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Episode Three: “Two can be undone by three / But it only takes one shot.”
In J.D. Salinger’s classic novel Catcher in the Rye, the main character Holden Caulfield offers a final piece of advice: “Don’t tell anybody anything.” There’s more to it than that, but it’s that first bit that applies to what I learned from this whole situation. I don’t tell anybody anything anymore (these vignettes aside, obviously) because when you let people in, they can tell you certain things that affect your judgment. And once you let people in, everything changes – for better or for worse. For the purposes of this episode, I need to give everyone fake names or else it gets too confusing:
- Me = Hermione (obviously)
- The Worst Thing Who Ever Happened to Me = Ron
- The Woman Who Came Between Us = Lavender
- The Guy Who Came Between Us = Cormac
Cormac was another guy who was interested in me while I was falling helplessly and hopelessly in love with the worst thing who ever happened to me, now referred to as Ron. Cormac was friends with Ron; he occasionally worked in the building and they seemed to hang out a lot, especially during the spring. Cormac asked Ron about me. Ron later told me that he didn’t know what to say at first. We were texting about it, and I saw him type, then stop…then type, then stop. Clearly, he drafted some responses, but decided against those for various and indiscernible reasons, but then he told me that Cormac needed to pass the “Big Brother Test.” Big Brother? Like I was his little sister? That killed me. Had I been relegated to the friend zone so easily, so quickly?
But then I thought about it. People don’t drunkenly try to kiss their little sisters. Or unbutton their shirts. Or text until 2 am about anything and everything. And then Ron sent: “Even though I’m way cooler.” Cooler than who? Than Cormac? What did he want from me? So I thought I’d use Cormac to make Ron jealous, to force him to admit he had feelings for me. I texted Cormac and hung out with them a couple of times. Then, emboldened by the alcohol flooding his system, Cormac asked me on a date over the phone. He was with Ron and some others at the time, so I felt pressured to say yes. I couldn’t turn him down when he was surrounded by older, male friends. And what was the harm in one date? But right after I accepted, the phone was passed to Ron, who demanded to know what I was doing. Like an idiot, I played it like I was too cool to care. I should have told him. I should have told him everything. But I was scared of rejection. I was scared of my own feelings. He called me drunk later that night and we talked until nearly three in the morning and still, I didn’t say anything.
Cormac and Ron were hanging out and they were both texting me. Cormac knew I was answering messages from Ron while ignoring his and still, nobody said anything real to anyone.
Simultaneously, Ron was fielding interest from another woman; we’ll call her Lavender. I can’t say much other than she has quite the dramatic and tragic tale of woe herself. But he told me he wasn’t interested in her. He even blew her off to come hang out with me. He talked to me about her. He promised me that if he was ever interested in anyone that I’d be the first to know. But Lavender’s father was close to Ron, and helped sort of fling the two of them together. She was older and more experienced, so I guess she was assertive and not as much of a chickenshit as I am. She let him know she was interested while I tried to act indifferent. So when he told me he was looking for his future wife, I didn’t say anything. If Ron wasn’t going to be honest, than neither was I. I thought I was following his lead.
At the end of it, Cormac and me and Ron and Lavender all ended up on a double date. I sat next to Cormac, who was obnoxiously drunk by the time arrived, and across from Ron. He wouldn’t look at me. He wouldn’t talk to me. I did my best to be my usual, happy-go-lucky, entertaining self. Back in the nearly empty parking lot, I sat and screamed in my car. I sobbed the whole way home. This wasn’t where I wanted to be. Why didn’t I say anything? Ron gave me an opportunity that night, when he texted me to ask if I got home safe. I should have unloaded, told him what a shit I thought he was because he swore they weren’t dating and there I was on their first date. I should have told him I made a mistake. I should have told him so many goddamn things. But it was more important, apparently, for me to be cool. I told him I got home safe and that was it. Using Cormac to try and make Ron jealous was stupid and narcissistic and in the end, I guess I got exactly what I deserved.
The second part of Holden Caulfield’s final statement from the novel Catcher in the Rye says, “If you do, you start missing everybody.” And that’s true. Because I miss him. But I miss him as he was, and we can’t go back.