Most people, I think, would have distanced themselves
from the group. Even though they abetted Byron’s cheating through their
silence, I still hung out with them. By that point in my life, they had
supplanted almost everyone else with whom I had previously socialized. No
matter how hollow and harmful their companionship was, being alone seemed worse.
As such, in the earliest days of March, I went with them
to the movies.
A few minutes before the previews began, an unfamiliar
voice made an introduction. I glanced up from my phone and – from six seats
away and through the theater’s dim lights – could barely see the man who
presented himself to the group. We went down the row and gave perfunctory
greetings before resuming our conversations. Mel leaned towards me and
whispered that the silhouette had checked me out. I dismissed the claim as the
typical post-breakup ego boost that one gives their friends in such situations.
In the parking garage, I got a much better look at Chris.
He was Filipino, about my height, and his easily overlooked lip ring gave him a
slight suggestion of impishness. To judge from the tightness of his clothes,
most noticeably around his chest, the gym was a priority. As the group debated
whether to call it a night or go somewhere for dinner, Chris repeatedly glanced
in my direction. I disregarded the looks, figuring that it was much more
probable that I was growing a second head than it was that Chris might be
interested in me.
The group called an early end to the evening. Not more
than a minute after Chris had disappeared around a corner, I received a
Facebook friend request from him. This led to chatting and a formal date
several days later.
“So,” I began, looking down and stirring sugar into the
coffee I had ordered. “What are you doing in college?”
The question led Chris to a long soliloquy as to how he
felt that he had wasted the previous two years of his life attending a college
in the Midwest. He hated the area, he hated the weather, and he especially
hated how he felt that he had no direction in life. Returning to Hawaii, in his
mind, would allow him to tackle the lattermost issue at a more leisurely pace. Unfortunately,
many of his credits did not transfer, which meant attending a community college
was the most economical choice.
As the conversation progressed, his responses felt as
though I were consecutively finding matching bits in a thousand-piece puzzle. The
point of college? Whatever it is, it should at least involve an exploration of
one’s identity. The importance of looks? They fade, but character endures.
Thoughts regarding ostentatious displays of affection for your partner? That
may be fine for some couples, but it seems a bit insecure.
Later that month, on my birthday, he took me to Tantalus –
a popular mountain ridge that overlooks most of Honolulu. Since my time as a teen
and for a variety of complicated reasons relating to my father, I have preferred
that my birthdays pass as quietly as possible. Chris had spent most of the
evening after our classes finished behaving unremarkably.
We parked towards the end of the ridge, far from the
tourists taking their nighttime photos. When he told me to close my eyes, a
variety of thoughts ran through my head. Was he going to murder me? Had he
assembled the group in the darkness as an unwelcome surprise? Would he play
some sort of cruel prank by bringing out a tarantula that he kept as a pet?
It was a carrot cake purchased from Safeway with a single
This tenderness lasted as long as the birthday candle. A few days later, he became irate when I paid for the
dinner while he was in the restroom. I thought nothing of the gesture since we
had planned to meet the group and were running late, but I had apparently upset
the “balance of power” in the relationship. Of course, most people keep
informal tabs on who has paid for what. However, rather than let the “debt” be
repaid in a comparable amount during our next meal, he insisted that I take
cash perfectly equivalent to his portion of the bill.
I acquiesced to the demand since he refused to leave the
parking lot otherwise, but the scales had fatally tipped. Every action suddenly
became a calculation as to who owed what and to what degree. Bills required
precision to the penny. Every display of affection – no matter how small or
invisible to others – needed negation. Much like the
speed wobble of a skateboard going too fast, every rebalancing act just
made the tilt more dramatic.
Later in the month, we sat in the darkness of his car
parked in the corner of the dorm’s lot. In advance of his birthday, I had taken
him out to dinner and the coins from his share of the bill rattled in my
pocket. I was tired of feeling as though everything was a transaction and
demanded an explanation for his behavior.
“I don’t wanna feel like I owe someone something,”
he said. “I don’t like obligations.”
Although I do not think describing a relationship with
the word “obligation” is necessarily in poor taste, the tone suggested that
something else was clicking in his mind. “So what are you saying?” I asked. “That
I am trying to obligate you to keep seeing me?”
“Is that what you’re saying?” I asked, doing my best to
suppress a growing rage. He sat silent. “Don’t fuck with me. Is that what you’re
“I wanna keep having fun,” Chris finally sputtered. “I think
I can do better.”
I left the car and walked
back to my dorm. As I climbed the building’s stairs, I suffered from a bit of l’esprit d’escalier and realized that I
should have told him, “So can I.” Instead, I crumpled in my bed and told myself
that I needed to stop meeting people like him. I told myself I needed to stop
An interesting dating story from @thoughtsfromthewalkhome.