Soundtrack Song - Damone, Get Up and Go
As if I weren't already messed up enough from trying to keep myself in check regarding my feelings toward Max, John waltzes back into my life. I don't understand it: I thought that part of my life was over. I mean, yes I worry that he'll always have a tiny iota of my heart, but I didn't think he'd come back into my life and expect to claim the lot of it. I thought after we stopped talking that he was gone. I thought he didn't want anything to do with me anymore.
I never gave any additional consideration to what would happen if or when he got that promotion he had been working toward. First of all, I didn't care about whether or not he'd get it because I was just so pissed at him for demanding that I look over his proposal for him. After all, when we were together, I was always willing to do anything for him; I thought that we would spend the rest of our lives together, so I wanted to make those sacrifices for him. But since we were no longer together, I had to stop making him a priority. He needed to know that he didn't come first in my life anymore.
Second, I thought that even if he would get the opportunity to travel to Pittsburgh, he wouldn't want to see me after the attitude I copped. Why would he want to see me after that? Holy shit, I'm totally confused again. I immediately revert back to my old ways, listening to that damn message four or five times, trying to dissect the meaning behind his every word.
I'm mad at him? I thought he was mad at me. He wants to apologize, and he wants me to forgive him. He wants to see me. He wants to take me out. Take me out as in a date? Or just to catch up as old friends? He can't wait to see me. What the hell does that mean?! Does he just want to hang out, or is he looking forward to it as in he's missing me? I don't know if he is purposely being enigmatic or if I'm just over-analyzing everything, but I just wish I knew what his motives were.
And how selfish of him to think I even want to see him! Maybe I don't want anything to do with him! Do I? Do I want to see him? Oh fuck. I don't know. If he just wanted to catch up as friends, I might be okay with that. But if he wants to pretend like nothing happened and like things were the way they were before I moved, then I don't want to see him. If I just knew what was going on in his head, maybe I could make an educated decision.
I think about calling him back now and asking for clarification, but I realize that in my current state of mind, that's not a good idea. Because not only is my mind revved up and mush in my skull, but also my body's on high alert from being so near Max just minutes ago. That combination of physical conditions will not allow me to think straight and figure out what to do about John. I need to talk to Gina. I know she'll be able to give me sound advice.
Putting the car into drive, I head out of the parking lot and drive home to the South Side. Gina has Kevin over. They're curled up together watching T.V. Great. I want to talk to her, but I can't do it in front of her fuck buddy. "How was the game?" she asks, not look away from the television screen.
"It was good," I tell her, trying to sneak into my room without arousing any suspicion. I don't want to ruin her good time.
"Char, what's wrong?" She knows something's up. I can't hide anything from her; she knows me too well.
I don't want to do this now, but I feel the tears well up in my eyes. Before I can say a word, Gina's telling Kevin that he needs to leave and heating up a kettle of water in order to make tea. I pull my grandfather's Lemieux jersey over my head and throw it on the back of the couch.
"I got a message from John." I hold up my hand before she can offer her two cents. "Just listen for a sec, okay? Things were going fine. I seriously thought I was done hurting because of him. I mean, I think I'll always love him, but I thought that maybe I was done letting that hold me back. But he's coming to Pittsburgh. And he wants to see me."
Gina pauses, just looking at me. I can tell she wants to explode, but she's doing her best to hear me out before she goes on a rampage. "And?"
"And what? I don't know why he wants to see me. I thought this whole thing was over. I thought he was gone, done with me. I don't even want to deal with him at all, I mean, I've got enough on my mind as it is, but it's honestly killing me that I don't even know why he wants to visit me while he's here."
"Wait. So he's not coming to Pittsburgh just to see you?"
"No," I sigh. "He's coming on business. But he wants to see me while he's here."
She shakes her head. "That's bullshit. Bullshit. It sounds like a booty call to me."
"Really?" I ask, feeling disappointed.
"Yeah. I mean, I didn't listen to the message, but did he say that he missed you or that he wanted to get back together? Not that I'm saying that that's a good idea, mind you."
I sigh again, replaying the message in my head. I have it memorized. "No, he didn't say either of those things."
"Then it sounds to me like he isn't serious about you. Sorry to say it so harshly, but you need to hear it. I think he just wants to keep you under his thumb and keep you in this tragic state where all you do is pine after him and long for him and he has complete and total control over you."
I screw up my face and disagree. "I don't think he's quite that diabolical, Gina. I think he just doesn't know what he wants. I honestly don't think he knows what he's doing and how it affects me. Maybe if I just explain to him—"
"No. Don't talk to him. Have you talked to him yet?" she asks, to which I simply shake my head. "Good. Don't."
"But maybe if I just tell him that I don't want to see him or talk to him instead of ignore him, he'll quit this stupid charade."
