I was about 10 minutes into the latest disappointing RomCom. Not so disappointing because it had the predictable arc of boy meets girl, girl resists boy’s charms, boy falls in love, girl denies she’s in love and breaks things off, boy moves on, girl realizes “wait, I’m in love with boy,” but it’s too late…or is it? I honestly did like the sex buddies twist.
It was more disappointing because it starred Natalie Portman, from whom I’ve come to expect great things, for the most part (cough, certain Star Wars movies). While she brilliantly played her dark role in Black Swan, the last film I’d seen her in, I would certainly never choose to see that twisted movie again, and I was looking forward to seeing how the beautiful and talented actress could tackle comedy.
Anyway, I was just settling into Natalie’s recent foray in romantic comedy when the doorbell rang. It was nearing 9 p.m., we weren’t expecting anyone and we very rarely had unexpected guests, unless you’re counting Jehovah’s Witnesses or lawn maintenance guys trying to sell their services. We all—my mom, visiting brother and sister-in-law, and I exchanged quizzical looks; no one knew who this could be. But I had a sinking suspicion that the person on the other side of the door was probably looking for me. The question was, exactly who was doing the looking?
My brother gamely went to answer the door, and I continued chomping on my second dessert of the night. Hey, I was celebrating No Rapture Day. Then I heard his voice.
A near anxiety-attack inducing déjà vu flooded my system when I heard the unmistakable Philly accent of Karaoke Crooner snake around the corner. “Is SoloAt30 up in her room?”
Not another one. Not again.
I knew I had to stand up and face the music, as much as I wanted to sink into the sofa. “I’m in here,” I said with heavy resignation. In he bounded in with a plastic container of chicken soup—fresh from the grocery store.
“I brought you some soup since I know you aren’t feeling well,” he said, too afraid, I noticed, to look me in the eye. “But I didn’t know you’d have company,” he said hesitantly (and accusingly).
“Karaoke Crooner, my brother and sister-in-law,” I introduced.
“Do you want to go outside and talk?” he asked.
“Um, no, I’ve had a rough day, and I just want to relax as I’d planned for now,” I said. “We’re watching a movie. You’re welcome to watch, if you want.”
Chick flick with the girl’s family. I could see the wheels spinning in his head. He decided to stay. Throughout the movie, he was obsessively doing who-knows-what on his smartphone. Trying to ignore his presence, I kept thinking to myself, “What is he doing here?”
The situation almost immediately made me sick to my stomach. Okay—that may have had more to do with the apple-filled doughnut I was eating when he came in, but he certainly wasn’t helping. (Tip: fried foods and chemo don’t mix. Hope you don’t ever need to know that, but just in case…) My body went into uncontrolled spasms.
He showed no concern for me or my health, except to say, “I can leave if you want,” in between fiddles on his phone.
Yes I want. “It’s up to you,” I said with an unmistakable tone—I could give a rat’s ass if you walked right out that door right now, and I never heard from you again, chicken soup or not.
The movie ended. “Do you want to go outside and talk?”
Ugh, no. We opened the door. Thankfully it was pouring rain.
Not to be deterred. Karaoke Crooner suggested going to his car. “Help!” I tried to send vibes to my mom, but she was leaving me on my own this time. I grabbed my raincoat, ignored the hand he held out for me as we went down my front steps and walked to his car.
He told me how he figured he had to drive over here, or we’d never break this cycle of not seeing each other again. Smart one. “I didn’t know if you’d think ‘how sweet, he brought me soup,’ or if you’d think I was being a stalker…”
He said he knew he was ‘messed up mentally’, but he was really a nice guy. I agreed that for the most part, he’s a fairly nice guy. He wouldn’t intentionally hurt anyone. He holds the door open for people. He tries to be polite when he’s not spinning in his own world of depression and/or anxiety and/or extreme OCD or whatever cycle of the bipolar condition he happens to be at the time.
He said he felt bad for getting irritated and picking fights when I wasn’t able to get together before, when he should’ve said what he was really feeling. Which was, “I miss you.” Oh no.
I can’t remember the entire sequence. He grabbed my hand and tried to rub it. He hugged me and tried to pull me in for a kiss.
I pushed back. “No. I don’t want this.” Damn, I was proud of myself.
“Come on. You can’t give up this gorgeous specimen of man,” he joked. Tall, missing a front tooth, face frozen in clownish expressions, though when I still had favorable feelings toward him there had been a boyish charm to him. Now that I knew him better, there was just nothing I found too appealing.
He worked a maximum of 15 hours per week on the clock in medical sales so he could still collect unemployment (he was a certified high school teacher in PA, and has been just shy of getting a master’s degree for several years.) Instead of using gas money to go to the other office location on certain days, he would take the day so so he could drive further away at night to get drunk with his friends at karaoke.
His vision of being a karaoke venue reviewer was pretty much frozen because he was caught in a really bad mental/emotional cycle, but he had refused to pick up one of his most important medications for more than a week. This guy didn’t need a girlfriend—he needed a life preserver.
“Are you sure you really meant it when you said you just wanted to be friends?” he said coyly, trying to pull me in again. “Seeing me again doesn’t change your mind?”
“No,” I said as honestly as I could muster. For my health, no!
“No, as in you don’t want to stay just friends or no as in—“ he said with a cocky grin.
“No as in, I haven’t changed my mind,” I said as gently as possibly. “I don’t want to be any more than friends.”
I tried to steer the conversation away to other things for a couple minutes. Then I told him I was tired and needed to lay down inside. After desperately trying to lock another date commitment out of me, I told him I was going back in. He hugged me and of course tried to give me more kisses.
I finally pushed him away. “That was sweet of you to bring chicken soup,” I said. “Have a safe drive home.”
He texted me when he got home, asking me to let him know when I got up. I didn’t.
Readers: seriously, what do you do when someone in a really fragile state of mind really doesn’t take no for an answer?