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Grant Broward

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How Things Like This Happen (Part 4): A Study in Character

Posted: 09/18/2012 2:28 pm

Continued from Part 3

During the entirety of the craziness with Matt, my feelings for and thoughts of Liz greatly evolved. If too much had happened for Matt not to have known how I felt, it also seemed like too much had happened for Liz not to have become suspicious. She and I were friends by default of being in the same friend circle, and although I owed her no loyalty, I also did not owe her outright betrayal.

Back when I was still uncertain of Matt's behavior and intentions, Mia and I discussed the situation. She never told me explicitly not to pursue any of this, but that may have been because she knew that even if she had told me not to, I wouldn't have listened. One thing she did repeat was how sorry she felt for Liz if this situation was what it was beginning to look like.

"Maybe you're doing her a favor, because no girl wants to get married and then one day find out her husband is gay," she said.

I began to think that no girlfriend wants to admit that to herself, either. Liz's confidence suggested that she was either supremely naïve or supremely assured, possibly because she was naïve. I never considered the other alternative, that she might have been aware of Matt's wandering liaisons and was OK with it.

Once, such an arrangement would have shocked me, but the memory of Dan's wife's plea for an open marriage was rooted firmly in my mind. Still, when it came to Liz and Matt, that possibility seemed entirely too far-fetched, given that they weren't yet married but were still college sweethearts who seemed destined for marriage. I imagined that Liz would be determined not to veer from that path.

I was alerted to the fact that Liz might be somewhat complicit in all this in a conversation I had with Matt the first time we hung out alone again after he'd lied to her about our first one-on-one hangout.

"I had a dream," he announced.

"About what?" I asked.

"You were in it. It was actually a threesome with me, you, and Liz," he said, to my surprise.

"Hold on. You had a dream me, you, and Liz all hooked up?" I asked in a mischievous tone.

"Yeah, I told her about it." The unexpected.

"Oh, my god. You told your girlfriend you had that kind of dream involving her gay friend? What did she say?"

"You know, she asked me if I was a little bit gay," he told me nonchalantly.

"And?"

"I told her I was 90/10."

"Ninety/10..."

His neck turned toward me, and a smirk that I would soon become all too familiar with appeared as he said, "But I could be 85/15 for the right person."

When I returned from abroad, Mia threw a welcome-back party for me and invited our extended circle of law-school friends. Convinced that I was mostly over the situation, I was actually happy to see that Liz had confirmed her attendance. When she and Matt did not show up after all, I took notice but thought nothing of it. When, days later, she lied to my face that she didn't even know about the party, a red flag went up. Liz knew something, and it was clear that for the rest of the semester, our interactions would be civil and nothing more.

One thing I have always taken pride in is my intuition and how well I seem to be able to read people, but even this skill was useless in deciphering the obliviousness or denial Liz seemed to dwell in. I'd been pulled in by Matt because I could not read him at all, and I'd begun to distance myself from Liz for the same reason.

Once, I played a prank using my "intuition." While I was out with a girlfriend, a guy walked up to her and asked if she was a waitress. He said she looked familiar. Knowing that Ann is a lawyer and that any lawyer, even the non-snobs, would take offense to being confused for a waitress, I sneered, "Actually, she's a fucking lawyer." Something about the guy's generally douchey, slightly sexist demeanor necessitated this reaction.

After the guy called me condescending, I decided to seek social retribution. As Ann continued to talk to the guy, whom we both now found somewhat amusing, a friend of his made a disclosure to me: "Calm down. He's not going to make a move on your friend; he's married and has a kid."

Really? I thought to myself as I looked over and saw, to my horror and shock (could it be?), he was flirting with Ann. As another buddy distracted the guy flirting with Ann, I relayed my new piece of information to her.

"Shut the fuck up," she said with a smirk.

"I know. Don't worry. Watch this," I said. When the guy pivoted back to us to continue talking to Ann, I told him I'd recently learned how to read palms, and like a moth to a flame, he asked for his to be read. I grabbed his wrist and moved his hand so that his palm was in full view. My focus was on the serious issue at hand as I studied the lines of his palm.

"Hmm, that's weird," I began. "Slight intentional mental deliberation. Your palm is telling me you're married, but I don't see a wedding ring."

When I looked him in the eye upon uttering the last word, he knew he'd been had. He snatched his hand away and spat out, "Yeah, I have a daughter, too," excused himself, and went off to embark upon some other conversation as Ann and I howled in laughter. Another one bites the dust.

As the semester came to a close and a month passed after Matt's disclosure in the bar, there was an end-of-year party we all attended. Knowing Matt would be there, I braced myself for the run-in, knowing exactly what I needed to get off my chest. The moment I walked in, he was the first person I saw.

I approached, bitchily demanding that he buy me a drink. He acquiesced. We began to chat about frivolities: my plans for after law school, and how it feels to be done -- topics of substance for anyone else, but trivial for us, given the emotional shit storm our conversations usually devolved into. This one proved no different when, somehow, tones shifted and we found ourselves in a full-on argument.

"I don't know what you want from me!" I yelled. It was cathartic.

"I don't want anything from you!" he yelled back.

"Then why even-- What did everything you said the last time I saw you even mean?" This was my attempt to make him own up to his feelings.

"I don't even remember running into you."

As he said this, our eyes locked, as if in a battle of wills. He and I both knew his statement was a lie, but this time, when he lied to my face about his feelings, I was not hurt but more resolved than ever to put everything to rest. He thought he could deny, deny, deny and make falsehoods the truth. He'd made me doubt myself almost a year earlier, but now I was more resolute than ever to ensure that that did not happen again.

"You know what? Everything that comes out of your mouth is bullshit," I said. "I will never trust a single word you say ever again."

"I don't understand why you're so mad. You're irrationally angry. I don't know what you expected from me after what you told me about, how you fell in love with your best guy friend in college, went abroad thinking you were over it, and came back and fell for him again."

My stomach sank. He'd gone for the jugular. This time I wasn't stunned into emotional paralysis but catalyzed. This is who he is, I thought to myself as all his denials, vitriol, and lies played back in my head. He will never change. I began: "There is something I want to say, and I don't want you to say a word until I'm done. I just want you to sit there, be silent, and listen." He was fixated on my words. Here it is, I thought to myself as I took a breath to say what may have been the most honest, saddest, and most accurate statement to have been made during this entire saga. "When you look back in five or 10 years and feel trapped, don't have any regrets, and don't think there wasn't someone there for you, because there was someone that cared about you, really cared about you, and you let him slip away."

When I glanced at his face upon uttering the last word, I realized that for once, he was the one who was shocked and utterly stunned silent. He was speechless, with his mouth agape. I immediately stood up and walked away.

To be continued...

All names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

 
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