"You tried that already. Don't you remember? You asked him for space and he didn't understand why you 'didn't want to talk to him anymore.' That's the whole fucking reason you had to move five hundred miles away from him!"
I shake my head. "I know that. But that was months ago. Maybe this time, it'll be different."
"You're insane. In. Sane. The definition of insanity is performing the same action over and over again while expecting different results. Talking to John doesn't work, so you need to show him that you don't want to talk to him or see him by not talking to him or seeing him!" Gina is animated and angry, and I can't blame her. It's tough to hear, but this is why I needed to talk to her before I took any action in dealing with John.
"You're right. I mean, I agree with you. But maybe I should see him. Just to see if what I felt for him is still there. Like, if I can see him and not collapse into a dysfunctional mess, then that's progress, right?"
"No. Char. It's bad news. I thought you said you were over him."
"I am," I tell her.
"I don't think you are. If you were, you wouldn't be trying to rationalize a way to see him."
"I am!" I repeat emphatically. I'm ninety-nine percent sure I am. "But he was important to me! He was everything to me once. My whole world. Am I just supposed to give him up completely? Like he was never worth anything to me? Can't I still appreciate him for what he used to mean to me?"
"Yes! And no!" she cries, flinging her arms out to her sides and almost knocking the kettle off the stove. "I remember the phone calls, Charlotte, after you first met him. And how happy you were. I was so happy for you that you found someone that wonderful and perfect. But slowly, things deteriorated. I remember those phone calls, too. The ones you made in tears, asking me what you should do. I don't know if he changed somehow, or if he was that way all along and he just hid it from you at first. Or even if you couldn't see it or didn't want to. Either way, he went from making you feel like you were the queen of the freaking world to making you feel like a piece of dirt. And a man like that, no matter how he once treated you, does not deserve to be kept around."
It takes a while for all of that to sink in. In the meantime, I sit on the couch while she prepares my cup of Earl Grey. Gina hands it to me and sits on the coffee table so she can face me. I take a deep breath. "You're right. You're absolutely right. I won't agree to see him." She nods, happy that her words have finally broken through. "But do you think I should just avoid talking to him until he gets the message? Or should I just tell him that's it's over, done with, kaput, finito? I mean, does he deserve the closure?"
"He doesn't deserve anything from you. Your heart, your anger, your anything. I swear that he does this just to fuck with you. I think he likes knowing that he has control over you. Prove to him that you don't give a shit about him. Don't talk to him at all: don't answer his calls or reply to his e-mails. Don't even read them. Block him. Make it crystal clear that you're through with him."
"I'll feel bad if I don't explain."
"Don't! He's already made you feel bad for too long. You're asking me for advice, and I'm giving it to you: erase him from your life."
"You know how persistent he is. He prides himself on getting everything he wants. And I mean everything. If he truly does want to see me while he's here, he's not going to stop calling."
"Just keep ignoring him. He'll get the hint eventually."
I nod. This is it, do or die. I used to need John. I used to need the way he made me feel good about myself. But he stopped making me feel that way, and I've moved on and found someone else that made me feel that way. It doesn't matter that Max doesn't like me back the way I wish he did. He still makes me feel good. He's replaced my need for John. Having him around makes it a lot easier for me to say my permanent goodbye to John.
On Thursday afternoon, as I'm walking from the physio center back to my apartment in the cool, late-October air, my phone rings. It's a number I don't recognize; out of pure habit and without thinking, I press the accept button and press the phone to my ear. "Hello?"
"Charlotte? It's Kelsey. Tyler Kennedy's girlfriend."
I breathe a deep sigh of relief. It's only after she tells me who she is that I realize the stupidity of picking up the call from an unknown number. John has tried calling me several times since I listened to—and dutifully erased—the voicemail message he left me. I don't know if John would be smart enough to call from another line, but I wouldn't put it past him if he thought I was purposely ignoring him. Which I am. I throw those thoughts out of my head, since I'm not supposed to think about him, and concentrate on the conversation at hand. "Hi, Kelsey. How are you?"
"Good. I hope you don't mind that I got your number off of Max. You see, I'm hosting the viewing party at my place for the away game tomorrow. I thought it would be really nice if you joined us."
"Us?" I ask. I'm pleasantly surprised to be invited by Kelsey. I met her for all of two seconds yesterday, and it's nice to be included like I'm finally making friends in the city. I wonder if I'll know anyone else there.
"Yeah." She hesitates on the line before proceeding. "Us as in a lot of the people we sat around last night. We pretty much switch off on who hosts the get-together to watch the games when the guys are out of town. Véro and Noelle really seemed to like you, too. I thought it would be nice to add another girl to our little group."
