The Literary Girlfriend: Silent Treatment
Even though Danielle and I had issues, there were a lot of things we didn’t talk about. We never talked about her spiking my drinks and getting me drunk at the Halloween party. We never talked about me being an asshole when I was drunk at the Halloween party and the rude things I had said. We never talked about me paying all of Danielle’s bills when she made a lot of money (maybe more than me). We never talked about when Danielle blurted out “Love ya!” one night, or why she never repeated it (or why I never said it back). I never asked her why she was talking to Linda, Kirk’s girlfriend (though she probably wouldn’t be his girlfriend for much longer now). I was enjoying our relationship (or whatever it was) too much to risk it by talking about these things.
But all issues have to be resolved sometime, one way or another.
We were eating lunch early Sunday afternoon at a Mexican restaurant with a football game on all of its televisions. Despite Danielle’s reluctance, we needed to discuss what to do for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I usually flew home for at least one of the holidays but had delayed making flight plans because I wasn’t sure what to do with Danielle. We didn’t have the type of relationship that I thought of as permanent, and I didn’t want it to end early because I scared her off with family talk, but I also didn’t want to insult her by not inviting her to meet my family. I was proud that Danielle was my girlfriend. I wanted her to meet my family. But it wasn’t something worth pushing too hard.
Danielle was in librarian mode, with her hair pulled back, thick glasses on, a kind of drab blouse buttoned up most of the way, and my/her/our copy of Pride and Prejudice set on the booth table for everybody to see. A couple our age sat near us side-by-side in a booth. Danielle and I were opposite each other, face-to-face.
“What does that mean?” I asked Danielle, directing my eyes to the nearby couple.
Since the couple was slightly behind Danielle, she casually accidentally knocked her copy of Pride and Prejudice onto the floor, leaned sideways over to pick it up, and casually accidentally glanced at them.
When she sat back up, she said, “Maybe they don’t want to watch each other eat.”
“Do you think that’s weird?” I asked. “Or is it weird that we sit face to face?”
“You’re a careful eater,” she said.
“So…, “ I began, searching for a smooth transition and failing. “I need to know what to do about Thanksgiving. No pressure.”
She fiddled with Pride and Prejudice for a couple seconds before she said, “I’m not sure meeting family is a good idea.”
“My dad would like to meet you,” I said eagerly. “I’d really like my brothers to meet you too.”
Danielle grinned. “Are you trying to show me off?”
“Damn right I am!” I said.
She hesitated. “Maybe,” she said slowly.
“The football t-shirts,” I said. The way she had said “Maybe” was really a reluctant yes. “Definitely wear the football t-shirts.”
We were discussing possible flight dates and how to minimize her financial loss from not working when she looked up at something behind me and said, “Fuck.”
I turned (not so casually accidentally) and saw a tall lean guy walking directly toward us. I repositioned myself for a better look, but before I could, he already was standing directly over us at our booth. If Danielle’s expression hadn’t changed so suddenly, I wouldn’t have given this guy a second glance. He was tall and thin with slicked or gelled short auburn hair. He had taken long strides, and when he stood over us, his arms stayed at his side with his hands in his jacket pocket.
“Danielle?” he said quietly.
“Vin,” Danielle muttered, eyes shifting from him to me.
“What the fuck?” he said, his voice clear but quiet. Customers at other tables wouldn’t be able to hear what he was saying. “I didn’t recognize you.”
Vin sat down without permission next to Danielle, and she surprised me by scooting over.
“Who’s this?” he asked, looking at me.
“Jimmy,” she said, staring at her plate.
I was about to offer my hand and introduce myself, but he kept talking.
“This is the guy you’re fucking?”
Danielle looked down at her plate and said nothing. I decided not to introduce myself.
“And what’s this?” Vin picked up Pride and Prejudice, flipped through it, and snorted a laugh. “This doesn’t even have any pictures.”
Danielle’s face went blank. I couldn’t believe how this guy was talking, and I couldn’t get any sense of what her sudden silence meant. I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I kept quiet too. This Vin guy was rude, but nobody around us heard what was going on, so even though he was disturbing us, he wasn’t really causing a scene.
“Your glasses? This book? I can’t believe people buy that shit.” He held up the Jane Austen book and looked at me. “You know she’s not reading that, right?”
I was raised to be a polite person, and the problem with that was sometimes I wasn’t prepared to deal with rude people quickly. I’ve always tended to back off and let the rude person do what he or she wanted until I got pushed too far. I had my limits, but my limits and Danielle’s limits weren’t the same. I’d always tried to deal with rude people politely, but rude people either didn’t pick up on subtle hints or they didn’t care.
“This is kind of a bad time, Vin,” I said. “We were talking about something important.”
“I bet,” he said, waving the book around. “This isn’t who she is. I bet you don’t know shit about her.”
“Vin… don’t,” Danielle said.
“What?” Vin said. “Tell him about you? Why wouldn’t you want me to tell him about you?”
Even with her glasses on and her face down, I could see her eyes were red. I had seen her with red eyes a couple times, but I had never seen her this withdrawn.
“You believe that shit?” Vin said to me. “All the year’s I’ve known her, and she doesn’t want to talk to me. And the fucked up part is that I never did anything wrong.”
“We were in the middle of something,” I said.
“Danielle’s always in the middle of something,” Vin said. “And it’s always fucked up.”
“I…I need to use the lady’s room,” Danielle said, finally looking up. “Mel-Vin, would you please scoot over?”
“Don’t call me that again, bitch.”
I expected Danielle to say something harsh back, but instead she said very quietly, “Sooooorrrry.”
Then she fluttered her eyelashes at him and said, “Would you please move over, Mar-Vin?”
“Bitch, talk to me like that again, and I’ll knock those glasses off your face.”
“Hey!” I said. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, but I was going to do something.
“It’s okay,” Danielle said, her grin starting to form, but it was shaky. “This is how we talk to each other, my friends… that you wanted to meet.”
“Yeah, that’s how we talk to each other,” Vin said.
Vin shifted over and let Danielle out of the booth. I stood up and was about to tell her that we could just leave, that we didn’t have to put up with this Vin guy, but before I could say anything, she said, “I think you should talk to Vin. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
As she turned toward the restrooms, I tried to find something, some kind of expression in her face, but I got nothing. I had no clue what she was about to do or what she expected me to do (except talk to this Vin guy). I didn’t know if she just needed a few minutes to pull herself together. I didn’t know if she expected me to handle Vin myself and get him to leave before she returned. For all I knew, she was going to pass the restroom and leave the restaurant altogether (I wouldn’t have blamed her!). All that I knew is that I had been befuddled and useless while Vin was verbally mistreating her. I had sat there and let her take it.
And now she was walking away. There was no hug. There was no kiss. Danielle just wandered off, leaving me to talk to Vin all by myself.
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: A Lack of Subtlety .
And to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning, start here.