I was out late Friday night with a friend, did a little drinking but didn’t think I was all that drunk when I got home, but went to bed late and tired. When I awoke the next morning, I unlocked the screen saver on my new sexy thing, and found the following written up and prominently displayed. I do not recall writing it, but since the only other explanation is that someone (this “Fred”, presumably) snuck into my home sometime last night, guessed my password, and used my computer to write this up… well, that seems preposterous.
Perhaps this is fiction, perhaps not.
Presented as I found it, links and all. – Brian
Goodbye, anger. I’ve known you for a long time, years even, and it’s time to let you go, give you the long kiss goodnight and go our separate ways. I’m going cold turkey from Substance D.
I couldn’t believe my own luck. An opportunity I had been fantasizing about for years had finally occurred. Standing at the end of a long aisle in the Blue Room of Powell’s City of Books, I saw Donna and Bob walk past me.
Well, first I heard her voice, ingrained on my brain and immediately recognizable despite the long time since last hearing it. She said, “I don’t care what you’re doing. I’m going up to the Purple Room to browse. How about we meet in the coffee shop in, say, an hour?” Her tone still had that snap to it that I recalled that seemed out of proportion to her petite frame and dark eyes.
“Uh, OK,” Bob sounded a bit put out and taken off-guard, but didn’t argue. They both walked up the stairs into the Gold Room.
I put down the Theroux book I was considering and circled around to watch them. Bob was tall, balding, chubby, with a goatee. He stood in the main aisle while she reached up and gave him a perfunctory peck on the cheek then dismissively turned and headed further into the store. Bob stood there a moment, getting his bearings, then ambled down the first aisle to present itself.
I walked up the stairs and approached him, my stomach full of butterflies. I had to say something. Normally I’d overthink this and manage to lose the nerve. This was an abnormal time, however.
“Excuse me… is your name Bob?” I asked him.
He turned around quizzically, putting down the Phil Dick book he’d been holding. “Yes?”
Heart pounding, I had to raise my voice to keep going. “You may not know me. You may and you may not. But I know you. Or, rather, I know your… girlfriend?”
He smiled cautiously, head tilted. “Fiancée actually. You know Donna?”
“Yes. My name is Fred. I, uh, started dating her before you knew her. I think.” I shook my head at my own careful language. “But anyway, yeah, I know her. And until just now, I knew she was dating someone but wasn’t sure I even knew your name. You see… the Donna I know is a liar.”
His face turned a bit red at the insult but he didn’t contradict or correct me. “Go on” he said flatly.
I rushed to explain further. “I know you don’t know me, and you’ve been dating Donna for a while, so I may not have much credibility right now. But I can document much of what I’m about to tell you. If you’re going to marry her you need to know this.” More importantly, I thought, I need to tell this. To him or someone. “I said that she’s a liar. She lied to me, and I would catch her in it and she’d never even acknowledge it. Maybe I was a jerk sometimes but I always tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and I could eventually talk myself into rationalizing her lies, like it was somehow my fault or something. It’s… it was about trust, I guess. On both our parts.”
“But it felt like… like betrayal. And even when caught in a bald-faced lie she’d never back down. Her fallback position was always that I was somehow abusive for even pointing it out>. Of course I was angry – anger is a rational response to a lie from someone you’re close to.” I paused to catch my breath. I was getting a bit rant-y. “Don’t you think?”
“It all depends, mate. That was your thing, between you and her. We’ve had our troubles like any couple but over time we’ve-“
“I said she lied to me. And you’re right, that’s between me and her. Too much bad blood between us for that to ever work out well, after all this time. But the part I need to tell you about… Well, I think she lied about me, as well. To you.”
I paused to let that sink in.
He didn’t respond, although his face did get a bit more red.
“See… you know that tattoo of hers? Her first tattoo, the one right above-“
“I know it.” Again spoken flatly.
“OK, then. I know she got it a couple of years ago, on a vacation in Las Vegas, and I have no idea what’s happened since then. But… see, she was with me when she got it.” I reached out and touched the Phil Dick biography on the shelf next to us. “I gave her a copy of this for her birthday. She was reading it on the plane ride home. She’d almost left it behind in the hotel but we were able to get it… back…” I stopped. I was digressing. Damn Substance D.
“That’s” he began, then closed his mouth and thought a moment. He looked at me intently. I wondered what he saw. Before he could speak again, I plunged ahead.
“What she told me about you is that she and you were serious, and that you wouldn’t take lightly to the idea of her being in a strange city with a former boyfriend. What I don’t know is what, exactly, she told you – who she claimed to be with or any of that. I also don’t know if the story has come up since then.” I paused and looked at him expectantly. He gave no indication either way. “What I do know is that she ended up in my bed that night, that same night she got that tattoo. We were sharing a room but had separate beds. But she didn’t stay in hers that night. Which is only understandable considering how we’d been acting during the day. Drinking, I did a little gambling. Oh, and we’d fought like wildcats on the flight there. Over her intentions in being there with me in the first place. It wasn’t that difficult to convince her to go there with me in the first place. In fact, it was a shared idea. You were busy that weekend or something.” I think I successfully kept the leer out of my voice.
“You’re still not saying anything,” I prompted.
“Why should I believe you?” he asked.
“Well, I can document some of it. I have pictures from the trip, although she insisted I take none of her. I can show that she and I stayed in the Luxor that weekend. I can show phone calls from her cell to mine during that weekend. I have souvenirs from that weekend, although admittedly I could have gotten those anywhere. But if push came to shove I could produce some evidence.” I took a deep breath. “Bob, she lied to you, at least about this and quite possibly about other things as well. Maybe she lied about her friend Freck, too?” His face clouded at that name but it wasn’t defensiveness. At least I wasn’t sure what it was.
I took a guess, though and continued. “I can see it in your face, although, honestly, I would not want to play poker against you. She lied to me, too, about many things. I know she lied to me a lot and I only found out once I stopped automatically trusting her. She’s had a couple of years to build up trust and a relationship with you, so maybe you can forgive her for her past. If you can, I’ll be honest, you’re a bigger man than I am. We’ve all got our weaknesses…”
Shoulders slumped, I felt the weight of carrying my anger at her all these years. “I know I botched things with her by how I reacted. Maybe, in her own weird way, she was testing me, and I failed. Or maybe my initial instincts were correct and she did it all maliciously. I’ll never know. For a long time I was hoping she’d at least admit the lies… although I still acted out of anger and attacked her – verbally, I might add – at every opportunity. But now, whatever. I’m moving on.” I chuckled. “Probably long past time for that.
“But, seeing you, running in to you and her today… I just had to say something.” I pulled out a business card of mine and handed it to him. He took it from me, stared at it, looked back up. “I don’t expect you to feel very good about the messenger, and I know you have a lot of reasons to mistrust me. Like I said, I can find evidence to support this lie, and some of the others. But give it some thought.”
I turned to walk away, then turned back. “One last thing – pay close attention to how she responds when you bring this up. If you bring it up, I mean. Does she just see it as an attack, and turn it around and make it about you, or about me? Or does she admit to it and accept responsibility for it? And… depending on her answer, is that really a woman you’d want to marry?”
Revenge is a dish best served cold, but there is very little satisfaction in it for the cook, when all is said and done.
I left him, and my cold dish, standing there.