The ex-boyfriend

“It’s very red,” I say, pulling out my chair and looking around.

“This is my favourite place to eat in the whole world,” Karly beams as we settle down to a meal in what was roughly our fourth or fifth date. “Don’t you just loooove it?”

“It’s quite red, though, isn’t it? Does it all need to be this red?” I ask, examining the red leather chairs.

“That’s the best part!” she says, playing with the red candle on the table. “I come here all the time. I thought you’d love it.”

“It’s just a bit red,” I say, quietly in to my drinks menu.

I had met Karly a month or so previously through a friend at work. We had been getting on well but we had very little in common. You know when you really like someone, you just don’t know why? This was the curious case with Karly.

“So, Karly,” I say brightly as we wait for our drinks to arrive. “I have an extra ticket to see a comedian next Saturday and wondered if you’d be interested in coming with me?”

Karly looked puzzled. “A comedian? What do you mean?”

“As in a famous stand-up comedian. He’s playing here next week and I wondered if you’d want to see him with me?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t really get comedy.”

I pause for a second, thinking I may have misheard.

“You don’t get comedy?” I ask.

“No. Not really.”

“How can you not get it though? It’s a fairly straightforward concept to grasp!”

Wasn’t it?

“I mean, if I went to see the comedian…I wouldn’t know what to do,” she tries to explain.

“What to do? The ‘doing’ is pretty minimal. You sit there and laugh if you find it funny.”

“Nah, I don’t like the idea of that. Sorry.”

“You don’t like laughing?” I ask jokingly.

Karly shrugs her shoulders in a no-big-deal kind of way.

Wow. Okay, I was dating a girl who didn’t ‘get’ stand-up comedy. Not to panic. I mean, it’s not for everyone. So what if going to see live comedy was a favourite activity of mine, one which I’d like to do with a girlfriend one day. So what if I regard it as one of the most important and skilled entertainment arts there is? That’s okay she’s not in to it. Laughing is obviously not for everyone, apparently.

“Okay, no problem. No big deal. Maybe we could go see and movie or something sometime?” I offer as a compromise.

“I hate the cinema.”

I nearly choke on my beer.

“You hate the cinema? That’s a strong word isn’t it? Again, it’s just sitting in a dark room watching a film on a massive screen..!”

“Yeah, but I just think it’s a waste of time. Plus all those people there…and what if you hate the movie? You’ve just wasted a couple hours,” says Karly, rather nonchalantly, sipping away on her red wine.

My mind was all over the place. In the space of five minutes she’s effectively vetoed two of my favourite pastimes!

“So you don’t think you’d be up for coming with me to see stand-up, or to the cinema? At all? Ever?”

“Sorry! I don’t think so. Not my cup of tea,” she adds, firmly.

On reflection I probably should have asked for the bill right there and then. I didn’t want to panic, though. So what she didn’t enjoy those two things? So what if I love those two things? It’s good to be with someone with different interests, isn’t it?

As we wait for the mains to arrive, I try and move past the awkwardness I was feeling and launch in to one of my trademarked and remarkably hilarious and fascinating anecdotes. Half-way in and gaining momentum, I catch her placing her mobile phone on the table and then begin to look down at it every few seconds.

Although it is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, particularly on a date, I don’t let it faze me. Maybe she’s expecting an important call? Maybe she’s on call for work? Either way, I give her the benefit of the doubt. I am too polite to ask and I continue showcasing my exceptional conversational skills, but just when I brace myself for the expected hysterical laughter and admiration, her phone beeps. I pause.

“Sorry….”, she says with an embarrassed smile. I give a half-smile back and hesitantly delve back in to my story.

“So, yeah, as I was saying…it was just me, I didn’t know where I was and these three goats just standing there and then the priest shouts….” but I’m stopped in my tracks. I glance back up at her to see she’s now nose-deep in her phone, texting away like a women possessed, not paying the slightest bit of attention to what I am saying.

I take a sip of my beer through gritted teeth and clear my throat, ever so subtly.

I wait a few seconds for her to finally finish her text and put it back on the table.

“Everything okay?” I ask, masking my annoyance.

“Oh, sorry James,” she says. “That was Rob. He keeps cancelling our plans on me!”

