I was sitting at the bar with my friends (as usual) when someone tapped me on the shoulder. Not the kind of light tap meant to instill some sort of soft conversation about, “Hey, how are you?” But the kind of tap that would imply some sort of animosity. You know, the two finger double tap that is basically a jab into the shoulder.
“Hi, Pilar!” I turned around. Yet again, my eyes glossed over some grizzled white face that brought up only a modicum of facial recognition in my brain.
“Oh, hey. How are you?” I feigned, unsure who this person was or what he wanted.
“Oh, I’m good, you know, living life.”
“How are you? Oh, wait, how’s *** doing?” *** in this case referring to a friend of mine with whom I used to cavort around the city, getting wasted at house parties and various relevant bars three years ago.
“Oh, she’s fine.” It’s starting to click in. Ah, yes, this is her abusive exboyfriend. Yes. This is last guy she dated before she stopped hanging out, stopped going to bars, stopped going to parties. The last guy before she went back to school, met some nice guy, had a baby and moved to the suburbs. Yup. That guy. The one who pulled her into a massive vortex of alcoholism and psychological warfare, and we would chat about it all day on Facebook while I was pretending to do my job.
“Oh, oh yeah? I mean, I guess she’s fine. She, like, has the baby and that boyfriend now. She looks like she’s found true happiness.”
“Yeah, she is really happy now.” I’m not quite sure what this guy is trying to get out of this interaction with me, but it’s painfully obvious that even after the relationship has been over for three years, he thinks that approaching his exgirlfriend’s old party buddy in a bar is going to – what? Make her break up with her boyfriend and abandon her baby to be with him? Because I see what he’s doing here. It’s a bold move, really, and one that probably takes a lot of alcohol and self delusion to execute. He thinks that I’m dumb enough to hit up my friend and tell her that her exboyfriend came up to me in a bar to talk about her. But that’s not going to happen, because I don’t talk to her every day anymore, and, um, she has a kid, so she probably has more important things to think about.
“Yeah, well, that’s great for her that she found true happiness out there in the suburbs. I’m sure she’s going to be real happy for the rest of her life.” He’s saying it like its a pejorative, or like I’m supposed to laugh and say, “Yeah, she’s so delusional!” But I just sit there and look at him with a blank smile, feeling slightly like an ad hoc therapist allowing a spur of the moment patient to unleash his psychotic babble on me. Let me coax your ego by smiling and nodding and letting you say your piece.
“Well, I’m just glad that she’s happy now. And you? What have you been up to?”
“Oh, you know, living in Alameda,” blah blah blah. I’m trying to disarm his diatribe with niceness, because I certainly don’t want to sit here and watch someone else’s pathetic attempt at finding a way to sneak back into his exgirlfriend’s thoughts. I know that, ideally, he wants me to run back and tell her about this gory conversation we’re having so that it can conjure up memories of their good old days together (they weren’t that good, she wasn’t that happy). And that will make her abandon her current life, but what he doesn’t realize is that he’s doing it wrong. She’s won this argument, over and over again, with the age old, sure fire tactic of: actual happiness. Because isn’t that what any ex doesn’t want you to have? Real happiness without him (or her) in your life? I see this, and I smile, and I nod, and I find a way to pleasantly break off the conversation before getting back to my friends.
“What the fuck was that?” they ask.
“You don’t even want to know.”
If anything, I only want to reaffirm that my friend is actually happy with her new life. She doesn’t seem like the type of person to get petty satisfaction out of knowing that her exboyfriend is still, three years later, rambling on about her at various bars around town. Although, as someone who has been an ex several times, there is a little bit of sick pleasure that comes from knowing that your ex is still suffering with you in his mind.