Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Tipping Over a Coke Machine: A Story of Closure on 14th Street

Perched on a swivel stool at the end of an old-fashioned lunch counter with a dry chocolate glazed donut in front of me intently concentrating on swirling a cup of hot chocolate grasped with both hands, I had doubt.
He had apologized. He finally admitted that he said some hurtful things that he did not believe were true. His eyes were sincere and pleading. I was stoic, emotionless. But inside I wondered. How much easier would it be to give in? I stared ahead at the trays of donuts wondering how long they had sat there under the flourescent lights. It is after 11 pm, do they really make donuts only during pre-dawn hours even at a 24 hour Donut Pub? He picked at my donut and commented on how dry it was. I looked away from him and down the long counter at the other people enjoying their late-night donut fix. Their conversations were light and airy, I could feel the weight of mine even as he touched my leg and then my side playfully, trying to reclaim what we so briefly had. Was I being unreasonble and unrelenting - stubborn? Am I missing an opportunity out of pride? I gave him opportunities, I made the right choice. He questioned that and said "there is no one in New York City I would rather be with." I didn't budge. With a sigh he stood up and took out his wallet and removed 2-3 bills and dropped them on the counter and left. After all of tonight's persistence and everything he had endured to talk to me, he had submitted to defeat. It was really over.

* * * *
How did we end up at the Donut Pub on 14th Street late Monday night? I reviewed the night in my head as I slowly asked for the bill, paid and walked out into the chilly night air wondering if he would be waiting outside the door. He wasn't. This was one of those nights I half-expected to see a camera crew filming a snippet of the drama of my life, but this wasn't scripted.
At the church around the corner I played Family Feud host - I was loud and obnoxious and the center of attention for a room of more than 60 singles. While I was pushing people for answers and yelling "Survey Says" and making a hideously obnoxious buzzer noise for wrong answers - I saw him enter the room. I didn't think he would show up. I continued outwardly unphased. To make things more awkward, in walked his ex-girlfriend and her friend who had given me a warning to "be careful" a month or so ago, of what I'm still not sure.
When the game ended I tried to mingle but I didn't want a confrontation with him or the warning girls. I bounced between a few conversations. Several times I thought he had left, only to discover he was still there, waiting for me. I organized the clean-up and gladly accepted an invitation to grab dinner near by with a few girls. As I was walking out with the bishop's wife, the Boy tried to pull me back to talk but I was propelled along with others and the momentum of my conversation and I successfully evaded him.
On the street 15-20 people were lingering. My dinner friends were leaving and called out to me to hurry up because they were hungry. I trotted off after them. I asked if he was following and I felt like an immature school girl for avoiding him. I know how that hurts but I was caught up in it. I didn't want another fight. I didn't want more accusations and I didn't need to be told things I was doing wrong. A couple of the girls knew about the short-lived relationship and the ending. They confirmed that he was not following and suddenly the conversation as we walked was all assurances from them that I didn't have to talk to him - I was justified in ignoring and avoiding him. Yet I still felt a twinge of guilt. We rounded the corner and made it to the next block - one girl wanted Gray's Papya, the rest of us wanted a diner. Immobilized by indecision we stood on the corner sorting it out while the one girl got her hot dog and we looked for a diner. Another girl decided to run across the street to get cash from a bank atm and after she left I decided to do the same - it also allowed me to stop answering questions about the Boy. I shouldn't trash him, that isn't fair. I shouldn't vent so publicly.
I broke away and dashed across the street. Steps away from reaching the sidewalk, I recognized the three figures lingering at the top of the subway entrance - the Boy and two others from the activity. I panicked! I couldn't turn around but I couldn't talk to him there, not like that, not with those two other guys there. What do I do? I quickly walked past them and into the ATM vestibule to find my friend there and we laughed at the irony and wondered what to do in leaving. Would they still be there? I confessed that I felt bad and told her I needed to grow up and have some respect for his feelings. I felt bad for ignoring his calls and then brushing him off so brutally.
We walked out and chatted with the boys - before we could stop it they had invited themselves to get food with us. As we rejoined our group on the other side of the intersection we were met with startled looks. Yes, the one person I was avoiding is now joining us. Our newly expanded group of 8 found a diner and sprawled across a couple of tables pushed together and reviewed the voluminous menu offering everything from kebabs and pasta to pancakes and wine. I had no appetite but ordered a grilled cheese with tomato. The Boy initially tried to take the seat next to me and changed his mind and sat across the table. Another guy I took a group trip with last 4th of July took the seat next to me. He flirted with me and I shamelessly flirted back. Then regretted it and tried to include the Boy and establish a norm between us. He reached out to my friend. It was awkward. I felt thrust back in time to those high school and college days when a massive group would descend upon the local all-night Dees or Village Inn and order water and fries because only one person was really hungry. A rowdy group with supressed drama.
As we were all leaving the Boy asked to talk to me. I told him I had promised to take a cab with someone. Out on the sidewalk as everyone said their goodbyes he stood close by my side, even brushing up against me. He then boldly told my friend that he needed to talk to me and asked if she minded that we didn't share a cab. Her face was shocked and confused as she walked back to the subway. I was surprised, I didn't know what he was going to say. I didn't know what I was going to say. But I didn't think anything he could say would effect my resolve.
With everyone gone I looked at him expectantly and he invited me to the McDonald's across the street so we could sit, a welcome invitation as I was in very high heels and carrying 3 bags - my usual far too heavy purse, my laptop and a projector from the Family Feud. I passed the two heavier bags to him without his invitation and followed him. This particular McDonald's did not have what he wanted because it is "Express." I didn't want anything, I hadn't wanted the grilled cheese from the last stop. We stood on the street in the wind and he started talking but it was cold, my feet hurt and we were near a dark corner that smelled like urine. So we ended up on stools at the Donut Pub.

Ironically, in book-end fashion, the night ended one block from where our first date ended only I felt cold instead of floating. It is true, breaking up is like tipping over a Coke machine, you have to rock it back and forth a few times before it will topple. I think it has finally toppled and hopefully our talk gave him the closure he needed. So why am I left with so many open questions?


tiff said...

I certainly don't have the answers to the unanswered questions, but I will say--This is some effing good writing!

Autumn said...

I agree! Even if things aren't going so great in the boy department, things are going fabulous in the writing department.

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