.  I found myself struggling for material as each avenue of exposition in my dating expedition was summarily cut short.  She was efficient, rounding her words into concise blocks rather than that sprawling-drawling mass of conversation I’d become so used to on first dates.  Most girls love talking about themselves–  she didn’t.   And all my best bouncing questions and spinning anecdotes fell skittering, scattering, clattering to the floor.   Like the prelude to a good boss fight with no save point in sight.

So I poured more shochu into her glass to cover the vast expanse of silence, and I began to think, maybe she thought trying to get her drunk (which I was), so I just kept pouring for myself.  And when I ran out of things to say I would drink, and then pour and pour again to negate the empty space between her ice cubes.  And soon I was unexpectedly and unequivocally– drunk on a first date.

There are two things I never talk about on a first date: Politics and the second amendment. Women go into a first date with a sense of fear and trepidation; meeting up with a stranger is everything Mom n’ Dad warned us not to do as kids.   Tell that same frightened girl who is forming her very first impressions of me, I own firearms and shoot as a hobby, and I  might as well tell her I have a pit in my basement where I keep my victims before skinning them and wearing their flesh.

It rubs the lotion
it rubs the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again…

I avoid that conversation for as long as possible, so she has as much time to see how even-keeled and non-murdering I am.  Shooting guns is usually fun fourth or fifth date, just the right amount of excitement and “oh he’s teaching me new things”  I put my arms around her and fix her form, like we’re Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, but instead of molding clay we’re slinging molten lead at three thousand feet per second.  It’s a rush.  And four dates gives me enough time to weed out the crazies so I know she’s not going to go all Eddie Ray Routh on me.  But I digress.

– – – –

So this date is sinking as I’m already clinging to the last big piece of door in the middle of the freezing Atlantic.  I know at any moment this chick’ is going to kick’ me off and find some reason to go home.  We’re talking about her hobbies and then it happens, almost as an afterthought squeezed between a bunch of gray-colored platitudes:

“I like hiking, and hanging out with friends, going to the shooting range every once in a while…”

My ears instantly perk up, like a dog hearing that magic four letter word: W-A-L-K.

“Wait, you shoot?”

“I shoot.”

(computer age, philosophy)

The best way I can describe this moment is this: Imagine it’s Halloween, and you decide to dress up as your favorite character. Now this is not some off-the-rack store bought piece of crap you can just go out and buy; no, this is something you actually put some time and effort into making.  Now imagine you’re out and about at whatever party or public gathering you decide to go to, and you see somebody dressed as one of the characters in that same obscure show.  Barnacle Boy meets his Mermaid Man, Jay finds his Silent Bob. You don’t know them; they don’t know you.  But in that moment you are kindred spirits joined across the vast sea of humanity in your mutual affinity and love for the canon of your show.  Entire squads of storm troopers are assembled at Comicon based on this phenomenon.

It’s being a minority in a sea of majorities and despite all odds encountering someone like yourself:
Black Hockey Player
“Is that my reflection… or is that really another black hockey player?”

Our date revitalizes with new energy and vigor.  Her voice raises and  her eyes sparkle as we talk:

“What do you shoot?”

“I’ve got an AR-22; I can get quarter sized groupings at 50 yards.”

“That’s awesome.  I’ve got a Ruger 10/22 with a couple BX 25 rounder mags.  Not quite zeroed in but I’m working on it”

As far as the world around us is concerned we could’ve been speaking Dothraki.  We’re in our own little bubble,with our own language.  The bar around us fades into nothingness.  This one common cord has lowered countless other walls, like all the fences in Jurassic Park suddenly lost power, allowing our primal emotions to spill out and devour Newman and that shitty lawyer guy.  Our conversation becomes unfettered and free, countless-confessions followed by her shrill and excited:

“Oh my God, me too!”

Or my equally excited, but slightly lower timbre’d:

“Oh damn, I totally do that too!”

The shochu disappears, no longer down awkwardly closed gullets, but because we’re talking so fast and laughing so hard and the moisture from our lips needs to be constantly replenished.  I have found my Fish, my complimentary piece.  At thirty, I have found my peace.

…or so I thought.
Mirror Match Part II: A Crack in the Mirror

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