The " little group" she's talking about consists of Flower's girlfriend, Sid's girlfriend, Jordan's girlfriend, and Tyler's girlfriend. Add me to the mix, and it's like a riddle or an SAT question: which one of these things doesn't fit with the others? The answer is me. I don't fit into that group because I'm not dating a Penguin. I want to point out this pesky little fact to Kelsey, but the earnestness in her voice, like she honestly wants me to come, makes me say yes. Besides, I could use the extra friends. I've been in this city for months, and Max is the only person I've met. "Sure. That sounds fun. Just tell me when and where, and I'll be there."
Kelsey rattles off her address and she gives me directions, too. I'm looking forward to watching the game, because even though I've sworn to Gina that I won't talk to John at all, he still occasionally pops into my mind. I've ignored all of his calls and texts so far. I tell myself it's the best decision to make, but I still wonder about why he wants to see me and if I could handle it even though I'll never know.
Gina lets me borrow her car again so I can drive to Kelsey's. She has a gig with her band, so she catches a ride with the drummer so I can use her vehicle. When Kelsey answers the door, she's very welcoming and warm. But not everyone else was so nice. They're not mean; it's just that no one really talks to me. Who can blame them? They're all wives or girlfriends of the players. I don't fit in with them. Noelle spots me as I stand in the corner, alone. We chat for a moment before she leaves, and then I peacefully and silently watch the game with Erin, who I learn is dating defenseman Brooks Orpik.
At least, I was watching peacefully until commotion erupts. I hear the loud voices and turn toward the circus.
"Who is it? Who's Alex's new slutty girlfriend?" I watch as a drunk girl comes stumbling into the room, looking around with a fire in her eyes.
Kelsey steps forward and tries to calm her down. "Lynne, you're drunk. Let me call you a cab so you can get home."
That doesn't soothe her. Instead she flies off the handle and continues to yell, "No! Alex won't answer any of my calls. I want to know who here thinks that she can replace me."
Heather talks next. "Maybe he's not talking to you because you broke his heart. Give him some space." I shake my head and look back at the television. I don't know who Alex is. This obviously doesn't concern me. I hope they can shut her up so I can hear the game.
"No, he's got a hussy on the side! I wanna know which one of you it is! Is it you, you little whore?" I hear the words, but when silence echoes off the walls and no one else is answering, I look around to see what's going on. The drunk girl has set her sights on me.
I'm shocked and taken aback. What the hell? I don't even know this girl, who she is, or what she's talking about, and she wants to call me a whore? I'm pissed, but I try to stay calm. "I don't know what you're talking about. You're crazy."
Noelle steps forward to back me up. "She's with Max, Lynne, so back off." Wait, what did she just say?
As shocked as I was by Noelle's words in my defense, saying that we were together and how absolutely lovely that sounded, the words that pour out of Lynne's mouth cut a whole in my chest, allowing my heart to fall onto the floor. "No one's with Max. Max just fucks around, everyone knows that."
"Lay off, Lynne. That's completely uncalled for, and you know it," Noelle says between her teeth.
I don't listen to the rest of the argument, because my head's full of its own thoughts and I'm thinking about what Lynne said about Max. It hurts. I like him; I don't want to think that he's that kind of guy. I know that he is that kind of guy, but I don't want to think about it. It's easy for me to forget that he's that kind of guy when he's around me because he doesn't seem to be that kind of guy then. I quickly think back to Véro's comments after the game on Wednesday, about his "Superstar" persona, and how that isn't who he is when he's around me. So, is he the guy I think he is when he's around me, or is he—
I'm pulled out of my thoughts by the high-pitched sound caused only by sharp skin-on-skin contact. Lynne retracts her hand as Noelle pulls back her arm and punches Lynne. Her hand makes contact at the juncture of her cheek and her nose, and immediately Lynne starts bleeding.
Lynne brings her hands to her face, and Kelsey helps her into the kitchen. Some of the other girls applaud Noelle. I guess no one likes her. Hell, I don't like her, and I didn't even know her beyond our brief encounter just moments ago.
The rest of us stay to watch the end of the game. The Pens lose. We all leave in a sour mood, both from Lynne's intrusion as well as from the loss. I drive home and flop into the couch, grabbing the remote and flipping through the channels since I'm too awake to go to bed just yet. As I repeatedly press the channel-up button, I see Max's face; immediately I turn back to FSN and watch the end of the interview. Even though he's talking about the loss, the interview still brings a smile to my face. I figure this is as good as the night is going to get, so I turn off the television and curl up with a book in bed.
Before I fall asleep I receive two text messages. One is from John; I delete it without reading it. The other is from Max: U sure u dont want 2 come 2 game 2mrrw?
I quickly reply back to him: Told u. going out w gina & her band 4 halloween.
I think that's the end of our conversation until he sends back one more: Okay. have fun. c u sunday.
That puts another smile on my face. Even with all that's going on in my head, he never fails to make me grin like an idiot. He always makes me feel good, and that's how I know I've got it bad.