"What happened?" Alison sputtered as she walked in.
I could guess how pathetic I looked: curled into a ball on the couch, a few used tissues crumbled around my tucked-up feet.
"I'm fine," I said.
"I'm guessing he didn't take it well."
"At least he didn't throw anything."
"So what happened? He got upset when you wanted to postpone the trip, right?"
"Well, yeah. But he got more upset when I broke up with him."
"You really broke up with him?"
I rolled off the couch and smacked a pillow against my forehead.
"Yes," I said, sounding like a character from a Jacqueline Susann novel. "I don't know how I was so blind. I tried to tell him how I feel and he told me I was being melodramatic and hypersensitive. He just completely dismissed me. What a jerk."
I sounded like a character from a Jacqueline Susann novel.
I kicked the Palm Pilot he'd left behind.
"Oooh! Is that his!?" Alison chirped with glee. She was full of ideas what to do with it. Drop it in water. Change all the numbers. Beam virus-infected files into it.
I laughed, but didn't assent.
"He probably left it behind purposefully!" she said, her eyes lighting up. "He wants an excuse to be able to come see you when you both cool off. You can still get back together, you know."
"I really doubt that. I don't want to get back together. And I don't feel the need to take revenge on his electronica. Even though he was a creep, the whole time -- and I paid zero attention."
"Uh-oh. You're stewing, aren't you?" she said, alarmed. Alison has this theory about how "thinking" leads me into dangerous situations. "No. No. No. We must distract you. C'mon, it's like you've been in a car accident and we're hanging out at the scene of the crash," she said, yanking me off the floor.
He was a creep and I paid zero attention.
Alison reassured me that a wade back into the dating pool would rejuvenate my spirits. She gave me a pep talk after pouring me into her front seat. "You know how green your eyes get when you cry," she said. "You look great! It's time to find Mr. Right!"
I didn't have the energy to argue. Next thing I knew I was in the middle of a restaurant in Scottsdale, propped up at a table with a cranberry spritzer in front of me.
"Hi." Some guy who appeared beside the table was speaking in a strangely confident tone. "I'm Rick."
--and I'm going to be sick, Rick, I thought. After that, I'm going to kill Alison.
"Haven't we met before?" he said.
Please, he didn't really just say that, did he? No one actually uses that line. I wanted to reply, "Yes, on the Pacific Princess -- at Captain Stubing's table. I was seated next to Charo." Instead, looking hopelessly bored, I said, "No, I don't think so."
"No?" he continued, with staying power. "I thought for sure we work in the same building."
Right. And I am supposed to say, "Well, I don't know... I work in Building X..." and then he'll tell me where he works and the conversation will have begun.
Why is he talking to me? I wondered, musing that this has to be the worst way of meeting people in the world. We'd spoken less than 10 words and I already felt degraded.
We'd spoken less than 10 words and I already felt degraded.
"What's your name?" he asked, undeterred by my chilly response. I decided on the glamorous Brenda. "Brenda Starr."
He chuckled. "As in girl reporter?"
For a moment, I nearly warmed up in recognition of his knowledge of pop culture, but thought better of it when I saw that my sister Beth had appeared and was speaking in what looked to be harsh tones to Alison.
"No, as in Kenneth," I said, getting up. "Nice to meet you, Rick." I grabbed my bag and leapt toward Beth and freedom.
"I cannot believe you let Alison take you here," she said, on the way home. "I'm lucky I found the place." She'd taken my car after finding my scrawled note with our destination and directions to meet us.
Beth wanted to hear about my meeting with Harris.
"His whole life is about him," I said. "He wants someone who can impress his boss at dinner parties and be a wonderful accessory, but he's not really interested in building a real relationship. We didn't have the values in common that we needed -- treating everyone with respect, for instance."
"And you just realized this tonight?" Beth said.
"Well, I started to realize that he was selfish. Not evil. Just not very giving."
She chuckled. "And what would mom have to say about that?"
I laughed, thinking of my mother's mantra for whenever we discussed marriage. "The number-one issue for a mate is 'is he kind and giving.' The rest is negotiable."
The number-one issue for a mate is: is he kind and giving?
"Okay, so I messed up on the big one. How I let it drag on for months is what I wonder," I said.
"Yah, and you were always telling me how level-headed you were being with this guy," she said. "How did you miss it?"
I groaned. "I don't know. You know, you get swept off your feet and... I may have even been flattered that someone who considered himself so important was so into me," I said. "I guess I bought his PR."
"That is really bad, Jess," she said. "Especially for someone as cynical as you."
"I'm not cynical!" I objected.
"Sure you are. You're always so busy observing everything around you and intellectualizing it... no wonder major things like that get by you," she said.
I wasn't sure what exactly that meant, but I suspected it was accurate. I made a mental note to think more about it later.
"Don't beat yourself up about this. Just be more careful with the next guy and act when you start having doubts," she said.
"You mean I can't just declare myself an idiot and enter a nunnery?"
"They don't have those for Jews, Jess."
Oh, well. So much for that plan.
COMMENTS FOR JESSICA #19 - "BREAKIN' UP IS HARD TO DO"
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
You go girl! 'Bout time, Jessica! Surprised you didn't dump him after the soda pop incident. Hope that this isn't the end of your columns...I love 'em!
From: Terri Cohen - email@example.com
You did the right thing! I've met many guys with that same ego-driven, money-driven attitude which is why I'm still single. As a matter of fact, I dated a guy who usually stopped his car in the middle of the crosswalk at red lights making pedestrians walk around it. When I pointed out this obnoxious behavior to him, he shrugged it off with a "who cares" attitude. So, like you, although he treated me nicely, I could see that he didn't treat others well (especially his mother, another warning sign) and that eventually he'd treat me just as badly. Your "ex" is headed down an all-too-common path which will most likely be filled with many absences from home, a souring marriage, an affair with a woman who temporarily makes him feel like a king, a divorce and part-time custody of his future kids. Marry the "accounting mensch" -- while you may not have all the material stuff we crave, he'll make a more devoted husband and father. Keep writing... I always check in to see if you've added another enjoyable chapter.
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica sounds like a special person to call it off like that. Jessica realized that Harris wasn't the person for her, or more specifically, she couldn't see him as a father/role model. She was smart enough to know that basically there are only two types of people, givers and takers, and that Harris was a taker. I hope that she meets a cool, accomplished and nice guy soon (one that can appreciate her), so that she doesn't have to look back and wonder if she made a mistake with Harris (which she didn't).
> From: Michael Chilungu - email@example.com
Two points for Jessica! I liked this one very much. Initially I thought 'Jessica's Journal' would turn out to be a shallow soap opera (I wasn't surprised when Jessica started dating a 'hunk' right off the bat -- why are good looking people always attracted to the main characters in romantic dramas?), but I was WRONG. Jessica's a thoughtful woman and has shown great strength of character.
> From: Dahlia - firstname.lastname@example.org
Mazal tov, Jessica! Maybe by the time she gets to the SpeedDating phase, Jessica will be able to dispatch this type of man in less than eight minutes! ;-)