The other night, my boyfriend J had dinner with some old classmates, including H.
H and J dated briefly while I was dating someone else. Even then, H could tell that J was more into me, something that he brought up when J broke things off.
Around 9 p.m., after dinner, J texted me that they were all getting drinks, so I asked, “Did you want me to come with?” By the time he answered yes, I was already dressed in my new black leather Rag & Bone shorts, strutting downtown.
I met them at 9th Ave Saloon, going up to J and hugging him from behind. “Hey, wha-what doya want, whateva you want, Igotit,” he mumbled drunkenly, smiling. So it was gonna be that kind of night.
While he ordered me a cranberry vodka, H spied me and sauntered over. “It’s good to see you again,” he slurred, holding a dark cocktail. “I’ve never been here—but when J and I dated, we shut down the bar across the street one night.” Bringing up memories to intimidate me: nice try. I nodded. “He’s treating you right, isn’t he?”
“Did you think he wouldn’t?”
“No, I mean, you know—I just want him to be happy. I want both of you to be happy.” Just when I thought maybe he’d gotten over it, an older man that looked like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons walked by, several feet behind him. H lurched forward dramatically, as if Ned Flanders pushed him, and the red cocktail drenched me from my nipple to my knee.
“Oh, fuck you!” he said, making a big show. Ned Flanders looked back, saw H’s bloodshot eyes, and kept walking out the door. “Fuck him,” he said again to me.
“It’s really OK,” I mumbled. My boyfriend was deep in conversation, oblivious.
While I dried off with cocktail napkins, shorts already sticking to my thigh, H asked my boyfriend outside. Through the clear door, I watched H make big gestures with his arms. My boyfriend looked uncomfortable, but not in need of saving, so I kept an alert distance.
When they came back inside, H went to the bar and put his head down on the counter. The bartender looked around as if he were looking for H’s mom to take him home.
“Time to go,” J nodded. He paid his bar tab and we walked toward the subway.
“What did he say to you out there?” I asked, lacing my fingers through his.
“He wanted to know why I thought you were better than him,” he shrugged. “I just told him I felt how I felt, and that I couldn’t force myself to feel anything that I didn’t.” I’d been H, many times before, and knew exactly how he felt. Which is maybe the reason I let the night slide off me like hard liquor running off my leg.
He tried to apologize the next day, which we ignored. Though I really should send him my dry-cleaning bill.