I got an invite to a friend’s house to watch the Black Hawks take on the Sharks Sunday. Despite regular visits to Canada, I am not a hockey fan. But growing up in Chicago, you are entitled to be a temporary fan when your home team is winning. So when Rob sent the email, I thought it would be a safe place to watch history happen and opportunity to catch up with my old pal from high school. Sure thing, Rob! What can I bring?
Rob and I were close friends when we went to Glenbard East High School a long time ago. Never dated, but we confided in each other and had a similar sense of humor. As years have gone by we reconnected here and there, but now it’s effortless with social media and people throwing their status around like cheap meat. Rob is laying by the pool…Rob is going to Tuscon…Rob just baked cookies!!..Rob is now Single.
I met Rob’s girlfriend a couple times. She looked like a rock star’s model girlfriend, but with an incredible lisp. “Ith thoe nithe to meet you!” I could never tell if Rob was embarrassed or just didn’t hear it. Love is blind, right? Or deaf. Anyway, the thing that mattered was Rob seemed very happy, she seemed genuine, and God Bless him for overlooking something I would be immature and dump someone over. They moved into Rob’s condo after a mere 6 months of dating and all signs pointed towards that positive marriage path. Pictures were posted monthly with smiles and obvious fun in the back ground. I heard less and less from Rob, but that’s what happens when your guy friends get a lady friend.
Getting back to Sunday, Rob agreed I could bring some wine and appetizers. He also agreed I could bring my friend Amanda. Amanda recently had a break up as well, but seemed to be in a good place with it. When we arrived at Rob’s, I remembered too late that he likes to kiss on the lips. He even hugged Amanda, but she didn’t seem to mind. After a quick catch up, I asked for the kitchen so I could prep my appetizers. As Rob showed me down the hall, I became aware that there was a lot of noise coming from the kitchen. At first I thought other guests were preparing food until I was standing there with my mouth open staring at his ex-girlfriend on the floor packing in her jammies. Rob actually stepped over her box and said, “Carol, you remember my friend, Jane.” More of a statement than a question, she nodded and gave me a half smile. “Good to thee you again.”
The door bell rang and Rob excused himself to get the door nervously. In the next few moments, I decided I was in a terrible situation. So was Amanda and whoever was at the door. As loud male voices are heard from the living room, I asked if I would be in her way if I set up a cheese board. “Thute yourthelf, Rob doeth’nt have a board. That wath mine and ith packed.” Thankfully, Rob rushed back in and got me a plate and a few knives. I brought everything back into the living room to set up there and left Rob alone with Carol. As Amanda chatted up the testosterone in the room, I sat quietly putting out my Stilton, aged Gouda and Stinking Bishop. Poor Carol. She looked like she hadn’t showered or even washed her face yet today. What the hell, Rob.
And then it struck me. Not only was this a nasty surprise party for Carol in her jammies, but he allowed us to be pawns in his relationship drama.
The thing is, Rob isn’t that smart. I mean, he’s smart enough to do a job and have friends and can be clever occasionally with a joke, but he doesn’t have the brain to orchestrate something like this. He would go unconscious if someone asked him to plan this. Back in high school, when he confided in me about something sad in his life, it was almost like you needed a pull string in his back before he’d speak. Yep, my guess is he had no idea she would be packing today, but when he saw her in the kitchen wrapping wine glasses in paper and assembling boxes, he didn’t know how to ask if she could wait or how long it would take her to finish. He let the afternoon spiral into this mess.
Rob rejoined us in the living room, avoiding eye contact with me. I could still hear Carol banging things around but after we all settled into a conversation about Amanda’s new cottage in Door County, she seemed to calm down and was more careful. For a few minutes, I thought this might work out. Maybe Rob found his voice and apologized to Carol. Or maybe he offered to finish up for her later. Rob’s buddy, Tom was sharing his Memorial Day weekend plans when we all heard the distinctive sound of champagne being popped in the kitchen. Tom continued speaking, but Rob stood up looking confused. Then he shot down the hall to the kitchen.
Have you ever heard couples fight in public? They try to keep their voices down, but can’t help but snarl and raise their voices slightly. We all sat quiet quietly waiting for someone to remember what we were talking about, but couldn’t help hear that the bottle she opened was the bottle of Vueve Cliquet they were saving for a special occasion. “Thith ITH a spethal occasion! I finally don’t have to thleep on a futon anymore, you cheap inthenthitive bastard.” Rob returned after uttering something low to Carol and was all smiles… “Sorry guys! Drama!” I told Rob I thought it wasn’t a great time to visit. He completely misread my discomfort and told me Carol was fine and not to worry. I decided to go. Amanda stood up too after exchanging cards with Tom. I remembered I had laid down my sweater in the kitchen and excused myself to get it. There was Carol, still packing, but with a huge clear tumbler of bubbly. She said she was sorry about everything and asked how you split a bottle of wine? I told her I was sorry too. I wanted to tell her to just take all the wine, but instead gave a sympathy smile and wished her good luck.
On the drive home, I thought about a break up I had years ago and how painful packing was. Empty frames, yard sale treasures, even a stupid chip & dip bowl, Perfume bottles nearly have to go in the trash. To this day, I still want to heave when I smell White Linen. But a break up is necessary no matter how you look at it. If things aren’t right now, they won’t fix themselves magically after the kids and mortgage come. My guess is Rob and Carol were unhappy for a while and should have pulled the plug a while ago. Maybe she tried but didn’t know about the pull string on his back. Even with his handicap, relationship problems breed low self-esteem and I know it’s hard to discuss them when you’re in them.
I also think if I’m invited to a live show again, I prefer a comedy.