“Oh, right. As I was saying…we’re in this strangers bathroom and …….Wait, you’re ex Rob? You still see him? After what you told me last week?”

She and Rob had a terrible break-up, apparently, which I heard all about on date two. They met on holiday, were in a relationship for a little under a year and one day when she popped over to his house to surprise him, his pregnant wife answered the door.

“Yeah, we see each other all the time. We’re friends now. Didn’t I mention that? He’s actually a nice guy,” she says.

Is he? Is he now? Are you sure? I was having a hard time with this revelation, I’ll admit. I didn’t know the guy but everything she had told me that night led me to hate him with the fury of a thousand suns. So the fact she only now tells me they’re mates made me a little uncomfortable. I try to laugh it off and we move the conversation on.

It’s on my mind now though and I’m not sure if I am more annoyed at her being friends with her asshole ex, or that she brazenly will start texting him while we’re on and date, and when we are in mid-conversation. It’s just rude!

It’s the following day, and Karly invites me to her place as she’s having a group of friend’s over for a bit of a gathering. I was still reeling a bit from the night before. The comedy, the cinema, the text-rudeness and ex-boyfriend revelations were still a little fresh and rattling around in my mind.

I do my best to make a good impression with her friends and I think they start to warm to me. Especially her male friends. I got the sense they knew she could be difficult and had sympathy for my efforts. Things were going very well although Karly herself was acting a little distant.

Then, something I was not totally prepared for. The doorbell goes and It’s Rob. I am pretty taken aback, and her friends are visibly split on his inclusion in proceedings too. Karly looks thrilled though as Rob saunters in to the thick of the party. He was all taller and better built than me, with better hair and what looked like a far more expensive and fashion-conscious style.

Not that I was feeling threatened or anything.

I wasn’t. Because he also had the smarmiest, smugiest (it’s word…) face I think I’ve ever seen. And after engaging in a couple minutes of light ‘banter’ I realise he also the personality of an old, unused wardrobe.

The night wares on and I do my best to stay out of his way. It’s getting late though and the handful of guys remaining gather in the kitchen, drink beer and talk about sports, cars, and sports-cars, while the women laugh and joke together in the living room. Rob is lingering too and I desperately try not to make things awkward and just look the other way. Literally and figuratively.

Conversation soon turns to my relationship with Karly. Her male friends are intrigued as to how things are going and I try not to let too much slip out, but my frustration had been gathering momentum and with 12 hours of drinking behind me I, momentarily and, without mentioning Rob, let the guys know about the texting-while-chatting over dinner the night before. It feels good to get sympathy from her friends and to get some reassurance that she can just be socially difficult sometimes.

The night ends and I head off home, with a lot on my mind. The next morning I head to the beach for a hangover-clearing walk and think long and hard about what to do next.

Then, as I I’m sat on a bench emptying sand from my shoe and remembering why I don’t often go to the beach, my phone beeps. It’s Karly.

JAMES. I KNOW YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT ME LAST NIGHT. I CANT BELIEVE YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT ME BEHIND MY BACK. I WONT TOLERATE THAT TREATMENT.

Bollocks. She was angry, clearly. But what had she heard? Did she hear something out of context? I try to remember what I said and scratched my head at anything overly offensive or hurtful. Over the next hour or two I try asking, explaining, reasoning, but it isn’t working. I ask that we meet face to face instead to discuss properly but she’s having none of it. Then she texts:

ROB CAME ROUND THIS MORNING AND TOLD ME EVERYTHING. HE TOLD ME WHAT YOU REALLY THOUGHT ABOUT ME. TOLD ME WHAT YOU SAID TO MY FRIENDS ABOUT DINNER. HE WARNED ME ABOUT YOU FROM THE START. I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO HIM.

Of course he did. We exchanged a few more texts. I apologised for my part in talking to her friends about something she deemed private but it seemed her mind was made up.

Karly and I naturally lost contact after this, but a few months ago I heard on the grapevine that she’s now engaged to be married. To Rob.  He left his pregnant wife for Karly, who had clearly forgiven him for his previous misgivings and they’d gotten back together a couple of weeks after Karly and I stopped seeing each other.

You have to laugh, really, don’t you?

J.

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