Okay, seriously: NO suspension/fine/repercussions for Hannibal Hartnell?! Fuck you, NHL!
Let's go Pens!
Soundtrack Song - Rob Thomas, Someday
"Just leave me alone." I do not want to talk to Gina about this.
"You slept with him? And you didn't tell me? What happened? What's going on? You have so much to explain. He looked so upset. Why aren't you happy about this? What did he say to you? Start from the beginning!"
The tears start flowing with increased strength. I can hardly stand knowing what happened, and now she's asking me to relieve it. I wipe the tears away, and she rips the blanket off me. "Stop it, Gina. Why can't you all just leave me alone?"
She sighs. I know she's trying to be nice and understanding, but she's frustrated with me. I'm acting like a drama queen. Everything's turned into this huge production. I don't like it; I prefer to live a quiet existence. But why is everything happening all at once? I can't handle this. I need some time to process and think and deal.
"I don't get it," Gina says. "So, you like him now, obviously. I guess. When did that happen, by the way? And you slept with him. So, what's the problem? I don't get it."
"That is the problem. I like him. Too much. But I can't like him. I can't let myself fall for him, Gina. He's just going to hurt me."
"You don't know that!"
"Yes! Yes, I do."
"Because of just how much I like him. I think...." I have to take a deep breath. As soon as I say it aloud, I won't be able to take it back. I haven't even admitted this to myself yet. But it's the only way I can rationalize why it hurts so much already, to know this is over and done with. "I think I like him more than I ever liked John, initially. And I didn't even think that was remotely possible. I'm certainly more physically attracted to him. If I don't nip this in the bud or cut off the blood supply while I still can, I can fall irrevocably in love with that man."
Gina snorts, completely disregarding the weight of what I'm saying. "Of course you're going to bring John into this. You always do. You're still making your whole life be about him, even though he's not a part of it anymore. You tell me you're over him, but you're still letting him dictate who you spend your time with and how you should feel. He really did a number over on you."
I hiss out, "I'm not bringing him into this. I'm just using him as a comparison to tell you that I like Max a lot more than I did John. John was charming but Max is... hypnotizing. And that means that Max has the potential to hurt me a lot more than John did. And I can't possibly go through that again, especially since I already know what the outcome's going to be."
"And how could you possibly know that? Are you clairvoyant all of a sudden? Did you pick up that talent along the way and just never told me about it?"
"You made me Google him, remember? He's a man-whore. That's fine, whatever. I had my turn with him. He's going to move on to the next conquest, so I might as well move on, too."
"You're an idiot. A fucking blind idiot, do you know that?"
"Okay, that's enough, Gina. You're really starting to sound like a bitch," I warn her, feeling her press my buttons. I know that I ask for her advice a lot, and I know that she often has to verbally beat it in to me before I get it, but name calling is a little much.
"He came here. If he didn't want to see you, he could have Fed-Ex'ed your phone to you or something. But he delivered it in person. And he was so happy when he showed up, and so sad when he left because you treated him like shit. Max has been so unbelievably nice to you, and this is how you repay him?"
"I didn't ask for him to be nice to me!" I holler back. "I didn't ask for any of this! So how about you cut me some slack? He hasn't said anything to me anyway that he likes me."
"You are blind. Don't think about what he's said to you. Look at the way he's acting toward you! A man who didn't care wouldn't have said those things to you. John has never told you that he missed you since you moved here."
"Max didn't say he missed me—he said he was going to miss me," I correct her. After all, everything he just said to me is branded into my head, and I'm not likely to forget any of those words any time soon. "He'll forget all about me while he's gone, and probably fuck a couple of blonde beach bimbos out in California." I pause. "Wait. You were listening to that?"
"Yes. I was listening to him be the sweetest guy on the face of this earth while you were a complete and total bitch."
"Well, sure, he's acting sweet now. But what about when he's through with me and all that changes? Then what, huh? What happens when he stops being sweet and I'm left alone and miserable again?"
"Who said he's going to change?"
"He is going to change. He will. It's what guys do. They start out all nice and charming. But then once you like them and they know it, they don't care about staying that way. They morph into jerks."
"You're wrong. They aren't all like that. You should just talk to Max. I bet if you tell him how you feel, and just tell him about your stupid ex so he knows what he's dealing with, you guys can work it out. Char, you need to at least give him the chance."
"Um, first off," I inform her, using my fingers to tick off my verbal points. "Yes, they are. All guys are all the same. And second, you're the one who's telling me to ignore John. Why are you advising me to talk to Max? And third, I don't think I should give anyone the chance to hurt me."
"You can't assume that! You can't treat every guy the same. And I think Max is different. He truly seems like a decent guy. More than that, but I don't know him as well as you do."
"Then let me tell you: he's not. He's just like John. I'm kicking myself for not seeing it sooner. Like when he kept talking to me right after we first met. The gym, the movies, the café. I gave him every indication that I wanted to be left alone, but he didn't. The evidence has been there all along."
"So then what are you going to do about Max?"
