I stopped by the coffee shop after work to work on the November Novel (remember that, from almost a year ago?). I was distracted by the loud voice of a fellow with some rather ill-informed political views and the guy in front of me who was in the process of getting his heart broken.

The coffee shop was unusually busy, so I had to take a table facing the window. Just outside the window was a conversation between a man and a woman. Almost immediately I could tell something was wrong. His mannerisms while talking to her were almost exaggerated. His look was abrasive and hurt.

The guy was severely overweight. He was probably the most overweight person I’ve seen in my fifteen months in Estacado. He probably would have had difficulty fitting into two airline seats, much less one. She wasn’t thin, but her weight (far less considerable than his) appeared to me to be more firm. She looked like the sort of person that had a stocky Germanic build that she couldn’t turn into a trim figure so she figured to do some anaerobic exercising to make the most of what she was stuck with.

I am hard-of-hearing. One of the ways I compensate for that is lip-reading. I am half as likely to understand what someone is saying if I’m not looking at them. But I pretty much only read lips when I’m getting some sound. In this case I could only see and couldn’t hear a thing, so I could only catch part of what was being said.

I partially wish that there hadn’t been a window between us. If they could see me then I would have had to not watch and work on my book. On the other hand, maybe I would have just kept my eyes glued anyway.

He said that he loved her several times and he also appeared to be saying that she loved him, though I don’t know if he was saying that he knew she really loved him or perhaps that she had said so. He made a big presentation out of getting up from the table and walking to his car. She didn’t budge. He stole a couple glances backwards as he walked away, trying to see if she was going to try to stop him. She called his bluff and he returned to the table saying something about finishing this now.

Throughout the whole conversation she was pretty rock-faced. She didn’t look indifferent, but she looked decidedly unaffected. The further the conversation wore on, the bigger the ball of emotional goo the man became.

I’m not sure what the backstory was. I actually got the impression that it was something different than a standard breakup. My guess is that they didn’t actually date but that he really, really wanted to. I’d further guess that he saw her extra weight and thought that was something that they had in common even though the volume and type of weight was completely different. She looked like the kind of person that would befriend anyone and that was paying a price for it. Frankly, I have difficulty imagining the two of them actually dating. I have difficulty seeing anyone date the guy, but then again I saw him at a time when he wasn’t as his best (I wouldn’t want to be judged while my heart was getting broken).

It’s possible that they did date, but they almost certainly split up before this conversation. It came across more as Part Four In A Seven Part Series than the spontaneous combustion of a heart. This looked more like an attempt at closure. A failed one.

Perhaps one of the reasons I couldn’t take my eyes off her was that Eva and I broke up the second and biggest time in a coffee shop much like the one I was in. It was a Part Six in a Seven Part Series. We didn’t make the scene of it that this couple did. In fact, we chose a public place precisely for that reason. It wasn’t until she took a trip to the restroom that things fell apart. I remember something about Tom Ridge in the newspaper that I was looking at while she was gone. When she came out she was crying, so we decided to go shopping and spent the next hour or two shopping, avoiding while we were there, picking up some scented candles.

For the most part we were able to accomplish it with some dignity. The indignity came before and after. By the time we got to that parking lot, she and I were already over and we both knew it. The scene yesterday with the Big Fella was about a guy that hadn’t finished fighting yet. Even when they both went their separate ways, there was a look of “not over” in his eyes.

I remembered the same look from Julie when I split with her. She actually screamed at me once during the discussions “No! It’s not over!” I came really, really close to buckling. I wanted to tell her that whether I actually said it was over or not, the parts that mattered were definitely over and there wasn’t anything either of us could do about that. Though he remained defiant at their departure, I do hope that the Big Fella realizes to the extent that they had anything, the parts of it that mattered are over.

“How pathetic am I?” I saw him ask himself. Were I an actual part of that conversation, I would have told him that was a choice as much as a question.


Category: Downtown

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4 Responses to On A Concrete Block in Little Rock

  1. Spungen says:

    Wow. His story sounds a lot more pathetic than yours. 😉 That’s pretty insightful, the bit about how you figure they probably didn’t really date, but he wanted to. The fact that they were having to have that conversation in a public place bolsters that theory. If she’d been with the guy, he’d have had the opportunity to say all that stuff in private. When people will only interact you in public, it’s the next-lowest circle of over (or never) to no contact at all.

    I feel for her more than him though. I’ve been the chick in situations like that. Where the guy figures he ought to have gotten his way because of some disfavored characteristic I had, and he’s furious that I didn’t fall in line. And I didn’t have the status or the social support to be able to just shut him out of my life, so I had to submit to degradations like the lengthy, accusatory, manipulative public speeches. I generally didn’t take it in as dignified a manner as the girl you watched seemed to have.

    My feeling was it wasn’t really anything about love, or even like, but the guy wanting to *win*. If he couldn’t have his way, he was going to make me suffer any way he could.

  2. Spungen says:

    P.S. I can think of one situation like that where the guy was a relatively decent, attractive guy. I was 18 and he was 21. We were totally incompatible, but he was of Lebanese descent and something about big blondes seemed to exert an obsessive hold over him. He just wasn’t very bright — not stupid, but very average, and Republican in an extremely pompous and stodgy way. Those characteristics of his meant he couldn’t even *tell* we were incompatible because he couldn’t see what I was really like. He had no geekdar or freakdar.

    Anyway, how do you tell a guy you don’t want to be with him because he’s dumber than you are and you can’t stand to talk to him? You just can’t. So out of guilt, I endured speech after speech like the one you described.

  3. Spungen says:

    P.P.S. I remember once we were in a park, toward the end, and during one particularly lengthy speech I covered my ears, yelled, and shoved grass in my mouth in the hope it would disturb him enough to make him give up. It didn’t work.

  4. trumwill says:

    I think that we’re all a little bit more inclined to empathize with the position that we’ve been in. When I was young I was in his position at various points. That’s not to say that I couldn’t understand where she was coming from (I was the verbal punching bag when Libby was dealing with her frustrations), but I could definitely feel where he was coming from. For both of their sake, though I was glad that she didn’t appear to buckle. The other thing was that I could see his facial expression the whole time, but could only see hers depending on how she was sitting. I was getting more exposure to his plight than hers.

    The whole they-weren’t-really-dating speculation could be projection given some of the experiences I had in that regard when I was younger and more like the Big Fella, but I prefer to think that it’s more than I can recognize it when I see that, having been a party to it on a couple of occasions and having seen it more often. In my somewhat limited experience, it seems that the most difficult girls a guy has to deal with are the ones that they split up with, but the most difficult guys that a girl has to deal with are often the ones that they wouldn’t date to begin with. One factor, I think, is that if a guy isn’t interested in a girl that’s interested in him, he can pretend to be utterly oblivious and she is less likely to force the situation’s hand than a guy is. Or, as always, my experiences may be atypical.

    Eating grass? That’s absolutely hilarious. Made funnier by the fact that the guy still didn’t get it. I’d imagine that it wasn’t funny at the time, though.

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