“Who is this guy?” Chloe called out from behind me.
“Nobody,” I said.
“Dexter,” he replied, turning a bit to offer her his hand while still keeping step with me. “How are you?”
“Fine,” she said, a bit uneasily. “Remy?”
“Just keep walking,” I called behind me, stepping around two guys in dreadlocks. “He’ll lose interest eventually.”
“Oh, ye of little faith,” he said cheerfully. “I’m just getting started.”
We arrived at the booth in a pack: me, Dexter the musician, and Chloe. I was out of breath, she looked confused, but he just slid in next to Jess, offering his hand. “Hi,” he said. “I’m with them.”
Jess looked at me, but I was too tired to do anything but plop into the booth and suck down a gulp of my beer. “Well,” she said, “ I’m with them. But I’m not with you. How is that possible?”
“Well,” he said, “it’s actually an interesting story.”
No one said anything for a minute. Finally I groaned and said, “God, you guys, now he’s going to tell it.”
“See,” he began, leaning back into the booth, “I was at this car dealership today, and I saw this girl. It was an across-a-crowded-room kind of thing. A real moment, you know?”
I rolled my eyes. Chloe said, “And this would be Remy?”
“Right. Remy,” he said, repeating my name with a smile. Then, as if we were happy honeymooners recounting our story for strangers he added, “Do you want to tell the next part?”
“No,” I said flatly.
“So,” he went on, slapping the table for emphasis, making all our drinks jump, “the fact is that I’m a man of impulse. Of action. So I walked up, plopped down beside her, and introduced myself.”
Chloe looked at me, smiling. “Really,” she said.
“Could you go away now?” I asked him just as the music overhead cut off and there was a tapping noise from the stage, followed by someone saying “check, check.”
“Duty calls,” he said, standing up. He pushed his half-finished beer over to me and said, “I’ll see you later?”
“Okay, then! We’ll talk later.” And then he pushed off, into the crowd, and was gone. We all just sat there for a second. I finished my beer, then closed my eyes and lifted the cup, pressing it to my temple. How could I already be exhausted?
“Remy,” Chloe said finally in her clever voice. “You’re keeping secrets.”
“I’m not,” I told her. “It was just this stupid thing. I’d forgotten all about it.”
“He talks too much,” Jess decided.
“I liked his shirt,” Chloe told her. “Interesting fashion sense.”
Just then Jonathan slid in beside me in the booth. “Hello, ladies,” he said, sliding his arm around my waist. Then he picked up crazy musician boy’s beer, thinking it was mine, and took a big sip. I would have stopped him, but just the fact that he did it was part of our problem. I hated it when guys acted proprietary toward me, and Jonathan had done that from the beginning. He was a senior too, a nice guy, but as soon as we’d started dating he wanted everyone to know it, and slowly began to encroach on my domain. He smoked my cigarettes, when I still smoked. Used my cell phone all the time to make calls, without asking, and got very comfortable in my car, which should have been the ultimate red flag. I cannot abide anyone even changing my station presets or dipping into my ashtray change, but Jonathan charged right past that and insisted on driving, even though he had a history of fender benders and speeding tickets as long as my arm. The stupidest part was that I let him, flushed as I was with love (not likely) or lust (more likely), and then he just expected I’d ride shotgun, in my own car, forever. Which just led to more Ken behavior-as in ultraboyfriend-like always grabbing onto me in public and drinking, without asking, what he thought was my beer.
“I’ve got to go back to the house for a sec,” he said now, leaning close to my ear. He moved his hand from around my waist, so it was now cupping my knee. “Come with me, okay?”
I nodded, and he finished off the beer, slapping the cup down on the table. Jonathan was a big partier, another thing I had trouble dealing with. I mean, I drank too. But he was sloppy about it. A puker. In the six months we’d been together I’d spent a fair amount of time at parties outside the bathroom, waiting for him to finish spewing so we could go home. Not a plus.
He slid out of the booth, moving his hand off my knee and closing his fingers around mine. “I’ll be back,” I said to Jess and Chloe as someone brushed past, and Jonathan finally had to cease contact with me as the crowd separated us.
“Good luck,” Chloe said. “I can’t believe you let him drink that guy’s beer.”
I turned and saw Jonathan looking back at me, impatient. “Dead man walking,” Jess said in a low voice, and Chloe snorted.
“Bye,” I said, and pushed through the crowd, where Jonathan’s hand was extended, waiting to take hold of me again.
“Okay, look,” I said, pushing him back. “We have to talk.”
He sighed, then sat back on the bed, letting his head bonk against the wall. “Okay,” he said, as if he were agreeing to a root canal, “go ahead.”
I pulled my knees up on the bed, then straightened my tank top. “Running in for something” had quickly morphed into “making a few phone calls” and then he was all over me, pushing me back against the pillows before I could even begin my slow easing into the dumpage. But now, I had his attention.
“The thing is,” I began, “things are really starting to change for me now.”
This was my lead-up. I’d learned, over the years, that there was a range of techniques involved in breaking up with someone. You had your types: some guys got all indignant and pissed, some whined and cried, some acted indifferent and cold, as if you couldn’t leave fast enough. I had Jonathan pegged as the last, but I couldn’t be completely sure.
“So anyway,” I continued, “I’ve just been thinking that-”
And then the phone rang, an electronic shriek, and I lost my momentum again. Jonathan grabbed it. “Hello?” Then there was a bit off umm-hmming, a couple of yeahs, and he stood up, walking across the room and into his bathroom, still mumbling.