Sunday, May 31, 2009

When a Friend Gets Dumped

<span class=Rincon Park and Cupid's Span in the Embarcadero Image via Wikipedia

I just made a reservation for next Saturday at one of the more exclusive restaurants on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. We've been there only once before, and it was painful experience in what seemed to be a very pleasant restaurant, but we were so busy at the emotional buffet we really were not able to experience the restaurant.

It seemed nice. It was certainly a serviceable background for domestic drama.

A friend of us wanted us to meet this guy with whom she had been having a long-distance relationship for a couple years. She thought she might be ready to let the thing move forward.

Not make it. Let it.

The relationship was angled forward, we were led to believe. All she had to do was take her foot off the brake and enjoy the view. Before I let the metaphor move us too far away from what I actually mean, I mean she thought it might be time to go to bed with him.

I found this immeasurably touching and quaint and possibly even wholesome, a woman in her 40s who had been spending time with somebody for over 18 months and who had not tumbled into bed, which is pretty rare, isn't it? Isn't that something people get out of the way early on to clear the air for conversation?

But our friend didn't, and her new guy maintained the relationship, asking her down south, taking her to nice places, even showing her off to his friends. So finally she thought maybe it was time to boldly go, etc. She said he was cute.

He was in town. She wanted us to meet him. I don't know if were we supposed to inspect him or he was supposed to inspect us or if it was just a box in a checklist.

Intimacy (sexual) ... Check
Friends (meet) ... Check
Friends (replace) ... Check

I assumed that if he didn't like us, we'd be checked off, which seemed reasonable to me. If were turned out to be baggage, so be it. But until our vetting was over and our fate determined, I figured our job was to bend the conversation -- either clumsily or deftly but certainly persistently -- around to our friend. If we were categorized as dim but loyal, that would be okay.

But from the moment we sat down, we knew something was off. Our friend was relating to him, but he wasn't relating to her. She was talking about him, but he wasn't talking about her. It devolved into that default man thing where the guys *joust* with one another over credentials and accomplishment, that combination of one-up and put-down that I do less than some people. But I do do it.

After the meal came all these promises about how we were going to keep in touch -- why do people do that? Since we are never ever going to see one another again, let's pretend that's not the case! We exchange business cards. Farce. Farce.

He walks away, and our friend tells us it's over, something she learned I guess that day. He's got a new girlfriend down south. They never did make it into bed. (She tells my wife later, not me.)

Of course, what I want to know is if she regrets that. There's a lesson in there somewhere. There's relief or there's disappointment or an insight for next time.

But that's a question I wouldn't be comfortable asking, though I would like to know the answer. If I'm ever going to be a novelist rather than just a journalist, I really do need to start understanding people.


Lowell said...

If you want to be a novelist just string together a collection of great episodes, like this one, into a plot. Wow, very moving and well told. Careful that Garrison Keillor's staff doesn't lift this for the news from...

....J.Michael Robertson said...

Well, thank you. You're right. Let the mystery remain.