“The thing you gotta understand is just how…unremarkable he was. You know? Like…he was one of those guys that you could talk to ten times in two years and none of it like…none of it really stuck. You know?”
“So wait,” Jim said. His bottle of beer hovered so close to his lips he probably felt the chill of the glass. The trajectory of a drink put on pause as he set the bottle back down. “You think you guys broke up?”
“Yeah,” Adam said as he took a drink of a rum and coke that had already devoured a single ice cube and was now working its way toward a room temperature consolation prize.
“The fuck does that even mean? I mean…” Jim chuckled and took a drink that seemed intent on making up for the one he’d previously put on pause. Like a print queue after a paper jam has been cleared. “Dude, that’s some shit you should probably know as a definitive yes or no.”
Adam knew the answer in black and white terms the way a person knows when they see a car wrapped around a telephone pole that the person inside is dead. Their head and the steering wheel unceremoniously joined in unholy matrimony. But sometimes people lived through those sort of things. There was always that lingering percent. That trail of zeroes that leads to some seemingly erroneous non-zero digit.
“I think it was a sneak attack,” he finally said. Humor didn’t make it seem less absurd, but it was a lovely bandaid for the moment.
“She dress up in black garb like a ninja and leave a throwing star lodged in the wall with a red tassel and some obscure fortune cookie note or something?”
“Not quite,” Adam said. “That would have been more straightforward.”
Jim took another drink and gave Adam “the look”. Eyebrows seemingly both down and up at the same time. That sort of half-pursed expression that just said, “Dude. Duuude. Duuuuude.”
“So, you remember,” Adam began…
“Hold on, hold on,” Jim said as he flagged down a waitress.
She didn’t wear a name tag – it wasn’t that kind of place. She looked like a Sarah. Sarah? Maybe a Susan.
“Can I get another one, and uh…yeah…a long island for Captain Lonely Heart over here.”
Possibly Sarah or Susan smiled at that. She didn’t ask. That was something.
“Sure thing,” she said. “Both on your ticket?”
“Okay,” Jim said as she exited stage left, “so walk me through this. It might literally be the most interesting thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
“So, you remember when I moved?”
Jim sat with a bottle frozen at his lips for a moment – not drinking, but not setting the bottle down. “Not ringing a lot of bells,” he said behind his surgeon’s mask of brown glass.
“I don’t know that I talked about it much. Not like it was a huge deal,” Adam said. “Lease was up, found something else. Whatever.” He paused and finished his room-temperature rum and coke as the waitress returned and set their drinks down.
“Beer,” she said as she placed another bottle in front of Jim, “and a long island iced tea for Captain Lonely Heart,” she said with a bit of a smile. Sticking out of the top was a wedge of pineapple and, from the interior, – like some plastic Lochness monster – was a red straw that was shaped like a heart near the top and then swirled around and up so that you could actually drink out of it.
“Don’t officially get my Captain’s License until Monday,” Adam said jokingly.
“I won’t tell if you don’t,” possibly-Sarah or Susan said with a hint of a smile.
“So,” Adam continued as she exited stage right, “anyway, I moved. Or, I was in the process of moving. Standard stuff. She comes over and she’s helping me go through things.” He paused and took a drink and immediately clenched his teeth as the sweetened turpentine concoction that is a made-too-strong long island iced tea has the potential to be hit his tongue. “Anyway,” he said, trying not to cough, “she’s helping me go through things. I don’t really pay too much attention. Some stuff is going with me, some stuff with her.
“I unpack stuff at the new place. I get things put away. It doesn’t really occur to me that anything is out of sorts. I put her toothbrush there, deodorant, hair stuff. Whatever. But then, she’s not really texting very much, but she’s busy. I’m busy. We’re busy.
“But then I notice it one day. No shoes. No clothes. All the stuff that’s hers is the stuff that you could get at a Target on Tuesday. Like the remainder of a person who stayed at a motel for too long and was living on takeout. It was all random shit.”
“That’s…” Jim began, his word hanging in the air like cigarette smoke might have in the days before it wasn’t okay to smoke inside buildings – bar or not.
“Fucking brilliant,” Adam finished.
“Not exactly where I was gonna go with that,” Jim said with a quizzical look that he punctuated with another drink from his beer.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong,” Adam said. “It’s messed up. It’s cold. But you gotta admit – it’s fucking brilliant. She hit the eject button right in front of me. I literally watched her grab her shit and leave and was like, ‘Makes perfect sense to me.'”
“You think she was cheating on you?”
“Nah,” Adam replied honestly, “not her style.”
“Man, that’s…” Jim started to say. “Actually,” he said suddenly, “You know what? I know…uh…oh it’s…” he pulled his phone out and started to scroll through it.
“Not really looking for a hooker tonight, but…I mean…maybe after this drink…”
“Ha-ha,” Jim said, “I’m looking for… … …Kim. I don’t know her that well,”
“Didn’t think you were that kinda guy,” Adam quipped.
“But she knows her,” Jim said.
“And,” Adam said, “that’s helpful because…?”
“Women talk,” Jim said – clearly he was having a Matlock moment.
“I wanna see if maybe she said something to Kim,” he said as his fingers tapped out a message.
“Because…I…” he held his finger up in that ‘uno momento, por favor’ type of way.
Adam waited quietly and took another drink of his long island. Either he was getting drunk enough for it to not feel like he was sipping on diluted napalm, or his initial assessment had been off the mark.
He was betting squarely on the former.
“Huh,” Jim said.
“Has she ruined the moment? Do ladies not, in fact, talk?”
“She says she hasn’t heard from her for a few weeks.”
“I dare say that context is going to be a factor here. Like, are they ‘we talk on holidays’ acquaintance or are they ‘we talk on the phone while we watch the same Netflix episode’ friends?”
“No clue, man,” Jim said. “I mean, she doesn’t sound worried about it.”
Adam shrugged and took another drink.
“Shit’s cold, man,” Jim said.
“Yeah,” Adam said flatly. “Cold, man.”