I bite my lip. "What do you mean?"
"You said Max is just like John. So are you going to deal with this situation the same way you decided to deal with John? Are you going to pussy out and run away to a new city just to avoid him, too?"
I stand there with my mouth agape. "You're a fucking bitch! Don't try to talk to me about things you don't know!" I yell at her. I'm at my breaking point. She's pushed my "detonate" button, and I'm about to explode.
"Things I don't know? What is that supposed to mean?" she counters, hands on her hips and her eyebrow cocked, ready for battle.
"You! Like you've had a functional relationship. Ever. Taking relationship advice from you is like the pot calling the tea kettle black. I don't think you've ever had a boyfriend. You just screw around—you're like the female Max. You've never had your heart mashed into a pulp. You have no idea what it's like to be absolutely devastated. So you couldn't possibly understand."
"My past doesn't have anything to do with this! I'm objective! I'm looking at how ri-god damn-diculous you're being and telling you to stop being so fucking stupid! I don't need to have been in your shoes to tell you that you're a fool!"
"Stop lying. You're not trying to be objective. You just like yelling at me!" I snap. I'm grasping at straws. Really, I'm just looking for a reason to dismiss her advice because it isn't what I want to hear.
"Oh, whatever. I don't know why I bother, because talking to you is like talking to mud. You never listen. You just want to be miserable. And for your information," she retorts sharply, folding her arms in front of her, "I do so have a boyfriend. Kevin and I are pretty serious."
"What?" I bite out. I don't mean it to come out so angrily; I'm truly curious about it, and also I'm happy for her, but I'm still in my upset frame of mind. "I mean, when did this happen?"
"Wednesday," she sighs. "I just didn't tell you because you were upset because of John's message. I didn't think it was the right time to tell you."
"No. You should have told me. I'm happy for you," I tell her, softening my voice. I was so caught up in my own world that I didn't even pay attention. I remember how they were curled up together on the couch when I came home after the game. I should have noticed it then. "How did that happen?"
"I don't know. I went over to his place the one night, and instead of just going at it like rabbits like we normally do, he got a call from his brother about needing a designated driver. So I went with him, and we just talked in the car. And it turns out we had a lot in common." She shrugs. "So we went a couple of times, and then just kinda decided to make it official."
"Congratulations. I do mean it," I say flatly. I really am happy for her, but it hurts nonetheless. When everyone around you is hooking up, and you want to but can't, it sucks. I wish I could find someone like Kevin. He's good-looking and nice; not an asshole but not necessarily the sweetest guy ever, either. He's mediocre, at best. There's no risk with a guy like that. That's what I want for myself.
"I know you do, even though you don't sound convincing," Gina cracks, with a slight smile. "Does this mean you're not mad at me anymore?"
"I'm not mad. Not at you, anyway. I'm just.... Ugh, I don't know what I am. I just need some time to think, I think. I'm going back to sleep."
"Don't you want to eat anything?" she asks.
"No. I'm just going to hibernate here in bed for the entire day."
"You should still eat something. I'm going to make some soup," she says, turning to head toward the kitchen. Then she adds quietly, "I did promise to take care of you, after all."
I roll my eyes, pull the covers back over my head, and wish I could relive the past twenty-four hours. If I could, I would do things differently. Very, very differently.
While I'm thinking about what I could have done instead or what I should have done, Gina walks back into my room with a big bowl of steaming liquid. "We didn't have real soup, so I just cooked some noodles and threw in some bullion. I hope it's okay."
"It's fine, Gina," I tell her, knowing I don't have much of an appetite. It's funny; before, I would eat in times of stress. But now, I can't even think about food. I find it repulsive and disgusting.
When I don't make a move to sit up and accept her peace offering of food (even though I'm the one who should be apologizing), she sets the bowl down on the table next to my bed. She wipes her hands off on her jeans and says, "I was going to go to the library to research for my thesis, but I'll hang out here in case you need something, okay?"
"Char, listen. I'm going to say this and leave, and you can listen to it or not but I have to get it off my chest, okay?" she blurts out quickly. I don't answer, and she takes that as her cue to continue. "You were wrong about John. All wrong. You thought he was great, and he turned out to be a stupid, manipulative loser. So maybe you're wrong about Max, too. Maybe he's not the guy you have pictured in your head, either. Just think about it." Then she leaves, not giving me a chance to rebut. Her words echo in my ears.
Is Gina right? Am I wrong?
The problem about love is you have to open yourself up to receive it. But if you open yourself, you're also leaving yourself vulnerable to pain. I opened myself up once and fell in love, but it ended badly. So I swore I'd never go through that again: I'd find someone who I could love but didn't hold the power to devastate me.
Is it a smart idea to play it safe? Or is it worth it to release the life saver and dive in again? Because every day over the summer, I woke up wishing I had left John at the bar and never given him my number. That whole "better to have love and lost than to have never loved at all" thing is a bunch of baloney contrived to make the heartbroken feel better, but it offers me no consolation. Not now. Not ever.